Serial killers: As children, the criminals tortured animals

In the 1970s and 1980s, serial murders raged like epidemics in the United States. This caused experts within the police to investigate what these men who had lost their way…

In the 1970s and 1980s, serial murders raged like epidemics in the United States. This caused experts within the police to investigate what these men who had lost their way had in common.

The term “serial murder” was coined in Germany in the 1940s. The term did not reach the United States until 1974, when criminologist Robert Ressler used it in a lecture he gave.


In the 1960s and 1960s, he interviewed a total of 36 convicted serial killers in an attempt to get inside their minds, hoping to prevent the next in line from going astray. During these years, serial killers were on the loose.


In the years between 1980 and 1990, Robert Ressler said, “Serial murders can really be compared to epidemics. The types of crime we witness today did not occur on the same scale before the middle of the century. A person who kills 10, 12 or 15 people is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of crime in the United States”.


During that same decade, the FBI was aware of 823 active serial killers who in 1987 killed a total of 361 people (this number remains a record number for the United States).


The decade between 1980 and 1990 has been called the “serial murder decade”. In the 1990s, the number of serial killers dropped to a total of 724, and the number continues to decline. In the past decade, it is believed that only 201 serial killers have been at work in the United States.


Serial killers are driven by sex

In movies, serial killers have been portrayed as highly intelligent people (for example, Hannibal Lecter in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”), as mentally ill (for example, Norman Bates in “Psycho”), or as charming psychopaths (Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”). However, the reality is more often than not completely different.


No one is born a serial killer. They usually grow up in broken families where the fathers are either absent or inactive, with controlling mothers and an excess of mental and physical abuse.

The vast majority of them enjoyed torturing animals as children.

Many serial killers wet the bed at all ages, others enjoyed setting fires, but the vast majority enjoyed torturing and killing animals as children.


The vast majority of serial killers are men, and studies have shown that they experienced an event in their childhood that had a profound effect on them, such as a traffic accident or the slaughter of an animal that they have never been able to get over.


In general, murderers are rarely insane or particularly intelligent, and their IQ is usually a little lower than the national average.


Most of them are driven by sexual lust, which does not have to be directed at sex as such, but it is power over the victim and violence against it that brings them satisfaction.


The question is why so many serial killers appeared in the United States between the 1970s and 1990s.


This question was posed to Mike Aamodt who is a professor of psychology at Radford University in the state of Virginia.


“This is extremely difficult to answer, because we don’t know for sure whether the increase in the 1980s and 1990s was significant compared to previous decades. The term “serial killer” was not known before the 1970s, and therefore there is no information about serial murders before that time”, says Mike Aamodt, who was involved in setting up a database of serial killers in 1992 in Radford.


The database is the most comprehensive in the world, containing information on 5,079 serial killers, from 1900 to the present day. A total of 68% of the victims were in the United States.


Mike Aamodt suggests the possibility that the huge increase may have been due to existing legislation:


“In the 1980s and 1990s, far more prisoners received parole in the United States than is common today. This is especially important because our database of serial killers indicates that roughly 80% of all serial killers in US history spent some time in prison before committing their first murder. Almost 18% of all serial killers had been convicted of murder, released, and then let the whole thing crawl again”.

Four types of serial killers

In their landmark 1988 book “Serial Killers,” criminologists Ronald Holmes, Stephen Holmes, and James De Burger classified serial killers based on the motives for the killings, rather than the methods usually used by the FBI.

The authors identified four types of killers and each type had a specific reason for killing.

Power and control

The vast majority of serial killers derive sexual satisfaction from exercising power and being in control.

They enjoy torturing and humiliating their victims. In the eyes of the killers, the murder itself is often a sign of the supreme power they have over their victims.

Psychiatric disorders

These serial killers hear voices or see hallucinations that demand they kill a specific person.

The order comes from the Dark Lord or God. Serial killers of this type almost all suffer from some form of mental illness.

A special mission

Serial killers of this type are convinced that they have a duty to exterminate a certain group of people who are not worthy of living.

The victims are often happy women, children, old people or people of a certain race.

Enjoy killing

Cannibals and cannibals enjoy torturing their victims and putting them in their mouths.

This group also includes serial killers who enjoy killing.

The excitement becomes the goal itself. This type of serial killer is usually gifted with good intelligence.

Most serial murders committed in California

Some of the most notorious killers emerged during California’s “age of serial killers.”


Despite the infamous “Nightcrawler”, “California Killer” and “Sleeping Rat” serial killers that added gruesome chapters to America’s criminal history, California was by no means the state with the most serial killers. There were even more of them in Alaska and Florida, while California took 7th place.


California, on the other hand, was the state with the largest population or a total of about 40 million people, so it was no surprise that the most victims of serial killers were found there, with a total of 1,777 in the years after 1900.


The number corresponds to about 14 percent of all victims of serial killers in the United States.


Serial killers are rare today

The number of active serial killers has dropped by 85% since the last decade of the 20th century, and if FBI statistics are anything to go by, less than one percent of all murders in the United States today are committed by serial killers.


If the serial killer expert Enzo Yaksic is to be believed, this decrease is not least due to the fact that the police have made significant progress in catching the serial killers before they commit three or more murders, but that is the very definition of a serial killer.


For decades, the police have studied what characterizes the killers, and it is now easy for them to spot similarities in the murder cases, and as a result, they often manage to stop the criminals very quickly.


All streets since 2000, genetic material found at the scene of a murder has in many cases led to the conviction of the killers. In addition, both the Internet and smartphones give the police the opportunity to closely monitor the movements of those who are under suspicion.

“There are probably thousands of serial killers we don’t know about.”

Mike Aamodt, professor of psychology at Radford University in Virginia.

However, this is not entirely positive, because if the police have proceeded to catch the killers, it can also be assumed that the latter have learned to avoid the police’s traps.

This is also shown in the decrease in the number of cases that the police manage to report. In 1965, the police in the United States disclosed a total of 91% of all murders, but in 2017 the percentage dropped to 61%.

“There are probably thousands of serial killers that we don’t know about and that we haven’t been able to identify,” says Aamodt.

Read more about the psyche of serial killers

Colin Wilson: The Serial Killers , Virgin Books, 2007

Robert K. Ressler: Whoever Fights Monsters , St. Martin’s Press, 1992

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