Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 8

Hayes 1

Chloe Hayes

English 1201

Professor Cassel

15 December 2019

The Will to Kill:

Common characteristics found in serial murderers

There are hundreds of thousands of serial killers that all made themselves unique in their

own disturbing ways: Ted Bundy known for his incredible intelligence, Jeffrey Dahmer’s

cannibalism of little boys, Charles Manson and his cult. Each murder also differs from the type

of weapon to the amount of blood spatter. But what if there were common factors that linked

with serial killing? Between a killer’s childhood and a mental illness, it is likely that small

characteristics like these are the steps to becoming a serial murderer. Similarities when

comparing two or more crime scenes can easily connect an aspect in both killers’ lives that they

share. What are some of these shared factors that lead to serial killing?

According to Daniel Weiss in “Pornography is a Significant Factor in Sexual Violence,”

Dr. Victor Cline discovered how a person’s desire for pornography can escalate to abrasive act

outs after growing a tolerance and becoming desensitized. Weiss states it is a significant and

common factor in serial killers and child molesters. The infamous Ted Bundy was introduced to

pornography at a very young age, and he directly thinks it factored into his urge to kill. William

Arndt, in “Critical Characteristics of Male Serial Murderers,” agrees with this theory, along with

Ressler and Schatman, who were cited in his article. Ressler and Schatman believe that the

motives of all serial killers are always sexual, and they consider serial murders as sexual

homicides. While both sources are credible, their similar claims differ. Weiss and Arndt believe
Hayes 2

pornography is popular for serial killers to lust; whereas, Ressler and Schatman believe

pornography is the answer behind every killing.

Laurence Miller’s “Serial Killers; I. Subtypes, patterns, and motives” states how common

intelligence is found in most serial murderers. Because of the detailed work that is put into the

murder, cleaning up the crime scene, and deciding what to do with body, it is a crucial aspect to

have a plan beforehand. Often times, unorganized killings become messy and the killer is easier

to recognize based on clues they left behind (ex: blood, fingerprints, weapons, etc.) but they

become “more proficient each time [they] kill.” Michael Ross’ autobiography, “The Urge to

Hurt,” clearly emphasizes his level of intelligence as he is a Cornell University graduate. Ross is

a condemned man on death row for the rape and murder of eight women, along with many

assaults. He claims his horrifying crimes are due to his mental illness, Paraphiliac Disorder. Both

sources are highly reliable considering Laurence Miller wrote an entire book on violence,

Aggression and Violent Behavior, and Michael Ross was a serial killer himself.

A mental illness and/or disorder is commonly found in serial killers such as antisocial

personality disorder, mood disorder, and delusional disorder. According to Miller, serial killers

are “developmentally and cognitively impaired and socially disadvantaged” due to their criminal

lifestyle. Ted Bundy attempted to use his insanity as a defense mechanism to be excused from

penalties. In “Etiology of the Psychopathic Serial Killer: An Analysis of Personality Disorder,

Psychopathy, and Serial Killer Personality and Crime Scene Characteristics,” written by an

unknown author, “psychopathy is a far more relevant factor in studying serial violent offenders”

in those who are criminals. Most serial killers incorporate “some kind of sexual element into

their killings,” in result to necrophilia, which is also a common trait. Ross suffers from a mental

illness known as paraphiliac disorder, in which he has uncontrollable sexual impulses and the
Hayes 3

constant urge to degrade, rape, and kill women. This leads his case to become controversial

because some believe he earns the death penalty, whereas others believe he is innocent due to his


Antisocial behavior is many times exhibited in serial killers as they are kids. This is one

of the most crucial red flags, but it is able to be caught early onset. Antisocial children show

“poor verbal ability, impulsivity, high neuroticism… [ADD and ADHD].” Psychopaths carry

many of the same characteristics as those who have Antisocial Personality Disorder, but they

have two completely different identities. While most psychopaths have ASPD, “most individuals

with ASPD are not psychopaths.” There are two types of antisocial behavior: adolescence

limited, resulting from mimicking peers, and life-course persistent, like a disorder. It is a

common myth for serial killers to be known as messed-up loners. Serial murderers blend in as

members of their community, so they are easily overlooked by the public. Depending on their

level of ASPD, those who suffer with this disorder can still properly function in their work and

home environment.

Serial murderers often experienced a trauma as a child which interferes with their

perspective as they age. When interviewing those who knew serial killers as children, “[they] are

usually described as a little “off.”” Many serial killers, in their childhood, often set fires, harmed

animals, and urinated their beds. Miller states some offenders’ criminal careers began as early as

their childhood, from sexual assault to murder. Both of these factors affect their ability to see the

difference between right and wrong and lack a guilty conscience. In addition, Simon’s

“Antisocial Personality Disorder in Serial Killers: The Thrill of the Kill” explains that serial

killers prefer to have “superficial relationships with others rather than close and intimate

friendships” because of their incapability for love and empathy.

Hayes 4

Moreover, in serial murderers’ adolescent years, there is often an absent parent, if any

parent in their lives at all. Some may be addicted to drugs, alcoholics, sadists, prostitutes, and/or

abusive. Studies show that as children, serial killers commonly experienced “long and devasting

periods of social deprivation and psychological neglect.” Ürmósné Simon in her article, “The

Traits and the Thrill of Serial Killers,” states serial killers “were often abused- emotionally,

physically, and/or sexually- by a family member” and some were forced to dress as the opposite

gender. Small details, like an unhealthy relationship with their mother, play a huge role in how

killers develop mistrust and rage. They have a deficit in morals, values, and beliefs because they

never learned any due to their lack of parental figures. Arndt claims these are influences that lead

to the killer’s fantasies of “violence, total control, and domination of the victim.”

Due to their abuse as children, serial murderers struggle with attaining defense

mechanisms, leading to advanced difficulties in social situations. This can cause reactions of

increased isolation, lying, showing deviant behaviors, and excessive daydreaming and

nightmares. According to O’Reilly-Flemming, who is cited in Simons’, the psychosexual

development of a loner is when “the individual comes to be sexually gratified by deviant means.”

This may include cross-dressing, bizarre fetishes, and progress to deviant sexual acts with their

partner. After learning the arousal achieved through violence, serial killers’ turn sharply towards

torture, rape, mutilation, and murder. Hickey’s Trauma-Control Model, explained in Arndt’s

article, states the process of deviance in steps. The first being predisposition factors combining

with trauma, which erects a “dark side.” Facilitators like drugs and alcohol, during the deviant

process, increase and distinguish the evil urges. The next step is the individual experimenting

with stalking and engaging in their fantasies. Finally, fantasy becomes reality.
Hayes 5

Simon lists the common motives for serial murder as: anger, thrill, financial gain, and

attention seeking. They desire psychological gratification, and this can be found different ways

depending on the classification of perpetrators. Holmes’ typology splits the plethora of killers

into categories based on studies and research. Visionary serial killers experience hallucinations

that convince them to murder and believe they are compelled by an entity. The mission-oriented

killers believe they are doing everyone a favor by ridding of a specific type of person and it will

help society progress. Hedonistic serial murderers find sexual pleasure from killing and look for

the thrill. Those who are power-oriented seek dominance by sexually abusing their victims. This

type of killer is usually in effect to the cruel childhood humiliation experienced. The last

motivation is profit oriented, which means they focus on possessions and kill for a profit.

Miller gives a whole other idea of classifications using the Deitz’s typology. Miller lists

the first category as psychopathic sexual sadists, who “kill for the sheer pleasure of torturing and

murdering their victims in a sexual way.” This is the classic case of serial killers and is usually

used in the film industry. Crime spree killers murder for the thrill, power, and opportunity to

rebel against authority. Organized crime functionaries include hiring professionals that handle

the killing for an individual. This is usually done for money, but the individual who is in charge

gains power and control. Custodial killers are most commonly female serial killers. They kill

those who are vulnerable and are supposed to be cared for by the individual. An example of this

is a nurse who uses medication to overdose a patient in a hospital. Psychotic killers are a similar

combination of visionary serial killers and mission-oriented killers, from Holmes’ typology.

They hallucinate or form a delusion that defends their reasoning behind killing, like they are

commanded to rid the world of specific types of people.

Hayes 6

These motivations assumed using characteristics of each individual offender can either be

extremely general or very limited to a small percent of serial killers. It was suggested by many

studies that the characteristics of interactions with victims, use of torture, and robbery should be

paid attention to much closer, rather than using inferences. The motivation of each serial killer

varies depending on the order and list of factors that lead to their very first kill.
Hayes 7

Works Cited

“Etiology of the Psychopathic Serial Killer: An Analysis of Antisocial Personality Disorder,

Psychopathy, and Serial Killer Personality and Crime Scene Characteristics.” Brief

Treatment & Crisis Intervention, vol. 7, no. 2, May 2007, pp. 151–160. EBSCOhost,


Arndt, William B., et al. “Critical Characteristics of Male Serial Murderers.” American Journal

of Criminal Justice, vol. 29, no. 1, Fall 2004, pp. 117–131. EBSCOhost,


Miller, Laurence. “Serial killers: I. Subtypes, patterns, and motives.” Aggression and Violent

Behavior, vol. 19, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-11. EBSCOhost, https://doi-


Ross, Michael. "The Urge to Hurt." Rape, edited by Mary E. Williams, Greenhaven Press, 2001.

Contemporary Issues Companion. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints,


5d8ed. Accessed 7 Nov. 2019. Originally published in Utne Reader, 1997.

Simon, Ürmósné Gabriella. “The Traits and the Thrill of Serial Killers.” Internal Security, vol. 7,

no. 2, July 2015, pp. 33–42. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5604/20805268.1212110.

Simons, Cassandra L. “Antisocial Personality Disorder in Serial Killers: The Thrill of the Kill.”

Justice Professional, vol. 14, no. 4, Nov. 2001, p. 345. EBSCOhost,


Weiss, Daniel. "Pornography Is a Significant Factor in Sexual Violence." Sexual Violence,

edited by Louise Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale In

Context: Opposing Viewpoints,

Hayes 8


0756b. Accessed 7 Nov. 2019. Originally published as "Pornography: Harmless Fun or

Public Health Hazard?" www.family.org, 2005.