Posts Tagged ‘serial killer’

Today we are going to take a look at Dr. Helen Morrison, a child psychiatrist with close to forty years of experience under her belt. Dr. Morrison is best known for her efforts to understand the psychology of serial killers, which whom she’s interviewed eighty of them personally. The main focus of her research was to discover common personality traits among serial killers, for which she was published over one hundred and twenty academic papers and written one book titled My Life Among the Serial Killers : Inside the Minds of the World’s Most Notorious Murderers. Dr. Morrison’s method into the minds of serial killers, which has been developed over a period of thirty years, requires lengthy interviews. These interviews usually last numerous hours in one sitting and generally take paper long after their trials are over. This strategy is built on her belief that serial killers are adept to learning to mimic emotional human behaviors, but this act they perform can only be kept up for a limited amount of time. Typically, Dr. Morrison’s interviews can extend over many years.
Through her studies, Dr. Morrison has been able to make five such observations into the minds of serial killers. (1) Serial killers tend not have one personality. Their minds tend to be a collection of distinct personalities and facades that can be switched at will. (2) Though serial killers can often times be charming in person, if someone of authority were to interrogate them for hours without a break, their charm tend to cease. This is caused by strain, because their charm and personality are only an act that cannot be kept up forever. (3) Once a serial killer’s personality constructs break down, they often fall into a bestial state of mind. In this bestial state, there is no trace of humanity, and they become nothing more than urges. (4) Serial killers often avoid the moral consequences of their actions because their minds are too divided and disassociated to actually bring everything together. (5) Lastly, examining additional cases from a cross-cultural and cross-historical sample, Dr. Morrison claimed that when serial killers receives enough psychiatric help (professional or otherwise) to fully comprehend their actions, they invariably commit suicide.
Although Dr. Morrison has found common traits among serial killers, she has yet to find a common psychological background. She has found no evidence to support profiling of serial killers by the F.B.I., which she claims are notorious inaccurate. Though she has made successful predictions about serial killers prior to their arrest, she explains the reasoning behind her predictions as being simple and not based on psychology.

It’s the 1980’s, late night on the streets of Hong Kong, and a murderer is on the loose. This man is known by a few monikers, The Jars Murderers, The Hong Kong Butcher or The Rainy Night Butcher. This man, Lam Kor-wan was born in 1955 in Hong Kong and got his nickname because he hoarded tupperware containers of his victims’ organs. The Chinese newspapers dubbed him The Rainy Night Butcher due to several of his attacks occurred during inclement weather. Lam Kor-wan worked late night shifts as a taxi driver in Hong Kong which gave him easy access to his victims, women between the ages of 17 and 31. In an estimate two years, before his capture in 1982, Kor-wan is believed to have murdered atleast four women. He also followed a strict pattern of strangling his victims with electrical wire and then dismembering his victim and disposing them on Hong Kong Island. It was because of his late night job that Kor-wan was able to take his victims to his home and dismember there with suspicion from his immediate family, including his brother with whom he share a room. Kor-wan also had a knack for photography, he was known to have taken many photos of his victims, and on at least one occasion filming himself performing necrophilia. It was Lam Kor-wan knack for photography that would also lead to his capture. On August 17, 1982, Lam Kor-war had attempted to develop pictures of one of his dismembered victims at a local Hong Kong Kodak shop. The shop manager had alerted authorities, who were then waiting for him when he returned to pick up his photos. In April 1983, Lam Kor-wan would be convicted of four murdered and sentenced to death by hanging; his sentences would later be commuted to life imprisonment due to the death penalty being abolished. As any cop would tell you, eventually every killer slips up, and this was one of those times, but when it comes to serial killers there are many that remain unknown and never caught. Lam Kor-wan has become only the second known serial killer in Hong Kong and has become immortalized in numerous films, namely Dr. Lamb and The Underground Banker, which is a more fictional telling of Lam Kor-wan after he has been released from prison as a now Reformed Buddhist.

that would be The Axeman of New Orleans. As suggested by his name, The Axeman of New Orleans was a serial killer active between May 1918 and October 1919, who terrorized those in New Orleans and its surrounding communities. By the end of his reign of terror The Axeman was responsible for eight deaths and a total of twelve victims. News reports at the height of The Axeman’s killing spree also noted similar murders going back as far as 1911 but those reports have not been proven true.
First, lets start with a little background and examination of these murders. As noted by his moniker, The Axeman use an axe in all of his attacks. In all eight incidents, the attack occurred in the victim’s home within their own bedroom; and as reported by the few survivors, The Axeman would make he way into the home with force by prying or breaking through a back door or front door. Using the tool he used to gain entry into the home, The Axeman would then bludgeon his victims savagely. Though some of his earlier victims were Italian-American and immigrants there is no hard evidence linking any of his victims to one another. Also, The Axeman did not target one particular group of individuals, as most serial killer tend to do. The Axeman’s victims range from men to women, one of who was pregnant and another who’s baby was in her arms at the time of the attack. Due to the nature it is rather hard to pinpoint an exact motive for his crimes, but it is possible that The Axeman was killing for the thrill or possibly to gain power or control over his victims. The Axeman also appeared to draw inspiration from Jack The Ripper, as he would send taunting letters to newspapers eluding to his future crimes. Sadly, The Axeman goes down in history as one of the many serial killers, who terrorize their victims and never gets caught. The Axeman murders stopped in October 1919 just as mysteriously as they began.

Today, I will be exploring the motives of serial killers. On a general level, the motives of a serial killers are broken into four categories, Power or Control, Mission-oriented, Visionary and Hedonistic, with Hedonistic being divided into three subcategories. Though serial killers can have just one motive for killing, it is not uncommon for more than one of the above listed categories to overlap.
Let’s first look at the Visionary category of serial killers. This group of sociopath tend to have a break from reality, believing they are either another person or they are compelled to murder by an entity such as God or the Devil. These subgroups could be categorized as demon-mandated or God-mandated. Herbert Mullin, for example believed the American casualties in the Vietnam War were preventing California from experiencing a major earthquake. As the war in Vietnam died down, Mullin claimed his father contacted him via telepathy to raise the amount of “human sacrifices to nature” to delay a disastrous earthquake from plunging California into the Pacific Ocean. Mullin, in a time period of four months racked up thirteen murders in the early 1970s. On the other side of the spectrum are demon-mandated visionary. A prime example would be the Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz. Berkowitz claimed a demon was sending his instructions to kill through his neighbor’s dog. Berkowitz terrorized New York City from July 1976 to August 1977, with his crime spree ending with six murders and seven wounded victims.
Looking into the next category, Mission-oriented serial killers tend to justify their actions as “ridding the world” of a certain group of “undesirable” person, such as homosexuals, prostitutes, ethnic groups or religious groups. Serial killers in this group tend to not be psychotic. Some of these serial killers see themselves as changing the world, and curing a societal ills. One example of this type of killer, though not consider a serial killer; is The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski . From 1978 til 1995, Ted Kaczynski set of sixteen bomb, killing three people and injuring another twenty-three people.
The Hedonistic category suggest that these types of killers seek thrills and derives pleasure from murdering, and see their victims as an expendable means to satisfy their goals. Three subtypes of the hedonistic killer have been discovered by forensic psychologists: “lust”, “thrill”, and “comfort”. Lust killers have a primary motive of sex, whether their victims are dead or not. Also fantasy play a large role in their killings. A lust killer’s sexual gratification largely depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they inflict on their victims, and they generally use weapons that require close contact. And as lust killers continue with their murders, the time between crimes tends to shorten or the level of required stimulation increases, sometimes both occur. Two prime examples of the lust type killer are Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Bianchi murder women of different ages, races and appearances because his sexual urges required different types and levels of stimulation and each with increasing intensity. Dahmer searched for his idea of the perfect lover, someone beautiful, submissive and eternal. As Dahmer’s desires increased he experimented with drugs, alcohol and exotic sex. His increasing need for stimulation was shown in the dismemberment of his victims, whose head and genitals he preserved. Dahmer also experimented with cannibalism because he felt his victims would them always be a part of him.
For the Thrill killer, the primary motive is to induce pain or create terror in their victims; this provides a stimulation and excitement for the killer. The thrill killer seeks the adrenaline rush provided by hunting and killing their victim. They only murder for “the kill”, and their attacks are not usually prolonged and generally no sexual contact is involved. The victims of a thrill killer tend to be strangers, though a thrill killer may stalk their victims for a period of time. Unlike the lust killer, a thrill killer can refrain from killing for long periods of time and actually become more successful as they refine their method of murder. Many thrill killers attempt the perfect murder believing they will not be caught. Robert Hansen would release his victims in a secluded area, where he would then hunt and kill them. The DC Sniper, Lee Malvo and John Muhammed would kill random victims, often at gas stations and leave the scene unnoticed. In one of his letters to a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper, the Zodiac Killer stated that killing gave the most thrilling experience and that it was better than having sex with a woman.
The primary motive for a Comfort killer would be materialistic gains and/or comfortable lifestyles. The victims of a comfort killer tend to be family members and/or acquaintances. Comfort killers tend to have a cooling off period to allows any suspicions of family and authorities to subside. Comfort killers usually murder their victims by using poisons, notably arsenic. Female serial killers often tend to be comfort killer, though not all comfort killers are female. Dorothea Puentes would kill her tenants for their Social Security checks and bury them in the backyard of her home. Herman Mudgett aka Dr. H.H. Holmes opened a hotel in Chicago for the 1893 World’s Fair, which he built himself and where many of the murders took place.
Lastly, we come to the Power/Control killers, whose main objective for killing is to gain power or exert control over their victims. Such as killers were often abused as children and were left with a feeling of powerlessness and inadequacy as adults. Many power or control killers tend to also sexual abuse their victims, but the differ from hedonistic killers because rape is not lust driven, but just seen as another means to dominate their victim. For example, Ted Bundy traveled the United States seeking women to control. Active between 1973 and 1978, Bundy would eventually confess to over thirty murders, although the actual total number of victims still remain unknown estimates are anywhere from twenty-six to well over one-hundred victims. Ted Bundy would typically bludgeon his victims and then strangle them, often engaging in rape and necrophilia.

Gilles de Rais

Posted: December 15, 2009 in International
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Today, I’ll take a look at a “serial killer”, reportedly the first recorded serial killer. By definition, a serial killer is a person that kills three or more people over a period of thirty days with a cooling off period between each murder, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification. There is often a sexual element involved in the killings, with the murders being attempted or carried out in similar fashion and the victims sharing something in common with regards to race, gender, social status, occupation or age group. We also have a breakdown into the types of serial killers, the organized/nonsocial and the disorganized/asocial. Organized/Nonsocial types are often quite intelligent, usually above average IQ. These types tend to stalk their victims and plan out their attacks, usually committed the crime in one area and disposing the body/evidence in another. The Disorganized/Asocial offenders tend to be of low intelligence with below average IQ. These types of offenders generally kill out of impulse and opportunity. As opposed to the Organized/Nonsocial offender, Disorganized/Asocial offenders tend to attack and leaves their victims within the same area the attacks occurred. Though not planned, Disorganized/Asocial offenders can avoid captured for an extended amount of time due to the sheer randomness of an attack.
Today, I’ll be taking a look at Gilles de Rais (1404 – 1440) born in France, was a Brenton Knight, a Marshall of France and fought alongside Joan of Arc in the Hundreds Year War. But Gilles de Rais is best known as prolific serial killer, whose victims were children ranging from the age of six to eighteen and of both sexes. Looking into his childhood, de Rais was very intelligent, fluent in both his native tongue and in Latin; and dividing his education between military discipline and his moral and intellectual development. After the death of his parents, de Rais and his younger brother were sent to live with their maternal grandfather. Their grandfather, Jean de Craon would attempt to arrange married for young de Rais for a period of five years until finally succeeding in 1420. In this case The MacDonald Triad are not present, but we do see that Gilles de Rais possessed above average intelligence and suffered from a tragic and emotional time with the death of his parent. In his life after the military, and by his own omission, starting in the year 1432 Gilles de Rais either murdered or had murdered between eighty and two hundred children. De Rais would take children from lower economic status between the ages of six and eighteen. As stated earlier, we can see that de Rais’ victims all had a common trait. The nature of the killings either by decapitation, the breaking of the neck, or dismemberment, we can draw the conclusion that Gilles de Rais was a Organized/Nonsocial offender. And as stated at his trial, de Rais enjoyed committing his vices on his victims before or after they had been murdered. In his own confession, Gilles testified that “when the said children were dead, he kissed them and those who had the most handsome limbs and heads he held up to admire them, and had their bodies cruelly cut open and took delight at the sight of their inner organs; and very often when the children were dying he sat on their stomachs and took pleasure in seeing them die and laughed…Benedetti

The MacDonald Triad (aka The Triad of Sociopathy) is a set of three behavioral character traits associated with sociopathic behavior. The MacDonald Triad was first introduced by J.M. MacDonald in 1963 paper titled “The Threat To Kill”, which appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The three characteristics link extreme animal cruelty, obsession with fire setting and persistent enuresis (aka bed wetting) past the age of five with homicidal behavior. Although in more recent studies statistically significant links between the MacDonald Triad and violent criminals have not been found, numerous serial killers and sociopaths have exhibited these behavioral character traits in their childhoods. It has also been suggested that these behavioral characteristics are the result of parental neglect, cruelty, or trauma in a person’s childhood could lead to this “homicidal proneness”. Individually, fire setting is seen as the less severe or first step to releasing aggression. In numerous serial killers, extensive periods of humiliation have been present in their childhoods. And fire setting was a way for those serial killers to regain something they lost during those initial periods of humiliation. Next, looking at the characteristic of extreme animal cruelty; it’s one of the most highly researched topics when trying to delve deep into the psyche of a serial killer, and like fire setting, animal cruelty . It is also believed that the killing of animals is a precursor to killing human beings, not only the act of killing but also the means of carrying out the murder on a human. The act of killing an animal is in essence regaining what they lost through humiliation by their peers, they are dominating something weaker than themselves. It’s been theorized at that as children, future serial killers (a) used animals to vent frustrations because the person causing their humiliation was too powerful for them to handle. (b) These future serial killers felt that they regained some power or control over their lives by torturing and killing animals. (c)They’ve gained the power and control they needed to cause pain to their future victims. And lastly, enuresis (aka bed wetting) can be used as a predictor of either fire setting or animal cruelty. Persistent enuresis past the age of five can be humiliating, especially if belittled by a parental figure or adult about it. This can then cause the child to use fire setting or cruelty to animals as an outlet for their frustration. Also, rather obviously, it can be the outcome of persistent neglect from parents, causing emotional trauma and instability.