Many misunderstand the true meaning of the term serial killer and confuse it with those of mass murderers and spree killers. However, a serial killer has much different tactics than those of mass murderers and spree killers. In order to be declared a serial killer, one must commit three or more murders over a period of more than thirty days with time in between each murder known as a “cooling off” phase.
Each murder for a serial killer is committed for some sort of psychological fulfillment.
Most serial killers have similar characteristics either within each murder, victim or sometimes both. These may include: occupation, sex, age, appearance, and race for the victim and molestation, rape, strangulation, shooting, decapitation, and many more gruesome acts most cannot even begin to imagine. There are many various classifications of serial killers depending on how and what they get from each murder they commit. Organized nonsocial offenders often methodically plan out each and every offense meticulously prior to actually carrying out their crime.
Organized nonsocial serial killers may look and act like ones neighbor seemingly normal with a steady job and family. However, they follow their crimes through the media intently. Unlike organized nonsocial offenders, disorganized asocial offenders often act on impulse using blitz type attacks killing their victims in whichever ways they desire to at the time. They rarely cover their tracks but somehow seem to get away unnoticed. They are often socially awkward with few friends and previous mental disabilities.
Jack the Ripper was the first known and reported serial killer. He first struck in 1888 in Whitechappel, London. The theory that ties into the story of the gruesome serial killer in London would be the trait theory. The sub theory of the trait theory is psychological due to lack of evidence to help support his past experiences in his life and because it was not premeditated. It was simply a rage of violence against middle class women prostitutes. The way this killer showed no remorse to the brutal mutilation of these women proved in fact to be a psychological problem.
Not only did Jack the Ripper kill multiple women but he mutilated their bodies almost to the point of an unrecognizable state. He was a nonsocial offender who simply attacked his victims as he found them rather than premeditating each attack. He wanted to be known in London at the time and involved the press by writing letters in order to give himself a name. Jack the Ripper only killed within the city of Whitechappel and made most of his attacks under the cover of darkness. Mary Nichols was a 43 year old woman and prostitute who became Jack’s first murder. She was discovered at 3:40 A.
M. with no clues as to who killed her and her body completely mutilated. Her lover at the time was only able to identify her remains by her eye color and hair color. By September 30, 1888 he had killed two more females; Elizabeth Stride also known as “Long Liz” who was fully recognizable and Catherine Eddowes a 46 year old female prostitute who, like his first victim, was found mutilated. Mary Jane Kelly was Jack the Ripper’s final victim before he stopped killing and vanished in February of 1891. To this day the identity of Jack the Ripper has never been discovered.
During this time period it would have been difficult to stop a psychopath on a rampage to mutilate any prostitute they ran across due to the lack of privacy, security on one’s home, and lack of technology to gain significant evidence against the murderer. The evolution of society has created its own solution to stopping killers before they become serial killers, in most cases. (America’s) The Zodiac Killer attacked in Northern California where he claimed his first victim on October 30, 1966. (Newton) The Zodiac Killer used a gun and most often searched out couples to kill.
He did not necessarily have a motive he was said to kill, just to kill. He claimed that his victims became his slaves for afterlife. This is another example of trait theory also with the sub theory of a psychological problem. Again, in this situation we do not know the identity or youth life of the Zodiac Killer therefore we are unable to determine if this possibly could be a biological sub theory. The Zodiac Killer shows that he has a psychological problem by not premeditating his attacks and choosing his victims at random.
It is also apparent that the Zodiac Killer had a psychological problem by his desire to involve the media and lead police directly to his victims through phone calls and letters without a trace of evidence and or remorse. Some say that the Zodiac Killer is the perfect serial killer because his letters were written in a cryptic cipher. The first letter began, “I like killing people because it is just so much fun. ” (Newton, 254) By the end of the Zodiac’s killing rampage he has an estimated 40 victims with 39 of them being female.
At this time the case remains open and the identity of the Zodiac Killer unknown. Our society could improve or lessen the chances drastically of another Zodiac-like killer from striking again by keeping better ballistic records of evidence along with using more advanced diagnostic tools on the letters and phone calls to the media. Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer both killed at random without previously planning any one specific murder. Both had psychological problems but managed to go on killing with their identities undiscovered.
Neither one showed any signs of remorse throughout their killings or contacts with the media proving that killing to them, was just a game. There are many reasons serial killers chose to kill, and with these two psychopaths it was the thrill of the kill. Albert Fish was a serial killer who killed his first victim, Billy Gaffney, in February of 1927. It was with his first victim that Fish became known as not only a serial killer but also as a pedophile and cannibal. Albert ate Gaffney’s ears, nose, and face in a stew and roasted his butt and genitals in the oven before consuming those too. America’s) Fish is an example of trait theory with sub theories of biological and psychological problems. Albert Fish was born into an unstable household and not long after his mother put him up for adoption. When no one adopted him, he was placed in an orphanage where he witnessed and endured many beatings. It was then that he realized he enjoyed watching others endure pain and would eventually grow to enjoy these beatings himself. He went to the extreme as to insert needles under his nails and into his genitals to feel the rush of pain.
Rumor has it that on Fish’s execution day, January 16, 1936, he shorted out the electric chair because of the amount of metal inserted into his abdomen and groin. Fish stated, “If only pain were not so painful! ” (Newton) Authorities compiled that Fish went on to molest and castrate at least 100 victims before Fish declared himself that he had children in every state leaning authorities to the possible victim count being closer to 400. It was realized that Fish also carried the sub theory of a psychological problem when he abducted Grace Budd, taking her to a cottage and dismembering her body before slowly cooking and eating her remains.
Fish had premeditated this murder and wanted the Budd family to know that six years later he was still thinking of their daughter. In 1934, he wrote a letter to the Budd family stating that Grace had, “died a virgin” and it had taken him nine days to eat her remains. (Newton, 63) Due to the knowledge of Fish’s childhood and understanding of the premeditated murders he committed, we are able to determine that Fish has both sub theories of psychological and biological problems.
Our society can prevent another psychopath serial killer like Fish from victimizing children across the nation by using better analysis of criminals childhood’s and keeping better records of where criminals known to molest children are located. Jeffery Dahmer, also known as the Milwaukee Monster, was also a serial killer who had cannibalistic tendencies. He grew up in a middle class family in Wisconsin and was molested by neighbor boy. This became a pivotal turning point in Dahmer’s life leading him to begin experimenting with animals’ carcasses and bones.
Dahmer’s first kill came the summer after his graduation as he picked up a hitch hiker and continued to slaughter him, beat his skull with a barbell, strangle him to death, and dismember and bury his body. Dahmer was shocked with himself after this happened and tried college for a short time before entering the military on a 6 year enlistment. He was discharged after 2 years due to heavy drinking and returned home to live with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin. (Newton) Dahmer carries the trait theory with both sub theories of biological and psychological problems.
Proof shows Dahmer was part of an unfit household as a child due to the facts that his molestations and obsessions with mutilating animal carcasses went unknown by his family or ones caring for him. His parents separated and neither of them felt the need to take Dahmer with them so Dahmer fell under the supervision of his grandmother. Jeffery’s grandmother soon kicked him out of the house due to the stench of his “experiments”. (Newton) His psychological problems become apparent with the victims he chose and how he became aroused by the smell of decaying flesh and the sight of lifeless prey. America’s) He chose his victims by meeting men at gay bars and bringing them home merely to kill, dismember, cook and eat them. Our society could prevent another Dahmer-like serial killer from presenting themselves by making records of child molestations more public and getting children who have been molested proper counseling and treatment post attack. Both Albert Fish and Jeffery Dahmer had instances in their childhoods that can be deemed as pivotal turning points creating the psychopath serial killers they became.
Unlike Dahmer, Fish preyed on children while Dahmer preyed on men his age. The murders by Albert Fish and Jeffery Dahmer were committed out of a desire for power and lifelong attachment to their victims. By eating their victims’ remains they felt as if they would forever be attached to them. This proves both Dahmer and Fish had sub theories of psychological and biological problems that led each of their killings. Gary Ridgway began his killing spree in January of 1982 with 16 year old victim Leann Wilcox. (Newton) His second victim was a 36 year old female named Amina Agisheff.
His first two victims were not recognized as “Green River Killer” victims until two years after their deaths due to lack of patterns tying these murders and the Green River Killer’s later murders together. Ridgway continued to kill with victims multiplying by the week. All of Ridgway’s victims had one thing in common; they were all thought to be prostitutes. The Green River Killer always did one thing the same in each of his murders; before he killed each victim he had sex with them. In some of the victims he went as far as placing a triangle shaped stone inside the vagina of the victim, the significance of this is unknown. Newton) Gary Ridgway carries the trait theory with a psychological sub theory. There is no evidence as to his past family life to prove that he could also carry a biological sub theory but the way in which he killed each of his 48 victims proves that his desire to kill was based upon sexual desires. (Schechter) Our society could protect against another serial rapist-killer like Ridgway by technological advances and obtaining DNA samples from each victim. Ted Bundy was born in November 1946 at a house for unwed mothers in Vermont.
He never knew his father and was forced to live with his strict Methodist grandparents pretending that his mother, Louise Cowell, was in fact his sister. He described his grandfather Sam as a loving man who in reality was a “bitter racist and wife beater, who also enjoyed kicking dogs and swinging cats through the air by their tails” (Newton, 24). These intimate details of Bundy’s childhood prove to society that he carries a trait theory with a sub theory of a biological problem. He also carried a psychological sub theory proved by each of his victims having shoulder length brown hair parted down the middle.
Ted was a good looking man with a “chameleon-like ability to blend” which gave each of his victims a sense of security when they were with him. (Newton, 24) With the beginning of Bundy’s murders was Linda Healy, a blood stained night gown was found hanging in her basement but was gone without a trace. His killings continued one by one with each victim looking eerily similar to an ex girlfriend of his who had shoulder length brown hair, parted down the middle who had broken up with him for having no ambitions in life and being immature.
With each victim he first raped them then proceeded to murder them with savage blows to the head. He was sought by police multiple times but deemed “squeaky clean” by authorities since they were looking for a savage killer not a clean cut law student. (Newton, 25) It took months and multiple escapes by Bundy for police to finally charge him with the murders of two Florida sorority girls and a female in Colorado. It was after he was charged with these murders and punished to death by the electric chair that he confessed to up to 40 murders.
Some say that he took more murders to his grave having the ability to have killed closer to 100 victims. Our society can prevent another rapist-serial killer like Bundy from taking the lives of innocent females by keeping better DNA records and evidence from each known victim in order to compare it to future victims. Although this may not prevent all murders from occurring it may help keep the number of victims to a minimum. Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway are similar in the fact that both serial killers murdered for sexual desires.
They both grew up in unfit homes proving their sub theories of biological problems but different from Ridgway, Bundy also carried the sub theory of psychological due to his choice of victims being mirror images of his ex girlfriend. Both Bundy and Ridgway killed females and had sex with them before they murdered them. Ridgway chose prostitutes as his victims and used similar dumping grounds around the Green River for each victim despite police surveillance of the areas.
Bundy also used similar dumping grounds in each of the states he committed murders mostly dumping them in wooded areas covering them with brush. The way in which each serial killer was raised proves that this had a large affect on the people and serial killers they became. Charles Manson was born in 1934 to 16 year old prostitute Kathleen Maddox and took the name Manson from a man she later married. By the time Manson was five years old he had been sent to live with his strictly religious aunt and husband.
Her husband however, treated Manson as if he were a “sissy” dressing him up in girl clothes on the first day of school to show him to act more like a man. (Newton, 149) After paroled Kathleen gained custody of Charles but was still deemed unfit after leaving Manson with neighbors for “an hour” and disappearing for days on end. Manson was then sent to Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana for ten months before fleeing. He wound up living on the streets having numerous bouts with the law being in and out of juvenile centers being abused by both guards and older boys at each center.
After being jailed multiple times for petty crimes Manson finally stepped it up and called himself a follower of Scientology. In San Francisco Manson gained a group of male and female followers who were impressed by his charisma. He led them to believe he was a Christ incarnate, or as he liked to call it “God of Fuck” (Newton, 150). These followers grew into what Manson called his “family” and traveled up and down California gaining more followers along the way topping off at 50 followers at their peak. Newton) Manson grew largely obsessed with death and certain songs pertaining to death like the popular Beatle’s song at the time, “Helter Skelter”. He defined this song to be speaking about a race war to come in America and used these terms at his “families” future crime scenes. While Manson may not have committed any of the murders himself, it is known he was at some of the crime scenes and behind all of the murders through his cult-like leadership. Even after Manson was jailed for these numerous crimes the violent murders did not stop.
He had impacted too many “family” members already and so they carried on what Manson had previously began brutally killing more and more victims. These actions prove to society that Manson had the trait theory with both sub theories of psychological and biological problems. The biological problem is proved by his treatment as a child being born into an unfit home to a prostitute mother who brought home lovers of both sexes, being treated unfairly by his uncle, and his abuse within different juvenile detention centers whether it was sexual abuse or simply physical abuse.
The psychological problem within Manson is proved by his desire to manipulate young, out of touch males and females into thinking he is a God-like figure and do everything he says. Even if what he said meant killing innocent victims. To this day Manson has showed no remorse for his actions and very few of his “family” members still in jail for these crimes have either. “Learning theorists view a troubled home life and deviant friends as a precursor of criminality; structural theorists maintain that acquiring deviant cultural values leads to criminality” (Siegel, 258).
Manson portrayed both troubled home life and deviant cultural values, deeming him to inevitably become a criminal. Many other serial killers in history dealt with both of these social and personal problems making it more difficult for society to have in any way prevented these occurrences from happening. Sure authorities may have been able to lessen the magnitude of these horrific crimes, but inevitably it is within one’s own desire to become a criminal or become a model citizen of society.