FBI Seeks to Understand the Psychology of Mass Shooters

In a sign of how common mass killings have become, a proposed study would mirror past research on serial killers, assassins

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is embarking on an effort to better understand the psychology behind mass shooters, a sign of how pervasive the tragedies have become.

The FBI has conducted a limited number of interviews with perpetrators of mass killings in an effort to find commonalities in what motivated them to attack. Now the Bureau is considering expanding that into a broad-based study in which it would interview numerous mass shooters and look for patterns in their backgrounds, thinking and behavior.

“We’re definitely missing a piece of the puzzle through the offenders’ eyes,” said Sarah Craun, research coordinator with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.  more

The Real Life Horror Tale of the Twisted “Co-ed Killer”

Ed Kemper is a genius, psychopath and necrophile.

Ed Kemper

Read the following true tale of horror at your own risk.

Edmund Kemper III, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophile who became known as “The Co-ed Killer,” was born December 18, 1948, in Burbank, California. He was arrested in April of 1973, at the age of twenty-four, after murdering six female students, his own mother, and her mother’s best friend.

Despite his relative youth upon capture, Kemper had actually committed his first two murders nearly a decade earlier. Kemper was an extremely intelligent child but he engaged in psychopathic behavior early on. For Kemper, this behavior included the torture and killing of animals, which is a common childhood practice among nearly half of all serial killers.

During childhood, Kemper was physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic mother, Clarnell, who was divorced from his father. Clarnell frequently locked her son in a dark basement alone at night.

Not surprisingly, Edmund grew up to hate his mother and at the age of 14 ran away from home in search of his father in Van Nuys, California. After locating but being rejected by his father, young Edmund was sent to live with his paternal grandmother and grandfather in North Fork, California. Kemper claims that his grandmother, similar to his mother, was very abusive and he disliked her intensely.

In 1964, at the age of 15, Edmund shot his grandmother in the head allegedly just to see what it felt like. He then killed his grandfather, too, because he believed that his grandfather would be angry at him for killing his grandmother. Kemper was subsequently committed to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. To his chagrin, he was released into his mother’s care in 1969 after less than five years of confinement and treatment. His juvenile criminal record was expunged.

As a young adult, Kemper stood six-foot-nine and weighed 280 pounds. He frequently thought about killing his mother by 1970 but was not yet ready to do so. The prospect of killing his mother without first perfecting his murder skills on others was too overwhelming for Kemper.  more

Jack the Ripper Identified

Unmasking Jack the Ripper 127 years after his murders suddenly stopped.

The tale of Jack the Ripper involves five extremely brutal slayings of prostitutes between August and November of 1888 in the Whitechapel area of London, England. Legend has it that the perpetrator called himself Jack the Ripper in letters he sent to the London police—taking credit for the crimes. It was commonly believed that the Ripper was a medical doctor due to the significant cutting of the victims’ bodies.

The Ripper case was the first serial killer story in history to cause a widespread media frenzy and that was due to the proliferation of inexpensive broadsheet newspapers in Victorian London in the late 19th century. By the fall of 1888, at the height of the Ripper’s killing spree, one million newspapers with updated stories on the case were sold each day—an unprecedented circulation of newspapers at the time.

The Jack the Ripper case has generated a glut of conspiracy theories concerning his identity over the years. In fact, there are at least 100 different theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper. One of the most colorful involves a British royal family connection and the Freemasons. Indeed, much of the legend of Jack the Ripper is pure mythology, including the iconic image of the top hat wearing gentleman that accompanies this article.  more

From Abused Child to Serial Killer: Investigating Nature vs Nurture in Methods of Murder

“Childhood trauma does not come in one single package.” ― Asa Don Brown

Deeply traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can have an even deeper impact in adult life. They can significantly shape an individual’s personality and life choices, spurring research into the connection between childhood abuse and criminal behavior. In particular, the extent of childhood abuse reported among serial killers has raised the question: Are serial killers born or made?

Nature vs Nurture

Not all abused children become serial killers, and not all serial killers are victims of childhood abuse. However, the connection between the two cannot be dismissed as just coincidence. According to criminologist Dr Adrian Raine, both biologic and social factors contribute to the making of a murderer. Reviews of more than 100 twin and adoption analyses showed that approximately 50% of variance in antisocial behavior is attributable to genetic influences. In his book, The Anatomy of Violence, Dr Raine explains that “Genetics and environment work together to encourage violent behavior.” For example, those with a specific variant of the enzyme monoamine-oxidase-A gene are more prone to displaying violent behavior if they have had an abusive upbringing. A child susceptible to genetically driven violent conduct does not necessarily become a criminal. However, genetics, in tandem with environmental factors such as violent childhood experiences, work together to shape a person.  more

The preferred jobs of serial killers and psychopaths

Serial killer job breakdown

  • Top 3 Skilled Serial-Killer Occupations: 1. Aircraft machinist/assembler; 2. Shoemaker/repair person; 3. Automobile upholsterer
  • Top 3 Semi-Skilled Serial Killer Occupations: 1. Forestry worker/arborist; 2. Truck driver; 3. Warehouse manager
  • Top 3 Unskilled Serial Killer Occupations: 1. General labourer (mover, landscaper, et. al.); 2. Hotel porter; 3. Gas station attendant
  • Top 3 Professional/Government Serial Killer Occupations: 1. Police/security official; 2. Military personnel; 3. Religious official

Obviously, not everyone occupying these jobs is a serial killer, nor are they likely to become one.

What about the psychopaths?

As we begin to redraw the map of serial murder and career paths, it might also be useful to look at the otherwise better-known index of occupations over-represented among psychopaths.

While not all psychopaths are serial killers, psychopathy —or at the very least, the possession of psychopathic traits —is a common denominator among serial killers, sex offenders and most violent criminals. Have a look at the Top 10 occupations according to an Oxford University psychologist:

  1. CEO or business executive
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media personality
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist or news anchor
  7. Police officer
  8. Religious official
  9. Chef
  10. Miscellaneous civil servant (military, city council, corrections, etc.)

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Why does it seem like serial killers all wear the same glasses?

A brief history of murderers and their chosen eyewear, from Jeffrey Dahmer to the BTK Strangler to the Zodiac Killer

A teenager with red hair swooping over one eye takes a selfie at an eyeglass store and posts it on Tumblr. “I saw these Jeffrey Dahmer-like glasses,” he writes in the caption. “I feel like [they] look cute on me. Is that bad?” He tags the photo #serialkiller.

The list of serial killers who wore glasses is long and bloody, from Dahmer to BTK to Harold Shipman and his professorial frames; even the Zodiac Killer, never caught, wears a thick-rimmed pair in a police sketch. The aesthetic of “serial killer glasses” is so pervasive that it pops up everywhere from Urban Dictionary (“Eyeglasses with heavy or severe frames that live somewhere between fashionable and creepy”) to TV Tropes (where “a guy who is cold, emotionless … or even a soulless monster” is given glasses “to quickly tip off the audience to his personality”), and countless Tumblr posts in between.  more