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What makes a serial killer kill??

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posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 02:18 PM
Being one of ATSers long time member and lurker iv had the chance to be ‘enlightened’ and sometimes downright flabbergasted at some of the claims, truths and ‘what ifs’ that have popped up over the years. Those of you that know me or my posts will know that im the type of gal that whilst being skeptic, I enjoy venturing out of the comfort zone and often into jaggy territory to investigate the unusual, unknown, silly, impossible and awe inspiring. I also am an avid reader of true crimes magazines etc in my spare time, not many may know but a few months ago I done a thread called The life and death of Ruth Ellis- was she a murderer or the victim? were I looked into a case from the 50’s and one I deem to be one of those rare ‘genuine’ conspiracies. If you have some time please do go and read her story, it is truly fascinating.

Anyways, the purpose of this thread was that with me being a crime fan amongst other things I have often wondered what drives serial killers to actually kill, were does the urges come from? Is it something they are born with? Is it genetic, hormonal, biological, or cultural conditioning? We have to wonder if serial killers/psychopaths have any control over their desires or thoughts, each and every one of us at one time or another have experiences ultimate rage and inappropriate sexual feelings but yet we never step over that invisible line – the line that stops us becoming one of these monsters. Does us social or moral upbringing play a factor in this I wonder? It seems that with these seriel killers/psychopathic killers may have such things lacking – that invisible barrier that we never seem to cross in normal circumstances, I wonder why? Some people will be wondering why the hell I would care lol, well the way I see it is if we try to understand the psychology of people like this maybe we can spot the signs, get help for such people before these things escalate or simply help to catch future killers, plus I guess because im a little on the out-there side.

It’s not just us simple folk who struggle to understand people like this, even crime professionals and professors are baffled. It seems that most (I won’t say all) are deemed to be highly intelligent; Ted Bundy comes to mind someone who was said to have an IQ of 140. Most also seem to come from unstable family homes, suffered abuse of some sort – again this can be said for most people in the world, but what makes these kinds of people step over the line?

Below is a list of *types* of serial killers for reference taken from HERE

The one who Kills for 'Lust'
These serial killers get immense sexual pleasure when they torture or kill others. These people kill only to obtain sexual contentment by fulfilling their sexual fantasies. The more they torture the person, the more they are sexually aroused. Sex is the primary cause of serial killings, which is why most of the victims of these type of murderers are within a certain age group, and generally have similarity in height, weight, looks and race. The example of this type of serial killer would be Keith Hunter Jesperson who killed a 23 year old Taunja Bennet. He confessed saying, "I killed Tanya Bennett... I beat her to death, raped her and loved it. Yes I'm sick, but I enjoy myself too. People took the blame and I'm free... Look over your shoulder. I may be closer than you think."

The 'Visionary' Serial Killer
You would found them completely insane... in fact they are completely insane because of the simple reason that they blame their killing habits to some voices or visions that they hear! Yes, these serial killers are psychotic in nature and believe that they are compelled to murder by the entities like Demon and God. A classic example of this would be the serial killer known as the Son of Sam, the real name being David Berkowitz who said he was possessed by a demon and that there are many 'other sons' out there.

The 'Profit Seeking' Serial Killer
These types of serial killers kill only to obtain comfort through material things which can give them a comfortable and a luxurious lifestyle. In order to stay away from the eyes of the law, these types of serial killers usually keep a gap between their killings, and then attack the next victim. Dorothea Puente would be the perfect example for this as she killed approximately 9 people in a span of 6 years for their social security checks. Studies also reveal that most of the female serial killers kill for comfort and material possessions.

The One who Kills for 'Power and Control'
Ted Bundy, the most notorious serial killer ever known said, "I want to master life and death." Didn't this statement represent the urge to possess power or take control! In fact, most of this type of killers kill because, they themselves lacked control of their lives in the past. Studies show that such killers were either abused as kids or were abandoned making them feel left out and powerless. Most of these killers also abuse their victims sexually, but not because of lust, only because it gives them a sense of control over them.

The One who Kills for 'Thrill'
These serial killers don't kill for money, or sex, or power, it is more of a recreational activity for them. The ability to be able to terrorize their victims and the entire neighborhood is something that brings a lot of thrill and excitement in their lives. One of the famous serial killer that has not been caught yet, the Zodiac, had written, "[killing] gives me the most thrilling experience, it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl." The killers that kill for the trill are highly organized and invest a lot of time and research on how to become perfect at what they do.

Taken from This site here it lists the typical characterizes of a serial killer as quoted below:

The Common Traits Between Serial Killers

The characteristics shared by serial killers binds them together according to their style of killing and motive behind the killing. Let us have a look at these serial killer traits in detail.

Categories of Serial Killers and their Characteristics
There are three types of serial killers organized, unorganized and mixed serial killers. These serial killers and their characteristics are explained below:

➳ Organized Serial Killers
The organized serial killers plan their acts beforehand. They love to prolong the pain and suffering of their victims. These killers choose their victims at random. They will imagine killing their victims and get pleasure out of it. These serial killers are after a particular group of individuals. These include old people, prostitutes, children, young women, etc. These crimes are not carried out of impulse or passion. But, they are actually premeditated crimes. Organized killers take all precautions before killing their victim. They are so confident that they are ready to be interviewed by the police without fear. This is because they generally leave the crime scene clear of any kind of forensic evidence.

➳ Unorganized Serial Killers
Unorganized serial killers are generally found to have below average intelligence. They often live alone and have poor or moderate social skills. These people often have problems dating or never date. Unorganized serial killers are generally high school drop outs and have really poor hygiene. They do not plan in detail before murdering their victim. Unlike the organized serial killers, these serial killers often leave a lot of evidence around their victims.

➳ Mixed Serial Killers
These are serial killers who exhibit characteristics that are similar to the organized and disorganized serial killers. Sometimes, an organized killer may start showing characteristics of a disorganized serial killer. They are able to avoid getting caught and this makes them overconfident. Thus, they start becoming careless with their approach to the killings.

And also

Experts have found out some common traits of serial killers. These traits help the police identify their possible suspects. These typical serial killer characteristics are as follows:
• These serial killers are found to be intelligent and have above average intelligence.
• Most of the serial killers are found to have families and steady jobs. Some have trouble keeping a job and generally carry out menial jobs.
• These killers are often from divorced families where the father has left the mother. They are bought up by their mothers who have domineering personalities.
• They often come from families with a criminal, psychiatric or alcoholic background.
• These children are often abused emotionally, sexually and physically, especially by a close family member or acquaintance.
• There is a high rate of suicide attempts among the serial killers.
• These serial killers have found to be interested in voyeurism, sadomasochism, fetishism, etc. since an early age.
• It has been found that 60% of the serial killers wet their beds even after they reached the age of 12.
• Many have been fascinated and involved with torturing animals or setting fires.
• Many were bullied as children and some were involved in cases of petty crimes like theft, vandalism, etc.

It would seem looking at these traits and such, it could easily describe a lot of people, and most who go on to lead perfectly *normal* lives. It’s easy to summarize that the questions I cited at the beginning are never going to be easily answered. There have of course been a few exceptions to the cited expert examples above, Female serial killers are said to be pretty rare, same with killers who were members of racial and ethnic minorities, serial killers who murdered outside of their race and serial killers who began murdering during childhood. A few examples of these exceptions are:

Aileen Wuorns – convicted of killing 7 men and the subject of a movie about her life called *monster*, she was put to death in 2002.
Mary Bell – Convicted in 1968 of murdering 2 boys in England when she was just 10 years old, she was released when she was 23.
Another exception could be that of john wayn gacy and even Jeffery Dahmer – both white males who murdered both men and boys who were deemed to be ethnic or racial minorities.

Some experts believe that there is something wrong with the brain inside these seriel killers heads that give them the impulses that they have see image:

They believe that some sort of injury to the head perhaps at an early age could account for their behaviors, Quoted from HERE

Brain Injury
Some researchers theorize that serial killers have brain damage or other biological abnormalities that contribute to their actions. Damage to areas like the frontal lobe, the hypothalamus and the limbic system can contribute to extreme aggression, loss of control, loss of judgment and violence. Henry Lee Lucas, who was convicted of 11 murders, was shown to have extreme brain damage in these areas, probably the result of childhood abuse, malnutrition and alcoholism. Arthur Shawcross, another 11-time serial killer, was found to have had several brain injuries, including two skull fractures. While in prison, he suffered from headaches and often blacked out. Bobby Joe Long, convicted of nine murders, stated at one point, "After I'm dead, they're going to open up my head and find that just like we've been saying a part of my brain is black and dry and dead"

It seems plausible I guess. Also from same link it says

Some serial killers have been diagnosed by psychologists and psychiatrists as psychopaths. The official term in the Diagnostic and Standard Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) is antisocial personality disorder (APD). According to the DSM-IV, a person with APD follows a pattern of "disregard and violation of the rights of others occuring since age 15 years." This pattern includes seven factors (three of which must be met for diagnosis), such as "failure to conform to social norms," "irritability and aggressiveness" and "lack of remorse" [source: Vronsky]. Psychopaths are not insane -- they do know right from wrong. But this diagnosis may explain their behavior during their killing cycles.

Now this is just my opinion but that seems like an excuse, well to me anyways, but perhaps it has some truths. Now I don’t want to do too much in the OP as I want to leave it up to discussion (hopefully) obviously what is cited are examples so what do the rest of ATS think on this subject?

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 02:24 PM
reply to post by ronishia

What makes a serial killer kill??

The cereal of course...

Good OP BTW...

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 02:28 PM
It all starts with being a "crime fan" and reading a lot of true crime books in your spare time...

Just kidding.

I think the truth is, there are probably LOTS of different reasons. When we start trying desperately to make a box to put one kind of person in and another box to put another person in, it turns out a lot of people don't really fit with the labels we try to create.

One serial killer could have been abused badly by a nun at catholic boarding school as a kid and now he murders prostitutes because they are women and they readily hop into his car. Another could kill the same prostitutes from the same area but have none of the childhood abuse, and simply enjoys raping and killing women. A third killer could pick up prostitutes from the same area and kill them just because they are easy prey, and later he also kills men, children, etc.

There is probably no real label or answer that fits this question.

Every person probably have their own individual motivations for murdering. No two people are alike- despite what Chuck Palahniuk tells you, we really ARE all special snowflakes. Our decision making skills are directly affected by every single memorable experience we have ever had, and probably a lot of the repressed memories as well.

So in conclusion I think anything or nothing at all make a serial killer kill. Some probably just enjoy the feeling of power for taking someone's life from them, while others may have specific motivations and agendas, others like Anders Brievik think they are making a political statement, some like Charles Manson are just bat# crazy, etc.

Pretty little individual snowflakes. SNOWFLAKES I TELLS YA!
edit on 10/7/2011 by DieBravely because: Fixed a typo

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 02:42 PM
You left out one category of serial killers. Trained military professionals who fly bombers or ride tanks or just go house to house in old fashion shoot em up. Oh, you say? Thats OK cause it's war? Ask the Vets about killing for thrills or gain or "Mad Moments".

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:03 PM
They kill due to an overwhelming urge to do so, to fulfill a desire that borders on involuntary impulse. It can get to the point where you are no longer even comfortable in your own skin, feeling like you have to constantly scream, wide-eyed, and wanting to escape the immense feeling that eventually overtakes every bit of your thoughts. It becomes excessively frightening at times, to think that such urges become so strong, and literally hang by a thread, that could so easily snap.

The trait can be genetic, but in a certain case that I am closely familiar with, the individual has never killed but has had the desire to do such harm to others without motivation beyond the need to fulfill a need, much like how an addict needs that fix that sustains them for a period of time. At a young age he was bullied and abused by his mother. He was also dropped repeated on the head. His IQ was over 170 and he plays a part, much like an actor in order to fit in, and can alter his personality to blend into whatever situation need be, but feels completely alien, separate from society.

He underwent years of anger management, and psychological behavior therapy and it helped to control these urges of violence for the sole purpose of fulfilling this urge. Even to this day he avoids movies with excessive gore, or extreme acts of violence as he finds much pleasure in it to the point that it may trigger an episode that he will then be forced to bring back under control via the techniques he learned many years ago.
edit on 7-10-2011 by DJM8507 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:06 PM
I'd have to assume, once you kill once your kinda #ed unless you did it very sneaky. So at that point you've probably say f-it and just keep going until someone kills you.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:11 PM
reply to post by ronishia

Good post OP! Logged in just to say so. I also am a true crime fan. You put a lot of effort and info into your post that could be really enlightening to someone who reads it who may have never read up on the subject before. Congrats!

I became interested in such subjects years ago when a neighbor of mine (at the time, over 20 years ago) brutally murdered a local homeless man. I had known this guy (neighbor) since we were small children and he was always a friendly, laid back kind of guy that had never hurt anyone in his life. He was a guest at my house hundreds of times from childhood up into my oldest kids early childhood. When everything came out in the wash it turned out that when we were kids he had been raped by a homeless man, and when this guy approached him (he was walking down the railroad tracks in the area and the guy jumped out of the woods and yelled at him) he panicked, had a serious flashback, and murdered the guy.

I have been interested in what motivates people to kill ever since. It's a very interesting subject.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:18 PM
Excellent thread, Op!

I liked the way you broke it down and the subject matter was organized well.

I've always been fascinated with the minds of serial killers. From what I've come to understand, trauma, anger, and resentment are the things they all seem to have in common. The resentment can be towards themselves or a (once) loved one.
This abuse/trauma they received was psychological, physical, or, usually, both. I'm sure that there is a genetic or chemical factor involved, but I believe that the fuse that ignites it all is a sustained and brutal psychological and physical abuse of the person. Sometimes they kill to get a high and sometimes they kill to get rid of things that remind them of their past. Some simply have a blood lust or sexual desire that needs fulfilled.

One thing that has been identified so far is the patterns. Each killer is either organized or disorganized. The disorganized type are the most difficult to catch. Very few have the capability to make each murder different in order to cover their tracks and throw off the authorities.

This is a complicated subject and needs to be examined at all angles.
As far as I'm aware, John Wayne Gacy was the only serial killer to have his brain examined after he was executed. They found no anomalies.

Edit to Add: This isn't a serial killer case, but here is info on a boy who would come into the pet store I worked at to buy small animals. He was very quiet and I always got a bad vibe off him. Not too many months later, he was babysitting two neighborhood boys when he decided to tie them to a tree in the woods and slit their throats. We then found out later that he was killing the animals he was buying. He even went as far as to wear one around his neck at school. I have no doubt in my mind that this kid would have become a serial killer had he not been stopped at 16.

It truly makes my skin crawl to know I was so close to evil so many times and didn't know it. At least I can say that my intuition was working since he always did give me the creeps.
edit on 7-10-2011 by Afterthought because: (no reason given)

edit on 7-10-2011 by Afterthought because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:23 PM
Thank you everyone who has replyed so far
your input is much appreciated. I know that some friends of mine are to the conclusion that some of the things in the OP are merely excuses for the killers behaviours, i do think myself there is more to it. i wonder if someone can be born that way - i mean like positioned into that kind of psychology thinking. i know that - especially religious sectors think that every child is born unblemished & innocent and that it is social circumstances/upbringing and such like that shape us as we grow, this statement is pretty much true but i have to also say that alot of what is carried in DNA is not known, certain traits could be learned from parental lines carried down through the tree - who knows.

also to note as the above poster has said, not many of these exectioned serial killers have had their brains examined, with exception of a few who consented to xrays whilst they are alive, it makes me wonder if perhaps science is reaching? maybe not tho
edit on 7/10/11 by ronishia because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:24 PM
There are various environmental factors involved in the making of a serial killer, some are going to be physical, emotional, lack of something, too much of something else, societal conditioning, and a whole host of others, but ultimately it comes down to one, seemingly glib reason.

They're insane.

The root cause of the insanity isn't really the question, they will be different and some will follow similar lines, but ultimately the killer is basically criminally, and violently insane.

The real question should be one of 'what causes insanity?' and if you can crack that one, you've got it made.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:29 PM
reply to post by ronishia

especially religious sectors think that every child is born unblemished & innocent and that it is social circumstances/upbringing and such like that shape us as we grow,

Actually, that's not so is it?

Doesn't the RC church consider children to be born with sin?
The whole reason for baptism is to 'circumvent the sins' and allow passage to their god.

I think it's one of the more screamingly absurd aspects of religion myself, but theologians are a weird breed...fairly appropriate to this thread actually.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:32 PM
all serial killers kill for one thing: energy.

Not all serial killers are the one's who committed the acts, but are patsy's for others who do commit the acts. Those who do the actual killing do it for the energy. They get energy from the fear and anxiety that comes from the act itself, as well as the energy from the people who cover it, police it and live in fear from it.

Energy, the excuses or explanations offered are a coverup for the fact that was is being stolen is energy.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:37 PM

Originally posted by spikey
reply to post by ronishia

especially religious sectors think that every child is born unblemished & innocent and that it is social circumstances/upbringing and such like that shape us as we grow,

Actually, that's not so is it?

Doesn't the RC church consider children to be born with sin?
The whole reason for baptism is to 'circumvent the sins' and allow passage to their god.

I think it's one of the more screamingly absurd aspects of religion myself, but theologians are a weird breed...fairly appropriate to this thread actually.

fair enough
i was thinkin more christian/buddist when i said that, well so am told
it is an intriging thought tho as personally i do think that alot of the way we are , is in our dna, yes alot of our habits and such like are learned from our social interactions, what we see/hear etc as we grow. but i still believe certain traits we are born with. would be interesting to delve intot he family tree's of these serial killers and see if their is a pattern of behaviour as such.
edit on 7/10/11 by ronishia because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:39 PM
reply to post by crankyoldman

actually an interesting analysis, reminds me of those called physic vampire phenomena - were people feed on others energies.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:41 PM
reply to post by ronishia

I thought you might like this link to Crime Magazine. It's quite fascinating and I hope you enjoy it.

Here's a link to their Serial Killers index:

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:46 PM
reply to post by Afterthought

oh nice
at the moment i get true crime- true detective and others u should look at this site here- they have all the magazines i get plus they are in middle of putting all their stuff online to read. they also encourage user participation in research etc

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:50 PM
reply to post by ronishia

You're welcome and thanks for the link.
I already added it to my favorites!
Thanks for also letting me know that they allow users to contribute. I could get into that!

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:53 PM
reply to post by Afterthought

not a problem, all you need to do it write something up and send it to them, if they like it they include it int he next issue of their magazine! Believe it or not Jeremy beadle wrote for them at one point aswell! (if you know who that is)

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:55 PM
I feel it is a combo of things. Ego being the biggest.

Peace to all.

posted on Oct, 7 2011 @ 03:57 PM
reply to post by Buford2

definatly, ego i think plays a huge part in the way a serial killer acts - which is why most feel they have to goad the police (zodiac killer for ex -or jack the ripper) although i cant say its all about the attention for ALL cases but certainly for some. and certainly after they are caught alot relish int he reliving of the crimes example of the top off my head would be - bundy
edit on 7/10/11 by ronishia because: (no reason given)

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