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Serial Murderers Home
* Editors Note *
Many thanks are extended to Robert Beattie (Attorney and counselor at Friends University Wichita, Kansas) for contributing opinions which have lead to corrections within this document (Blue Text).
Murder has been illustrated as "the unlawful killing of a human being by another" (Oxford dictionary, 1997, p.742). The definition of Serial Murderers on the other hand, is not so simple to define, for it takes on many different forms, and is brought on by many different states of mind. Holmes and De Burger (1988) have attempted to define serial murder as consisting of repetitive killings which are one-on-one with rare exceptions, where the relationship between the victim and the offender is that of a stranger or slight acquaintance, and the motivation to kill and apparent motives are lacking (p.138). As we will see, this is not an extremely accurate description, because the motivation and motives are not lacking at all, but are just shrouded. Rarely do any of these killers act for money(except for some female serial murderers), instead they do it for the thrill, sexual satisfaction and/or dominance they achieve in their own world. A more specific profile of a serial killer has been presented by Apsche (1993) stating that most are white males in their twenties or thirties, who target strangers near their homes or places of work. "According to criminologist Eric Hickey, who has assembled the most extensive database on demography of serial murder states that, 88% of serial killers are male, 85% are Caucasian, and the average age when they claim their first victim is usually around 28.5. In terms of victim selection, 62% of the killers target strangers exclusively, and another 22% kill at least one stranger. Finally, 71% of the killers operate in a specific location or area, rather than traveling wide distances to commit their crimes"(Apsche, 1993, p.16). Also, the F.B.I claims that to be classified as a serial killer, the person must first complete 3 separate murders, that are spaced by a duration they call "the cooling off period" which can vary from a few days to years. But one thing that very few definitions include is that for a killer to be known as a "serial Killer", they must have a particular method to their killings. For instance, Wayne Gacy, had the trade mark of gagging victims with their own underwear so that they would die in their own vomit. To discover what makes a serial killer function, it is necessary to look back into their past, particularly their adolescent life. By looking at many and varied cases, it is evident that the majority of serial murderers come from dysfunctional backgrounds involving sexual or physical abuse, drugs or alcoholism and their related problems. Many traits that seem to be universal in all these serial killers, though in varied amounts, include disorganised thinking, bipolar mode disorders, a feeling of resentment towards society brought on by their own failings, sexual frustrations, an inability to be social or socially accepted, over bearing parents and a wild imagination that tends to drag them into a fantasy world. In a chart of serial killer - childhood development characteristics - created by Ressler, Burgers and Douglas (1990), the three most frequently reported behaviors included day dreaming, compulsive masturbation, and isolation. The daydreaming, which is brought on by an over productive imagination, tends to lead the way into the general fantasy world that the serial killer begins to live in to protect himself from any isolation he is faced with. At an early age, if a child is left alone, or forced to live in isolation whereby little attention is given to them for long periods of time, their minds become the object of their company, and thus begin the daydreams and the fantasy world (Ressler, Douglas and Burgess, 1990).This kind of isolation tends to breed feelings of inadequacy in some way or other in all serial killers. These feelings maybe masked by numerous artificial successes, but these feelings run deeper than the normal neurotic feelings of not being good enough. Essentially, these early life attachments which are known as ‘bonding’, set up a map by which the child will in later life react to others. In such cases, the children do not learn how to interact properly within their society, and at best, turn into mirror images of their isolators. A prime example of this can be seen in the case of Ed Kemper, whose mother condemned him to the basement of their home at the tender age of ten in fear that he would molest his younger sister (though he had not given his mother any reason to think this). Confused and angry as to why he was suffering this punishment, he turned to his fantasies, which may have started out as ‘normal’, but with the continued isolation they quickly became his dominant world. At this point, it is important to acknowledge that the majority of all daydreamers will not find themselves turning into murderers in later years; and so too, not all fantasy life is pathological. In fact, ordinary, healthy human beings often dream about their hopes and pleasures, even those that are beyond their reach. "Some of these fantasies may include such deviant and bizarre sexual practices as fetishes, **********, bondage, and rape…Because of their strong sense of conscience or concern over their public image, most will resist translating their desires into action" (Ressler, Douglas and Burgess, 1990). Detailed, ongoing research by the F.B.I shows that many convicted serial killers enact their crimes because of the incredibly rich, detailed and elaborate violent fantasies (including the act of murder) that have developed in their minds as early as the age of seven and eight. What distinguishes killers from ‘normal’ civilians is that the aggressive day dreams that have been developed as children, continue to develop and expand through their adolescence right into manhood, where they are finally released into the real world (Wilson & Seamen, 1992). Through the use of murder and mayhem, the serial killer literally chases his dream. With each successive victim, he attempts to fine tune the act, striving to make his real life experiences as perfect as his fantasy (Apsche, 1993). David Berkowitz, known as "The son of Sam", is a typical example of an average serial killer, and quiet normal in comparison to his other counterparts who have been known to eat their victims. From the years of 1976 through to 1977, he set out his reign of terror in New York City, by shooting over ten lovers who were parked in secluded areas. Upon being interviewed by John Douglas (a member of the F.B.I) at Attica State Prison, it was discovered that Berkowitz came from an adopted home, and upon discovering his real mother, was told by her that he wasn’t wanted. Originally being shy, insecure, and angry, he blossomed into a potential killer. He procured a large and powerful weapon, which in turn made him feel bigger and more powerful, and set about unknowingly to obtain revenge for what his mother had done to him. In most cases, there is an event known as the "Pre-crime stresser", as discussed by Ressler, Burgess, and Douglas (1990). The pre-crime stresser can be looked at as the reason for why the person turns to killing as a form of release, even if the criminal does not realise the full extent of his motivations or fails to see the reasons behind the stress he feels. A clear example of this can be seen upon the questioning of Berkowitz who denied he had anything against women, nor did he have reason as to why he killed so many. In actually fact, his mother’s rejection was the stresser that ultimately turned him violent. He did not attack his mother directly (few serial killers ever attack the source of their resentment), but the majority of his killings where based on women who had a likeness to his mother. Serial killers come in many different varieties. One which is driven by the desire to be acknowledged and feared is the "copy cat". As described by John Douglas (1996), they basically set out copying the actions of previously ‘famous’ serial killers who struck terror into people’s hearts. For example, in Wichita Kansas, the BTK strangler (Bind, Torture, Kill), has been said to have attempted following in the footsteps of Berkowitz. This particular issue has been much debated, with some people arguing that the BTK incidences took place prior to any of Berkowitz's. As to the accuracy of this concept, it is debatable, particular when evidence suggests that the BTK activities continued up until 1979, though the murders where said to have ended during 1977. It is not so much the celebrity statues that they so enjoy, but instead the ability to control the lives of thousands of area residents, who are held in their grip of terror. "Psychologically the thrill-motivated killer tends to be a sociopath, someone with a disorder of character rather than the mind. He lacks a conscience, feels no remorse, and cares exclusively for his own pleasures in life…It has been estimated that 3% of all males in our society could be considered sociopathic" (Fox & Levin, 1994, p.18). Society generally is quick to place tags on serial killers. Many believe that they are psychotics who hear voices or see visual hallucinations, but this is a misconception as explained by John Douglas (1996). Most are not at all psychotics who have lost touch with reality, but instead psychopaths who are suffering from chronic mental disorders with violent or abnormal social behaviors. Only a small hand full, like Richard Trenton who believed he needed to drink other people’s blood to stay alive, are actually psychotics. And this group is so disorganised in its crimes that it is generally apprehended quite quickly. One of the most hideous serial killers would undoubtedly have to be the sexual killer. Many specialists, including Douglas (1996) have agreed that the most crucial factor in the development of the serial rapist or killer is the role of fantasy. It has been suggested that the escalation from fantasy to reality in these instances, can be attributed to pornography. In response I would tend to agree, for pornography tends to build on the natural inner desires that exist within us all. The desire to have sexual intercourse is dominant in all males. The action of penetration brings on a sense of triumph and conquest . The only difference here is that these killers have not had the opportunity to learn intimacy due to childhood restraints, and they substitute intimacy with control (which they obtain by inflicting bodily harm to the other(the equivalent to the penetrating conquest) to counteract their inner desires for a mate. As Dr. Richard G. Rappart, a forensic psychiatrist, writes that the mode of death is one where factors indicate that the victim has meaning to the killer and that the intimacy of the murderous act is part of a close bond between himself and the victim formed in the killers fantasy and delusions. A study by Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow (1988) pointed out that a high proportion of serial killers are ‘highly sexed’ in childhood, and have been known to look into bathrooms through keyholes on females undressing, or initiated sexual games - sometimes amounting to rape - with girls at school. As Jack Apsche (1993) makes clear, serial murderers see themselves as dominant, controlling and powerful figures. They hold the power of life and death, and in their own eyes, they perceive themselves as God. In their fantasies and their enactment of the murder, they become God. This is actually probably the only power they have ever had, and for this reason they savor and continue to persist. As B.F Skinner proved in ‘Science and Human Behavior’, once a killer has tasted the success of a kill, and is not apprehended, it will ultimately mean he will strike again. He put it simply, that once something good has happened, something that made the killer feel good, and powerful, then they will not hesitate to try it again. The first attempt may leave them with a feeling of fear, revulsion and remorse, as stated by Ted Bundy to psychologists on the eve of his execution in 1989; but at the same time, it is like an addictive drug. Some killers revisit the crime scene or take trophies, such as jewelry or body parts, or video tape the scenario so as to be able to re-live the actual feeling of power at a latter date. Many have been reported as saying that they had fallen into the power of the devil after several kills, which is contradictory to their initial beliefs that they were God. It is almost as though initially they believed that they would be powerful in that they had the choice in taking or sparing life, but as time progresses, and the kills mount up, they find they are driven to kill as though they have no choice. Apsche (1993) has noted that many killers have attempted to get help when they discovered they had little control. They appear to want to stop their actions, but regain control to avoid their discovery. This is possibly an example of a bipolar personality clash. Ultimately, it is virtually impossible to detect a serial killer. Many seem to be quiet normal in their everyday lives, only some actually tend to act differently to the general population. Many have stated that it is easy to fool society, especially psychiatrists, by simply stating what they want to hear. Nor is there any way of detecting for certain who might become a homicidal maniac. But by comparing many past cases it is possible to put together a list of general personality traits that are common in serial killers, and that may prove useful in determining future killers. The F.B.I has its own list, but due to its unavailability I have prepared my own. Traits that should be looked at when trying to decide if a person is a potential killer include: Social withdrawal, abnormal dependence’s on ones mother or ulcerated relations with ones parents, hypochondria or other attention seeking behavior including forms of clothing, delusional mind as to grandeur, severe depression, a general feeling of emptiness as to the future, inability to take criticisms, a general feeling of being mistreated, inability to assert ones self, parental taunts as to ones inability to be sufficient (or as I prefer to call it - the Hitchcock ‘Psycho’ syndrome), mood disorders, and a general failing in attempts to succeed. Of course these are very general points, and even if someone had the majority of these (as I do), it would not necessarily mean that they would become serial killers, it is only meant as a point of reference. As Freud once commented, a child would destroy the world if it had the power. In a sense the serial killer’s mind can be contrasted to that of a child’s for it has not had the opportunity to develop to that of a ‘normal’ adult. Instead, fantasy takes the place of reality, and it is almost always solely based on acquiring power. A majority of serial killings might have been avoided if the killers had been better treated in their youth. But then again, there is no concrete evidence that suggests this to be true. In all actual fact, most of the conclusions that have been made on serial killers are only speculations based on observations and interrogations of the subjects. But to be realistic, can we really trust anything that may come from the equivalent of a child’s mind filled with falsities created through fantasy?
Apsche, J. (1993). Probing the mind of a serial killer. International information Associates.
Douglas, J., (1996). MindHunter. Mandarine Publishing
Fox, J.A., & Levin, J., (1994). OverKill - Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed. Plenum Press
Hughes, J.M. (Ed.).(1997). Oxford Concise Australian Dictionary (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press
Ressler, R.K., Burgess, A.W. & Douglas, J.E., (1990). Sexual Homicide patterns and Motives. Lexington Books
Wilson, C., & Seamen, D., (1992). The Serial Killer. Carol Publishing’s
Yochelsen, S. & Samenow, S. (1988). The criminal personality. New York Press
Written By Evan Sycamnias
Anatoly Onoprienko was born in Ukraine on July 25,1959 He was the youngest of two sons, his brother was 13 years older than him.When He was three years old his mother died,He was taken to his grandparents so that they could care for him.This only lasted for a short time, and He was soon taken to an orphanage in the village of Privinoe and given up;It was in this orphanage that he had begun to change,He was beaten,and began to develop a sexual craving for violence.
Anatoly began his deadly path in 1989, his desired method was,find a secluded house on the outskirts of a village, storm in with a shotgun,round up every one inside killing them all; Then he would take some of their belongings before setting the house on fire and fleeing back to his home,killing any witnesses around the location. The people of Ukraine had dubbed Him The Beast of Ukraine,The Terminator,and Citizen 0.
He was responsible for 52 killings across Ukraine before being apprehended on April 16,1996.
The locations of his murders formed a cross on the map of Ukraine,he said he was driven by voices in his head,something of a higher force something telepathic or cosmic, telling him where to kill,and he received no pleasure from killing.
During his trial he asked for the death penalty,saying that he would escape from jail to kill again and it would be 10 times worse the first thing he would do upon his escape is find Kuchma, (The judge that sentenced him)and hang him by his testicles from a tree.
Richard Kuklinski was born in 1935 in Jersey City, New Jersey to an abusive and alcoholic father, as well as, an abusive mother. In 1940, Stanley, Richard's father, beat Richard's brother to death. The family subsequently lied and said that the boy fell down a flight of stairs and died. Committing his first murder at 14, he beat the leader of a gang to death after the boy had bullied him. Later, "The Iceman" became a contract killer for crime families. During his life, he claims to have killed over 250 people. He was arrested in 1986 after attempting to purchase cyanide from an undercover officer. He was initially charged with 5 counts of murder and received consecutive life sentences. He was later charged and convicted of killed an New York police officer and received an additional 30 years. Richard was married and had three children, claiming he would never hurt a child and "probably" wouldn't ever murder a woman. His wife backed up his claims that he never hurt his children. Kuklinski died at age 70 in March of 2006 of natural causes. He claimed that the prison officials were poisoning him, however, after an autopsy, it was determined that he had not been poisoned.
Aileen Wuornos was born February 29, 1956 in Rochester, Michigan. Aileen grew up with her mother Diane and older brother Keith for the first 4 years of her life. Aileen never met her father when she was a child because her father Leo was in prison for rape and attempted murder of a seven year old girl. Leo was considered to be a schizophrenic and had been in and out of prison for convicted sex crimes against young children and eventually hanged himself in prison. At age 4 Aileen's mother Diane, abandoned Aileen and her brother Keith leaving them to their maternal grandparents who then legally adopted the two. At age 12 Aileen was involved in sexual activities in school for exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food. She had also engaged in sexual activities with her own brother Keith and claimed to be assaulted and beaten by her own grandfather who was an alcoholic. Age 14 she had become pregnant after being pared by a friend of her grandfather and gave birth to the child. Her grandmother died a few years later which lead her grandfather to kick her out of the house at 16 where she began to support her and her new born by prostitution. After her tough tough childhood Aileen began her early crime life with assault and battery charges, shooting at moving vehicles, armed robberies, grand theft auto, and countless accounts with firearms, Her first murder was Richard Mallory an electronics store owner in Clearwater, Florida. Her victim was a convicted rapist and claimed it was self defense but officers found several bullet wounds in the victims body. She then went on to kill 6 more people in the Florida areas, all her victims had bullet wounds. January 9th, 1991 she was arrested with an outstanding warrant arrest in a biker bar in Volusia County. She was then tried for two of her murderes and said they tried to rape her and it was self defense. Aileen would appeal to the US Supreme Court who denied her request and she eventually admitted to killing these men, saying that she killed the men robbed them cold as ice and would do it again. She was the tenth woman in the United States to be executed. -- David Janke
John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy was born March 16, 1942, in Chicago. He was known for his construction company, family and friends parties, and visiting local hospital dressing as a friendly clown for the children. Trying to make the town a better place to live. No one knew that Gacy was living a double life and his obsessing with young and teenage boys. Gacy would hire the boys to work for his construction company then lure them to his house to hang out where he would often times rape and kill them. Police eventually discovered the dead bodies of 33 boys under the crawl space of his basement as well as near a river close to his house. It was later discovered that family and friends often complained about a smell in Gacy's basement, but he shrugged it off saying there were probably dead rats down there. He was convicted for the murder of 33 proven murders and killed by lethal injection.
David Berkowitz AKA the "Son of Sam"
David Berkowitz also known as the "Son of Sam" was a serial killer in New York throughout the 1970's. The reason I chose David was because like a lot of other serial killers David's killings were done because of a religious entity. David claimed that his neighbor's dog was possessed with a demon that made him kill people. David started his violent crimes on Christmas Eve of 1975. He stabbed two teenage girls that were walking. Both were injured, but neither one of them were killed. Shortly after the first incident David moved to a northern part of the city called "Yonkers." After he moved there he began his killing career. Throughout 1976 and 1977 David Berkowitz killed six people all with a .44 caliber hand gun and wounded seven others. He wasn't very thorough with his killings. It started with him walking up to a car at night occupied by people and him just firing into it. It evolved into him walking up to people on a porch and asking for directions before he shot them. This shows evolution in his serial killer ways because before he would have no interaction with victims and then he started talking to them before he opened fire. Berkowitz constantly would leave letters taunting police and promising more murders. After one of New York City's largest manhunts ever they finally caught up to David in August of 1977. He was convicted of six counts of murder and sentenced to six life sentences in prison.
Richard Trenton Chase AKA "The Vampire of Sacremento"
Richard Chase was born on May 23, 1950 and was abused by his mother early on. From the age of 10, he was diagnosed with the Macdonald triad: this consisted of enuresis, pyromania and zoosadism. These are three very interesting, yet disturbing traits that are closely related with psychopathy and extreme sadism. Growing up, Chase had weird thoughts about his health and was constantly intoxicated on alcohol, marijuana, and LSD according to his roommates and his Wikipedia page. He then began to capture, kill, and disembowel animals and sometimes mix the raw organs with Coca-Cola in a blender. He was committed to a mental institution and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, but was released. During his stay as being institutionalized, much of the staff even called him "Dracula."
Chase earned the nickname “The Vampire of Sacramento” after killing six people from December 29 to January 27, 1977 in California. The nickname was given to Chase because he was known to drink the blood of his victims. According to an article entitled “Top 10 Evil Serial Killers” on Listverse, Chase “did this as part of a delusion that he needed to prevent Nazis from turning his blood into powder via poison they had planted beneath his soap dish,” (Frater). This also closely tied into the belief that his mother also attempted to poison him and thus he left his mother's house in order to escape this delusion. Obviously, these beliefs and delusions tied closely into this assumption that he was paranoid schizophrenic. Chase’s first killing was in 1977 when he shot a man in a drive-by shooting. His second victim, a pregnant woman, was shot three times in her house. After her death, Chase had sex with her corpse, mutilated it and then bathed in her blood. Less than a month later, Chase entered the home of a 38-year-old woman and shot her neighbor before fatally shooting the woman, her 6-year-old son, and her 22-month-old nephew. As he did in the previous crime, Chase engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism, including drinking the nephew’s blood and eating several of the infant’s internal organs. He was disposing the body at a nearby church when a witness saw him leaving the scene which lead to his arrest. Chase “was found guilty of six counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to die in the gas chamber,” (Frater). While in prison, inmates feared him and tried to convince him to commit suicide, which he finally did almost one year after committing the first murder.
Dennis Rader was born in 1945 and pegged the acronym BTK (bind, torture, kill) when he killed 10 people in Wichita, Kansas. The murders took place from 1974-1991, but he was not convicted until 2005 after sending detailed letters describing the murders to the police station. Rader lived a fairly typical life. He was part of the US Air Force for a time, had more than one successful career, as well as a wife and two children. Rader was the president of his church council and a cub scout leader. No one ever suspected he was capable of such heinous crimes. It was later discovered that as a child Rader tortured animals and had an obsession with women's underpants stealing and hoarding them. He is still currently alive and serving 10 life sentences in the El Dorado Prison.
Link to a full story about the BTK Killer from Wichita, KS.
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