Serial Killers Essay Research Paper Behavior is

Serial Killers Essay, Research Paper

Behavior is sometimes defined as the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment. But what is it that effects our behavior? What allows us to think the way we think behave the way we behave act the way we act? Could it be the way a certain individual is brought up, and how this person was raised? Or does it have more to do with biological design of the human mind? Could certain people simply have a certain type of behavior coursing through their veins? How does one explain the behavior of a serial killer? In the this paper, I will attempt to show the difference between the psychopath and the psychotic, and explain how the environment, upbringing, and treatment of serial killers led them to become who they are today.

Most serial killers can be placed in one of two categories: the psychopath and the psychotic. Psychotics are clearly insane, and fail to perceive reality correctly. However, very few serial killers fall into this category. Most serial killers have an elaborate scheme, or method of going about things. They think things through evaluate what the situation could bring to them. This stems from a long line of abuse/intolerance/dysfunction during their early childhood years. Many people may even go so far as to view certain serial killers as geniuses, in the respect that their actions are so well thought out, so very carefully planned. These types of serial killers would fall under the psychopath category. A psychopath, also known as a sociopath, does not suffer from a mental illness, wherein their biology and genes have nothing to do with the way they are. A psychopath, rather, suffers from a severe form a character flaw, again, resulting, most probably, due to the way they were brought up, their environment, and the way they were treated [mistreated] by family, especially that of the immediate kind. One thing to note about the psychopath, however: the majority of the time, they realize the crime they are committing is wrong. This does not concern them, however, as they feel their need to kill and punish is greater than any rule or law. (1994, Serial Killers, Time Life Book)

Psychopaths are usually very clever, very deceitful, and very normal upon first glance. They look like everyone else, and behave like everyone else when in the company of others. Deep into the depths of their mind, however, they are working up an elaborate plan on how to catch their prey tonight. They have a need to kill, and an elaborate scheme to fit the pieces of the puzzle. Their need to kill stems from the way they were treated in the past. Some serial killers hold a resentment towards their parents, fathers in particular, who dismissed them from their lives, or abused and harmed them when they were children. Take, for example, John Wayne Gacy. During Gacy s late teens, he suffered some turmoil with his father, although relations with his mother and sisters were very strong. John Wayne Gacy, Sr. was an abusive alcoholic who physically abused his wife and verbally assaulted his children. Although John Sr. was an unpleasant individual, young Gacy deeply loved his father and wanted desperately to gain his devotion and attention. However, his father would drink himself to a stupor and physically and verbally abuse young Gacy. He would call him a queer and a mama s boy , and seemingly avoided his son at all costs. Unfortunately, Gacy was never able to get very close to his father before he died, something which he regretted his entire life. (

This type of behavior, presented to a child at a young age, is bound to stir up some troubled emotions. Gacy was to never get over his father calling his only son a queer. During a three-year period, Gacy would go on to viciously torture, rape and murder over 30 young boys, who would later be discovered buried under the floorboards of his home.

Another notorious serial killer whose killings were based on major events that occurred to him during his adolescent years is the infamous Ted Bundy. Bundy grew up with a family of all women. He never knew his father, and his mother and sisters played a big role in his life. He was shy as a kid, and friends recalled him being a loner in school. In college, he met a young woman by the name of Stephanie Brooks, and he fell instantly in love. Stephanie became Ted s first love, and she was the first woman Ted was ever involved with sexually. Although they dated for a while, and enjoyed many of the same things, Stephanie did not feel for Ted the way he did for her. She felt he had no goals, no future. Ted tried all he could to impress her, including lying, which was something Stephanie could not stand. Eventually, she broke it off with him. Ted never recovered from this breakup. Stephanie moved to California, but Ted could not stop thinking about his lost love. Ted was obsessed with Stephanie and he couldn’t get her out of his mind. It was an obsession that would span his lifetime and lead to a series of events that would shock the world. (

Ted Bundy was sentenced to death on July 31st, 1979 when he confessed to the murders of 28 young women, all whom looked exactly like his first love, Stephanie Brooks. The brutality of his killings were horrendous. He lured the women in pretending to be a poor, helpless man in an arm or leg cast, asking for their assistance. Eventually, he would lure them away, rape and torture them, and finally kill them. All of the women were about college-aged, with long brown hair parted in the middle, from semi-well-to-do families, just as Stephanie Brooks had been. Again, we see the effects of how some trauma or even petty heartbreak in a person s past could spawn a vicious demon to search and destroy.

The way a person is brought up and raised the events that take place around them as they are growing up their relationships with parents, siblings, friends, lovers all these things are a determining factor in the way the mind of any one person will develop. I do not believe one is born a criminal, born a psychopath. These types of behavior are thrust upon a mind at a young age. One does not have evil coursing through their veins. It is something that can come up on most anyone, depending upon the situations in their lives, and the events that unfold around them as they grow. This is not to say, however, that just anyone person who suffers a breakup from a first love will end up on a killing spree such as Ted Bundy did. This is the result of a traumatic childhood, which lacked in the careful nurturing, teaching, and understanding. Psychopaths, in return, feel the overwhelming urge and desire to repair things to their liking, to fit with their frame of mind.


Rule, Ann, The Stranger Beside Me. New York: Penguin Group, 1989.

Michaud, Stephen G. and Hugh Aynesworth, Conversations with a Killer. NewYork: New American Library, 1991.

Cahill, Tim, Buried Dreams; Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer (St. Martin s Paperbacks, 1986)


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