A study of psychopathic serial killers, their profiles, categorizations and modus operandi

[WARNING: The content of the following article can be disturbing. Reader's discretion advised!]

"Psychosis" by Amber Christian Osterhout

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The Real Life Hannibal Lector: Albert Fish

Way back in 1928, an old man of name ‘Mr. Howard’ visits the family of Budds in New York, befriends them saying he will offer job to young Budd and ends up taking their little daughter Grace to a party nearby to never return. The fears mounted high and they were realized when a letter as if straight from the hell came to the Budd family. 

(Content edited...)
My dear Mrs. Budd,
In 1894 a friend of mine John shipped as a deck hand from San Francisco for Hong Kong, China. At that time there was a famine in China. So great was the suffering that all children under 12 were sold to the Butchers to be cut up and sold for food in order to keep others from starving. You could go to any shop and ask for steak-chops or stew meat. Part of the naked body would be brought out and just what you wanted cut from it. John stayed there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys one 7 and one 11. Took them to his home and tied them in a closet. Several times every day he spanked them - tortured them - to make their meat good and tender. First he killed the 11-year- old boy. Every part of his body was Cooked and eaten except head - bones and guts. He was Roasted in the oven, boiled, broiled, fried, stewed. The little boy was next, went the same way. He told me so often how good Human flesh was, I made up my mind to taste it. On Sunday, I called on you; St. brought you pot cheese - strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her. On the pretense of taking her to a party I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wildflowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them. When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma. I choked her to death, and then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms, Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender she was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. If you can believe, believe me: She died a virgin.

Mr. Howard

At that time the N.Y. police was looking for an old, weak looking man who had stolen one of the twin kids in the neighbourhood. After a ravaging search the man was identified as Albert Fish. The interrogation followed and revealed such a string of weird and spine chilling confessions that the whole world community was shivered to the core. The man actually had killed many for the taste of meat. And the crimes did not end there.

He confessed that he committed his first murder not for food but for love of killing. But the real devil entered his torso when his wife eloped with a neighbour. He became a schizophrenic yelling ‘I am Christ’ and irrelevant things at night. After having a string of unparalleled sexual perversions he somehow got a feeling that god has made him responsible for castrating children and according to his reminiscence he took the tall of castration to about 400!
src: wikipedia
 It was not that he was not aware of his sins. He regularly flogged himself with the cat-o’-nine-tails. When that was not enough he started inserting full 2 inch needles in his groin(x rays revealed 29 separate needles) and fingernails.Then he resorted to pushing alcohol soaked cotton balls into his anus and setting them on fire. Making his life a complete hell he turned to coprophagia (eating human dung) and the irony was that when his attorney asked reprieve on account of his being mentally ill citing coprophagia as proof, the jury barefacedly said that it was a ‘normal thing’! He was sorry to die but was excited at being electrocuted saying he wanted to feel ultimate pain. When he was electrocuted it took two jolts to kill him fully because the needles in his body had caused a short circuit in the first run. It seems true when they say, ‘God has his own ways of dealing’ with sinners.

Who are Psychopathic serial Killers?

If you are already feeling a chill down your spine, let’s tell you that it was certainly the most spooky example of ‘cannibals’, a genre of psychic killers who kill for the taste of human meat.A Psychopathic serial killer is one who shows these attributes:
  • A minimum of three to four victims, with a "cooling off" period in between.
  • The murders reflect a need to sadistically dominate the victim. They don’t just kill, they kill for fun. The murder is rarely ‘for profit’; the motive is psychological, not material. The killer has no personal grudges against the victims and most of them are unknowns.
  • The victim may have "symbolic" value for the killer; method of killing may reveal this meaning .They have a signature process of killing and is called ‘modus operandi’.
There may be killers who kill not for fun, but because they hear voices or have visions commanding them to kill. The character of "Norman Bates" in movie Psycho is based on one such profile. These are not psychopathic killers, but psychotic killers. They are mentally so ill that they do not even know what they are doing.

The psychic killers are specimens of abnormal psychology and hence the modus operandi and driving urge are totally random. Understanding their psychological profile is again a daunting task. Hence let’s take a more scientific route to know the unknown. Proceeding through the profiles of some of the most noted serial killers of different genres we would delve into the underlying reasons that make a serial killer. The first was a rare cannibal and the next is the most common ‘sexual predator’.

The sexual predator: Peter Kurten

src: tumblr.com
In March, 1929 a series of women murders began in Düsseldorf, Germany. All of them had been brutally raped, strangulated or stabbed more than fifteen times and had their throats slit open. The victims were essentially young or near puberty. Soon more female bodies all strangulated and raped were recovered from the river. The murders were mounting and the killer was still free. Finally he ran short of luck in March, 1930 when a lady whom he had kidnapped to woods and raped, mystically succeeded in convincing him to leave her alive and gave police a full detail of Peter Kurten.

Kurten was born in a family of thirteen which lived in a single room. His father forced his mother into sex in front of her children and finally was imprisoned for attempts on his daughters. Sex for Kurten was a congenital addiction. To add fire to the fury he met a sadistic dogcatcher who introduced him to bestiality (sex with animals). By the age of 9, when he committed his first murder by pushing his two friends into the Rhine, he had all the attributes of an upcoming danger. Initially he started as a nomadic robber looting, killing and raping women on roads. He reportedly enjoyed stabbing them while having intercourse. This fascination made him to commit his first murder in 1899. He had been repeatedly jailed for the little disturbances he made but no one knew that the trifles were the preamble to bigger crimes. In a nightmare run of 30 years he killed, raped and molested more than 100 women. By the time he was finally caught he had turned into total psycho as anything red (even the colour of sunset) drove him crazy to kill. Sentenced to death by decapitation, Kurten informed a psychiatrist that his greatest thrill of all time would be hearing the blood spurt from his own severed neck. He went to the guillotine, all smiles, on July 2, 1931.

Sexual predation at many times leads to vengeance and subsequent psychopathic derailment. One famous example is Aileen Wournos. She was sexually exploited by her grandfather and his friends in her childhood. Teen pregnancy, societal pressure and subsequent prostitution had filled her mind with angst for society. A violent rape by a convict broke her it for her and in her vengeance she ended up killing 6-7 people in an act of "getting even with God". Most of her victims' corpses were found nude with multiple gunshots in their body, indicating the vengeance and therein satisfaction she was achieving by her acts. She was finally electrocuted in 1992

If you think that a serial killer is a superhuman macho or an armed lunatic then you are at serious mistake.The next profile is of a ten year old girl in England who killed just to prove herself.

Innocent Murderer: Mary Bell
src: wikipedia
Pat Howe was looking for her younger brother Brian, aged four around the place. The boy had been missing since the midday. Suddenly she met two girls of the locality Mary Bell (aged 10) and Norma (aged 11).Mary revealed that she saw martin near the old warehouse beyond the railway track. When he was not found by the evening, police organised an elaborate search. Brian was found covered with grass in that fated warehouse. He had been strangled. There were puncture marks on his thighs, and his genitals had been partially skinned. The wounds were bizarre. There was a subtle playfulness about it, a terrible gentleness, and somehow the playfulness of it made it more terrifying. Brian's belly had been signed "M" with a razor blade. It appeared that someone had imprinted an "N", and that a fourth mark was added (by a different hand?) to change the "N" into an "M". It was a clear cut case of psychic killing as killer had left the mark but the haunting question of ‘who’ and ‘why’ remained unanswered.

On Pat’s clue police closed around the two girls who had ‘seen’ Brian before he died. While the interrogation progressed a check was kept on them and they were found to giggle and behave strangely in services of Brian. The next day some sick messages were found on walls of nursery. The handwriting matched those of Mary and after some denial she confessed that she and Norma had killed Brian. Eventually Police found that another boy Martin Brown who had died from falling from a construction site didn’t succumb to an accident. Instead he was deliberately pushed off the second floor by the girls. Now everyone started remembering the dangerous flicks Mary continuously played e.g. strangling young kids, pushing her neighbour into a construction ditch, kicking in face of other kids and brandishing sharp scissors and pen knives, which were previously overlooked as childish notoriety. Being a juvenile she couldn’t be sent to prison or executed hence was kept in a juvenile home and is free and normal now.

Her death count was comparatively low but her statements in a small age were enough to convince psychologists of her being a special case. For example when asked that why did she kill Brian, she replied “Brian Howe had no mother, so he won't be missed.” If she was an example of kill-and-brag attitude then the next one is the best example of what inferiority complex can do to a man.

Transsexual Buffalo Bill: Ed Gein

On December 8, 1954, 51-year-old Mary Hogan disappeared from her tavern in Wisconsin, U.S.A. Authorities found a pool of blood on the floor, an overturned chair, and one spent cartridge from a .32-calibre pistol. On November 16, 1957, 58-year-old Bernice Worden disappeared from her hardware store under strikingly similar circumstances. Worden's son recalled that a man named Ed Gein had asked his mother for a date and deputies went looking for their suspect. What they found would haunt them all for the remainder of their lives. 
src: wikipedia
Inside a shed, behind Gein's house, the headless body of Bernice Worden hung from the rafters, gutted like a deer, the genitals carved out along with sundry bits of viscera. A tour of the cluttered house left searchers stunned. Worden's heart was found in a saucepan on the stove, while her head had been turned into a macabre ornament, with twine attached to nails inserted in both ears. Her other organs occupied a box in a corner. Gein was arrested without much fuss and his revelations in custody made him world’s weirdest serial killer.

According to his own account, Gein's mother was the dominant parent, settling most family decisions on her own. Devoutly religious, she warned her two sons against premarital sex. His matriarchal family made him to feel sexually inferior. From childhood, Gein had been ambiguous about his masculinity, considering amputation of his genitals on several occasions. He also considered transsexual surgery, but the process was costly and frightening. There must be other ways, he thought, of "turning female" on a part-time basis.

During 1950-54, Gein haunted local cemeteries, opening graves in his nocturnal raids. He either removed whole corpses or settled for choice pieces. At home, he used the ghoulish relics as domestic decorations. Skulls were mounted on the bedposts, severed skullcaps served as bowls. He fashioned hanging mobiles out of noses, lips and labia, sporting a belt of nipples around the house. Human skin was variously utilised for lamp shades, waste baskets, and the upholstery of chairs. The choicer bits were specially preserved for Gein to wear at home. For ceremonial occasions, such as dancing underneath the moon, he wore a human scalp and face, a skinned-out "vest" complete with breasts, and female genitalia strapped above his own. 
The case of Gein was totally new, unexpected and simply sick but it added inferiority complex as a new reason for psychic killings. Gein was sent to the mental asylum and is still alive!

Why They Kill?

By now the building blocks of a serial killer might have become obvious to you. The killer certainly has an abnormal background as was in case of Kurten. But only childhood is not the ultimate reason. Dahmer said that he was born with a "part" of him missing. Ted Bundy claimed pornography made him do it. Herbert Mullin, Santa Cruz killer of thirteen, blamed the voices in his head that told him it was time to "sing the die song." The ruthless Carl Panzram swore that prison turned him into a monster, while Bobby Joe Long said a motorcycle accident made him hyper sexual and eventually a serial lust killer. Some like Mary Bell killed for adventure and fun while many have done it for bragging and nursing their inferiority complex. Andrei Chikatilo turned to a killer because of the collectivization in USSR had several atrocities inflicted on him and his family. There are some like Andrew Cunanan who was nice, intelligent and normal before he believed that a friend contracted him AIDS and he resorted to spree killing to revenge his situation. He was accused of murdering the fashion icon Versace, and it is believed that later's standing as a 'gay icon' might have something to do with this. Even amongst this peculiar lot, there was this Jeffrey Dahmer who killed women to turn them into sex zombies by putting caustic liquids in their brain and expected them to respond to his arbitrate sexual desires afterwards. Of course no one survived the process. The most psychopathic, like John Wayne Gacy, turn the blame around and boast that the victims deserved to die. But the most honest were Ken Bianchi and Angelo Buono who simply asserted that they didn’t know why and even asked themselves the same question many times. They bordered toward psychosis and might have done the terrible things in psychotic bouts. In India most of the psychopathic killings have been done for rituals by exorcists (remember ‘Sangharsh’!). In recent past the Nithari Killings in Noida, where Mohinder Singh Pandher, a well educated Industrialist and his servant Surender Koli shot into news after remains of the dead bodies of 6 young girls were found in his compound. The duo were accused of child pornography, murders and cannibalism.

The Modus Operandi:

All the serial killers have shown a particular trait and that is their unique style of killing or tormenting and selection of victims. The famous Marquis de Sade used to flog young and poor girls with cat-o’-nine-tails. Now this is a masochistic sexual art known as ‘Sadism’. Ted Bundy killed only pretty young brunettes whose hair was parted in middle. Ken Bianchi killed those people who had same initials in their first and last name e.g. Carmen Colon. Albert Desalvo strangled young women after raping them and left the thing used in killing viz. pillow, stockings or brassiere around the neck of the nude dead body as a bow. David Berkowitz hated all women and thought he was helping the world by removing them. Gacy killed his inefficient employees and read psalm 23 when they were about to die. English, Jack the Ripper killed only prostitutes. Joseph Mengele, a Nazi doctor in Auschwitz killed people for experiments and was not even sorry as he thought he was helping the humanity to gain its ultimate racial level. Several nurses have been known to kill using painkillers and sedatives like morphine, digoxin and mostly relate them to euthanasia. Richard Kuklinski used to spray a small amount of potassium cyanide or other deadly poisons on the face of the victim.

The postscript:

Is it genetic, hormonal, biological, or cultural conditioning? We all experience rage and inappropriate sexual instincts, yet we have some sort of internal cage that keeps our inner monsters locked up; call it morality or social programming. These internal blockades have long been trampled down in the psychopathic killer. Not only have they let loose the monster within, they are virtual slaves to its beastly appetites. But whatever they are, they have been a subject of debate and inquisition since long time and have acted as muse for many articles like this, TV serials, news pieces and even commercial flicks. Now when you see ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Psycho’, ‘Hannibal, or ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, you may relate them to their real life inspirations.

Still the question remains whether they are monsters or victims of the society as no one is born evil. They are driven by an incessant urge and who knows whose mind can get altered by the abnormal conditioning that he/she can no more resist that urge. It may be any one. Yes, any one!

Co Authored by : Lokeshwer Jarial

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