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Monday, January 16, 2023

Serial Killers: Real Life Versus Fiction

     To meet the criteria of being a serial killer the murderer, over a period longer than a month, must kill at least three people with a cooling-off period separating each homicide. A mass murderer, on the other hand, murders more than two people in a single killing spree. Because most mass murderers are usually psychotic and completely out of control, people find them less interesting than serial killers who blend into society and are more difficult to catch.
     While the public has always been interested in murder, in the mid-1980s following the publication of several books about serial killer Ted Bundy, serial killing became the number one true crime subject in America. Since then there have been thousands of true crime books featuring serial killers, their crimes, and the investigation of these cases. (Half of the criminal justice students in the country during this period wanted to become FBI criminal profilers.) Fictitious serial killing was the subject of hundreds of TV shows and theatrical films. Serial killers in fiction, however, are more intelligent, intriguing and evil-looking than their typical real life counterparts.

     So, who are these people who go around killing people? About 80 percent of them are white males with blue collar working backgrounds. Very few physicians (except for a couple of angel of death killers), lawyers, college professors or electrical engineers have been serial killers. (When a medical doctor kills someone intentionally the victim is usually his wife.) No one knows for sure how many serial killers are active in the U.S. at any given time. In the mid-1980's, at the height of serial killer hysteria, experts were telling us there were 50,000 of them. That of course was ridiculous. The overall crime statistics simply didn't support that estimate. Cooler heads prevailed and guessed there are probably 10 to 20 serial killers at any given time.

     As children, a significant percentage of serial killers were bed-wetters. Many of them, abused and bullied, were also erotic fire-setters who were cruel to animals. Most serial killers didn't do well in school, and most of them were loners.

     Male serial killers generally fall into two major categories: organized and disorganized. The organized killers, with IQs in the average range, plan their murders, are more cold-blooded and harder to identify because they take steps to avoid detection. Disorganized serial killers select victims randomly and kill on impulse. The disorganized killers, with lower IQs, are easier to identify and catch because they carelessly leave physical evidence of themselves at the murder sites and take traces of the killing scenes with them. (Crime scene investigators call this "the exchange principle.") Disorganized serial killers are psychotic, and while they know what they are doing and are therefore not criminally insane, they are not fully in control of themselves.

     Most serial killers are sadistic sociopaths who kill for lust and power. Their victims are mostly vulnerable women who live on the fringes of society such as drug addicts, prostitutes and runaways. Many of these women are killed and nobody takes notice or reports them missing. As a result, some of these victims don't even become murder statistics.

     Female serial killers, while not as common as men, can be prolific murderers. So-called "black widows" marry with the intent of murdering--often with poison--their husbands in order to inherit their estates. These women are cold-blooded and cunning, and because homicidal poisonings are not easy to detect, usually avoid being investigated until an obvious pattern emerges. Even then it's often difficult to acquire a murder conviction due to the passage of time and lack of physical evidence.

     Another category of female serial killer is the "angel of death" murderer. These nurses and hospital aides poison ailing patients under their care. Because many of these victims were expected to die and show no signs of homicidal trauma, a good number of these deaths are not investigated. As a result, no one knows how many hospital and nursing home patients are murdered every year.

     There is also a group of female serial murderers known as "team killers" who help their boyfriends and husbands kill people. These crimes are usually motivated by lust. Only a small percentage of female serial killers themselves are sexual predators.

     It's a myth that most serial killers move about the country to avoid being caught. Most of them commit their crimes close to home where they feel most comfortable. They are not evil geniuses or even that interesting. Most of them do not stand out in a crowd.

     A few serial killers, after years of committing murder, stop killing on their own volition. Notwithstanding all the effort that has gone into studying this relatively rare type of murderer, no one really knows what makes them tick. Perhaps that's one of the reasons people find serial killers so fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. I met a man who was a political activist in NY. He was truly the strangest person that I have ever met in my life. He seemed to perceive himself as a sort of "uber mensch" or "superman" as discussed by Nietzsche. His moral and political positions were bordering on insane. Former cop who got thrown off the force for excessive use of force. I have never been afraid of another human being like this man. I hope to God that I don't end up reading about him in your blog someday. There is something not right there!