June 4, 2018
The study of serial killers has always interested psychologists, psychiatrists, criminologists and ordinary people. After all, it seems particularly interesting that persons who seem absolutely normal can commit a cruel, outwardly unsubstantiated murder. Students and academics write fundamental research papers on serial killers delving into this topic very deep.
Recently there has been a clear trend towards an increase in crimes of this kind. The largest number of them was found in the United States. Statistics inexorably grows from north to south. The US can rightly be called the leader by the number of famous serial killers. Such names as Theodore Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy are known all over the world. They have fans and admirers. "Cult of maniacs" is particularly thriving in the US where bags, T-shirts and even watches with images of "stellar" murders are sold.
If you’re going to write a serial killer essay, this article will be extremely useful. We will take a closer look at this phenomenon from a psychological point of view to understand what pushes people to commit monstrous and even grotesque crimes. You can build your own work on the basis of this information.
How to come up with a good title for a serial killer essay?
One of the main requirements is that serial killer research topics must necessarily be relevant and meet the current development level of a psychological/psychiatric science. This compliance is determined by tasks that are aimed at improving practical activities in the studied area.
The student-researcher needs to consult with a teacher to determine a degree of importance of the problem. Also, the study of analytical reviews of scientific achievements will be of great help when choosing a topic. Unsolved problems and reasons for their occurrence are often mentioned there.
If you want your work to be unique, you can choose the original direction, for example, write a female serial killer essay.
Thesis statement for a serial killer essay
Any serious scientific work must have a clearly defined aim. How to get a thesis statement? A thesis for serial killer essay should describe a specific problem and your attitude to it. Place it in the introduction. First paragraphs of the text should inform the reader about the result he will obtain after considering an entire work. An example of a thesis statement for a serial killer essay: “Serial crimes are more often committed by people with a high IQ level”. Next, you must provide an evidence (some statistical information, examples of famous maniacs).
Put yourself in the reader's shoes. What thoughts will appear in his head after an acquaintance with your statement? Compile a list of research questions about serial killers related to your topic and answer them consistently. A theoretical block will follow next. In most works, types, and motives of serial killers are described.
Definition of the term "serial killer"
This information should be at the beginning of your serial killer essay outline. Mention several historical facts in the first part of the work.
Robert Ressler, the Famous FBI agent, introduced the concept "serial killer" in criminology. An expert is called a modern Sherlock Holmes for an incredible insight with which he was finding and describing maniacs. He just had to get acquainted with case materials or results of a crime scene examination.
In the 1970s, Robert Ressler's main goal was to compile portraits of alleged criminals. He tried to penetrate into the subconscious of the murderer, to understand what motivates him, what are the goals of his crimes. Based on his observations, Ressler created psychological portraits of maniacs.
During his work on one of the cases in 1970, he introduced the general concept describing such persons. This is the first thing you should know to understand how to discuss serial killer in an essay. According to a Ressler's definition, this is an individual who commits more than 3 murders in more than 30 days with periods of an emotional cooling, and the motivation for killing is often based on achieving psychological satisfaction.
Robert Ressler continued analyzing the behavior of criminals. He tried to identify common patterns in the formation of their characters and future actions. FBI agent determined that each maniac has his own "handwriting". This applies to the choice of weapons, crime scene, victim, way of killing, time of day, and many other factors.
Types of killers to discuss in essays on serial killers
It’s worth mentioning in a serial killer types essay that Robert Ressler identified two main groups: organized non-social and disorganized antisocial murders.
Organized non-social type
Describe the following key features of these people in your serial killer research paper:
- High intelligence. The intellectual level of some representatives of this group can reach 145 IQ points, which is recognized as the threshold of genius. The intellect of one of the serial killers, Edmund Kemper, is 150 points. He worked with the police very successfully and helped them in the search for criminals.
- The killer maintains a good appearance, the state of his housing and his car.
- Sociopath. Rejects and despises a society. Communicates only with a narrow circle of persons.
- He can be charming, make a favorable impression on others. Usually, people around such a serial killer are very surprised to learn that this person committed crimes. He has a normal relationship with the opposite sex, often characterized as a good family man and father by friends and acquaintances.
- Prefers to act with cunning, not violence. For example, Theodore Bundy enchanted young girls. They followed him calmly unaware that this was a serial killer.
- He has a certain image of a victim (features of appearance or clothing). This allows a police to catch a maniac "with bait".
- Prepares for a crime in advance, thinks through all the details such as the place and weapon of murder, the actions by which he can hide an evidence and so on.
- Often binds the victim, conquers it with intimidation.
- Does not kill at once. First he realizes all sadistic fantasies. The victim may die during a torture (as in the case of Robert Berdella).
- Takes measures to eliminate any evidence that can attract suspicions to him. A killer can dismember the corpse and get rid of it in parts, hide the corpse in an inaccessible place. He even able to place the body in a certain pose to say something by this murder.
- Can return to the place of the murder. Gary Ridgway, for example, often came to the crime scene to refresh memories, sometimes even to commit violence against the remains of the victim.
- Can enter into contacts with the police, cooperate.
- During the interrogations, he concentrates, thinks over the defense line. The killer can feel a sincere respect for a competent and intelligent investigator, often "plays" with him.
- He improves during the entire period of committing murders, becomes less accessible for capture, controls himself, could stop killing in order to remain uncaught. "Zodiac", for example, stopped committing murders when feeling that the police came close to him.
Writing a serial killer informative essay, you can mention Theodore Bundy as a classic example of an organized non-social murder. This charming young man has become one of the most famous criminals in the history of mankind largely due to his external attractiveness, intelligence, charm, the ability to create an image of supportive and educated person.
Disorganized asocial type
The following key features of this group should be listed in your serial killers psychology essay:
- Such a person has a low intelligence.
- He is mentally unhealthy, inadequate, despised or not accepted by society because of visible strangeness in behavior. This type of killer can't establish contacts with people, especially the opposite sex.
- He had a difficult childhood with a cruel treatment.
- Socially maladjusted. Lives at the expense of relatives or state, can be registered in a psychiatric clinic.
- Does not care for his appearance and housing.
- The crimes are committed spontaneously.
- Does not consider details of the murder and try to destroy the evidence.
- Kills near the place of residence or work.
- The victim is depersonalized.
- The weapon of murder is often not prepared in advance. Therefore, improvised means are used when attacking.
- He tries to save memories about the victims, can have a diary in which the killings are described, store video recordings, photos.
- Can write a sympathetic or mocking letter to the victims' relatives. He is quite capable of applying to the police.
- Does not comprehend himself and crimes that he commits.
A classic disorganized antisocial murder is Richard Chase, a schizophrenic nicknamed "The Vampire of Sacramento". You can find this name in many serial killer essay examples. His psychological portrait was compiled by the aforementioned Robert Ressler who, after examining the places of the murders, was able to describe Chase as accurately as possible. Despite the obvious mental disorders that were supposed to lead Richard into a specialized clinic, he got sent to prison where committed suicide because he was afraid of a "Nazi conspiracy".
The motives for committing serial killings
Writing an essay on what is the general profile for a serial killer, it’s also worth describing the motivation for destructive actions. There is a special classification allowing to divide maniacs into groups. However, you should not assume that each of the murders belongs to only one type or has only one motive for committing crimes.
They commit crimes for pleasure. The murder is considered a way of satisfying needs of a maniac. Psychiatrists distinguish three types of hedonists:
- Sexual. Most of serial killer research papers describe them. The victim can be alive or dead. It all depends on the preferences of the killer and the fantasies that play a big role in the crimes. The murder can enjoy rape or torture, strangling the victim, beating, manipulating a weapon that usually contacts the body (for example, a knife or hands) and so on.
- Destroyers. They can rob their victims. However, the main motive for committing a crime is torturing. Violence is inflicted without sexual manipulation. This is the fundamental difference from sexual murders. Destroyers may experience sexual pleasure, but this can't be noticed at first glance. Sometimes they masturbate near the body of the victim, but these are quite rare cases. The thirst for a destruction is determined by the need for sexual domination which is invisible outwardly. Such maniacs are often caught for robbery, vandalism or hooliganism. It should be noted that a serial murder is a criminal with a non-obvious motive. With regard to destroyers, this non-obviousness is expressed most clearly.
- Mercantile. Material and personal benefits are the main murder motives for this type of criminals. They are mostly women who kill with the help of poison or strong drugs that cause death while used in large doses. However, quite often there are also men who use other means among such maniacs. To write a good serial killer persuasive essay, you can describe the life and crimes of Henry Howard Holmes, Gonzalez sisters, Mary Ann Cotton.
The main goal of these people is to control and subordinate a victim. Moreover, they experience sexual pleasure from domination. But their difference from the hedonists is that they are driven not by a lust but by the desire to possess another person. Many of such serial killers were subjected to violence in childhood, which gave them a sense of helplessness and impotence in mature age.
In addition to the above mentioned Ted Bundy, you can mention Paul Bernard in your serial killer extended essay as a vivid example of this type.
They commit murders "at the instigation" of God or Devil, hear voices, suffer from hallucinations.
Examples: David Berkowitz (received instructions from the Devil who "contacted" him through a neighbor's dog), Herbert Mullin.
They kill for a specific purpose, most often try to improve the world, change the society for the better. Victims are mostly prostitutes, homosexuals, and people of minority religions. Such criminals are not usually mentally ill. They sincerely believe that cruel actions can bring good to surrounding people.
Mask of normality
What helps some serial killers to escape justice for decades? How can people whose relatives, friends and acquaintances characterize them in an exclusively positive way commit cruel murders? Essays on serial killers which disclose the answers to these questions are especially relevant in modern psychology and psychiatry. Such studies allow to better understand the consciousness of murderers and to recognize them among ordinary people.
The fact is that many criminals can have a double life for a long time. They may seem to be intelligent, educated, law-abiding citizens. This phenomenon is called "mask of normality" -artificial behavior aimed at compliance with generally accepted social standards. In general, "mask of normality" is inherent to organized non-social serial killers. Let's consider the root cause of its formation more carefully.
The model of the human psyche includes three levels:
- Unconscious. This is the most profound, significant part of the human psyche which consists primarily of instincts and repressed memories.
- Preconscious - human experiences which may be restored by strong-willed effort. It consists mainly of knowledge which is unclaimed at the moment.
- Conscious. This experience realized now to maintain the order established by a society.
So, instincts and needs arising in the unconscious are blocked at the preconscious level. This is due to rules and prohibitions of the conscious area. Blocked instincts are realized by portions. Such gradualness is created by psyche protection mechanisms. For example, they include sublimation and repression which provide socially approved behavior. There may be conflict moments which are, nevertheless, insignificant and normally perceived by surrounding people.
Serial killers have no such protective reactions of the psyche. The fact is that the discharge of the unconscious energy occurs directly at the time of the crime. Maniac is accustomed to the simultaneous splashes of inner energy and not on its gradual exit. That's why serial killers are often characterized by family and friends as ideal spouses and great fathers. Gradual emotional outflows that provoke insignificant conflicts are not typical for them. So, criminals create a favorable impression.
It becomes clear that the "normality mask" phenomenon is explained by peculiarities of the psyche which allow relieving the burden of unconscious tension in one act. This leads to the fact that all the prerequisites for the functioning of mental defense mechanisms disappear. The serial killer does not try to be an ordinary person. He just becomes normal after committing a crime.
Hence we obtain another definition of the "mask of normality" - a state of mental stability being obtained after a single release of unconscious energy. This thought is very important. It’s recommended to mention it in the text of the work and conclusion for a serial killer essay.
There are several types of "normality masks":
- Strongly expressed "mask of normality". Representatives of this type of serial killers are well adapted in the society. They can have a good job, a family in which they are considered caring fathers and spouses. Such people often have a higher education. However, they can be convicted previously (mostly for theft).
- Medium expressed "mask of normality". Such serial killers are inconspicuous in society. Friends can consider them eccentric but harmless to others.
- Badly expressed "mask of normality". Its owner is antisocial, suffers from visible mental disorders, can be registered at the psychiatric clinic.
The "normality mask" of the serial killer has a close relationship with his modus operandi. Mental stability is achieved in one-step act with observing the exact circumstances in which secret elements of the serial killer’s psyche find their way out. Due to the fact that characteristics of these deformed elements are stable, the way in which they are taken out is always the same. This explains why the modus operandi of the murderer is stereotyped. It is the optimal way of achieving the state of "normality mask".
Now it is necessary to explain the common conjecture according to which every serial killer wants to be caught and finally makes a fatal mistake because of motives of a masochistic nature. This myth is debunked in many serial killers essays written by famous psychologists. In fact, this phenomenon has its explanation involving the term "mask of normality" and some provisions associated with it.
The state of mental stability that comes after a single release of unconscious energy gives rise to a clear connection between "mask of normality" and the need for committing crimes. This contributes to atrophy of psyche protection mechanisms. A simple way of releasing dark inner energy is available to a criminal, and therefore complex ways become unnecessary.
Social stereotypes at a conscious level of the psyche begin to degrade. Since this sphere is deformed, the unconscious determines all the world perception of the serial killer. The thirst for realizing cruel desires without matching the characteristics of acceptable social behavior prevails. Thus, the unconscious thinking leads to the fact that environmental factors are no longer taken into account. Maniac does not provoke the police to interrupt his criminal activities consciously. He is just disoriented in the world of social prohibitions.
Some similar personal traits of killers to be mentioned in serial killers' psychology essay
Despite the fact that serial killers can differ in many significant features, they all have certain similarities:
- 88% of them are men;
- 85% are white;
- 62% kill exclusively unfamiliar people; the others kill at least one stranger;
- 71% of maniacs commit their crimes in a certain territory; not many of them overcome long distances for murders.
Hervey Cleckley identified 16 basic behavioral characteristics of a psychopath - serial killer (which are rather inherent to the organized non-social type):
- Charm and intelligence.
- Absence of hallucinations and other signs of irrational thinking.
- Absence of neuroses and psychoneurotic experiences.
- Falsity and insincerity.
- Absence of remorse and shame.
- Unmotivated antisocial behavior.
- Bias of judgments and inability to learn from mistakes.
- Pathological egotism and inability to love.
- Weak affective reactions.
- Bad concentration of attention.
- Indifference in the creating of interpersonal relations.
- Indecent behavior with alcohol abuse or without it.
- Threats to commit suicide are rarely realized.
- Sexual life is messy.
- Lack of goals in life and inability to follow a certain order.
Also, serial killers are characterized by low social adaptation, dissatisfaction with their place among other people, impulsiveness, infantilism, narcissism, isolation, aggressiveness, suspiciousness, vindictiveness.
In one or another way, narcissism is inherent to all of us. But serial killers express it in incomparably greater degree. Pathological narcissism spreads in those societies where the slogan "everyone stands for himself" and individualism are promoted. In such circumstances, the maniac perceives himself as a priceless gift to this world.
The narcissist is anxious but does not feel guilty. He lives with constant dissatisfaction, lacks the ability to empathize, and thinks about other people as objects designed to maintain his high self-esteem or to bring some other benefits.
It happens that serial killers take some "trophies" from their victims. Usually, these are parts of bodies. Maniacs can eat them for fusion and assimilation with the dead. The murder itself is a way to achieve a sense of domination. The killed does not cause any sympathy. Criminals have a disharmonic infantilism. They are not able to imagine they were in other person’s shoes, concentrate exclusively on their experiences. Their behavior is conditioned only by own interests.
Narcissists have very primitive mechanisms of psyche protection. They can’t perceive the possibility of being abandoned or rejected adequately. At the same time, the narcissist believes that all people are like him, they are also selfish. Therefore, he thinks about the murder with approval, claims that everyone would kill having the opportunity or strong character.
Criminal considers himself more perfect because he does not hide his emotions and desires. If a maniac is caught, he blames society and culture but not himself for everything that has happened. He pretends to be just a victim of unfavorable circumstances.
Since the serial killer is narcissistic, he can't establish contacts with the surrounding people. This leads to the emergence of affectively saturated ideas, for example, to the opinion that society is hostile towards him. Such thoughts form closeness and suspicion, as a result of which all the actions of others seem to be threatening the personality of a serial killer. Thus, committing an act of violence, a maniac believes that he defends his honor.
Serial killers do not recognize public norms and values. They can comply with laws or follow state instructions not because they understand their necessity but because of fear of punishment.
Now you know how to write a serial killer essay. Use key ideas and theories about maniacs described above. Famous psychiatrist and psychologists had been developing these classifications and theses for decades. So you can rely on them confidently. We hope that this material was useful. Good luck with your research! And if you can’t cope with the given task, you know where to buy research papers, our professional writers will help you with a great wish.