Crime Corner

The Myth of Serial Killers

In 2005, the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit hosted a symposium on serial murderers. Their goal was to bring together experts on serial murder in order to “identify commonalities of knowledge”.

One of the issues addressed during this unique symposium was that the inaccurate, anecdotal and fictional portrayals of serial killers has resulted in a number of common misconceptions arising. As a result of their deliberations, the expert panel identified 7 main serial killer myths. These were:

Myth 1: Serial Killers Are Dysfunctional Loners
Reality: Most serial killers are not withdrawn, misfits living alone. Many serial killers hide in plain sight. Serial murderers often have families and children, are working, and appear to be normal.
The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, confessed to killing 48 women, had been married three times and was still married at the time of his arrest. He was employed as a truck painter for thirty-two years. He attended church regularly and talked about religion with co-workers. No one suspected that he killed 48 women over 20 years, and this is just one example.

Myth 2: Serial Killers Are All White Males
Reality: Serial killers span all racial groups, although this isn’t often portrayed within the media. There are white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian serial killers as well.

Myth 3: Serial Killers Are Only Motivated By Sex
Reality: All serial murders are not sexually-based. There are many other motivations for serial murders including anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking. All of which are as common as each other as motivation to kill.

Myth 4: Serial Killers Operate Interstate
Reality: Most serial killers have very defined geographic areas of operation. They have what is called a ‘comfort zone,’ somewhere they usually know well, and rarely do killers leave this area to kill.

Myth 5: Serial Killers Cannot Stop Killing
Reality: It is often believed that once a killer starts killing, they will not be able to stop themselves, however, some serial killers stop murdering altogether before being caught.
Usually in these cases, there are circumstances in offenders’ lives that cause them to stop hunting more victims. These can include increased participation in family activities and other diversions that take their time and or energy.

Myth 6: Serial Killers Are Insane Or Evil Geniuses
Reality: Another myth that exists is that serial killers have either a mental condition or that they are incredibly intelligent. Serial killers can suffer from different personality disorders, including psychopathy, anti-social personality, and others. However, most will not be insane in the eyes of the law.

Myth 7: Serial Killers Want To Get Caught
Reality: As killers make multiple offenses without being captured, they can feel invulnerable. This causes them to begin taking shortcuts when committing their crimes. This often causes the killers to take more chances, leading to identification by law enforcement. It is not that serial killers want to get caught, it is that they feel that they can’t get caught.


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