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Links:
Demon Doctors:Physicians as Serial Killers
Demon Doctors:Physicians as Serial Killers

Serial killers' common characteristics

From: "Introduction" to Demon Doctors: Physicians as Serial Killers
By Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D.
Galen Press, Ltd., Tucson, AZ,

Where lewdness leads to murder, and ends in hanging, the disease and medicine go together.
- Saturday Review, 1858

Much has been written about the sociopathic behaviors of serial killers. Essentially, sociopaths lack those traits that help people get along with each other in a society. One of these traits is the ability to love-serial killers develop no lasting relationships except those from which they obviously and directly benefit. Sociopaths identify with aggressive role models, and are only capable of sadomasochistic relationships based on power. Most are highly impulsive, repeatedly demonstrate aggressive behavior, and are thrill seekers, constantly searching for new stimulants. As Ronald Markman, a forensic psychiatrist, wrote, "They lack the internal prohibitions, or conscience, that keep most of us from giving full expression to our most primitive, and sometimes violent impulses."
        Sociopaths also are inherently sadistic, and fascinated by violence, injury, and torture. As Holmes & De Burger noted, Ted Bundy exemplified the classic sociopathic aspects of the serial killer: he was unable to love and had a sadistic nature, combined with anti-social personality traits such as an evasive personality, strong feelings of insecurity, general anger, and a tendency to run from problems. Between 3 and 5 percent of men are sociopaths, although this is true of considerably less than 1 percent of females. Not all sociopaths, however, are killers; many become successful in business or are world leaders.
        Serial killers tend to be male, white, 25 to 34 years old, lower to middle class, intelligent or at least "street smart," charming and charismatic, and police "groupies" orinterested in police work. As illustrated in many of the physicians' stories in this book, as they progress in their killings, they experience a degeneration of their personalities, take less time planning their crimes, have less time between killings, and increase their levels of violence. Often, they collect newspaper clippings or mementos that document their exploits, so that they can repeatedly use them to relive their fantasies during their "cooling-off periods."
        Most serial killers, will not speak in detail about their crimes or motivation. John Douglas, the FBI's legendary profiler, however, could sometimes get them to talk by asking them to speculate about what "the killer" might have been thinking-that is, to speak about themselves in the third person. Ronald Holmes actually persuaded one serial killer to let him tape an interview on condition of anonymity. Holmes published part of the interview in his book, Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. As that killer said:

        This need for self-magnification is always, I believe, a mandatory prerequisite to any episode of violence. Just prior to his every decision to victimize, a serial killer always first experiences a sudden and precipitous psychological fall, an extreme low, which he can neither tolerate nor deal with in any rational fashion. Throughout his day-to-day existence, all of his meaning is derived from the fact that he thinks himself profoundly special, unique, and perfect over all other human beings on the face of the earth . . . The acting out of his cherished fantasies, he knows, will elevate him from his intolerable and infuriating psychological low; they will make things "all right" and cause him to feel good about himself; they will "prove," without any shadow of doubt, that he is really somebody . . .
        The specific methods of violence he chooses to act out, then, are perceived as "good" and "righteous," perfectly appropriate for the present, as they have already been tried and tested in the imagination for their ability to restore his feelings of supremacy . . . The consequences of this outlook are that the struggles, the pain, and the outcries of a serial killer's victim inspire nothing in the way of pity; his victim is a worthless object, wholly depersonalized, and is therefore ineligible for such a human expression as pity . . . His victim's misery is the elixir that thrills him beyond all measure, for it is his tangible assurance that all is proceeding according to his well-ordered plan; it is his visible "evidence" that he is the magnificent, all-powerful creature he always knew himself to be.

In the final analysis, all serial killers, including those in this book, have one thing in common: they kill many people for their own gratification.

©Galen Press, Ltd., 2001

Copyright 2001-2013 Galen Press, Ltd.