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The Other Side forums - suitable for mature readers! _ The Issues Forum _ Serial Killers

Posted by: Righteous May 5 2004, 05:13 AM

I'm a psychology major. Whithin my major, I'm specializing in abnormal psychology, specifically serial killers. I've been reading up on a lot of notorious serial murderers on my favorite site and it got me thinking about things. What do you guys think causes people to become serial killers? What must society do with these individuals? What can we do to prevent people from becoming murderous?

The first one is easy. If your Freudian (like me) then you believe that these problems are sexually based. One's Oedipus complex can cause him/her to have unresolved feelings of anger and sex. That is why the VAST majority of serial killers are males with issues with their parents.

John Wayne Gacy never got on with his father and had a serious, almost incestuous, relationship with his mother and serious problems with his sexual identity. He would rape teenage boys and young men, kill them then bury them under his house. He did this over a hundred times I believe.

The Zodiac Killer was different. He felt a severe rejection from women (maybe even his mother) and therefore, to feel "big," if you will, decided to kill people "for fun" and allude the cops which he has successfully for over thirty years.

Charles Manson was severely rejected by both of his parents. He found his personal strength from manipulating others to kill for him. For him and many other serial killers it's about power over their victims in some form or fasion.

I'm really at a loss as to what must be done about serial killers. I figure the best we can do to keep people is to raise kids to the best of our ability. I also think having the pill around is a good idea too. Is there anyone here who can level with me on this? Murderers in general are an anomaly but serial killers are a complete mystery in and of themselves and is something we must address.

Posted by: The Lorax May 5 2004, 05:36 AM

I also believe a lot of serial killers were ‘fueled’ due to abnormal relationships(or lack there of) with their parents. I’ve read about a LOT of Serial killers-but one that truly facinates me is Ed Gein.

Ed Gein was born in 1906. Following the death of his alcoholic father in 1940, Gein worked on the family farm with his brother Henry; both lived with their mother. She was a domineering woman who kept a tight emotoinal grip on her sons. Ma Gein instilled in her boys a belief in the supposed evils of women and the sins of the flesh. She kept her boys pure, seeing that they worked God's land and brought forth it's fruits without becoming befouled by the opposite sex

His brother died fighting a fire-and his mother died of a stroke---and then:

The officers truly believed that Gein was involved, so arrested him. Meanwhile two more officers drove to Gein's farm. Inside the woodshed, they found Bernice Wordon. Her body had been butchered like a deer. Bernice's severed head, found nearby, showed that she had been killed by a gunshot.

An expanded search uncovered nine masks of human skin. One proved to be the remains of Mary Hogan, a saloon keeper who had disappeared nearly three years before. The lawmen also found that Gein had used parts of his female victims to decorate the house, sculls on the bedposts, a chair made of skin, bowls made from skull-caps, a shade-pull with a pair of woman's lips attached, nine vulvas in a shoe-box, the grisly list went on. The investigators determined that 15 women had ended up as souvenirs in Gein's house of horrors.

Also he had a mobile made out of human noses….*shudder*

Posted by: porcelainwarrior May 5 2004, 08:27 AM

I also believe that the behaviours of many prolific serial killers can be, to a large extent, explained as a result of warped upbringings resulting in a twisted view of the sexual world and how to interact within "normal" relationships. However, I also accept the opinion that abnormal behaviours have a genetic component as well.

For example, the probability of a random individual having schizophrenia is about 1%, if you have an identical (monozygotic) twin with schizophrenia though the probability jumps to around 50%, obviously the illness isn't wholly genetic as if this was so the probability would be 100% for the other twin but it is a big difference.

I think this can also be used to explain serial killers, they already had a genetic predisposition for these behaviours but they were unleashed by their abnormal upbringings.

As to what we can do about them, unfortunately I don't see that there is much. Yes, I agree that contraception is a good idea, but we cannot force people to use it no matter how unsuitable they are, not at the moment anyways. There was a topic I was involved in a while ago where the idea of a Parental Certificate was considered, basically that anyone wishing to have a chile had to pass basic compotency and mental health tests which I think would be a good idea.

On the other hand though you have to realise that some people are going to slip through the cracks and that serial killers can be very hard to catch, because they are not driven by easily recognised motives, money, revenge etc, they can escape detection for a long time, even forever (such as Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer). And for those cases we presumably just have to hope the police do their ob well and these sick people end up locked away forever.

Posted by: The Lorax May 5 2004, 04:28 PM

Porcelianwarrior is right--no matter how many steps we take to prevent whatever we believe causes a person to assume the role of a serial killer, some ARE going to slip through the cracks.

--What I'm about to say may cause's just an opinion--

There's over 6 billion people on earth, and well there's a lot of places we haven't been able to live (i.e. north and south poles) so that leaves the places we CAN live overpopulated!
Animals have worked out the food chain thing, where there's predators and prey, and well Serial Killers and "normal" civilians kind of assume that role. The main differences being that animals almost always kil just for food, not for some skewed reason like Serial Killers. Also, it's a sort of population control (i.e. if bats didn't kill & eat insects then the population would swell and throw everything off) People still populate just as fast.

I know that what Serial Killers do cannot be justified, and i'm not trying to. But just maybe this is what happens. People kill, people die. It's never right, but it happens.

God is cruel this way.

Posted by: Righteous May 5 2004, 06:56 PM

Don't assume that serial killers aren't sometimes "good" members of society. John Wayne Gacy was very affluent in his community which I think was a defense mechanism (whose name escapes me) where, in order to feel better about himself, he does his absolute best to help society in exchange for raping and murdering boys.

Sexuality really is a big issue whether we realize it or not. Jefrey Dahmer was not only a loner who could not reach out to others, he couldn't deal with his homosexuality. He also had a lot of issues with self-hatred which may or may not have been spurred from his homosexuality issues. Eh, who knows.

I really don't think you can look at this as a solve et coagula thing. I mean yeah, there are too many people on this Earth and people need to die, but I don't think serial killers are a way to do so.

Posted by: Patient #212 May 5 2004, 07:57 PM

Alluding to the Oedipal Complex: I don't know that it's all based on that kind of classic sexual frustration, Righteous. What does the subconscious desire to kill one's father and sleep with one's mother have to do directly with murdering people at random? Well, I suppose you could say it's a function of childhood parental issues which would tie in somewhat, but how could you be sure those issues were sexually rooted?

I don't know... I tend to think it's a slightly more general power/superiority complex (admittedly, the psyche does sometimes link sex and power into one act, as in the case of rape). I read an article in the New York Times that actually focused on the Columbine killers (I don't know if you'd classify them as serial killers), but I think it sort of ties in:

It's clear from excerpts of Harris's journals that he saw himself as a sort of Nietzchean Superman-- someone so far above the herd of ant-like mortals he does not even have to consider their feelings. He rises above good and evil, above the contemptible slave morality of normal people. He can realize his true, heroic self, and establish his eternal glory, only through some gigantic act of will.

But it could be that whatever causes they support or ideologies they subscribe to, the one thing that the killers have in common is a feeling of immense superiority. It could be that they want to exterminate us because they regard us as spiritually deformed and unfit to live, at least in their world. After all, it is hard to pull up to a curb, look a group of people in the eye and know that in a few seconds you will shred them to pieces unless you regard other people's deaths as trivialities.

I won't quote the whole thing, but the article generally dismisses the "perpetrator-as-victim" theory-- that people resort to violence as a result of abuse and injustice in their lives-- and attributes mass murder to inborn hate alone. I don't really agree with that fully. People are shaped by their surroundings. But regardless of where the psychology comes from, I have to agree that one would probably have to have something similar to the attitude described above to be a serial killer.

Posted by: Ocean! May 5 2004, 10:22 PM

That's my favorite site, too. I just finished reading about Ted Bundy...

Anyways, I don't really have much to say, this is more of a topic where I sit back and read and think.

Good points, guys. You'll have me thinking about it for days.

*is wasting space on the forum*



Posted by: Righteous May 5 2004, 10:53 PM

QUOTE (Patient #212 @ May 5 2004, 02:56 PM)
What does the subconscious desire to kill one's father and sleep with one's mother have to do directly with murdering people at random?

The Oedipus complex is what shapens one's personality to a greater or lesser extent. It can be a major basis for how one interacts with others. It's the primary root of one's superego and that is what leads someone to violence. I'll be honest, I have a bad Oedius complex and I can see how it has affected my life. For a long time, I had no self confidence; I couldn't make good friends with males and, try as I might, I couldn't stand up for myself out of some unknown fear. I'm sure a lot of serial killers had emotional roots like this.

And I agree that it's about power, but I'm also saying that the emotioan stability to need power comes from issues with sexual development, kind of like how a rapist wants to dominate women via sex out of hatred for some unknown (to us at least) reason.

Posted by: The Lorax May 6 2004, 12:39 AM

I never said i thought Serial Killers were a good way to stop overpopulation, but it does happen---and it's just how i see part of the situation.

Either way, too good or too bad a relationship with your family can either make you feel smothered or rejected, there is a balance but i'm just not sure what that is. If a person feels smothered sometimes they do what they can to stop the smothering, some could take it too far...other times they want to do something to stop the person that's rejecting them from rejecting them--can't reject if you're dead right?

Other times a person could take it out not on the people causing the problem, but by innocent bystanders...I dunno...I'm only in eighth grade, this is just how i see things from what i've read.

Posted by: Sir Maxerpopple May 6 2004, 12:45 AM

I never said i thought Serial Killers were a good way to stop overpopulation, but it does happen---and it's just how i see part of the situation.
They wouldn't do it enough to matter. The difference would be too small.

As for what to do with them, the same thing we do with other criminals, no exceptions no matter what the backround is.

Posted by: Righteous May 6 2004, 01:33 AM


Maybe we should sic Max's toy robots on them.


Posted by: Patient #212 May 6 2004, 01:48 AM

Fair enough, Righteous... I'm not a psychologist. I can see your point, but I still don't agree completely.

I mean, what if, hypothetically, someone did have a perfectly healthy relationship with his/her parents with no sexual resentment, subconscious or otherwise? And then this person became a serial killer regardless?

Posted by: porcelainwarrior May 6 2004, 02:15 PM

In response to Patient #212...I don't know exactly how these people are created either but it is evident that they are, many would fit into the criteria to be labelled a sociopath. I read somewhere (I have the sneaking suspicion that it might have been Red Dragon tongue.gif still a good description though), that sociopaths are born that way, like some babies are born blind or have disabilities that cannot be rectified, these people are fundamentally broken in their head and no amount of love, care and/or counselling will make them normal. Many serial killers appeared to be perfectly normal, fuctioning, valuable members of society and sociopaths can do this also. Meh...I don't know, that's just my tuppence worth smile.gif

Posted by: Righteous May 6 2004, 07:53 PM

QUOTE (Patient #212 @ May 5 2004, 08:47 PM)
I mean, what if, hypothetically, someone did have a perfectly healthy relationship with his/her parents with no sexual resentment, subconscious or otherwise? And then this person became a serial killer regardless?

That's how it was with Jeffrey Dahmer, but like PW said, he was broken in the head to begin with. His parents moved him and his brother to another state when he was young. His brother turned out fine while Jeffrey had a career killing men, eating them, having sex with their corpses and collecting "souveniers." It was the same with Ed Gein and his brother. It all really depends on the individual's predispositions. Case in point: Rick (my brother) and I went through a lot of the same things, but because of my predispositions, I'm bipolar and he's not. I'm also messed up in a lot of other ways, but that's a-whole-nother story.

Posted by: candice May 7 2004, 04:13 PM

QUOTE (Righteous @ May 4 2004, 09:12 PM)
The first one is easy. If your Freudian (like me) then you believe that these problems are sexually based. One's Oedipus complex can cause him/her to have unresolved feelings of anger and sex. That is why the VAST majority of serial killers are males with issues with their parents.

No, no, no!

Sorry, but ugh. I very strongly dislike Freud. I'm minoring in Psych, and what I've learned about him makes me want to bash my head against a wall whenever people speak of him favorably. He did have a lot of influence on Psychology, and some of his theories might be valid...but most of his arguments have almost no merit whatsoever. He used horrible reasoning (like when he gave an interpretation of a subject...if they protested it, he would believe it to be true and say that they were just supressing the truth...yet, if they agreed with him, he would have said he was correct as well..there was no possible way for him to be wrong in his own mind). The Oedipus complex theory (along with many of his other theories) is very widely refuted. In societies where the mother's brother raises her children as their father and has NO sexual relationship with the mother...the male children still feel hostility towards him at a certain age. Nothing to do with sex whatsoever. Freud has lost a lot of influence in Psychology as most people have come to regard his arguments as utter crap. I personally don't understand why some people insist on clinging to his theories. They're unscientific, and most of his former patients said he didn't actually help them at all (specifically when it came to his interpretation of dreams..oy).

Anyway. Serial killers. No, I don't think it's because of a so-called Oedipus complex. That's ridiculous. I think if they had an incestuous relationship with their parent...then of course that is going to affect them psychologically. The same if their parents treated them very badly. I think there may be something fundamentally wrong with serial killers from birth...such as a chemical imbalance. However, I obviously have no proof of's just a thought. Traumatic childhoods...sure, I could believe that. But Oedipus complexes? No.

Posted by: Righteous May 7 2004, 04:40 PM

Candice, if you go deep into Freudian psychology, you learn that it's a lot more than wanting to bone one's mom. Besides, it's not like I don't analyze using other schools of psychology. Even what you're talking about is something I'd say, but I believe that the Oedipus complex puts one at a disposition for becoming a serial killer. Read on that site about Ed Gein and you'll see what I mean. Gein had a BAD one..

Posted by: The Lorax May 7 2004, 04:42 PM

QUOTE (Righteous @ May 7 2004, 09:39 AM)
wanting to bone one's mom.

....Ri, that's oddly poetic. wink.gif


Posted by: gothictheysay May 7 2004, 07:50 PM


It seems the equation here is somewhat equal to TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD=SERIAL KILLER

I don't think ALL serial killers have had a traumatic childhood...

And what's the difference between a serial killer with a traumatic childhood, and a person who had a traumatic childhood that doesn't go around killing people? The equation doesn't work. There's got to be something else to the whole problem, and I can't believe that sex/sexuality/etc. would be involved in all of these cases.

Posted by: Patient #212 May 7 2004, 08:18 PM

Yes, Candice, I had thought that Freud's theories had been somewhat refuted, too. Not that it's all bad, but I think the Oedipal Complex is a bit overplayed...

And, you're right, gothic. Bad childhoods do affect people. Maybe some serial killers did have bad childhoods. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. There are so many exceptions to that rule that it's not a valid point. At most, perhaps a bad childhood would help to ignite an already existing psychological issue.

Hmm. I went on a school trip to the state penitentiary yesterday. We interviewed inmates and one of them was convicted for first raping a girl and then shooting her ten times. Not a serial killer, I admit, but quite disturbing nonetheless. Unfortunately for this thread, his actual crime or his feelings on it weren't things he was willing to discuss. Understandably. Would have been interesting, though.

Posted by: Sir Maxerpopple May 8 2004, 02:58 AM

QUOTE (Righteous @ May 5 2004, 09:32 PM)

Maybe we should sic Max's toy robots on them.


laugh.gif /spam

Posted by: gothictheysay May 8 2004, 03:25 AM

Maybe we should sic Max's toy robots on them.

...or Max

Err, something intelligent.

Has anyone ever heard of the Clarence Darrow case (Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb?)

Are serial killers to be considered insane?

Posted by: Overfriendly_Kitten May 8 2004, 05:00 PM

I feel that it is possibly a mistake to lump all serial killers together like this.

Yes, some may share certain characteristics that would point to a link of some sort... but the handful of mass killers who have been successfully captured alive and successfully psychologically assessed is relatively few; and within that collection there have been very few killers that have shared anything but the very broadest similarities regarding their childhoods (parental rejection as has been quoted above). This is not to say that childhood isn't a factor, but that the very problem of serial murder is that there are no easy to identify key features that significantly stand out in each and every case that could be used to identify the threat posed.

Although great significance has been placed on psychology, it is only a single imperfect science that may or may not point to the root causes or even motivations behind mass murder. There are many other factors that should also be taken into account.

Jeff Dalmer's problems may well have stemed form psychiatric (not psychological) problems. As a child he suffered lesions on the frontal lobes in his brain after a car crash. The frontal lobes are the part of the brain responsible for self control and supression of certain extreme emotions. Investigators into Jeffs murders have suggested that it was this factor rather than his upbringing that may be the key in understanding why he killed those people. Similarly Fred West had received serious head injuries in his youth, and his wife had viacriously received electoshock therapy whilst she was still in her mother's womb... the effects manifesting themselves through abnormal behaviour right throughout her childhood.

Then there is the idea of genetic predisposition. It is a possibility, though I would suggest it is highly unlikely that this will ever be proven given the nature of the serial killer (very few and far between) and the inability to successfully capture enough of them to study effectively. I have to admit to being one of the types who having studied Genetic Sciences (albeit briefly as part of a pre Uni course) do not feel that everything can be pinned down to the DNA sequence somewhere along the line of the human genome. However, there might be a key gene that (either on it's own, or in combination with other factors) leads to serial murder.

I would suggest the problem with this theory is the variety of reasons, targets and ways in which serial killers actually kill. A sexually motivated murder is unlikely to be linked (by virtue of a shared DNA strand, gene or even combination of genes) to a murder where sex and sexuality are not involved.

If we are to answer the question what makes a serial killer we need to take into account all of the possibilities, and we mustn't focus on one element as being the single factor, until it can be conclusivley proven.

The next question: what must society do with these individuals. There are three things I feel should be done:

1) Hunt them down and neutralise the threat they pose (by successfully arresting and prosecuting them OR killing them as an absolute last resort where capture is impossible)

2) Fully investigate captured killers to help develop a better understanding of what they do, how and why (the question first asked) so as to capture others like them, if this is aplicable.

3) Imprison them, protecting society from the threat they pose, until they no longer pose any threat (either through successful rehabilitation, or incapacity through old age).

Finally there is the last question of what to do to stop murder. If we could honestly stop people from being murderous (or from adopting any other socially undesirable activity) then we would do so by first understanding everything about murder and mass murder. Then society would have to devise a means of curing these people. Finally society would have to enforce this... which might be possible in a handful of cases; but logistically impossible to enforce over a wide enough area to actually have any genuine impact, without adopting the kind of invasive police state that even then might catch only a handful of those responsible.

Posted by: Patient #212 May 8 2004, 07:39 PM

QUOTE (gothictheysay @ May 7 2004, 11:24 PM)
Has anyone ever heard of the Clarence Darrow case (Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb?)

Yeah. But they weren't serial killers. They murdered him "for the fun of it" because they thought themselves intelligent enough to get away with the perfect murder.

As far as the insanity part goes... I guess it depends upon one's definition of sanity.

Posted by: Righteous May 10 2004, 05:19 AM

And what's the difference between a serial killer with a traumatic childhood, and a person who had a traumatic childhood that doesn't go around killing people? The equation doesn't work. There's got to be something else to the whole problem, and I can't believe that sex/sexuality/etc. would be involved in all of these cases.

I never said that it was just sexuality that causes one to be a serial killer; I just think it's a key player. I'm bipolar and my mother is highly educated in brain biological disorders and, yes, I'm a big believer in its relevency but one cannot rule out environmental factors, childhood trauma and the Oedipus complex. Look at Ed Gein and his brother: They were raised in the same environment (with an overbearing mother biggrin.gif ), but Ed grew up and robbed graves and danced in his yard wearing womens' skin.

There are many factors that make people into serial killers and they all have their place in the equasion. I believe that the Oedipus complex is a big part of it. That's all I'm saying.

Posted by: Edward_lover1200 May 20 2004, 11:52 AM

*looks around thread so happy to be among my own kind*
well well well I've been gone a while haven't I...

well dealing with this topic I'm not gonna get into why they did it and do I think they were justified just yet but I do wanna say just how much I love to study them...I've been looking at the cases on The Zodiac, Jack the Ripper (my all time Fav.), The Black Delila, Lizzy Borden (who may not have done it contrary to most belief), and many others I cant really name right now...

so having to deal with this subject, I love it....but I cant come up with anything intellegent to say at 6 in the morning and I have school in a min. exept what I just said you'll get a good discusion out of me on Sat.
bye bye

Posted by: {Gothic Angel} May 20 2004, 12:12 PM

(*Does the happy dance for EL1200* Welcome back, hun biggrin.gif wub.gif)

Ok lets put forward a point, then get in way over my head whilst everyone else argues it.

Case #1 -Everything that has ever happened and ever will happen has a cause. All causes have effects and all effects have causes. Therefore, there must be a reason behind serial killings even if it isnt a "socially acceptable" reason. Maybe the person was screwed up as a child. Maybe they were on drugs. Or maybe the person really is a cold-hearted, sadistic, bastard. These are all technically "reasons" for committing a crime, just not necissarily ones that people would condone (sp?). Looking at some of the "normal" events and people in this world, this is quite plausible. Is it really such a streatch of the imagination, when there are some people who enjoy S&M*, to imagine that there might be some people who genuinely do enjoy seeing someone dying?

Case #2 -There is no such thing as cause and effect. Everything is random. If the brain can be affected by drugs, which cause things other than "normal" to happen, whats to say a synapse randomly firing in the wrong place couldnt send someone into the mental state needed to kill people? However, this does seem unlikely.

There is also:
Case #3 -Cause and effect do exist, but everything is predetermined. Therefore, whilest one thing does lead to another, everything must happen anyway. The universe has been set up (by who/whatever) to function according to a strict plan which has lead to exactly what happens.

but I dont really think in terms of the specific topic it is much different to Case #1.

So: It seems most likely that all serial killers have a reason to do what they do, in which case my opinion is that each case should be juged based on the case specifics.

Feel free to pick at the gaping holes in my reasoning if there are any. Or just ignore the very long post and carry on as usual tongue.gif

(*which is not to say thats not fine as long as they both enjoy it)

Posted by: Pixiegoth May 20 2004, 03:16 PM

QUOTE ({Gothic Angel} @ May 20 2004, 12:11 PM)
Or maybe the person really is a cold-hearted, sadistic, bastard.

So what makes them like that and why would that make them a serial killer? unsure.gif

I had a fairly poor relationship with my Dad. He wasn't around much and he didn't do that many "Dad" like things with us. I didn't realise this until I got older. I thought it was the norm to have my Mum do all the work. I'm not saying he was a terrible Dad but I think he could have done a better job. It might have messed me up a little but it would never turn me into a serial killer. I guess it's not as exteme as cases like Ed Gein, etc.

What I'm trying to say is I don't think that one particular thing can be the causal factor for serial killers. It could be that they had a bang on the head or some sort of brain defect but if they had a happy childhood that wouldn't make them serial killers. It could be that they had an unhappy childhood only but that wouldn't necessarily make them evil as they might be surrounded by people as they grew up that changed that. It's a combination of things.

Personally I think this subject is fascinating but have real trouble getting my head round psychology. Ironically enough! laugh.gif I need someone to give me an idiots guide to the lot of them! biggrin.gif

Posted by: jenofthejen Jun 15 2004, 05:07 PM

I think that most serial killers or, 'lust' killers, have had some type of bad sexual experience as a child. Take Gary Ridgeway for example (The Green River Killer) a majority of his victims were around the age of 15. He picked up several other prostitutes and never murdered them. Ir maybe he was just sick and twisted and after, or during, the exchange of money for sex he realized he had a fetish with little girls. And he hated them for making him want them so he killed them. I live less than two miles from his house. Well, before he went to prison. I walked the same streets as many of his victims. He drove past me an a daily basis an his way to and from work. SCARY!!
But then you take Charles Manson his mother was a prostitute and he grew up in a boys home. He had a horrible childhood. I think that can be a cause as to why he turned out the way he did. But then again he didn't rape the corps' of his victims.
Just my thoughts. Jenofthejen

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