I bet if Sudo was here he would ROCK at this game!
The English term and concept of the "serial killer" is commonly attributed to former FBI Special agent Robert Ressler in the 1970s. Author Ann Rule postulates in her 2004 book Kiss Me, Kill Me that the English-language credit for coining the term "serial killer" goes to LAPD detective Pierce Brooks, creator of the ViCAP system. Criminal justice historian Peter Vronsky, in his book Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters, while arguing that former FBI profiler Robert Ressler might have coined the official police use of the term "serial homicide" when guest lecturing in 1974 at the British Bramhill Police Academy in Britain, states that the terms "serial murder" and "serial murderer" appear in 1966 in John Brophy's book The Meaning of Murder. Vronsky reports that in Anne Rule's seminal book on Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me, published in 1980, the term "serial killer" does not appear and is not yet in popular use.
The racial demographics regarding serial killers are often subject to debate. Compared to the United States and South Africa, Australia has a much lower incidence of known serial murders. In the United States, the majority of reported and investigated serial killers are white males, from a lower-to-middle-class background, usually in their late twenties to early thirties. However, there are African American, Asian, and Hispanic (of any race) serial killers as well, and, according to the FBI, based on percentages of the U.S. population, whites are not more likely than other races to be serial killers. Criminal profiler Pat Brown says serial killers are usually reported as white because the media typically focuses on "All-American" white and pretty female victims who were the targets of white male offenders, that crimes among minority offenders in urban communities, where crime rates are higher, are under-investigated, and that minority serial killers likely exist at the same ratios as white serial killers for the population. She believes that the "serial killers are always white" myth might have become "truth" in some research fields due to the over-reporting of white serial killers in the media.
Photo of Francisco de Assis Pereira, Brazilian serial killer.
Some authors state that African American serial killers are as prevalent, or more so, in proportion to the African American population. According to some sources, the percentage of serial killers who are African American is estimated to be between 13 and 22 percent. Another study has shown that 16 percent of serial killers are African American, what author Maurice Godwin describes as a "sizeable portion". Anthony Walsh writes, "While it is true that most serial killers are white males, white (Anglo) males are actually slightly underrepresented in the serial killer ranks in terms of their proportion of the general male population" and that "[w]hatever the true proportion of black serial killers in the United States is or has been, it is greater than the proportion of African Americans in the general population." Other reports show about 80% of serial killers being identified as white, placing nonwhite serial killers as accounting for less than 20% of serial killers. While it is not conclusively known if black Americans are statistically less or more likely to be serial killers, reasons for under or overreporting of black serial killers could be due to racial profiling, the same factor that could account for the popular perception or reporting of serial killers as uniformly white. Popular racial stereotypes about the lower intelligence of African-Americans, and the stereotype of a serial killer as a white male with "bodies stacked up in the basement and strewn all over the countryside" may explain the media focus on serial killers that are white and the failure to adequately report on those that are black.
Typical characteristics of serial killers include:
Generally being described as possessing IQs in the "bright normal" range, although they are more likely to have low/average intelligence. A sample of 174 IQs of serial killers had a median IQ of 93. Only serial killers who used bombs had an average IQ above the population mean.
Often, they have trouble staying employed and tend to work in menial jobs. The FBI, however, states, "Serial murderers often seem normal; have families and/or a steady job." Other sources state they often come from unstable families.
They were often abused—emotionally, physically and/or sexually—by a family member.
Fetishism, partialism, and necrophilia, are paraphilias which involve a strong tendency to experience the object of erotic interest almost as if it were a physical representation of the symbolized body. Individuals engage in paraphilias which are organized along a continuum; participating in varying levels of fantasy perhaps by focusing on body parts (partialism), symbolic objects which serve as physical extensions of the body (fetishism), or the anatomical physicality of the human body; specifically regarding its inner parts and sexual organs (one example being necrophilia).
A disproportionate number exhibit one, two, or all three of the MacDonald triad (see below) of predictors of psychopathy:
Many are fascinated with fire setting.
They are involved in sadistic activity; especially in children who have not reached sexual maturity, this activity may take the form of torturing animals.
More than 60 percent wet their beds beyond the age of 12. However, recent authorities (see citations in the Enuresis section of the MacDonald triad article) question or deny the statistical significance of this figure.
They were frequently bullied as children.
Some were involved in petty crimes, such as theft, fraud, vandalism, dishonesty or similar offenses.
There are exceptions to these criteria, however. For example, Harold Shipman was a successful professional (a General Practitioner working for the NHS). He was considered a pillar of the local community, even winning a professional award for a children's Asthma clinic and was interviewed by Granada Television's World in Action. Dennis Nilsen was an ex-soldier turned civil servant and trade unionist who had no previous criminal record when arrested. Neither were known to have exhibited many of these signs. Vlado Taneski was a career journalist who was caught after a series of articles he wrote gave clues that he had murdered people; Taneski was a crime reporter. Colonel Russell Williams was a successful and respected career Canadian Air Force Officer who was convicted of the murder of two women, along with fetish burglaries and rapes.
Ottis Toole (pictured) and Henry Lee Lucas admitted to hundreds of murders throughout the United States over several decades.
Some serial killers may also exhibit various degrees of psychopathy, though this is not always the case. Psychopaths lack empathy and guilt, are egocentric and impulsive, and theoretically do not conform to social, moral and legal norms. Instead, psychopaths often follow a distinct set of rules which they have created for themselves. They may appear to be normal and often quite charming, a state of adaptation that psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley called the "mask of sanity". In the DSM-IV, psychopathy is listed under Axis II Personality disorders NOS. It is a disorder mainly defined by traits of both antisocial personality disorder and narcissism. In the near future, the concept of psychopathy requires revision because the new version of the DSM (DSM-V) no longer includes narcissism. Robert Hare created a checklist to differentiate psychopathy from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), known as the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). The questionnaire scores people on Axis I interpersonal/affective and Axis II Behavioral traits.(anti- social). His test found that while 50–80 percent of criminals were diagnosed with ASPD, only 15–30 percent scored as primary psychopaths on the PCL-R test.
Serial killers exhibiting degrees of ASPD, however, are often aware of how to hide many of the characteristics listed above in order to blend with the rest of society. Serial killer Ed Kemper became particularly notorious for doing this when he tricked psychiatrists into believing he was "cured" seven years after being admitted to the Atascadero State Hospital for the murders of his two grandparents. Three years after his release, Kemper went on to murder at least eight additional victims.
The Macdonald triad—animal cruelty, pyromania, and persistent bedwetting (also known as enuresis) past the age of 12—is often exhibited by serial killers during their childhood. Subsequent research, however, found that bedwetting may not be related to psychopathy.
Many serial killers have faced similar problems in their childhood development. Hickey's Trauma Control Model explains how early childhood trauma can set the child up for deviant behavior in adulthood. The child's environment (either their parents or society) is the dominant factor in whether or not the child's behavior escalates into homicidal activity.
Family, or lack thereof, is the most prominent part of a child's development because it is what the child can identify with on a regular basis. "The serial killer is no different than any other individual who is instigated to seek approval from parents, sexual partners, or others." This need for approval is what influences children to attempt to develop social relationships with their family and peers, but if they are rejected or neglected, they are unable to do so. This results in the lowering of their self-esteem and helps develop their fantasy world in which they are in control. Hickey's Trauma Control Model clearly shows that the development of a serial killer is based on an early trauma followed by facilitators (porn, drugs, and alcohol) and disposition (the inability to attach).
Family interaction also plays an important role in a child's growth and development. "The quality of their attachments to parents and other members of the family is critical to how these children relate to and value other members of society."
Wilson and Seaman (1990) conducted a study on incarcerated serial killers and what they felt was the most influential factor that contributed to their homicidal activity. Almost all of the serial killers in the study had experienced some sort of environmental problems during their childhood, such as a broken home, or a lack of discipline in the home. It was common for the serial killers to come from a family that had experienced divorce, separation, or the lack of a parent. Furthermore, nearly half of the serial killers had experienced some type of physical and sexual abuse and even more had experienced emotional neglect. When a parent has a drug or alcohol problem, the attention in the household is on the parents rather than the child. This neglect of the child leads to the lowering of their self-esteem and helps develop a fantasy world in which they are in control. Hickey's Trauma Control Model supports how the neglect from parents can facilitate deviant behavior especially if the child sees substance abuse in action. This then leads to disposition (the inability to attach), which can further lead to homicidal behavior unless the child finds a way to develop substantial relationships and fight the label they receive. If a child receives no support from those around him or her, then he or she is unlikely to recover from the traumatic event in a positive way. As stated by E. E. Maccoby, "the family has continued to be seen as a major—perhaps the major—arena for socialization".
Children who do not have the power to control the mistreatment they suffer sometimes create a new reality to which they can escape. This new reality becomes their fantasy that they have total control of and becomes part of their daily existence. In this fantasy world their emotional development is guided and maintained. According to Garrison (1996), "the child becomes sociopathic because the normal development of the concepts of right and wrong and empathy towards others is retarded because of the child's emotional and social development occurs within his self-centered fantasies. A person can do no wrong in his own world and the pain of others is of no consequence when the purpose of the fantasy world is to satisfy the needs of one person" (Garrison, 1996). Boundaries between fantasy and reality are lost and fantasies turn to dominance, control, sexual conquest, and violence, eventually leading to murder. Fantasy can lead to the first step in the process of a dissociative state, which, in the words of Stephen Giannangelo, "allows the serial killer to leave the stream of consciousness for what is, to him, a better place."
Criminologist Jose Sanchez reports, "the young criminal you see today is more detached from his victim, more ready to hurt or kill . . . The lack of empathy for their victims among young criminals is just one symptom of a problem that afflicts the whole society." Lorenzo Carcaterra, author of Gangster (2001), explains how potential criminals are labeled by society, which can then lead to their offspring also developing in the same way through the cycle of violence.The ability for serial killers to appreciate the mental life of others is severely compromised, presumably leading to their dehumanization of others. This process may be considered as an expression of the intersubjectivity associated with a cognitive deficit regarding the capability to make sharp distinctions between other people and inanimate objects. For these individuals objects can appear to possess animistic or humanistic power while people are perceived as objects. Before he was executed, serial killer Ted Bundy stated media violence and pornography had stimulated and increased his need to commit homicide, although this statement was made during last-ditch efforts to appeal his death sentence.