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Inside The Minds Of Serial Killers



There are many cultural myths about serial killers, often propagated even by mental health professionals. Many assume there is a profile of a serial killer, that serial killers always go for the same victim type or always use the same MO, that they are more clever than ordinary people, and that they are inevitably charming and attractive. The truth is not as simple as that. There are different types of serial killers and while there are many books that discuss the serial killer phenomenon especially in relationship to victim types or context, researchers have not yet been able to come up with a definition, or type, that covers the broad spectrum of serial killers and their complex psychological dynamics. Ramsland looks at serial killer types, illustrating that it is difficult to accurately depict these elusive, intriguing, and dangerous killers.




Inside the Minds of Serial Killers


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This book examines a variety of serial killers, from sexual predators to psychotic killers, from murder teams to odd eccentric stalkers, in order to present the distinct psychological dynamics that set serial killers apart from other violent murderers. Among the motives addressed are lust, control, glory, profit, thrill, delusions, rage, the desire for company, the need to please a partner, and even murder as an intellectual exercise. Serial killers live double lives, hiding their violence even from those who live with them, so along with a study of motives are chapters devoted to how close associates have described killers, including parents, siblings, co-workers, lovers, and survivors. There is no profile of a serial killer, and this book establishes that in vivid and frightening detail.


Robert K. Ressler"In the area of psychological research on serial killers, Dr. Katherine Ramsland has distinguished herself as a unique thinker with a fascinating approach to case analysis. Anyone who takes this subject seriously should read this book."— Robert K. Ressler, former FBI Profiler, author of Whoever Fights Monsters and I Have Lived in the Monster


"Noting that generalizations often fail and debunking the idea that serial killers have a distinct profile, Ramsland details the wide variety of motives behind serial murder. She notes that the study's purpose is not to categorize them, but explore their motives, such as lust, omnipotence, glory, delusions, rage, profit, or no purpose at all. She also provides a history of the topic in the first chapter." - Reference & Research Book News"Inside the Minds of Serial Killers is successful in dispelling some myths about serial killers and outlines the tremendous variations in motives and methods among such criminals. . . . [T]his book is likely to be interesting to the general public." - PsycCRITIQUES


Serial killers have always intrigued society and have inspired multiple series and documentaries, providing valuable insights on their motivations and psychology. Are these individuals born to kill, or are they just victims of harsh circumstances? The psychology of serial killers, and its neuroscientific basis, has long been studied by psychologists and social scientists, and even though we are still far from the truth, many useful patterns have been identified which could help in our understanding of serial killers. This review will outline the underlying motivations of serial killers, particularly of those who are sexually motivated, as well as their neuroscientific basis.


Firstly, one of the main triggers that has been identified in most serial killers is childhood abuse and neglect from parents (Morono AJ et al., 2020), and research has shown strong correlation between early childhood abuse and individuals who kill for sexual gratification. A study by Mitchell H et al showed that on average 36% of serial killers experienced physical abuse, 26% experienced sexual abuse, and 50% experienced psychological abuse (Mitchell H. et al., 2005). However, how is this responsible for the violent impulses that motivate serial killers to rape and murder? It is thought that serial killers develop deviant sexual fantasies which involve sexual scenes in which they rape and humiliate women, and their actions are motivated by the anticipation of emotional reward the fantasies promise (Chassy P., 2017). Some develop such fantasies very early and may start practicing them on objects such as dolls. This may be the result of painful mental states arising from their childhood suffering, and it is hypothesised that it is a coping mechanism to temporarily escape from these painful abuse-related mental states in absence of alternative, less harmful ones (Maniglio R., 2011). These may be the trigger that allows these individuals to act on these fantasies rather than restraining from putting them into practice due to the ethical reasons and related potential consequences.


In light of this, studies have investigated the link between serial killers (and murderers in general) and psychopathy, since many of their behavioural traits align with those of individuals with psychopathic traits (McGreal S., 2018). Typical psychopathic traits include lack of remorse and empathy, impulsiveness, manipulative behaviour and grandiose sense of self (Martens WHJ, 2014). A meta-analysis was performed by Fox B et al. which analysed 22 studies of more than 2600 homicide offenders to assess their psychopathy levels. The psychopathy score of each offender was determined using the PCL-R system, and the average score was 21.1, which is relatively very high considering that the score from a normal person is around 5. Based on a psychopathy cut-off score of 25, 34% of offenders would be diagnosed as psychopaths, meaning it could be said that a third of offenders can be considered psychopathic. The study also found that those who committed more violent crimes, such as those involving sexual or sadistic elements, had higher scores. Overall, this study concluded that there is a significant correlation between psychopathy and criminal behaviour (Fox B. et al., 2019).


Yet serial killers also seem to possess an enhanced emotional drive that leads to an urge to hurt and kill other human beings. This apparent contradiction in emotional responses still needs to be explained at a neurological level. At the same time, we should not ignore social influences as important factors in the development of such contradictory impulses. It seems possible that serial killers have somehow learned to view their victims as purely an object to be abused, or even an assembly of unconnected parts. This might explain why some killers have sex with dead victims, or even turn their bodies into objects of utility or decoration, but it does not explain why they seem so driven to hurt and kill their victims. One explanation for the latter phenomenon is that many serial killers are insecure individuals who feel compelled to kill due to a morbid fear of rejection. In many cases, the fear of rejection seems to result from having been abandoned or abused by a parent. Such fear may compel a fledgling serial killer to want to eliminate any objects of their affections. They may come to believe that by destroying the person they desire, they can eliminate the possibility of being abandoned, humiliated, or otherwise hurt, as they were in childhood.


It remains far from clear why a few people react to abuse or trauma at an earlier stage in their lives by later becoming a serial killer. But hopefully new insights into the psychological or neurological basis of their actions may in the future help us to identify potential future such killers and dissuade them from committing such horrendous crimes.


In the 1970s John E. Douglas was a relatively young FBI agent who would travel around the US teaching police officers the bureau's tactics. John knew he was inexperienced compared to the seasoned detectives he was instructing. But he had an idea to accelerate his learning: go into prisons and speak to notorious serial killers. They weren't called 'serial killers' back then. John helped come up with the term. Through the interviews John was able to understand how the minds of these criminals worked and how it could be applied to solve open cases. But the gruelling work took its toll on John. Andrea Kennedy spoke to him about how it began to erode his mental health and very nearly cost him his life.


Katherine Ramsland is the author of more than 20 books including Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers (Praeger), Inside the Minds of Serial Killers (Praeger), The Criminal Mind, The Forensic Science of CSI, and others. She currently teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. She is a regular feature writer for Court TV's Crime Library and has written more than three hundred articles about serial killers, forensic psychology, and forensic science.


In 2004, Charles Cullen was arrested and charged in the deaths of more than 30 patients in his care. Crossing several jurisdictions in seven counties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, he was stopped after a fifteen-year spree at ten institutions. While many people do not think of healthcare workers as serial killers, their profession is disproportionately represented among the serial killer population, and they tend to be more prolific than other serial killers, having more opportunities, better cover, and easy alibis. Healthcare professionals who kill have learned how to exploit the atmosphere of trust in the healthcare community and to hasten deaths that may go unnoticed in an already vulnerable arena. This book delves into the world of the healthcare serial killer, looking at the special characteristics of the different groups of murderers, the motives, the methods, and the outcomes.


Crime specialists have long suspected that many healthcare serial killers have gone undetected. Because it is easier to cover up their crimes, it is harder to uncover that a crime has even been committed. Here, Ramsland identifies some of the warning signs that a serial killer may be on the loose in a healthcare setting. Further, she offers suggestions for reform in the healthcare and criminal justice communities that would help identify potential killers before they have a chance to strike, or strike again. Using numerous real-life cases in every chapter, she provides a fuller picture of this most deadly type of serial killer and helps readers understand how they work, and how they can be stopped. 041b061a72


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