Friday, August 3, 2012

Do Serial Killers KNOW What They Are?

As I've mentioned before, I write about serial killers, but mine don't even realize they're serial killers.  In one novel, the killer does it for a distorted view of love.  In another, the killer does it for revenge, and also to rid the world of animal abusers...a noble thing, but I digress.

I wonder how many serial killers don't realize what they are either.  People like Ted Bundy must have known, because he was way too smart and crafty NOT to.  Others actually DO it for the notoriety, like the Zodiac killer, who was never caught, even managing to taunt the authorities for decades.   

Another one that comes to mind is the diabolical Henry H. Holmes, who  built a hotel specifically for his murderous deeds, if you can believe it. (Henry H. Holmes)  

This guy knew exactly what he was doing, even taking some of his own employees as victims.

Do YOU think most serial killers know exactly what they are?


  1. I think some serial killers are psychopaths, exhibiting behaviors that they do not realize they have and vice versa. I also believe that they are individuals who feel if they can get away with it once, it is the right thing to do (meaning killing someone) and they'll do it again. What they believe in are their own rules and unfortunately include their love of killing among those rules.

    From Wikipedia and according to the DSM IV, serial killers:
    "Some serial killers may also exhibit various degrees of psychopathy, though this is not always the case.[14] Psychopaths lack empathy and guilt, are egocentric and impulsive, and theoretically do not conform to social, moral and legal norms. Instead, psychopaths often follow a distinct set of rules which they have created for themselves. They may appear to be normal and often quite charming, a state of adaptation that psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley called the "mask of sanity".[27]

    In the DSM-IV, psychopathy is listed under Axis II Personality disorders NOS. It is a disorder mainly defined by traits of both antisocial personality disorder and narcissism. In the near future, the concept of psychopathy requires revision because the new version of the DSM (DSM-V) no longer includes narcissism. Robert Hare created a checklist to differentiate psychopathy from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), known as the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R).[28] The questionnaire scores people on Axis I interpersonal/affective and Axis II Behavioral traits.(anti- social). His test found that while 50–80 percent of criminals were diagnosed with ASPD, only 15–30 percent scored as primary psychopaths on the PCL-R test.[14]

    Serial killers exhibiting degrees of ASPD, however, are often aware of how to hide many of the characteristics listed above in order to blend with the rest of society.

    Serial killer Ed Kemper became particularly notorious for doing this when he tricked psychiatrists into believing he was "cured" seven years after being admitted to the Atascadero State Hospital for the murders of his two grandparents.[29] Three years after his release, Kemper went on to murder at least eight additional victims."

    In the case of Ed Kemper, he knew exactly what he was doing, thus giving off a "mask of sanity". Source:
    This is a good book to read (me included) if you haven't read it already. Dawn, this was a great post, thanks!

  2. Ahhh Jada, the famous 'malingering' trick! They are smart enough to fool shrinks. I will definitely check out that book, thank you! It could help me with my writing.

    That's exactly how my characters work - going by their own sets of rules, whether they conform to society's or not. They feel justified in what they're doing.

  3. What is your take on sociopaths then? Do you think they have the same tendencies? A book to check on this topic, "The Sociopath Next Door", by Dr. Martha Stout. This book really opened my eyes & mind!

  4. Great question, Jada...Psychopaths have an inability to internalize social norms, whereas Sociopaths can be your normal neighbor next door, as evidenced in the book you mention. I'm going to check THAT one out as well, thank you!