Are you curious about serial killers and how they implement their killings mysteriously? Follow this article to know the criminology behind some of the world’s most famous serial killers.
Serial killers are the most dreaded criminals all around the world. Even the mere mention of serial killers is enough to send chills down one’s spine. This is because they’re more than ordinary criminals, they’re thoughtful, and they plan a lot. And you never know what their next move may be. Their mysterious plans prevent them from getting caught right away.
Our world has seen many serial killers come and go over the years, but some of these murderers have left a more profound mark, making them memorable and haunting. Some serial killers are known for their ruthless and evil hunting methods, while some are remembered for their extreme body counts. One way or another, they’ve left a mark and their names in history.
People fear serial killers, but they are also curious about them. This is because they want to know about how evil a person can be and to what extent they can go to achieve their purpose if there is any. If you’re also curious about serial killers, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will explore all the criminology about some of the world’s most famous and cold-blooded serial killers and how they were able to implement such merciless plans. You’ll also get to know details about some well-known names in the serial crime world and learn about the different types of serial killers. So let’s dive right in.
What are serial killers?
Serial killers are individuals involved in acts of serial killing or serial murder, which is the unlawful homicide of two or more people in different events at different times. What differentiates serial killing from other killing is that it is done by the same person(s), a serial killer, and is carried out in the same fashion in most cases. Serial murders are also not the same as mass murders, which involve killing many people at the same time and place.
Serial killing is not a new phenomenon; it dates back to ancient times. However, we saw an enormous increase in serial killings in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 1970s, an FBI Behavioural Science Unit Investigator, Robert Ressler, popularized the term “serial murder.”
In the first-ever definition provided by the FBI, serial killing was described as the killing of at least four victims at different locations, separated by a particular time. The definition was further refined in the 1990s to include at least three acts of killing at various locations and times. It was then again changed to what it is now. The National Institute of Justice, U.S., defines serial murder as involving at least two different murders that occur over a period ranging from hours to years.
Serial killers are known to kill for different motives ranging from sexual desires to recreation. In many cases, the killings are assumed to give serial killers a feeling of power over their victims. The victims of serial killers majorly include, but are not limited to, women, children, prostitutes, migrants, and homosexuals. Serial murderers have attracted a lot of attention and curiosity, partly because they are known to be personifications of evil in society.
Factors influencing the development of serial killers
The question that commonly arises in this context is what causes such behavior of serial killers. One might think that they are humans just like us, but what causes them to do such vicious acts? The answer lies in the development of that human being, which makes him different from the rest.
The behavior of a person is directly or indirectly influenced by life experiences as well as certain biological factors. Like all human beings, serial killers are the product of their heredity, their upbringing, and the choices they make throughout their development. From the moment they’re born to the moment they die, humans continuously evolve and develop.
Social behavior mechanisms start to develop early in life and continue to progress as children begin to interact with their surroundings. Studies have shown that when this coping mechanism fails to develop fully, it results in abnormal and violent behavior.
Neglect and abuse in childhood have contributed to an increased risk of future violence. Substance abuse can and does lead to increased aggression and violence. There are documented cases of people who suffered severe head injuries and ultimately became violent, even when there was no prior history of violence.
Apart from these factors, humans also have the ability to choose to engage in certain behaviors. In fact, the most significant factor resulting in serial killing is the serial killer’s personal decision in choosing to pursue the crime.
The collective outcome of all of these factors separates a serial killer’s behavior from generic human behavior. There is no single cause that leads to the development of a serial killer; instead, there are multiple factors that have a combined effect. Since it is impossible to identify all of the factors that influence normal human behavior, it is similarly not possible to identify all of the factors that influence an individual to become a serial murderer.
Famous myths surrounding serial killers
Since serial killings are rare and the civilians often fail to get the inadequate information regarding serial killers, there has been a rise in myths and misconceptions surrounding serial killers. People generally try to make their own way towards the information, whether true or false. Here are some of the prevailing myths regarding serial killers.
All serial killers have sexual desires
One common misconception that many people have is that serial killers are motivated simply by their sexual desires, and this is what leads them to become the most ruthless criminals. The truth is that there are tons of reasons and motivations that become the cause of the serial killing. Anger, thrill, financial instability, recreation, and attention-seeking are some of the motivations besides sexual desire.
All serial killers are social misfits and loners
People often associate serial killers with having psychological issues. For example, serial killers are often thought to be outcasts or social misfits who generally have no friends and no socialization and end up living alone. Where such factors might have some influence on a person’s development into a serial killer, this is majorly not the case.
Most serial killers are not outcasts of society; they’re the opposite instead. They may not appear strange or wild on the outside and might just blend well in community. Serial killers often have families, homes, and sometimes decent jobs as well. On the outside, they seem to be regular members of society who have nothing wrong. Because they blend in so effortlessly sometimes, many serial killers are overlooked by and the police.
All serial killers are white men
The public perceives most serial killers to be white males. While this might be the case most of the time, it is not true every time. Serial killers come from different races: men, women, white, black, African-American, Asian, and Hispanic.
All serial killers are extremely intelligent and genius
This is another myth surrounding serial killers that all of them are incredibly clever and intelligent to carry out such acts of crime. Basically, they’re known to be evil geniuses that outshine the intelligence of law enforcement officials.
The truth is that serial killers, like other human beings, vary in intelligence. Some are average-level intelligent, while some are above or below average.
Types of serial killers
Based on different motives, there are four main types of serial killers. Not every serial killer falls into one or the other category. Some might overlap to fall into more than one category over time. These four categories are as follows.
A visionary serial killer is a psychotic and disorganized serial killer who kills because he believes that someone like a visionary entity is commanding him to do so. In other words, he is “on a mission from God.”
Such serial killers are highly disorganized in their actions and put little to no effort into covering up their crimes. They most often have psychosis, causing them to hallucinate and lose connection with reality. This way, they’re unable to differentiate between right and wrong.
Visionary killers often lack planning and pick their targets randomly without specifically picking or stalking them. This leaves them with fewer chances of getting caught since it becomes difficult for the police and law enforcement to trace back their actions.
As the name shows, this category of serial killers contains those on a mission to kill a particular group of people they think society should get rid of. For example, they might target a particular race or religion, or even sex workers or prostitutes. Mission-oriented serial killers believe that they are on a mission to clean society from people they think are destructive to certain ethical aspects. They believe that they are doing their society a favor by doing this.
Unlike visionary killers, mission-oriented killers are organized in their actions and are also not psychotic. They will pick their targets belonging to a certain group, community, race, or religion and then kill them through a proper well-executed plan. Apart from that, such killers will also kill their targets quickly without any signs of torture or sadism.
When a serial killer kills for pleasure, he falls in the category of a hedonistic killer. Such killers get comfort from three different things which are lust, comfort, and thrill. This way, hedonistic serial killers are classified into three subcategories.
As the name indicates, a lust killer will kill to satisfy his lust. For this purpose, he will rape, torture, mutilate and eventually kill his victims. This is what gives him pleasure and satisfaction. And once he starts doing this, it becomes difficult for him to stop. This way, the time between each murder gets shorter and shorter.
Such killing and torturing instincts are not born instantly. Before picking up the courage to finally kill, a lust killer fantasizes about such thoughts for years and eventually turns those violent thoughts into realities.
A thrill killer kills people and gets excited and thrilled by seeing them die away. More like a sadist, it gives him immense pleasure to torture his victims and see them in pain. Lust killers basically feed off their victim’s responses like fear and helplessness. For example, such a killer would kill someone just to see what dying feels like, or he might just let his victim run away and then catch him eventually to get pleasure from the victim’s vulnerability.
As for their psychotic condition, lust killers might seem just alright on the outside but have internal insecurities like helplessness and inadequacy. It gives them a feeling of power and authority by doing such acts of crime.
A comfort killer is one who kills for financial purposes or other material gains. Examples include killing a sibling to get a larger share in the inheritance or killing a spouse to benefit from insurance payments.
The most famous method that comfort killers use is poison. Since pleasure or sexual desire is not a motive, comfort killers tend to wait a sufficient amount of time between making their next move.
Last but not least, there are power/control killers who seek to have complete control and power over their victims. They wish to dominate their victims completely through many merciless acts to feel empowered and authoritative. Such types of killers are mostly organized in their crimes and actions, and they’re also calm and patient.
As per research, such behavior is commonly caused due to inadequacy, powerlessness, and rejection, rooting back to their childhood. Many power/control serial killers have faced abuse and harassment as a child.
5 of the world’s most famous serial killers
The following list explores some of the world’s most famous and ruthless serial killers, marked with some of history’s most horrific crime stories.
Being a power/control killer, Ted Bundy tops every list of serial killers. Also known as “The Lady Killer,” Ted Bundy used his charms and charismatic personality to lure women and eventually seize them to have complete control.
More like a handsome evil God, Ted Bundy’s cunning crimes have received a lot of attention from the media and public, as is evident from the number of books, movies, and shows surrounding Bundy.
In the 1970s, Ted traveled across the country to satisfy his power urge. His victims, primarily young college-age brunettes, belonged to different states, including Ohio, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Florida, Washington, California, and Utah. He would use his charms and pretend to be injured in order to lure the unlucky victims. Once he captivated them, he would rape them and then strangle them to death. Doing so, he would get a feeling of empowerment and control.
Over time, Ted’s urge grew more robust, and he started taking too many risks. Eventually, his crimes came to light, and he was caught in 1975 and executed in an electric chair in 1989. In the end, Ted got the attention he desired, though not in a good way, as history will always remember him as the most famous serial killer of all time.
Jack the Ripper
The horrific mystery of Jack the Ripper is enough to send cold chills down the spine. The real name of the serial killer remains unknown to this day since he was never caught.
Over a century ago, in 1888, England saw one of the most dreadful scenes of serial killing in the capital of London. The case revolved around the murders of 5 women, all prostitutes, who were left on the streets of London after being killed and mutilated. Speculations were that the murderer was skilled someone skilled with a scalpel, maybe a surgeon or a butcher. However, the mystery remained as it is since the police failed to identify or catch the killer.
Jack the Ripper has been perceived as a true mastermind. He also used to send letters and postcards to the police describing his ways and methods of killing. Once, he also sent the kidney of a mutilated victim along with his letter.
Jack the Ripper’s mysterious murders have remained unsolved despite researchers’ continuous efforts to figure out the merciless acts of the serial killer.
Jeffrey Dahmer is a perfect example of a racist serial killer since he targeted the black community in his crimes. Jeffrey’s crimes started in 1978 when he was just 18 years old, and until 1991, he had already raped, killed, and mutilated 17 young black men.
Jeffrey would lure his victims into his apartment one way or another. He would then attach them, rape them and eventually kill them. But that’s not it. Even after killing them, he would rape his victims and then mutilate their bodies, keeping several body parts as trophies.
After some successful murders, Jeffrey became confident and started trying new methods to play around with his victims while they were still alive. For example, he started injecting his victims with drugs in a very inhumane way. He would drill holes into their heads and inject drugs like acids into their brains in an attempt to create zombies out of them.
But every evil has to end. The police caught Jeffrey Dahmer after one of his victims-to-be escaped from his apartment and informed the police. The authorities found a great deal of evidence of Jeffrey’s murders in his apartment, including mutilated body parts as well. Jeffrey’s life ended in 1994 when he was killed by a prison inmate.
The myth that all serial killers are men is busted clear enough with the story of Aileen Wuornos. The Florida prostitute murdered many of her clients between the years 1989 to 1990 and got her name written down in history as one of the most famous serial killers.
From an abused child to becoming a sex worker, Aileen had a troubled life. According to her, she started killing her clients as an act of self-defense. The clients had paid for Aileen’s sexual services but then became aggressive, which automatically led Aileen to execute them.
Aileen remains one of the most prominent figures in the world’s criminal history. Her tragic life story was also portrayed by Charlize Theron in the 2003 film “Monster”, who then went on to win an academy award in 2004.
John Wayne Gacy
We’ve seen clown killers in movies, but John Wayne Gacy was a real-life clown killer. He was one of the most ruthless serial killers the world has ever known. Before his crimes surfaced, people knew him as a successful businessman, construction worker, children’s entertainer, and clown. What the world didn’t know was that John was a rapist-murderer who even had a four-foot crawl space or a cemetery under his house.
John started his killings in 1972 when he brought home a 16-year-old boy and killed him by stabbing him in his chest. From then on, John went on to murder a known number of 33 victims, primarily young and teenage boys, whom he would lure in the night.
After a brutal murder spree that lasted for six years, John came under suspicion in 1978 when a teenage boy went missing after being last seen with John. Police searched his house and found 30 bodies buried beneath. He was executed by lethal injection in 1994, and this is how his horrific crimes came to an end.
Although there is a decline in serial murders nowadays, we cannot ignore the fact that serial killings are a significant part of our criminal history. It is important for people to know some of the most dreaded criminals of the past. This article has explored the essential criminology behind serial killers, different types of serial killers, and what motivates them to do such barbaric acts of crime. Hope you enjoyed the goose-bumping details of five of the deadliest and world’s most famous serial killers.