Read The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence Online

Authors: Colin Wilson,Donald Seaman

Tags: #Social Science, #Criminology

The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence

BOOK: The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
About the Book
Title page
A Short History of Sex Crime
Profile of a Serial Killer
The Profilers
The Power Syndrome
The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome
Folie à Deux
The Roman Emperor Syndrome
Into the Future
List of Illustrations
Picture Section

About the Book

In the 1980s, American law enforcement agencies investigating the rising number of ‘motiveless murders’ stumbled upon a worrying possibility – what if all these crimes were being committed not by many, but by a relatively small number of people? One killer, multiple victims. The serial killer.

As the number of serial killers worldwide has risen steadily – from the emergence of Jack the Ripper in 1888 to Harold Shipman and Ivan Milat, the backpacker killer of the Australian outback – the need to understand this disturbing phenomenon is becoming more urgent.
But to understand why serial murder is on the rise, we must first understand how the serial killer thinks.

Using privileged access to the world’s first National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime, Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman bring you this incisive study of the psychology of serial killers and the motives behind their crimes.

From childhood traumas to issues of frustration, fear and fantasy, discover what turns an ordinary human being into a compulsive killer.


A Study in the Psychology of Violence

Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman

This book

is dedicated to

Special Supervisory Agent Gregg O. McCrary

of the Behavioural Science Unit of the FBI

and his colleagues at

The National Centre for the Analysis

of Violent Crime

at Quantico, Virginia, USA


The authors wish to place on record their gratitude to the FBI for invaluable help and guidance, freely given at all times, during research for this book in the United States; and especially for permission to visit the National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) at Quantico, Virginia – the first such visit by any British publisher.
Thanks are due to FBI Director William S.
Sessions; also the Assistant Director Milt Ahlerich, and Supervisory Special Agent Stephen Markardt, of the FBI Office of Public Affairs, US Department of Justice, for arranging the visit to Quantico, and later providing research facilities at the FBI J.
Edgar Hoover headquarters building in Washington, DC.

We also wish to thank FBI Behavioural Science Unit Chief John Henry Campbell, at Quantico; Supervisory Special Agent Alan E.
Burgess, Unit Chief of the Behavioural Science Unit (Investigative Support Wing) and Administrator of the NCAVC, and Supervisory Special Agent John E.
Douglas, Criminal Investigative Analysis Programme Manager, for research facilities made available there; VICAP (the Violent Criminal Apprehension Programme) analyst Kenneth A.
Hanfland, and social psychologist Dr Roland Reboussin, Ph.D., both of BSIS; Supervisory Special Agent Robert R.
(‘Roy’) Hazelwood, Programme Manager/Training Programme, Behavioural Science Unit (Instruction and Research); and Dr David Icove, Ph.D., P.E., Senior Systems Analyst of the NCAVC, for their individual specialist help.

Both authors owe a major debt of gratitude to Candice Skrapec, one of America’s leading experts on serial killers, for her help in establishing contact with the Behavioural Science Unit at Quantico, as well as providing much invaluable information.
We also wish to thank the many friends who have provided press cuttings and information on serial killers, particularly June O’Shea; Stephen Spickard; Denis Stacy; Brian Marriner; Ian Kimber; and the late John Dunning.

In addition we wish to thank Dr David Canter, and Dr Anne Davies, the Principal Scientific Officer of the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory.

Finally, the authors are indebted to a number of distinguished journalists, all of whom contributed in their specialist ways to aiding research in England and/or America.
Those in Washington, DC, include Ross Mark, the White House correspondent of the
Daily Express
; bureau chief Ian Brodie and reporter Hugh Davies of the
Daily Telegraph
; and Ralph Stow, public relations officer for the AMOCO Corporation; and in London James Nicoll, former Foreign Editor of the
Daily Express
; Derek Stark (Travel Manager) and Frank Robson (former Air Correspondent of the
Daily Express
); Brian McConnell, QGM, author and veteran crime reporter of the
Daily Mirror
; Melvin Harris; Peter Johnson, author and
Sunday Times
journalist; and Ronald Gerelli, former
Daily Express


This book is about the psychology of the serial killer.
It is not intended to be a comprehensive history of serial murder – that would require a far longer volume – but an attempt to understand the complex mechanisms that lead to a ‘habit of killing’.
So although there has been an attempt to offer at least some brief account of the most notorious serial murderers of the twentieth century, there are many omissions: for example, Adolf Seefeld, Peter Manuel, William MacDonald, Herb Mullin and Randall Woodfield.
On the other hand, considerable space is devoted to some criminals who do not, strictly speaking, qualify as serial killers: notably Hiroko Nagata, Cameron Hooker, and Gary Heidnik.
The reason, which will become clear from the text itself, is that these people enable us to understand an important facet of the psychology of the serial killer.
This understanding, which has emerged over the course of the past decade, amounts to a minor revolution in the science of criminology.
Now it is possible to state that, with the researchers of the FBI Behavioural Science Unit, and of similar groups that are following their example in other countries, we are at last in a position to understand some of the answers to one of the most disturbing riddles of the twentieth century.


A Short History of Sex Crime

1980s, American law enforcement agencies have become aware of the emergence of an alarming new phenomenon, the serial killer.

This recognition came about, it seems, through analysis of the steep rise in sex crime and ‘motiveless murder’.
Ever since the 1960s, ‘multiple murder’ had been on the increase.
The ‘Manson Family’ had killed at least nine people.
Vaughn Greenwood, the ‘Skidrow Slasher’ of Los Angeles, killed nine homeless vagrants.
Necrophile Ed Kemper killed ten, including his grandparents and mother.
Paranoid schizophrenic Herb Mullin killed thirteen.
Dean Corll, the homosexual murderer of Houston, Texas, killed twenty-seven boys.
John Wayne Gacy of Chicago admitted to killing thirty-two boys.
Patrick Kearney, the ‘Trash Bag Murderer’ of Los Angeles, killed twenty-eight men.
William Bonin, the ‘Freeway Killer’, killed a minimum of twenty-two young men.
The ‘Hillside Stranglers’, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, raped and killed a dozen girls.
Ted Bundy killed twenty-three.
Randall Woodfield, the ‘I.5 Killer’, murdered forty-four.
The South American sex killer Pedro Lopez, ‘the Monster of the Andes’, admitted to killing three hundred and sixty pre-pubescent girls.
In 1983, a derelict named Henry Lee Lucas made headlines in America when he also confessed to killing three hundred and sixty people, mostly women.

All this raised a disturbing possibility: that perhaps a fairly small number of killers were responsible for the rise in sex crime and motiveless murder.
(‘Motiveless murders’ had risen from 8.5% in 1976 to 22.1% in 1984.) America is a large country, and many killers roam from state to state, moving on before police have a chance to catch up with them.
Twenty-two-year-old Steven Judy, who murdered a mother and her three children in 1979, admitted before his execution that he had ‘left a string’ of murdered women across America.
The family of Sherman McCrary – three men and two women – travelled from Texas to California, robbing drug stores and restaurants, and also abducting waitresses and shop assistants, whose violated bodies were left in lonely places.
For this kind of killer, murder becomes a habit and an addiction.
Henry Lee Lucas told police: ‘I was bitter at the world . . .
Killing someone is just like walking outdoors.’ It also became clear that such killers murder out of some fierce inner compulsion, and that after the crime, experience a sense of relief and a ‘cooling-off period’.
Then, like the craving for a drug, the compulsion builds up again, until it is time to go in search of another victim.
It was this type of murderer for whom the police coined the term ‘serial killer’.
One police officer suggested that there could be as many as thirty-five serial killers at large in America, and that the number could be increasing at the rate of one a month.
More recent estimates have been as high as five hundred.

What has caused this epidemic of mass murder?
One thing at least is clear: that it is part of a pattern that has emerged since the Second World War.
In order to understand it, we need to go much further back to the beginning of the ‘age of the sex crime’.

The emerging pattern first became clear (to Colin Wilson) in the late 1950s when he was engaged in compiling
An Encyclopedia of Murder
with Patricia Pitman: ‘The purpose was to try to provide a standard work that would include all the “classic” murders of the past few centuries and serve as a reference book for crime writers and policemen.
Pat Pitman chose to deal with domestic murders and poisoning cases, while I wrote about mass murderers like Landru, Haigh and Christie.

‘I was soon struck by an interesting recognition: that sex crime was not, as I had always supposed, as old as history, but was a fairly recent phenomenon.
It was true that soldiers had always committed rape in wartime, and that sadists like Tiberius, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler and Gilles de Rais certainly qualify as sex criminals; but in our modern sense of the word – that is, a man who commits rape because his sexual desires tend to run out of control – sex murder makes its first unambiguous appearance in the late nineteenth century.
The Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 and the murders of the French “disemboweller” Joseph Vacher in the 1890s are among the first recorded examples.
Some of the most famous sex crimes of the century occurred after the First World War: these included the murders of the “Düsseldorf Vampire” Peter Kürten, of America’s “Gorilla Murderer” Earle Nelson, of the child killer Albert Fish, and the extraordinary crimes of the Hungarian Sylvestre Matushka, who experienced orgasm as he blew up trains.

‘Were there no sex killers before the late nineteenth century?
As far as I have been able to determine, the answer is no.
At first I was inclined to believe that a French peasant named Martin Dumollard was an exception.
In the 1850s he lured a number of servant girls seeking work into lonely places, then murdered them and buried the bodies; but the records reveal that his motive was to steal their belongings, and there is no evidence of sexual assault.
For most working-class people of the period – and this included the “criminal class” – life was hard, and when they committed murder, it was for money, not sex.’

What then caused the ‘age of the sex crime’?
One reason was certainly the nineteenth-century attitude to sex, the kind of prudery that made Victorian housewives conceal table legs with a long tablecloth in case the mere thought of legs caused young ladies to blush.
In earlier centuries, sex was treated with healthy frankness.
As soon as the Victorians started to regard it as a shameful secret, it began to exercise the fascination of the forbidden.
The rise of pornography dates from the 1820s; there were indecent books before that, but their purpose was to satirise the clergy, and they were usually about priests seducing nuns and penitents.
Then, in the 1820s, there emerged books with titles like
The Lustful Turk
The Ladies’ Telltale
, about virgins being kidnapped and raped by Mediterranean pirates and little girls being seduced by the butler.

BOOK: The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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