In The Mind Of A Serial Killer



    I am a Criminal Justice Major and ever since I started college, I have been interested in the minds of serial killers.  What reasons do they have for committing their murders?  Do they show any signs growing up that might have advanced into something more?  Was there any way to stop them before they started?  On the other hand, was there a no way of any kind that can prevent them from killing?  Follow me on my search to discover what makes a serial killer.

    In my quest to research the mind of a serial killer, I've decided to start with the famous serials killers I've listed above. If you click on each one you will be taken to a website that tells you what each one did and where they are now.

    I will attempt to answer the questions that I posted above and also give other websites that I have found interesting and helpful.  Websites that tell more about the killers, websites with other killers and websites about criminal profiling.


       These are just a few websites that I have found and there will be more as time goes by. Not many people would think to do a web log on Serial Killers, but if people have a small understanding on what goes on in the mind of a serial killer they might be able to stay out of the way and not become a victim.


       If you click on the names below it will send you to a website that will tell you what they did, why did they committed the crime and what the punishment was.

   David Berkowitz

   Albert Fish

   Ted Bundy

   Jeffery Dahmer

   Albert DeSalvo

   Jack the Ripper

   Charles Manson

   Henry Lee Lucas

   Joel Rifkin


    While working in the library a movie came in called The Mind of A Killer: A Case Study of a Murderer.  I thought it looked pretty interesting and decided to watch it.  It's about the serial killer Joel Rifkin and what made him want to kill.

    Joel Rifkin strangled 17 women.  He was sentenced to 200+ years in prison.  It took the police from 1989 to 1993 to recover all the bodies that were dumped.  Rifkin agreed to be interviewed because he himself would like to know why he had the need to kill.  Rifkin was 30 years old when he committed his first murder.  When asked what he felt he stated that he didn't feel anything and he didn't plan on killing again.  Time went by and Rifkin was still killing he even started to pick up prostitutes in the day so there was a better chance of getting caught so he wouldn't kill again, but hat didn't work.  The last murder was on June 24, 1993.  After he killed her he took back to his parents house wrapped her in a tarp and put her in the car that was in the garage.  In the middle of the night he went and got her about of the car and put her into his truck and drove away.  The police pulled him over because of his license plate fell off and a few hours later he confessed to strangling 17 women.  Rifkin states that he is glad that he was caught but still stated that he felt nothing while killing the women. 

    The psychologists thought that they would go back in time and see if anything in Rifkin's child life that would constitute for the killings.  Rifkin was adopted in 1959, his parents stated that he was a very sweet boy, and the family had no abuse in it at anytime.  During school he was diagnosed with Dyslexia and they found out that he wasn't physically coordinated.  Through the years Rifkin was interested in everything but he never quite fit in with the other kids.  He was teased in school and was the target for physical abuse but he never defended himself.  It's been found that many serial killers are teased as children.  Most people who kill are not strong emotionally.  It was found that many serial killers are teased as children.

    Rifkin's father committed suicide in 1987 and the killing spree started two years after that.  All the murders seem to happen within one week of a personal holiday.  The first murder was the second anniversary of his fathers suicide.  Rifkin went through many tests to determine why he had the urge to kill.  It wasn't because he was "stupid" because when they tested him on his IQ it was above average, it was 120.  He did however show some problems.  He was unable to follow directions.  he lost control half way through the test and started laughing.  He failed 16 times on a motor response, because he was having trouble controlling his movements and behavior.  It was determined that Rifkin has a problem with his Frontal Lobe which controls/stops our violent impulses.  If the Frontal Lobe is not working properly then the violent impulses get out and the person acts without being able to control it. 

    The crimelibrary website is great if you want to find out the story behind a serial killer.  It lists all know serial killers and gives every aspect of the crimes, trial, and sentence.  It in no way idolizes the serial killers it just gives straight facts.  This website is the one that I use the most and have got the most out of.  All the information that I have on this web log about serial killers comes from this website.  I just want to point out also that I do not idolize serial killers.  Homicide is something that I plan on getting into in my career and profiling is the biggest aspect of it, and the best profiling cases are serial killers.  Just trying to get into the mind is in my opinion the clue to stopping serial killers from even beginning.  So just keep in mind that this web log is mostly about profiling, but in order to profile you have to look into past serial killers.

     The website Criminal Profiling and Serial Killing is a very informative site.  The first page tells us that three out four serial killers live in the U.S. and the most live in California.  They tell us that serial killers will kill until they are caught and detained, the killings might have a "cooling off" or cooling down" down period but they will continue.  Serial Killers, we're told, kill people who are perfect strangers to them.  Some killers even move form town to town, state to state, and even country to country.  That's when the legal term "linkage blindness" comes in, that's when the officials can not see the pattern that the serial killer is following.  This happens in several cases.  They also tell us that the typical serial killer is a white male between the ages 25-35.  The ages of the victims will vary depending on the killerís likes and dislikes.  The average IQ of a serial killer will vary from below average to above average, and the social class of the killer doesn't matter because they come from all classes.  They also tell us that serial killers are often married and have kids and have a good job; just like the rest of us. 


    On one of the pages of the website is a list of films that deal with serial killers and profilers.  They have...

 Copy Cat-  "The city of San Fransisco is being haunted by a copycat-killer who has a major interest in golden ladies. Sigourney Weaver plays a criminal psychologist who specializes in profiling and it seems that the killer is going after her."

Silence of The Lambs- "Clarice Sterling (Jodie Foster) , an FBI student, gets involved in the killings of several young women all found seve-rely mutilated.  To find the real killer Sterling has to make friends with Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins), a fierce and very cunning, incarcerated serial killer.  Thomas Harris' masterpiece where both actors got Oscars."

To Catch A Killer- "Brian Dennehy plays John Wayne Gacy in this TV-movie.  Gacy lures young men to his home where he then rapes and tortures them.  In his spare time he dresses up as 'Pogo the Clown' to amuse children in hospitals and in school.  To get rid of the bodies he buries them under his own house.  Dennehy is strikingly alike the real Gacy." 

Profiler- "Samantha Walters works with the FBI on Violent Crime Task Force- VCTF.  The notorious Jack of all Trades who has killed her husband in now after her."

Kiss The Girls- "Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), a forensic psychologist and cop gets involved in a case of serial killings by a man who class himself Casanova- The Great Lover.  His own niece is disappeared and he decides to go to help the investigators with the case.  Ashley Judd plays the intelligent doctor who is captured by Casanova, but she alone has escaped him."

Millennium- "Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) a former FBI agent is attached to the Millennium-group.  A group which helps the police in violent crime cases concerning mainly serial killers."

SE7EN- "Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star in this searing, psychological thriller about two detectives on the trail of a vicious serial killer who chooses his victims according to the seven deadly sins.  Methodical, exacting and grotesquely creative, the killer has planned each murder down to the finest detail.  As the detectives close in, he patiently awaits the final confrontation, determined to complete his bloody masterpiece of terror."

Nature Born Killers-  "Natural Born Killers follows the lives of two individuals who, sexually abuse at an early early age by their fathers, seek revenge on patriarchal authority by becoming mass murderers.  The film reflect a vision of post-post-modern American culture in which symbolic structures have become inverted, fractured and rendered meaningless.


        The website also gives you a list of books on about Serial Killers and also about Profiling....


 Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon

        by Steven A. Eggar


 Hunting Humans, The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers

        by Michael Newton



Targeting Victims: Serial Killers and The Urban Environment

        by D. K. Rossmo



 Final Truth

        by Wilton Earle



 The Beauty Queen Killer

        by Bruce             Gibney


 Hunting the Devil

        by Richard L


 To Kill and Kill Again

        by John Coston


 Several Titles: The 1-5 Killer, The Stranger Beside Me, etc.

        by Anne Rule


 Crime Classification Manual

        by Robert Ressler


 Serial Slaughter: What's behind America's Murder Epidemic

        by Michael Newton


 Signature Killers

        by Robert D. Keppel


 Targeting Victims: Serial Killers and The Urban Environment

        by D. K. Rossmo






Whoever Fights Monsters

        by Robert Ressler


Justice Is Served

        by Robert Ressler


 I Have Lived In The Monster

        by Robert Ressler



        by John Douglas


Journey Into Darkness

        by John Douglas



         by John Douglas  



    The most interesting thing about this website to me is that they give us a break down on The Organized Offender and Disorganized Offender.  The Organized Offender for instance is around the same age as the victim and is usually under 35 years of age themselves.  Offenders are also usually the same race as the victim.  When it comes to Education offenders have "normal to superior intelligence and street wise."   Offender does graduate from high school and might have a higher education.  If so, offenders then would have a reputation of acting up in high school.  The Organized Offender goes well within society.  They are usually very out going and smooth talkin'.  They do everything exactly perfect.  They stalk the victims, figure out how they will kill, and where they will dispose of the body.

    The Disorganized Offender is around 16 to late 30s in age.  The victims just happen to be their at the wrong time.  These offenders are usually high school drop-outs and they have a blow average intelligence.  They may not be employed and if they are it would be out of sight from society, maybe a dishwasher or a janitor, or something along those lines.  This type of offender feels that society reject them and in return they have rejected society.  These offenders don't clean up very well, usually there is a lot of evidence left at the crime scene.    

     First of all I would just like to say that I did not change a single thing in this page and if I did I had no intentions too.  I would like to give full credit to Katherine Ramsland for this interview.  I wanted to put it on my page so it gave people a better chance of seeing it.  In my opinion this is one of the best interviews I ever read.  It's a interview of Robert Ressler who coined the term "serial killer".  He's been involved in over 300 homicide cases and interviews about 30 serial killers.  He used to work for the FBI and now he opened his own practice.  He has over 30 years of experience in profiling and dealing with serial killers.  I strongly suggest that if your into profiling you read this and read some of Ressler's books, some of them are listed above.

                                 Katherine Ramsland interview of Robert Ressler

    Robert Ressler's book "I have lived in the Monster" is one the best books I have read.  It talks about different cases that he has dealt with in his entire career.  Even after he retired from the FBI people are still requesting his help on cases.  For instance, a media lady came to ask his opinion on a case that happened with an Asian exchange student.  Ressler was able to pick out the perpetrator just from the material and information that she had being in the media field.  To me that's amazing.  Being able to pick out the wrong doer without even seeing the crime scene, the evidence and not interviewing any suspects.  He didn't even have the crime report on it.  The way his mind works is outstanding, it's like he puts himself in the victims mind and the perpetrator mind.  He sees what they seem to solve the case.

     Robert Ressler is able to use the information he gets from interviewing the killers, and solve other cases.  I read something that's pretty disturbing in his book "I have lived in the Monster".  He interviewed John Wayne Gacy and Jeffery Dahmer, now Gacy denied everything that was brought against him.  He stated that since he did not remember killing all those people that must not have killed them.  That it was a guy who worked for.  Now, he did say that he hid the bodies in the crawl space but did not kill him.  Dahmer on the other hand told Ressler that even though he didn't remember committing the murders, he still believed that he did commit them.  What I'm still wondering is why would Gacy lie, why would Dahmer tell the truth?  Gacy was executed and Dahmer is in jail for a very long time.  What was the point of Dahmer telling the truth?  Did he feel like he had too, since he tried to stop killing , maybe he thought that if he told Ressler what was going on in his mind that maybe it could lead Ressler to prevent others from killing?  Or maybe he just felt that he had nothing more to lose so he spilled.  These questions have been in my mind since I read the book.

     We've learned that Serial Killers usually kill and torture animals when there children.  We've also learned that most serial killers have been traumatized in some way.  Whether it was sexually abused, physically abused or just picked on from other children.  With Dahmer he had no abuse, no trauma of any kind.  The only thing is that he was gay and in his town gay's weren't accepted.  But it that the reason why he started killing?  I found out later in  the book that he had a separation problem.  Even though all his encounters with men were one-night stands he couldn't let them go, he wanted them to stay forever and do whatever he wanted.  Dahmer also had a fantasy that he said would have come true if he wasn't caught.  he wanted to leave his apartment and get a house where he could get an alter, put the skulls of his victim around it, all six of them, and hold his victims on the alter.  He told that in another six months, if he wasn't caught, it would have happened.  He would have made his fantasy come true.  I don't think that we will ever learn exactly what goes on in the Mind of a Serial Killer but s long as killers like Dahmer are willing to talk and tell us what they were thinking and feeling, maybe we can stop other people before they start on their killing spree.

     This web log has taught me a lot about serial killers and just killers in general.  I really hope that someday we will be able to stop people before they start.  As long as we have people like Robert Ressler and everybody in Profiling and the FBI, I think we can give serial killers, and killers in general a run for their money.  Maybe someday I will be able to interview a serial killer and learn from them and hopefully catch some bad guys myself.  I just want to remind you that this web log in no way encourages or supports the act of serial killings.  I just wanted to open your mind to the fact that it does happen and we do need to be aware of it.  Now, maybe someday we will have a sure way of stopping the killings but until then please be careful to who you talk to.