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“I didn’t want to hurt them, I only wanted to kill them.” This is a quote from David
Berkowitz, A.K.A., the Son of Sam. David Berkowitz and all of the other serial killers tend to
think in unique ways. This paper will talk to you about characteristics, motives, different phases,
and the correlation between behavior and aggression.
Serial killers like everyone else have certain characteristics that set them apart. To be
considered a bonafied serial killer you must murder at least three to four people with a cooling off
period between each murder. These killings are usually one on one and are repetitive, occurring
with greater or lesser frequency over time (“Characteristics of Serial Murder”). Serial killers
usually don’t have a connection with the victim and they very rarely if ever have a rational motive.
The serial killer likes to murder people in the same pattern, usually with a high degree of overkill.
This degree of overkill sets them a part from different serial killers.
Serial murderers also have different motives for their murders. One of the most obvious
is that they turn to murdering for a sense of power (Forwood). For this sense of power they
usually attack societies weakest members and those weaker than themselves (Forwood). This
includes the homeless, impaired, and usually the young of both sexes. When they kill the
homeless and impaired they are usually acting on the Missionary Motive. This is when they feel
that it is their responsibility to rid society of its unwanted inhabitants. There are also Visionary
killers which are usually instructed to kill by the voices that are in their head (schizophrenia). The
last type of these motives is the Hedonist. They kill because it brings them the pleasure to do so.
This group is separated into three sub-categories which are lust killers, thrill killers and gain
killers. Lust killers kill for sexual pleasure. They are usually sexually underdeveloped and they
kill for sexual gratification. Thrill killers kill people because it brings them a rush. These types of
hedonists usually kill a lot more because they are addicted to this rush. Gain killers always kill
people for some type of gain. This is usually money but it can also be something like a job
Another point of a Serial Killer is that their mind is constantly going through one of their
seven phases. The first of these phases is the Aura Phase. This is the part where the killer
daydreams about death and destruction. After awhile these demented fantasies usually have the
urge to be acted upon. This leads into the second stage which is the Trolling Phase. In the
Trolling Phase the serial killer tries to find the perfect victim for their needs. They usually tend to
look in school yards or lovers lanes or even red light districts. This might go on for hours days
and sometimes even months, until the perfect victim will be found . This will begin the Wooing
Phase. Serial killers usually act very debonair to get their victims to trust them. After the Wooing
Stage comes the Capture Stage. This is where the killer reveals what he is. He may draw you
into his car where there’s no door handle for you to get out. This is disturbingly fun for them and
is included in their sick sadistic game. Then comes the climax, the Murder Stage. They may just
decide to kill you, but sometimes, they will decide to torture you to death, try to revive you on the
brink of death to torture you more (Scott). The sixth stage is the Totem Stage. This phase is
where the killer will take a memoir of you. It might include your jewelry or clothes or even a
piece of your body. After this, comes the seventh and final phase which is Depression. There is
great emotional let down for the killer. They may even become so depressed as to attempt
suicide. But sooner or later they will start day dreaming more and this whole cycle will keep
repeating itself until the killer is either caught or dies (“Characteristics of Serial Murder”).
There is also some correlation between behavior and aggression in serial killers. This
means that as a child, serial killers experience the same childhood difficulties. Nearly all serial
killers have gone through one of the “Terrible Triad”. The Terrible Triad includes bedwetting,
sadistic abuse of animals and pyromania. Many serial killers as children have been known to kill
and abuse animals. The most popular choice of these animals is cats. They have been known to
be thrown out of windows and sliced open, just to see how long they would live. Also cats have
had a bad rap of being set on fire. Pyromania is another trait of young serial killers. They usually
keep themselves occupied with this until boredom sets in and then move on to “bigger and better”
things. Bedwetting is the last of the “Terrible Triad”. Sixty percent of all serial killers have wet
the bed past the age of twelve. This causes great emotional pain. Alton Coleman was one of
these bed wetters. He recalls being called “Pissy” by all of his neighborhood friends. He went on
to kill eight people as he tried to commit a new act of violence each and every day. However
these are not the only connections.
Many of the mental problems that occur with serial killers is related to bad parenting. As
kids, most of the killers suffered from sexual and or physical abuse and also child neglect. Henry
Lee Lucas was beaten and starved quite frequently as a child (Forwood). He was sometimes
made to wear his mothers dresses, and even forced to watch his prostitute mother with her
customers. Other mental issues have also come forth through serial killers. Usually neglected
children find ways to be noticed. This is shown in the serial killers’ case because they are killing
people for the attention that it brings to them. They see themselves on television and in the
newspapers and sometimes even the magazines. This makes them think, wow somebody out
there does know that I exist, and these thoughts are what keeps them going. Sometimes serial
killers even find out that they are the product of an unwanted pregnancy. This tends to lower
their self esteem and it seems to make them want to gain power. To gain back these feelings of
power and self worth serial killers take it out on the community, torturing and killing many
In conclusion there are many factors that affect the way that serial killers think. Serial
killers are mentally confused but most of them have good reason too be. It is said that serial
killers do not go through the individuation stage as a child (“Characteristics of Serial Murder”).
This means that they are not able to tell that what they are hurting is a living, breathing, feeling
human being. Serial killers are not something to be scoffed at. They are a serious problem to
society. Remember the most chilling fact about serial killers is that its not just a random act of
violence, its planned at first sight.
“Characteristics of Serial Murder” n.pag. Online. Internet. 22 April. 1999. Available”
Forwood, Bill. “Repeatedly Killing... Why?!”n.pag. Online. Internet. 22 April. 1999. Available:
Scott, Shirley. “What Makes Serial Killers Tick?” n.pag. Online. Internet. 22 April. 1999.
Available: http://www.crimelibrary.com /serials/what/whatmain.htm
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