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Inside the mind of a serial killer

Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer

Inside the Minds of Serial Killers

People become serial killers for many reasons. Serial Killers are people with three or more separate events with an emotional cooling off period between homicides with each. (Schechter and Everitt, 69). Serial Killers are the most frightening psychopaths because they do not reveal any of the basic human emotions-empathy, conscience, or remorse (Schechter and Everitt, 179). According to Schechter and Everitt, authors of the A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, Serial Killers tend to be Caucasian males who kill white victims. Their studies have shown that 84% of serial killers are Caucasian, 90% are males, and 89% of the victims are white. The most common type of serial killer is the Lust Killer, who kills to sexually stimulate themselves. The more they torture a victim, the more pleasure the serial killer receives (Wilson & Seaman, 1983, 27).

Although serial killers are well known today, they originated as far back as ancient Rome. Serial killing first started when the Roman Emperor Caligula tested torture and perversion on his prisoners. Most people believed that first modern era serial killer was Jack the Ripper, a man who killed five London prostitutes. Serial killing did not become well known until the post-world war II. By the 1970’s, serial killing had become such a problem that law enforcement officials needed to define the new crime category (Schechter and Everitt, 115). Most serial killers situate in the United States. The United States is the home for 76% of the world’s serial killers (Schechter and Everitt, 276). Although serial killers are increasing people still wonder why these monsters have such psychopathic behavior.

Many people wonder what causes the disturbing behavior of serial killers. Most criminologists believe the theory that traumatic childhood experiences lead directly to the behavior of serial killers. The "Homicide Triad", which is the traits of a serial killer when they are a child, is the key factor in the development of serial killers. The "Homicide Triad" that includes bed-wetting, arson and animal torture as a child, is one of the most common traits of a serial killer (Newton, 2000, 101).

The triad is made up of fire starting, bed-wetting, and sadistic behavior. One of the important and most common parts of the "homicide triad" is arson. John E. Douglas, a psychological profiler, believes that the future serial killers are arsonists because of a "fascination due to their fondness of spectacular destruction" (Schechter and Everitt, 282). He concludes that a serial killer’s fascination for destruction increases as they get older and they turn to murder to satisfy their need for destruction. Sadistic activity, bed-wetting, and fire starting are common threads among serial killers that support the theory that childhood experiences relate to psychopathic behavior. Besides the three symptoms of the "Homicide Triad," another common denominator in the childhood of a serial killer is sadistic daydreaming (Newton, 2000, 101).

Another problem serial killers faced as children was Sadistic daydreaming. These daydreams were usually of sexual and violent nature. A psychology professor at Luther College, Jeremy Anderson states, "Future serial killers have sexual fantasies as children to help control their fear and it is a way to relieve hostility and aggression towards others" (Horse, 2001, 1). A child uses sexual fantasies as a form of escape from an abusive situation. Their daydreams as children allow them to become in control of themselves, others and the world. They also use sexual fantasies to fulfill the love they never received (Horse, 1). For example, kicking a dog so the animal would listen to them or beat them or beating and/or killing their parents are all common sadistic daydreams of serial killers as children (Horse, 1). Sadistic daydreaming as children is the leading cause of serial killers.

Many studies have shown that more than 82% of serial killers have had a problem with excessive daydreaming as children (Horse, 2001, 2). Their sadistic daydreaming as children influenced them as adults to act out their fantasies. Serial killer Ted Bundy carried knives around with him at the age of three due to his fantasies of controlling people with knives (Mukherjee, 1998, 1). He used knives on at least fifty women when he was older and each victim was a substitute for his mother whom he daydreamed about killing numerously but could never follow through with it. Although sadistic daydreaming as a child can lead to serial killer behavior, the most common denominator of serial killers is abuse as a child.

Most serial killers undergo many forms of abuse as children. Sexual, psychological and physical abuse as a youngster fills a child with hate and self-loathing that torments a child to become vengeful towards others for their own troublesome family backgrounds. More than 43% of serial killers were sexually molested as children (Schechter and Everitt, 293). Serial killer John Bartsch was bathed by his mother in Germany until he was eighteen years old. His mother would clean his private parts that would sexually stimulate him. This mental abuse caused Bartsch’s psychopathic fantasies, which lead to the killing of his victims. More than 74% of serial killers were subjected to continuous psychological torture as a child (Schechter and Everitt, 293). Bartsch’s mother screamed and threatened him numerous times of cutting off his penis, which lead him to his fear of his sexuality. FBI findings prove that over 42% of serial killers have suffered severe physical abuse (Schechter!

and Everitt, 293). John Bartsch who was exposed to sexually and psychological abuse was also exposed to physical abuse. Bartsch tells psychologist Paul Moor, "She’s broken more than one wooden cloth’s hangar across my back." Bartsch traumatic childhood experiences prove how abuse as a child leads to serial killer behavior later in life.

The development of a serial killer comes directly from their childhood experiences. Most serial killers display at least one of the "Homicide Triads," adolescent bed-wetting, arson or sadistic activity. This connection between serial killers as youngsters supports the theory that childhood experiences lead directly to psychopathic behavior of a serial killer (Horse, 2001, 2). Parents and other role models need to look out for these symptoms and get psychiatric help for their children. Crimes as youngsters should not only be punished, but also analyzed by a professional for the deeper reasoning behind their behavior. Too much daydreaming as a child, especially those of sexual or violent nature is used to escape the realities of life. Relatives, teachers, and friends should be more involved in the child’s life so that the child does not have as much time to daydream (Horse, 3). The adults should become more involved in the child’s life so that they could realize that their child has a problem and seek professional help before the problem progresses any further. Child abuse scars a child and causes hate towards others to develop. The pain afflicted upon serial killers as children sexually, emotionally, and physically, causes them to take vengeance out on others for their troubled childhood. If people in he community take action and report child abuse instead of not getting involved, the hatred developed from the abuse might stop, and allow the child a chance at regaining a normal life.

For the most part the childhood of serial killers paints a little picture of the causes of serial killers. There are also theories, hypothesis, and approaches to why these serial killers murder people the way they do. Most of these theories have something to do with child abuse, but they are different development and psychological approaches to serial murder. In the following pages, there are different beliefs of why serial killers kill. As we all know science is always experimenting and the following pages should not be taken as fact.

The psychodynamic theory has a few different views. One view invokes the Freudian concepts of unresolved sexual conflict, maternal over-protection, or outright rejection, in explaining serial murder. Other opinions describe how the murderer’s guilt from childhood prevents him from full sexual satisfaction, and that he must inflict suffering to the point that his victim is forced to "forgive" him. Some of the serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, has the belief that having sexual intercourse after the person is dead is more attractive because the corpse cannot reject him, is never unfaithful, and makes no sexual demands (Schwartz, 1992, 82). Furthermore, it may be that the serial murderer is "creating" something by murdering, which overcomes feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. The taking of trophies from the victim or recording the act in a book may serve to remind the serial murderer of his "creation."

The hatred of a significant female have also been reported by many serial killers (usually is the mother). Ted Bundy’s victims closely resembled a woman he was engaged to and then was dumped by. Some psychologists also believe that mutilations are a wish for the killers to re-enter and explore the mother’s body. This also goes back to the childhood of the serial killers. The hatred these killers have for their mother has to be linked to some type of abuse they were exposed to as a child (Wilson & Seaman, 1983, 6).

The frustration/aggression hypothesis was also derived from Freud. He believed that aggressive energy build-up must be periodically released before it reached dangerous levels. If it were not released then it would lead to certain acts like serial killing. Others believe that such frustration dissipates naturally without violent acts, and that the theory cannot help in explaining serial murder (Horse, 2001, 5).

The development approach is what I talked about at the beginning of the paper. I am going over this theory repeatedly because this is what I believe makes these monsters and I think it can be stopped. This approach goes into more depth about the childhood symptoms. This approach talks about the childhood behavior of bed-wetting, arson and torturing of animals. The bed-wetting is said to be a form of sadistic and hostile rebellion towards parents. Fire setting is associated with violence and torturing animals is a further form of rebellion against keeping pets as cherished friends (Mukherjee, 1998). Physical abuse as a child also plays a prominent role in the development of a serial killer. This abuse creates mistrust, an inability to establish meaningful personal or sexual relationships, feelings of low self-worth, lack of social skills, a sense of helplessness, inability to make decisions, and inability to plan life goals. The sexual abuse will make a person withdrawal into a fantasy life. To protect themselves from going crazy, the people being abused may pretend that the abuse is actually happening to someone else. After a person is abused so long, their fantasy world becomes reality and the killings could start.

The personality approach to serial killing is a broad topic that holds many controversies. Aside from psychopathic personality disorder, other personality traits have been identified as contributing to serial killer behavior. Traits of impulsiveness, low empathy and poor social skills have been found in serial killers. Others traits such as antisocial behavior, and hypersensitivity to criticism come from the serial killers with low self-esteem (Horse, 2001, 2). If intelligence can be associated as a personality variable, then average to high intelligence is likely to assist a serial killer in avoiding police detection and capture. This might explain why such levels of intelligence are found in serial murderers and it takes so long for law enforcement to finally track these killers down (Mukherjee, 1998, 7). The role of personality in the study of serial killers is an area of continuous debate. The proper testing of serial killers has yet to be done and seems to be the only way to find out for sure.

The last approach I am going to mention is the addiction approach. The title to the approach is self-explanatory but holds certain interesting aspects to it. The theory to this approach is the same as an alcoholic. This also goes with the frustration/aggression hypothesis, with the person feeling discomfort between offenses and then being cured of that discomfort when a kill is made. In between killings, the killers grow that need for the kill. After a kill is made they have that feeling of calmness (this calmness could give the person a feeling of at ease and the ability to sleep). As with the addiction to pornography and sex, the serial murderer may be addicted to his peculiar activity. This addiction could be the reason for why they kill so many people (Mukherjee, 1998, 6).

With all the studies and research that has been done on serial killers there should be some warning signs before it gets to the point of killing. This society is made up of many different levels of society and not all people pay close attention to family and friends. The future killer should receive counseling to help them recuperate from the abuse and the child’s violent behavior would not develop. If society became involved and made sure that each child was loved and treated well, many lives would be saved in the future. The bottom line of this paper is that serial killers develop as children because of the abuse they receive. Traumatic childhood experiences all lead to the development of the most frightening psychopath of all-The Serial Killer.


Abrahamsen, D. (1992). Murder & Madness. : .

Horse, D. (2001). Mass & Serial Murderers. : Dark Horse. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: www.crime

Mukherjee, R. (1998). . : . Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

Newton, M. (2000). Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (1st ed.). New York, NY: Checkmark Books.

Schechter, D. & Everitt, D. (1999). A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (1st ed.). : .

Schwartz, A. E. (1992). The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough (1st ed.). : Carol Publishing Group.

Wilson, C. & Seaman, D. (1983). The Encyclopedia of Modern Murder 1962-1982 (1st ed.). New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

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