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Triggers, Facilitators, Detective Magazines, Paraphilic Hard Porn, and the Bible

You just felt very good after you did it. It just happens to be satisfying, to get the source of blood . . .

The psychic abolition of redemption.
IAN BRADY, Moors Murderer

No murder is as critical in the career of any serial killer as the first. Without it, they would not exist. Many already have criminal records for petty crimes or serious violent offenses—some have no criminal records at all. Up until now, although they may have thought about it, they have killed nobody. But something nudges them forward to cross that final horrific line.

The previous chapter outlined how it is believed that the mind of a serial killer, through a combination of environmental factors, parenting, and biological and genetic predisposition, can be thrust into a pattern of often violent fantasies and obsessive thoughts that the serial killer has difficulties separating from reality.

At a certain point in his adolescence or adulthood, the future serial killer begins taking these fantasies out on “test runs.” Once these attempts to involve others in his fantasy start, it will be only a matter of time before the first kill takes place—an important milestone in the history of any serial killer.

Serial Killers’ Reminiscences on Their First Murder

Virtually all serial killers talk about how difficult their first murder was, and how much easier it all became afterward. Henry Lee Lucas remembers committing his first murder when he was fifteen years old. He snatched a seventeen-year-old girl at a bus stop, carried her up an embankment, and attempted to rape her. When she resisted, he strangled her. Her murder was solved only thirty-three years later when Lucas confessed:

I had no intention of killing her. I don’t know whether I was just being afraid somebody was going to catch me or what. That killing was my first, my worst, and the hardest to get over . . . I would go out sometimes for days, and just every time I turned around I’d see police behind me. Then I’d be always looking behind me and watching. Everywhere I’d go I have to be watching for police and be afraid they were going to stop me and pick me up. But they never did bother with me.171

Speaking in the third person, as he often did when being questioned about his crimes, Ted Bundy described his first attempted murder:

He was horrified by the recognition that he’d done this, the realization that he had the capacity to do such a thing or even attempt—that’s a better word—this kind of thing . . . The sobering effect of that was to . . . for some time close up the cracks again. For the first time, he sat back and swore to himself that he wouldn’t do something like that again . . . or even, anything that would lead up to it.172

Bobby Joe Long, who raped and murdered nine women in Florida, recalls killing his first victim, a woman he picked up in a bar:

She picked me up really, I didn’t go after her. She was a whore. She manipulated men, and she wanted to manipulate me. Once I had her in the car, I tied her up and raped her. Then I strangled her and dumped her body alongside the highway. I knew what I was doing but I couldn’t stop myself. I hated her. I hated her from the time she picked me up, but I didn’t plan to murder her. I don’t even think I planned to rape her either . . . I couldn’t believe what I’d done the next morning. I was sick, and I knew I was in real trouble.

But the feelings of shock, fear, regret, and remorse, wear off before long. Bobby Joe Long continued:

Then a few days later I met the Simms girl, and it was the same thing all over again. She was a barfly. She really picked me up, and I just turned on her in the car.173

David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, recalled that after committing his first killing:

You just felt very good after you did it. It just happens to be satisfying, to get the source of blood . . . I no longer had any sympathy whatsoever for anybody. It was very strange. That’s what worried me the most. I said, “Well, I just shot some girl to death and yet I don’t feel.” . . . They were people I had to kill. I can’t stop and weep over them. You have to be strong and . . . you have to survive.174

David Gore, convicted of the torture, rape, and murder of six women, stated:

All of a sudden I realized that I had just done something that separated me from the human race and it was something that could never be undone. I realized that from that point on, I could never be like normal people. I must have stood there in that state for twenty minutes. I have never felt an emptiness of self like I did right then and I will never forget that feeling. It was like I crossed over into a realm I could never come back from.175

Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, recalled his first murder:

The feeling after I got out of that apartment was as if it never happened. I got out and downstairs, and you could of said you saw me upstairs, and as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t me. I can’t explain it to you any other way. It’s just so unreal . . . I was there. It was done. And yet if you talked with me an hour later, or half an hour later, it didn’t mean nothing. It just didn’t mean nothing.176


Every serial killer has to begin with his first murder. The fantasies, the predisposition, the isolation are all in place waiting for him to act on them. What remains now to happen is the “trigger” that catapults the embryonic serial murderer out from his fantasy world into that of homicidal reality, and the “facilitator” that lubricates the process. The trigger is usually a series or combination of pressures in daily life that law enforcement officers call “stressors,” which at some point drive the predisposed individual to crack and act on his fantasy. The facilitator is frequently either some stimulant that enhances the stressors, such as pornography or cocaine, or a depressant that lowers the inhibitions, such as alcohol.

Sometimes in the beginning, murder is not even a component of the fantasy. Bobby Joe Long’s fantasy, for example, was rape, but in the end he turned to killing. During the acting out of the fantasy, the individual might accidentally kill, and from that point onward murder can become an active part of the future fantasy. Sometimes the killing is committed to preserve the fantasy when the victim’s behavior threatens to disrupt it.

The FBI study indicated that in 59 percent of the serial and sexual homicides they surveyed, the stressor reported was a conflict with a female. Because of the often sexual component of serial murder, this should not come as a surprise. Monte Rissell, who would eventually murder five women, had already been on probation for rape before he killed anybody. He received a letter from his girlfriend, who was a year ahead of him in college, that she no longer wanted to see him. Armed with a .45-caliber handgun, he drove to her campus and saw her with her new boyfriend but did not do anything. He then drove to a parking lot and sat in his car drinking beer and smoking marijuana. At about 2:00 A.M. a woman drove into the lot and parked her car. Rissell approached her with his gun, abducted her, raped her, and killed her. He went on to kill four more women in a similar way.

Parental conflict is reported as a major stressor in 53 percent of the homicides surveyed. Ed Kemper reported that he began killing young women after a particularly bitter argument with his mother. Richard Chase, who killed, mutilated, and drank the blood of some of his six victims in Sacramento, California, in 1978, was typical of the FBI’s disorganized offender profile. He too describes a parental trigger behind his first homicide:

The first person I killed was sort of an accident. My car was broken down. I wanted to leave but I had no transmission. I had to get an apartment. Mother wouldn’t let me in at Christmas. Always before she let me come in at Christmas, have dinner, and talk to her, my grandmother, and my sister. That year she wouldn’t let me in and I shot from the car and killed somebody.177

Additional stress factors reported during the homicides surveyed were financial, 48 percent; employment problems, 39 percent; marital problems, 21 percent; legal problems, 28 percent; conflict with a male, 11 percent; physical injury, 11 percent; death of a significant person, 8 percent; and birth of a child, 8 percent. 178

When serial killings begin and police have a potential suspect, investigators often make a careful survey of the suspect’s life around the time of the first murder in an attempt to identify potential stressors: Was he fired from work, is he in the middle of a divorce, has there been a death or a birth in the family, did he break up with his girlfriend, is he failing in school? Often such events occur just before the first homicide, but stressors can also trigger subsequent killing cycles as well. The FBI study reports the timing of three homicides committed by one unnamed individual. The offender purchased a handgun as soon as he learned that his wife was pregnant, claiming he was worried that his wife might be assaulted while he was away from home. After the birth of his first child, the offender became preoccupied, slept restlessly, and complained of physical pain. He showed little interest in having sexual relations with his wife, and his relationships with other people were disrupted. Three murders were linked to the birth: The first occurred six weeks after the birth of the child; the second when his wife became pregnant with a second child; and the third on the day of the first child’s birthday party.179 At other times it is not as simple as that; the trigger could be an event or stressor that is obscure and is only meaningful to or understood by the killer.

The problem here is that by the very nature of their childhood, serial killers are most likely to lead lives full of stressful events. As children and adolescents they lack self-esteem, are isolated and maladjusted, and are therefore poorly prepared for coping with life as adults. By the very nature of their personalities and coping skills, they contribute to or instigate stressful occurrences and instability in their lives. The FBI survey indicates that only 20 percent of their subjects were steadily employed and 47 percent did not graduate from high school. Of killers in the study who served in the military, 58 percent received undesirable, dishonorable, or medical discharges, while 29 percent registered a criminal record while serving.


The final element in the homicidal formula that unleashes serial killers is what psychologists have labeled “facilitators”—alcohol, drugs, pornography, and so on. Alcohol’s depressant effect can decrease inhibitions and suppress moral conscience and propriety. In his usual third-person discourse, Ted Bundy explained the role of alcohol in his twenty known homicides:

I think you could make a little more sense out of much of this if you take into account the effect of alcohol. It’s important. It’s very important as a trigger. When this person drank a good deal, his inhibitions were significantly diminished. He would find that his urge to engage in voyeuristic behavior on trips to the bookstore would become more prevalent, more urgent. It was as though the dominant personality was sedated. On every occasion when he engaged in such behavior, he was intoxicated.180

The FBI study reported that in 49 percent of the homicides it analyzed, the killer was consuming alcohol prior to committing the murder. Of those killers, 30 percent reported that at the time of the crime, their drinking was significantly heavier than their usual amount.

Drug use just prior to murder was reported by 35 percent of the killers, but only 12.5 percent stated that the amount of drugs consumed was different from their typical habit. Regrettably, the FBI study did not specify precisely which types of drugs were being consumed; however, the most likely drug is marijuana, which is the drug most readily available after alcohol (and after nicotine and caffeine). Cocaine, which also acts as a stimulant and ego booster, was presumably the next most cited substance, perhaps equaled by various amphetamine-like substances, and followed by hallucinogenics such as LSD and PCP. (Crack cocaine was not a popular drug when the study was being conducted.) As far as opiates such as morphine or heroin are concerned, there seem to be no accounts of any heroin-addicted serial killers—probably because the frequently debilitating nature of heroin addiction is not conducive to the necessary long-term high performance demanded of a focused serial killer.


Pornography as a facilitator is a more complex issue. Some psychologists maintain that pornography inspires fantasies, provides models for sexual behavior, and encourages individuals to perceive females as objects. They suggest that as a visual stimulant combined with masturbation, pornography mentally conditions its consumer to derive pleasure from the fantasies of various behaviors depicted in it. Others maintain the opposite—that it defuses fantasies and provides a harmless and perhaps even healthy outlet for otherwise dangerous desires.

The FBI study reports that 81 percent of offenders reported encountering pornography in their childhood, but does not specify the nature or extent of the encounter. Nor does the study detail the nature of the pornography or even offer a definition of pornography. Colin Wilson’s theory on pornography and the rise of sex crime in the nineteenth century has been described in Chapter 2. Wilson, however, does not necessarily claim that the shift from “lusty” eighteenth-century pornography to the sadistic–prohibited behavior pornography of the nineteenth-century is the cause. That shift could have very easily reflected a change in cultural mores of the emerging urban industrial society, which contributed to the rise of sexual homicide. Nonetheless, many serial killers had extensive pornography collections, and some took sexually explicit photographs and made videos of their victims during the commission of their crime and after.

Until the mid 1990s, there existed a multimillion dollar pornographic publishing industry whose printed products ranged from straight sexual imagery to more fetishistic and sadomasochistic products. (Today it is mostly focused on video and digital products as opposed to printed matter.) Next to child pornography, the most offensive publications were magazines with titles such as Stalked, Captured, and Bound and Fettered, which took the nonexplicit detective magazine covers to their logical conclusions. They featured series of pornographic images of obviously kidnapped or stalked women, bound and gagged, often posed in settings such as abandoned barns, cellars, empty boxcars, back storerooms, or secret dungeons: a serial killer’s fantasy land. These magazines were more or less sold openly, depending on state and local law, in porn stores that were found clustered in most major U.S. cities.

The Times Square neighborhood in New York City was at one time probably the mecca of porn stores: Dozens of stores on and around West 42nd Street sold thousands of discounted pornographic titles stacked vertically in bins two feet deep, arranged by themes: anal, gay, big breasts, bondage, fat and chubby, legs and nylons, toes and feet, pet and farm, diapering, amputees, senior citizens, sweet sixteen, spanking, golden showers, and so on. But in the mid-1990s, the Internet did to Times Square porn shops what decades of campaigning by neighborhood improvement associations could not—it wiped them out, replacing them with something many find more oppressive than pornography: the Walt Disney gift shops and Starbucks cafés that now monotonously reign over West 42nd Street and the rest of our suffocating planet.

Porn stores are now few, but unlike before, the product they distribute is everywhere: It pours out from the Internet like hot and cold water. Porn consumers can now electronically search, browse, and fine-tune to their desires. They can subscribe to Web sites featuring images to their precise taste, or browse through the Internet “discount bins” on newsgroups where pirated images are available for free—for the mere cost of an Internet account.

The range of violent imagery, much of it explicit, is now wide and flexible and available in a way it never was when the market economics of printed pornography still dictated a minimum number of mass consumers clustered into major fetish groups. Today there are Web sites that specialize in violent micro perversions: unconscious women shown explicitly date-raped (“sleepy sites”); posed dead women penetrated (“necro–dark fantasy sites”); fake crime scenes of semidressed or naked victims or simulated recordings of murders (“snuff-violence sites”); actual crime scenes of heavily mutilated victims and images of torture in Third World conflicts (“ disgusting-shocking-dead sites”), rape images, of which Japan appears to be a big contributor (“rape-forced sites”), and a wide range of bondage, punishment, and torture sites. Unlike child pornography, which lurks on the Internet in hidden sites and is illegal, all of these other types of images are trafficked and promoted openly, and are available for free on newsgroups.


All of these various sexual predilections are known as paraphilias— “unusual loves,” from the Greek para, meaning “beyond” or “outside the usual,” and philia, the word for “love.” Psychiatrists define paraphilia as a persistent need, for more than six months, for unusual objects, fetishes, rituals, or situations to achieve sexual satisfaction. Paraphilias can be severe, where the subject cannot engage in sex of any kind outside his paraphilia, or moderate, where the paraphilia enhances otherwise conventional sexual conduct. Multiple paraphilias often occur in one person, but usually one is dominant until it is replaced by another. Nobody is quite sure how paraphilias are developed, but they are linked to traumatic childhood and adolescent experiences that are reinforced or “short-circuited” to sexual drives. For example, after the World War II bombings of England, when thousands of children drilled in fear of gas attacks by the Nazis, there was a higher rate of fetish sex involving gas masks and rubber clothing among adults in England—especially in the 1950s and 1960s, when the children came of age. Paraphilias are then further reinforced by masturbation, which conditions a cognitive response in the subject to his fantasy. Often serial homicides incorporate or express various paraphilias. (See also the case study of Jerry Brudos in Chapter 4.)

The most extreme paraphilia is erotophonophilia—the preference for brutalizing and killing a victim as a means of sexual satisfaction. In a sense, erotophonophilia is what serial killing is. Other paraphilias in the context of serial murder include the following:

One can easily understand how some of these paraphilias become incorporated in acts of serial murder—especially ones like the desire for sex with dead bodies or cannibalism, which preclude a surviving victim. For other serial killers, the actual act of taking of a life is the primary fantasy driving them. For others, the need to kill is secondary.

The question remains, and nobody has come forth with a definitive answer: Does pornography promote and facilitate the acting out of violent behavior, or preempt it? As these images are now widely available in a way that printed pornography never was, and a generation of expanded viewers is consuming them, the resolution of this question of facilitation or preemption becomes urgently critical.

Television programmers still have not figured out what is right or wrong. Explicit images of real violence are censored, while beautifully photographed and elegantly choreographed violence is broadcast. Should we not show the full disgusting horror of an actual gunshot wound and instead censor the lie that violence is slow-motion beautiful and accompanied by music? Or would repeated showings of real violence only desensitize our repulsion to it?


Perhaps a more prevalent facilitator in several serial murder cases was not explicit pornography, but illustrated men’s adventure stories and detective magazines once sold at every supermarket and newsstand in America. Detective magazines became a subject of a detailed study in the mid-1980s, as their presence was found not in only serial homicide cases, but in cases of child molestation, rape, and autoerotic deaths. The covers of these magazines almost always featured a luridly illustrated or photographed image of a frightened, often bound female, thrown to the floor or ground, skirt hiked up or blouse torn. Bondage was depicted in 38 percent of the covers studied, and the subject bound was a woman in 100 percent of the covers. In 71 percent of the covers, the aggressor was a male who loomed over the woman and was always indistinguishable or lurking beyond the edges of the page. Sometimes the victim looked out to the reader as the source of her anguish. While no explicit violence or nudity was depicted in any of these magazines, numerous serial killers have reported being highly excited and inspired by such publications. It can be argued, perhaps, that precisely because the nudity was not explicit, it functioned as a stimulant rather than as a release of fantasy: The offender was driven to “fill in” with his own imaginative resources the remainder of the fantasy, instead of having it preempted by an explicit image.

When the study was conducted in the 1980s, unlike pornography, these magazines were readily available in corner stores, newsstands, and supermarkets. Some twenty magazines were regularly published, and four magazines alone accounted for a monthly circulation of nearly one million copies.181

Ted Bundy recalled a fascination for detective magazines and their images of abused females. In 1957, Harvey Glatman hired professional models, posed them gagged and bound as on the covers of detective magazines, took photographs, and then raped and killed them. He killed three victims in that manner. Ed Gein, the real-world Psycho, had a huge collection of Startling Detective magazines and confessed that he got the idea of skinning the heads of his victims and making them into masks from men’s “true adventure” magazines, which during the 1950s and 1960s often featured sensationalized stories of Pacific cannibals and Nazi death camp atrocities. John Joubert, who murdered several young boys, reported that when he was eleven or twelve, he had seen detective magazines in the local grocery store and became aroused by the depiction of semidressed, frightened, and bound women on the covers. He began acquiring these magazines and masturbating to the images, eventually superimposing the fantasy of young boys over the images of the women. One should not, however, easily conclude that pornography or detective magazines cause homicidal fantasies. Joubert also reports that at age six or seven, at least six years before he saw his first detective magazine, he fantasized about strangling and eating his babysitter.

Detective magazines were not the only type of easily available magazine during the 1970s and 1980s depicting victimized females in various states of undress. There was a whole genre of monster movie magazines, often showing images of women attacked by creatures or being carried away unconscious by monsters. These magazines were especially directed at adolescent and teenage males, as were series of bubble-gum trading cards depicting wartime atrocities in lurid color. Comic books, especially pulp horror ones, were also cited as inciting youths to commit violent acts and were partially banned in the 1950s and early 1960s.


Pornography, comics, and detective magazines are not the only types of literature, however, cited as inspiring serial killers in their first kill. The fifteenth-century child killer Gilles de Rais had been inflamed by Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars, which detailed (and probably exaggerated) some of the crimes of the Roman emperors.182 According to Charles Lemire, a nineteenth-century biographer of the aristocrat–serial killer, de Rais showed his official reader and chamberlain, the university-educated Henriet Griart, “certain passages and invited him to read the text. It was the chronicle of the life and customs of the Roman Caesars. The book was illustrated with beautifully painted pictures showing the crimes of these pagan emperors. There one could learn how Tiberius, Caracalla and the other Caesars took special delight in the massacre of children. Listening to Griart read, Gilles’s fine feline face was transformed. It took on a ferocious form and his eyes glowed. He did not hesitate to assert that he would imitate the said Caesars. That same night, he began to do so, following the lesson and the pictures of the book.”

Although technically not a serial killer because he was apprehended after committing his first murder, Donald Fearn became obsessed with torturing a woman to death after he read historical accounts of a Colorado sect of Indians called the Penitentes, whose religious ceremonies involved torture and crucifixion. In April 1942, when his wife was in the hospital giving birth, Fearn kidnapped a seventeen-year-old nursing student and drove her to a remote one-room shack in the desert.* There he raped and tortured her with a pair of pliers and red-hot strands of baling wire for six hours before killing her.

Herbert Mullin had just been reading accounts of Michaelangelo’s dissections in Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy when he dragged Mary Guilfoyle out into the woods and cut open her abdomen, taking out her organs and inspecting them.


We might be concerned with sexual pornography, but the Bible has had a leading role in many serial homicides as well. During the mid-1920s, Earle Leonard Nelson traveled the United States and Canada clutching a Bible and raping and strangling “sinful” landladies; he is known to have killed twenty-seven before he was arrested. In Stamford, Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin Miller, a preacher who focused on reforming prostitutes and drug addicts, strangled five of them with their own bras between 1967 and 1971. In Chicago, homosexual killer John Wayne Gacy, while strangling and sodomizing some of his thirty-three victims, recited the 23rd Psalm to them: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” In Germany in 1959, when he was nineteen, Heinrich Pommerencke raped and killed four women after seeing a biblical film called The Ten Commandments. Pommerencke said, “I saw half-naked women dancing around the golden calf. I thought then that many women were evil and did not deserve to live. I then realized I would have to kill them.”183

In Scotland in 1968–1969, an unknown serial killer was nicknamed “Bible John” because the sister of one of three female victims, who met him in a dance hall, remembered him quoting from the Bible and condemning adultery. All three women were strangled, had their purses stolen, and were menstruating at the time of their murders.

Gary Ridgway, the confessed murderer of forty-eight women, was an avid Bible reader, often reading it as he watched TV. Robert Yates, upon his conviction for the brutal murders of thirteen women in Spokane, addressed the jury referring to the Bible:

Scripture says the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure; who can understand? Our hearts can be deceitful beyond our own understanding, and surely mine was. I couldn’t rid myself of this sinful nature. Somewhere, through all this devastation, God was knocking on the door of my heart, but I wouldn’t let him in. I thought to myself, how could a God love or hear anything that was not clean. I thought I wasn’t good enough to even speak to God, and if He wouldn’t listen to me, then who would?

The Bible has many unfortunate passages calling for the punishment of female sexual misbehavior:

Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: “Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers. . . . I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness and I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy . . . and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords.” (Ezekiel 16:35–40)

The Bible can be a potent motivator particularly to missionary type killers, desperate to find approval to kill somebody—anybody. In their twisted and immoral perception, it can license them to murder prostitutes, homosexuals, or “baby killing” abortion clinic doctors.


Pornography, detective magazines, alcohol or drugs, or any other kind of substance or literature, including the Bible, can become facilitators. While it is not believed that they cause serial killers to murder, they do facilitate their acts by lowering inhibitions, fueling or reinforcing existing fantasies, or imparting upon their acts a false rationale. Combined with stress, poor coping capabilities, and a history of isolation and low-esteem, and tempered by fantasies of revenge, sex, and violence, facilitators often are simply lubricants in a well-built killing machine.

The Second Murder

In a serial killer’s history, every first murder has to be followed by another. It differentiates him from a common murderer. Probably the most chilling description of the process of a first-time serial murder and what comes next was provided recently by Ian Brady, one of the Moors Murderers. While confined in a psychiatric facility, Brady recently wrote a controversial book titled The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis.* In it he describes a serial killer’s first and second homicides:

The first killing experience will not only hold the strongest element of existential novelty and curiosity, but also the greatest element of danger and trepidation conjured by the unknown. Usually the incipient serial killer is too immersed in the psychological and legal challenges of the initial homicide, not to mention immediate logistics—the physical labour that the killing and disposal involve. He is therefore not in a condition to form a detached appreciation of the traumatic complexities bombarding his senses.

You could, in many instances, describe the experience as an effective state of shock. He is, after all, storming pell-mell the defensive social conditioning of a lifetime, as well as declaring war upon all the organized, regulatory forces of society. In extinguishing someone’s life he is also committing his own, and has no time to stop and stare in the hazardous, psychological battlefield.

In another very significant sense, he is killing his long-accepted self as well as the victim, and simultaneously giving birth to a new persona, decisively cutting the umbilical connection between himself and ordinary mankind.

Having fought his former self and won, the fledgling serial killer flexes his newfound powers with more confidence. The second killing will hold all the same disadvantages, distracting elements of the first, but to a lesser degree. This allows a more objective assimilation of the experience. It also fosters an expanding sense of omnipotence, a wide-angle view of the metaphysical chessboard.

In many cases, the element of elevated aestheticism in the second murder will exert a more formative impression than the first and probably of any in the future. It not only represents the rite of confirmation, a revelational leap of lack of faith in humanity, but also the onset of addiction to hedonistic nihilism.

The psychic abolition of redemption.184

While one should not overvalue the outdated sophomoric existentialism that Brady claims imbues the squalid act of serial murder, his observations are nonetheless insightful. They are hauntingly similar to David Gore’s description quoted earlier: “I have never felt an emptiness of self like I did right then and I will never forget that feeling. It was like I crossed over into a realm I could never come back from.” The serial killer’s first murder can transform him into somebody other than who he was—a type of rebirth. But it is an illusion; in order to sustain his new identity, the serial killer needs to kill again and again.

Brady reveals a curious phenomenon underlying the subsequent second murder. If indeed the serial killer transforms his old self into a new one by committing his first murder, then his second murder is really only the first murder by the newly reinvented self. That perhaps might account for Brady’s assertion that the second murder is the most exciting. After that, unless the killer can totally transform himself again, with each murder the satisfaction and excitement decline and dissipate. The murders gradually drift out of the killer’s fantasy realm into that of his depressing reality from which he first sought escape. In response, some serial killers escalate their crimes to sustain the frontiers of fantasy, until the range of their fantasies become unworkable in the reality of the world in which they commit their acts and they self-destruct by behavior that leads to their arrest or by surrendering to police or confessing. Some perhaps commit suicide, while others simply cease killing and return to their normal lives, leaving behind a mystery forever unsolved.