Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.
—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet 2.2
Once the serial killer has killed his first victim he enters a complex circular process, akin to addiction, that leads him to kill over and over again. Very distinctive patterns emerge, depending on whether the serial killer is an organized or disorganized personality, and the killer leaves a unique personal imprint called a “signature” on each of his murders.
Each serial homicide goes through a number of dynamic phases, which at some points differ slightly between organized and disorganized killers.
The dissociative state is a state of mind “beyond fantasy” in which the killer has crossed the boundaries that separate imagination from reality. This “hyper fantasy stage” is arrived at through a gradual process of withdrawal from reality through years of repeating and elaborating fantasies with specifically violent themes such as murder, rape, revenge, control, mutilation, cannibalism, and possession. During his childhood and adolescence, the future killer takes tentative exploratory journeys into this territory, which manifest themselves in acts of cruelty to animals, bullying of fellow children, setting fires, and petty crimes.
For most children, such forays into violence beyond mere fantasy result in very discouraging and unpleasant results. These consequences often serve to dissuade the child from ever acting out these fantasies again—and often clear the fantasy away completely for the remainder of the child’s life. But for a small minority of children, these forays result in a certain level of stress and fear alleviation, satisfaction, and pleasure, which leave the child wanting more—especially if the child is under continual environmental stress. These fantasies are often accompanied by compulsive masturbation, which conditions a link between the fantasies and sexual urges.
These children cling to their violent fantasies into their adolescence and adulthood, and at some indeterminate point they cross the threshold where they no longer know or are aware of the difference between fantasy and reality. They are no longer cognizant that the thoughts they are having originated in fantasy: Reality and fantasy become merged and the person is said to be in the dissociative state.
The dissociative process can last anywhere from a few hours to a few months before some stressor such as those described in the previous chapter, along with facilitators, causes the person to “snap” and triggers an acting out of a violent fantasy. The stressor can be a culmination of accumulated long-term problems, such as a bad marriage, or a sudden and often minor episode, such as rudeness from a store clerk or rejection by a woman approached in a disco or bar.
Dr. Joel Norris described the dissociative process as the “aura phase,” in which for the killer sounds and colors become more vivid, odors are more intense, and sometimes even his skin can become sensitive to the slightest pressure. The killer is oblivious to any outside stimuli and reacts only to invisible stimuli that he alone can experience and understand. The fantasy is now prolonged, entirely compulsive, and completely dominating the killer’s every thought and action.
Nothing can inhibit the killer at this late stage, not the threat of punishment, laws, fear of death, morality, religion, mores, or taboos—all of these things become meaningless to the serial killer, as does the life of the person he is about to murder. The serial killer is almost a creature that defies the definition of a human, Dr. Norris says:
The killer is simply a biological engine driven by a primal instinct to satisfy a compelling lust. The ritual of killing has become bound up with an autonomic survival mechanism, almost as if the murderer had become a single-celled creature reacting to an overpowering chemical stimulus.185
Probably the most focused area of research today in forensic psychiatry is the point at which fantasy transforms into the dissociative process in the serial killer. At the early stages, some serial killers are aware of and can verbalize their transformation from fantasy to dissociative process. William Heirens, who murdered two women and a girl in Chicago, locked his clothes in a bathroom and threw away the key to resist going out to commit his crimes. But the urge became so strong that he crawled out naked on the ledge to recover his clothing. Henry Lee Lucas, on the eve of his release from prison for killing his mother, begged authorities not to let him go free because he was overwhelmed with the urge to kill. On the day he was released he immediately killed a woman and dumped her body near the prison gates.
Once the serial killer enters into the dissociative process, he moves on to the next phase.
“Trolling” is a fishing term describing the process in which a moving boat spreads out a net in an area likely to contain an abundance of fish. Joel Norris applied the term to serial killers when they begin to frequent and cruise areas where they are likely to find a victim. There is nothing random or accidental about trolling. Each serial killer has a precise “shopping list” for the type of victim he needs to satisfy his fantasy. Ted Bundy, for example, is said to have preferred young women with shoulder-length hair parted down the middle who looked like they were from upper-middle-class origins.
In his study of male serial killers, psychologist Eric Hickey determined that 40 percent of serial killers targeted females exclusively. At least 37 percent targeted both sexes, while 22 percent only chose males as their victims.186 Michael Newton, looking at victims of serial murder, determined that 65 percent were female and 35 percent male. Of serial killers specifically targeting men, 42 percent were homosexual, while the other 58 percent represented female killers, revenge killings, hospital murders, and “thrill” murders.187
In profiling victims, Hickey maintains that between 11 and 13 percent of victims were at “high risk”: they were hitchhiking, were prostitutes, worked alone as store clerks, were driving a taxicab, or were in a car breakdown when approached by their killer.188 This suggests that more than two-thirds of victims were unsuspecting of any imminent threat, did not facilitate their deaths, and were essentially at the right place at the wrong time.
Sixteen percent of identified serial killer victims knew their killer as a friend, casual acquaintance, neighbor, or co-worker. Three percent were related to the killer by blood or marriage, of which 49 percent were children murdered by their father or mother; 13 percent were spouses; 10 percent were parents murdered by their child; and 28 percent were an assortment of grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. The remaining 68 percent in Hickey’s study were killed by strangers.189
Aside from gender, serial killers use various other criteria for their selection of victims. Age is often important with some serial killers, who focus exclusively on children, teens, or elderly victims. While most serial killers murder victims of the same race, some specifically target victims of other races. Occupation can play a role beyond just that of a victim’s vulnerability. Prostitutes, strippers, and other sex-industry workers might be specifically targeted for the sexual associations of their work. In the twisted mind of a serial killer, however, nurses, store clerks, waitresses, and flight attendants can also be targeted through some obscure sexualizing thought process.
Residence or lack of residence could result in a person being targeted. Street people, derelicts, alcoholics, and homeless people have been targeted as victims in several cases. Victims living in the same building have also been targeted, and killers working in the confines of neighborhoods are frequent as well. In Los Angeles, for example, one needs a street map to sort out the neighborhood serial killers: Skid Row Slasher, Skid Row Stabber, Koreatown Slasher, West Side Rapist, Orange Coast Killer, Southside Slayer . . .
Approximately one-third of serial killers are traveling murderers, another third kill in one specific place such as their home or farm, and the final third kill locally. Thus some 66 percent of all serial killers murder either at home or near their home.
When trolling, the serial killer is highly focused with all his senses directed at locating a victim. Once he identifies a suitable victim, his activities take on a frenzied intensity as he carefully stalks his victim in anticipation of murder. Like a cat that has spotted prey and has positioned itself to leap, the serial killer focuses all energy, thought, and effort on the potential victim, patiently waiting for the right instant to pounce. When they identify a victim, serial killers can sometimes wait in the shadows for days or weeks before finding just the right moment to strike. Some, when they spot a potential victim, file that information away for a later period when they are in the mood to kill.
Thirty-one percent of American serial killers in Newton’s study approached their victims in a public place or quasi-public space, ranging from shopping malls to parks and highways, and sometimes they killed their victims there. One victim was murdered on the street only sixty yards away from Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. Sixteen percent of serial killers murdered in their home or apartment, luring their victims there. Ten percent invaded their victim’s homes, 5 percent chose prostitutes for victims, 5 percent preyed solely on hospital patients, 3 percent killed while robbing their victims, and 1 percent targeted hitchhikers exclusively, although many reported to resorting to killing hitchhikers when their other methods did not yield results. “Lover’s lanes” and couples in cars were selected as victims for 1 percent of killers, while classified advertisements and highway distress situations were exclusively used by 0.5 percent each. Combinations of various methods were used by 23 percent of serial killers, and the remaining 3 percent is unknown.190
Trolling can be simple or complex. Ed Kemper simply drove around looking for hitchhikers. In Rochester, New York, Arthur Shawcross murdered eleven women, nine of whom were roadside prostitutes he picked up in his van. Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, simply walked around until he found an unlocked door or open window. Albert DeSalvo, who killed thirteen women, knocked on apartment doors until his desired type of victim opened the door. He then gained entry by posing as a repairman sent by the management to fix some potential problem. Bobby Joe Long perused classified ads offering objects for sale or apartments for rent and called the numbers during the day. If a woman answered the phone, he surmised that any man in her life would be away at work during the day. Long then showed up at the location; if the victim was alone as he had hoped, he proceeded with his crime.
Whether a serial killer is an organized or disorganized personality often determines what kind of trolling technique he uses and what happens once the serial killer approaches his victim. Richard Ramirez was a mixed-category serial killer who did not so much seek out a specific type of victim as an opportunity to kill, be it a man, woman, or child. An unlocked door was all that Ramirez needed, and as soon as he encountered his victim, he attacked. In the case of Jerry Brudos, a saleswoman called at his home and was lured down into his cellar on an impulse. That is why victims whose bodies are found where the killer first met them are often classified by investigators as victims of disorganized personalities. Once the disorganized serial killer approaches his victim, he usually carries out a powerful “blitz” attack that is very quick, vicious, and highly violent, described by police as “overkill”—multiple stab wounds, extensive cutting and mutilation, a high number of blows to the head and body, multiple gunshots—excessively more wounds than necessary to cause death. Often the disorganized serial killer murders with his own hands, with a piece of clothing belonging to the victim, or with a crude weapon improvised or found at the site of the encounter.
When, on the other hand, the organized serial killer approaches his victim, an entirely different dynamic takes place and additional phases might occur before the murder takes place.
Whereas the disorganized killer lacks the confidence and social skills to interact with his victim and therefore attacks immediately upon contact, the organized serial killer is an entirely different creature. He will patiently lure, charm, persuade, and woo his victim into a vulnerable position where he can carry out his murder. Child murderers are known for this ability, often talking children into calmly walking away with them.
It is not enough for the organized serial killer to simply kill his victim—his fantasy requires that he carry out some complex ritual for which he needs to keep his victim alive for a period of time or needs uninterrupted control over the victim’s body.
Some serial killers, particularly those preying on male victims, may not feel sufficiently secure in their physical abilities to overcome their victim and need to set them up in a vulnerable position. John Wayne Gacy, for example, used a complex trolling method in which he pretended to look for employees for his construction business. When he found a desirable young male, he lured him to an “interview” at his home, where he had his office. There he showed the victim his picture with the president’s wife and in the course of conversation he would demonstrate his “handcuff trick” that he used in his shows as a volunteer clown for hospitalized sick children. Once he snapped the handcuffs into place, the young male, no matter how strong, had little chance of resisting Gacy. (As Gacy explained, the “trick” was “having the key.”) In Atlanta, Wayne Williams, who was accused of murdering twenty-eight boys and youths, supposedly offered record contracts and lured them to a small recording studio he had in his home. Richard Cottingham wined and dined his victims, slipping a rape drug into their drinks.
The entire point of the wooing is to maneuver the victim into a location or position where the serial killer can gain uninterrupted physical control over him or her. Only organized serial killers are capable of this type of seductive encounter with their victims. This is probably the point at which the serial killer is the “craziest.” All his energy, thoughts, and focus are on hurting the individual he has encountered, yet at the same time, all his overt actions and every nuance of his conduct must mask his intent and make his victim feel at ease and secure—an especially difficult task as the serial killer and his victim are often strangers to each other.
The more charismatic or physically attractive serial killers simply approach women in bars or clubs and seduce them. Some even form short-term relationships with their victims and kill them on a subsequent date to their first meeting. Other serial killers develop more sophisticated ruses. Christopher Wilder, suspected in the murder of twelve women, is known to have hired a model for a “pizza commercial” photo session. She consumed numerous pieces of pizza as he took photographs of her. At some point she slipped into unconsciousness—the pizza was drugged.
A disturbingly significant number of serial killers pose as police officers. This gives them a convenient pretext to approach and gain control over their victims without the necessity of putting them at ease. The FBI has noted that the serial killer’s preferred color of automobile is blue because of its connotation with authority. Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, the Hillside Stranglers, posed as plainclothes police officers and “arrested” prostitutes. In North America, police departments recommend that if a driver is suspicious of a police vehicle attempting to pull her over in some remote location, she should try to signal the officer that she has seen him and drive slowly to some well-lighted and populated location before coming to a halt. While the police officer may be annoyed, no action is taken against a driver who does not immediately come to a stop but continues to drive slowly without attempting to evade the police car.
Harvey Glatman hired some of his victims as photo models. Harvey Carignan killed a woman who answered an employment ad he placed in a paper. Albert DeSalvo knocked on apartment doors at random. Some serial killers use a variety of methods: Ted Bundy used to wear a fake cast and ask women to help him carry something to his car, while at other times he posed as a police officer. Jerry Brudos killed a female encyclopedia saleswoman who mistakenly called at his house, lured another woman with car trouble back to his house, and then kidnapped two women from shopping centers.
Some serial killers contract others to bring victims to them. In Houston, Texas, homosexual Dean Corll had two teenage youths go out for him and find other young boys and children. He paid them $200 for every victim they lured to his house. In Florida, Fred Waterfield paid auxiliary sheriff’s deputy David Allen Gore $1,000 for every teenage girl he brought him. Gore used his uniform and authority to lure female victims to their deaths. Waterfield and Gore raped and killed six women before they were apprehended.
Some serial killers take a female partner along with them; her presence when the killer approaches his victim makes the situation appear nonthreatening. Charlene Gallego, the wife of Gerald Gallego, approached victims on behalf of her husband, who would wait in the van. She even made herself appear pregnant to further instill the illusion of a nonthreatening situation. In Ontario, Canada, husband and wife Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka raped and killed at least three young girls, including Homolka’s younger sister. Despite the fact that one girl had already disappeared in the region, a fifteen-year-old student was kidnapped from in front of her school in broad daylight by the couple. They pulled up in a car beside the girl and Homolka got out of the vehicle and spread a map on the roof while asking the girl to approach and show her some directions. While the victim stood by the open car door looking at the map, she was suddenly pushed into the car and subdued. Despite the fact that there were numerous cars driving by, nobody saw anything extraordinary, except for one witness who recalled seeing somebody “struggling to put a big package on their backseat.” Such male-female serial killer couples are not particularly rare.
It is important to remember that in these cases, the serial killer often weaves a complex relationship with his victim into which he inserts his ruse. Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi did not simply drive up to their victim at the bus stop and offer her a ride home. One of them passed her on foot and struck up an innocent conversation at the end of which the ride home was nonchalantly offered. Ted Bundy carefully stalked a victim in the shopping plaza, making sure she was there long enough to make his story plausible.
The organized serial killer strikes up an ostensibly very innocent conversation, but its intention is to elicit the vital information necessary to lure the victim into a trap. Serial killers are often attractive, polite, charming, and well-dressed. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were described as a “magazine cover perfect couple.” Along with this charisma, the organized serial killer also has a sixth sense for weaknesses and is quick to zero in and exploit them. (Chapter 10 has more on what kinds of ruses a stranger with a hidden agenda may attempt when approaching you.)
Once the serial killer has succeeded in wooing the victim into a vulnerable position he moves on to the next phase—the capture.
Once again, the capture stage is often undertaken only by organized serial killers to whom gaining physical control of their victims before killing them is central to their fantasy. (The disorganized serial killer often goes straight to the kill without wooing or capture.) It is at the capture that the serial killer drops his mask and reveals his intentions.
The capture can be as quick as a pair of handcuffs snapped shut on the victim’s wrists. Often it is a blow to the head or a punch to the stomach, which makes it difficult for the victim to scream. Once the serial killer captures his victim, he can unleash his murderous fantasies on the helpless person at the site of the capture or somewhere else. Christopher Wilder, for example, after subduing his victim with drugs or a punch to the stomach, bound her hands and feet and covered her mouth and eyes with duct tape. He then stuffed the bound woman into a sleeping bag and checked into a motel. Throwing the sleeping bag over his shoulder like a sack of grain, he carried his victim from the car to his room, where he raped and tortured her. Afterward he suffocated his victim with a pillow and carried her body out in the same sleeping bag.
Richard Cottingham wooed prostitutes with drinks, dinner and sympathy before arranging an exchange of sex for cash. By the end of the evening the victim was relaxed and unafraid of him (or drugged). One of Cottingham’s survivors recalled that at the end of an evening with him she had no second thoughts of lying down on a bed, facedown and turned away from him, for “a massage.” Cottingham then suddenly leapt onto her back and snapped a pair of handcuffs on her wrists.
Once the serial killer has made the capture, he proceeds to act out his violent fantasies.
The disorganized serial killer usually does not go through the persuading and capture phases. He attacks his victim where he encounters him or her—on the street, in a remote location, or at the victim’s home or place of work. The victim often becomes a casualty by being at the wrong place at the wrong time—he or she was simply unlucky. The body is frequently found where the encounter took place and is almost never concealed.
The victim shows signs of a powerful and sudden “blitz” attack and is sometimes killed instantaneously. Extreme blunt force trauma to the head and lack of defensive wounds are often features of such an attack. The victim is rarely restrained or gagged.
The victim is often “depersonalized” by having his or her face covered or, more subtly, by being rolled over on the stomach. Sometimes severe facial mutilation is also a sign of depersonalization, as is mutilation of the genitals and breasts.
Rape or mutilation most often takes place after the victim has been rendered unconscious, is dying, or is dead. The disorganized serial killer is uncomfortable with any kind of interaction with the victim and prefers a passive and doll-like subject. As Kemper said of his victims, he needed to “possess them in the way I wanted to; I had to evict them from their human bodies.”
Sexual acts committed on the victim often involve the insertion of foreign objects into the body’s orifices (insertional necrophilia). Parts of the body, especially the buttocks and breasts, are sometimes bitten or slashed and stabbed, as are often the thighs, abdomen, and neck. Very often the killer does not complete the sexual act and semen is found on the victim’s clothing or nearby. Sometimes the killer has sex with the victim’s wounds. Parts of the victim’s body might be cut away and missing.
Death is usually caused by strangulation, blunt force, or stabbing, and the weapon is often found at the crime scene.
The organized sexual killer is more complex in his crime. The act of killing is sexualized and death is often caused slowly. Asphyxiation is often used with the killer deliberately loosening and tightening his grip around the victim’s throat, keeping him or her suspended between life and death. The killer rapes his victim before killing, and sometimes repeats the rape after death. Some killers focus on murdering their victims in the middle or at the climax of the sex act. The sex act is often complete or near complete, with semen discovered inside body orifices or in the pubic region. The sex organs might be bitten, bruised, or cut, and such injuries usually occur while the victim is alive. The victim often shows evidence of restraints. Severe mutilation, other than to disguise the victim’s identity, is not a usual feature of the organized serial killer.
A subtype of the organized sexual killer is the sadistic sexual killer, for whom the torture of the victim is a more primary motivator than the actual sexual act. The sadistic killer derives his pleasure from seeing his victim in pain, and for that he needs his victim alive and conscious. Such killers have been known to keep their victims alive for as long as six weeks, and some carefully revive near-dead victims in order to prolong the torture. Torture inflicted on the victim is often very elaborate, and the killer brings with him various implements such as pliers, electrical devices, and probes. Some killers bring their victims to elaborately fitted and soundproofed “torture chambers.”
The most prevalent forms of sexual acts inflicted on the victim, in order of case frequency, are anal rape, forced fellatio, vaginal rape, and foreign-object penetration.191 Very often victims are forced to engage in all of these acts, and they almost always occur before death.
Victims often show injuries in various stages of healing because they have been inflicted over an extended period of time. Bruising is often evident in genital areas and on the breasts, thighs, buttocks, neck, and abdomen. These areas may be slashed or mutilated, but rarely enough to cause death. Victims may be urinated on, and their stomach contents may contain evidence indicating that they were forced to ingest urine or feces.
Most commonly, death is caused by ligature strangulation, manual strangulation, hanging, or suffocation. Less frequently, because death occurs faster, the cause is gunshot wounds, cutting, stabbing wounds, or blunt force.
The sadistic sexual killer is usually the most organized of all. His vehicle is often specially outfitted for capturing victims and, as already noted, he may maintain a secluded torture facility outfitted with elaborate devices.
The organized killer often works with gloves and disguises and takes care not to leave any evidence behind. The body is frequently taken to another location and carefully hidden. Often he has special “burial grounds” prepared in advance and arrives equipped with a shovel.
The preceding descriptions are not fixed formulas—they are what usually occurs. Some killers are a mix of organized and disorganized personalities, and sometimes circumstances such as an unexpected interruption can cause an organized killer to leave behind a disorganized scene, while teams of killers, if composed of two different personalities, can also leave a mixed crime scene.
The FBI study determined that in 56 percent of cases, the victims were raped before death and 33 percent were tortured.192 It appears that disorganized, organized, and sadistic-organized personalities represent roughly a third each of serial killers.
It should also be noted that several categories of serial killers do not easily fit any of these descriptions. These are solo female serial killers, such as mothers or babysitters who kill children in their care, nurses who kill patients, wives who kill multiple husbands, and at least one case of a prostitute who compulsively killed clients. Male nurses and doctors who kill multiple patients also do not easily fall into the previously described categories and are believed to function under the rules of a different dynamic. Finally, serial cult murders, of which there are several cases, also operate under a different set of circumstances.
Many serial killers, during or after the murder, perform a ritual that most often consists of taking souvenirs or trophies of the crime. This is an essential feature, because the roots of the crime lie in the foggy dissociative process where the perimeters of reality and fantasy become blurry. The taking and keeping of souvenirs is essential for the serial killer to somehow create, and maintain the bridge between his dreamed desires and the reality of acting out his fantasy. Without the souvenir, some serial killers may not even be sure that they had acted upon their fantasy. Others use the souvenir to perpetuate the pleasure and excitement they sparked during the murder.
In addition to taking souvenirs, the disorganized killer may also pose the corpse, sometimes in an obscene position. Occasionally the posing is more ritualistic; in Los Angeles the killer of derelicts in the street poured a circle of salt around the body and took their shoes off, neatly leaving them at the feet of the victim, pointing toward the body. The body may be dumped in a place of significance to taunt authorities, such as in front of a No Dumping sign or, as Henry Lee Lucas did, near the gates of a prison. Lester Suff left murdered drug-addict prostitutes near Dumpsters, their arms turned outward to display their needle track marks. Parts of the corpse, such as genitals, the head, or limbs, may be cut away and kept by the killer. These may be later eaten by the killer or kept preserved in jars and even shown to subsequent victims. Bloodied clothing may be kept by the disorganized personality because usually no attempt is made to destroy evidence.
The organized killer is more likely to take photographs or videos of the victim both before and after killing. He may also take minor personal belongings, such as an item of clothing, jewelry, or a driver’s license, as a trophy of his crime. Because the organized personality attempts to cover his tracks, he may carefully hide such items. Others may give the souvenirs as gifts to their girlfriends, wives, or daughters. Some keep elaborate scrapbooks of newspaper clippings or write detailed diaries. The FBI study reports that in 27 percent of the homicides it studied, souvenirs were kept.193
Some serial killers make videotapes of their victims. Although for decades there have been rumors of so-called snuff films that purport to show actual murders, so far all the videotapes recovered by police from serial killers stop short of showing the actual killing. They do, however, show horrendous scenes of torture and rape. Such tapes were recently shown at a trial of serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka in Toronto, Canada, and of Charles Ng in California, and were rare glimpses into the chamber of horrors of a sadistic sexual murderer.
In crime fiction there is a popular notion that the criminal returns to the scene of his crime. It is absolutely true. The FBI study determined that in 27 percent of the homicides it surveyed, the killer returned to the crime scene. When the murderers were asked why, 26 percent replied that they returned to relive the fantasy; 19 percent to check into the progress of the crime; 9 percent to kill another victim; and 6 percent to have sex with the corpse. One returned fourteen hours after the murder and cut off the victim’s breasts; another returned several weeks later to involve the corpse in sexual activities.194 Arthur Shawcross was identified and captured when a police helicopter spotted him eating a bag lunch near the decaying body of one of his victims. The return to the crime scene is a vital aspect of the totem phase.
The FBI also discovered another remarkable aspect of the totem phase: In 20 percent of the homicides it studied, the killer participated to some degree in the police investigation of the crime.195 In cases of children going missing, the killer is often among the volunteers looking for the missing child. Sometimes the killer presents himself as a witness or, as in the cases of Ed Kemper and Peter Woodcock, he goes to the police station or bars and coffee shops frequented by police officers and engages them in conversation about the case. It is a rule of thumb for police to usually investigate first the person who reports finding the body.
There are several reasons for the killer’s involvement in the investigation, beyond the desire to know how far the investigation has progressed. First, it gives the killer an opportunity to prolong the excitement and pleasure that the murder sparked; second, it gives him a sense of superiority and control over the authorities around him who are attempting to solve the mystery—he knows something they do not.
When questioned, serial killers give different accounts of their satisfaction after the crime. Some go into a long and deep sleep; some speak of a sense of “renewal,” whereas others speak of guilt, remorse, and fear. This state may last for hours or for weeks and months, but at some point the serial killer once again begins slipping back into the dissociative state. Obviously, the problem is that all of the factors that originally contributed to the killer’s homicidal fantasies have not been alleviated by the homicide. Even worse, the commission of the killings can in some cases contribute additional stressors in the killer’s psychopathology—making him kill more frequently and more brutally.
Ted Bundy, speaking in the third person as always, described the post-crime state of mind:
He did everything he should have done. He didn’t go out at night and when he was drinking he stayed around friends. For a period of months, the enormity of what he did stuck with him. He watched his behavior, and reinforced the desire to overcome what he had begun to perceive were some problems that were probably more severe than he would have liked to believe they were.
It was the deceptive fashion, you might say, in which that psychopathology withdrew into this dormant stage that led the individual to the erroneous belief that he “got it out of himself,” and this wasn’t going to happen again . . .
But slowly, the pressures, tensions, dissatisfaction which, in the very early stages, fueled this thing had an effect. Yet it was more self-sustaining and didn’t need as much tension or as much disharmony externally as it did before . . .
It took six months or so until he was back thinking of alternative means of engaging in similar activity, but not something that would likely result in apprehension or failure of one sort or another . . .
[After committing another crime] he was seized with the same kind of disgust and repulsion and fear and wonder at why he was allowing himself to attempt such extraordinary violence. But the significance of this particular occasion was that while he stayed off the streets and vowed he’d never do it again and recognized the horror of what he had done and certainly was frightened by what he saw happening, it took him only three months to get over it. In the next incident, he was over it in a month.196
Ted Bundy was an intelligent, thinking serial killer with a college degree in psychology and a precise awareness of what he was doing, yet he continued to murder repeatedly despite his inhibitions and struggle to confront the compulsion to kill. On the other hand, Kenneth Bianchi was more typically representative of the serial killer’s mentality in his explanation:
We got on the freeway. I fucked her and killed her. We dumped her body off and that was it. Nothin’ to it.197