If you have read the first five parts, you already know that serial killers come from every walk of life and every income level. You are simply lucky if you don’t have one in your family or as a neighbor.
There are studies that have shown psychopathy is 60% heritable. However, family members of most serial killers are dysfunctional even though they have never been diagnosed or treated. These families also have a tendency to move around a lot, and their children are often times removed to shelters or foster homes before they turn 18. They don’t build relationships or make friends. It is not unusual for serial killers to begin their careers by killing their mothers or fathers or even both.
Children from such homes often turn into “loners” since they experienced no meaningful relationships while growing up. As they develop anti-social tendencies at an early age, other kids frequently bully them by the time they become pre-teens. Then, as teenagers, these loners sometimes start experimenting with arson, theft, and weapons. But they continue to be loners and continue to be bullied. They don’t have girlfriends and boyfriends like most teens do, since they weren’t able to form bonds with their parents or foster parents as children; they simply don’t know how to form trusting relationships when they become teens. Often, when they are in their late teens, future serial killers begin to be attracted to dangerous weapons and become hostile and aggressive and generally show no regard for other’s rights. In the US, 46% of serial killers never finish high school. This is partly because their childhood problems lead to further social isolation, learning difficulties and self-control issues.
Serial killers in the making never discuss these fantasies with anyone, but thoughts of fulfilling them will recur more and more frequently as they are growing up. Before a serial killer actually kills for the first time, his or her fantasies normally focus on committing a murder. With time, these fantasies will focus on committing more murders more successfully, and with greater efficiency. This process might be compared to a “normal” person passing from one stage to another playing a computer game. Serial killers’ fantasies are also about control and violation. In fact, during research, it became evident that serial killers could remember NO positive fantasies they had had as children. Some would fantasize about mutilating themselves or their genitals. Many would even fantasize about their own traumas, over and over again – but in these fantasies, they would be the aggressors, not the adult who had harmed them in their childhood.
Many serial killers have admitted that when they were loners during their teenage years, they avoided parties and other social events. They definitely never experimented as normal teenagers do with sexual activities with their peers, preferring masturbation and other auto-erotic activities such as pornography. In some cases, future serial killers practiced obsessive masturbation. When people graduate to serial killing, many are extremely interested in voyeurism and fetishism, as well as other paraphilia. Paraphilia is abnormal sexual behavior or impulses characterized by intense sexual fantasies and urges that keep coming back. You probably know that a fetish is an object believed to have supernatural powers, but sexual fetishism or erotic fetishism is a sexual focus on a non-living object or non-genital body part, often feet or high-heeled shoes. Voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing or sexual activity. The urges and behavior of a serial killer sometimes involve unusual objects, activities, or situations that are not ordinarily considered sexually arousing by others. They start their deviancy as harmless “peeping Toms” when they’re kids, then move on to house-breaking as teenagers, they eventually graduate to rape, murder and finally, serial killing.
But not all serial killers are sexual deviants. A British physician, Dr. Harold Shipman, was found guilty of killing more than 250 people, mostly elderly women who were his patients. The media nicknamed him Dr. Death. None of his killings showed signs of violence or sexual interaction . Most of his victims were in good health. Dr. Shipman was born into a religious working-class family and was always close to his mother. But she died of lung cancer when he was only 17. During the last stages of his mother’s illness, young Harry witnessed her doctor administer morphine, and saw her pain subside. Later as a serial killer, this became his own M.O., which means modus operandi, aka “method of operation” as we hear mentioned frequently on TV.
Everybody loved Dr. Shipman. He was married, had 4 kids, was a respected member of the community, and made house calls. Everybody really loves a doctor who makes house calls. He killed between 215 – 260 of his patients, and always sent a sympathy card to their families. His mistake was that he made sure that most of his patients were cremated, which is a good way to destroy evidence. And it was a funeral parlor employee who first alerted the coroner to the high number of Dr. Shipman’s patients who died while seemingly healthy. There was a long investigation, exhumations of quite a few bodies, plus the discovery of over 10,000 pounds worth of jewelry which had belonged to the victims and were found stashed in his garage. These items were only returned to the families in 2005, that was only at Primrose Shipman’s insistence. Primrose was Dr. Death’s wife, and she stuck with him until his death. Most pieces of the jewelry were auctioned off, and the proceeds went to a victim support group.
The doc was imprisoned in 1998, condemned to serve 15 concurrent life sentences, and the General Medical Council reprimanded the six doctors who signed the many cremation forms, saying that, , they should have noticed a pattern between Shipman’s patients, their deaths, and requests for cremation. Harold Shipman committed suicide in his cell by using his sheets to hang himself in 2004, on the eve of his 58th birthday. That made many of his victim’s families angry and brought out a lot of criticism of the prison system for allowing it to happen. The families of the victims wanted to know he was sitting in a cell, suffering. But his suicide might have been a relief to Primrose because he had timed his death so that his loving wife was guaranteed to receive a lump sum of £100,000 as well as an annual income of £10,000O from his pension fund. That payout would have been reduced by 50% had he waited until his 60th birthday.
Other critics used his death to question the idea of life sentences, claiming they should be replaced by indefinite sentencing, would give prisoners hope of eventual release, making their management easier. A memorial garden to Shipman’s victims, called the Garden of Tranquility, was inaugurated in London’s Hyde Park in 2005, and could be an interesting tourist attraction for you readers.In hopes of wrapping this up, you might want to know that the character Hannibal Lecter, the forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer created by author Thomas Harris, was actually based on the serial killing careers of different killers. Hannibal Lecter was first introduced in 1981 in the novel Red Dragon. The Silence of the Lambs was its sequel, and in the third novel, Hannibal, Lecter became the protagonist. Then Harris wrote a fourth novel, Hannibal Rising, in which he explains Lecter’s childhood and development into a serial killer. These books have all been made into movies, one of which, The Silence of the Lambs, won a best actor Academy Award for actor Anthony Hopkins. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen also won a top award for his role as Hannibal in the NBC television series. And as for the fictitious character Hannibal, he was elected the #1 movie villain by the American Film Institute, and also named as one of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years by Entertainment Weekly, concrete proof of how the general public is fascinated by serial killers. book or movie you choose, you are going to find Hannibal Lecter an interesting character.
If you want to do further reading, check out Hamilton Howard Fish, aka The Gray Man, The Boogey Man or The Brooklyn Vampire, another one of author Harris’s inspirations. Fish was an American child rapist and cannibal, and his victims numbered over 100. His crimes are too horrific for me to write about. During his trial, he was called “abnormal but sane”. Fish was insane or not, he was executed in an electric chair at Sing Sing in 1936, but not before he explained, during his trials, how he seasoned and roasted the children he murdered and ate. He was the gourmet cannibal, much like the character Hannibal.
Another real-life inspiration for Hannibal Lecter was Andrei Chikatilo, the Russian “Butcher of Rostov” who was born in the Ukraine in 1936, during Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture. It was a time of mass famine. His family lived in a one-room hut and received no wages for their work; only the right to cultivate some land behind the family hut. As a child, his mother repeatedly told him that his older brother had been kidnapped by starving neighbors at age 4 and cannibalized. He was a good student during his childhood, but often fainted in his classrooms due to hunger. Chikatilo achieved a solid middle-class level of success and committed many of his murders while on business trips. The police knew a serial killer was on the loose, but he eluded the investigators for many years, and during the search for him 4 suspects committed suicide after enduring the harsh interrogation methods of USSR investigators. Investigators got fired and replaced, but no one could figure out the . of Chikatilo. Those same investigators finally put together a 65-page psychological profile that turned out to be pretty accurate. After he had killed and mutilated somewhere in the range of 56 people, a policeman saw a person fitting his profile practicing frotteurism. Frotteurism is rubbing one’s pelvic area against a not-consenting person for sexual pleasure, and a person who practices this is called a frotteur. During his trial, he claimed to have never tasted bread until the age of 12, and to have often eaten grass and leaves in an effort to stave off hunger when he was a child. He was executed by a firing squad in 1994.
Author Thomas Harris revealed that his third inspiration for Hannibal was a bi-sexual Mexican surgeon and murderer from an upper-class family. This man was not a serial killer; he had only killed his lover, who was also a doctor. He cut his victim up into very small pieces before he hid the body, something only a surgeon could do easily. The doctor not only had superior intelligence, but also a very elegant way about him, which was what helped to inspire Hannibal Lecter. Author Harris had been working as a crime reporter at the time, and traveled around to he could find high-profile criminals to interview, which is apparently a good way to begin a career as a successful novelist. The inspirational doctor’s name was Alfredo Ballí Treviño, and after being caught and tried for the death and packaging of his male lover, he was condemned to death. Dr. Alfredo was interesting because he never lost his sense of style and kept up his habit of using a gold Rolex, white shoes, and dark glasses even while incarcerated. He was eventually allowed certain privileges because he helped other prisoners, and even performed minor surgery a couple of times while in prison. The only thing that was denied to him was the gun he always carried. Eventually, his sentence was commuted, and he was released in 1981. After his release, he continued to work as a physician until his death from natural causes in 2009, when he was 81 years old.
After reading this far and learning of certain common denominators that serial killers have, you might nevertheless agree with the FBI’s Serial Murder Fact Sheet, that shows serial killers as non-stereotyped people. In the US, about 20% are African American, and about 16% are female. Most don’t live in isolation. Most are not geniuses, and most are not legally insane, but most do suffer from a variety of personality disorders such as psychopathy or other anti-social behaviors. Many are married and active in their communities. Serial killers kill about 150 people a year in the U.S., and that number is significantly less than 1% of the 15,000 murders committed annually in the USA. It is also a good deal less than the number of people who die from food poisoning, which is about 3,0000 annually. According to FBI officials, there are between 25 – 50 active serial killers in the U.S. at any given time, which means you may have seen one or two while visiting there. Or, they may have seen you.
I was born near the end of WWII and raised in a small town in New Jersey, just a little more than a 30-minute drive from NYC. It was a wonderful place to be brought up, feeding ducks and canoeing on the river that meandered through the town in the summer, and ice-skating on that same river in the winter.
My two brothers and I were privileged to be raised in a lovely town that was safe to explore on foot, but close enough to NYC to be taken there on day trips to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily B & B circus, museums, Chinatown, street fairs in the spring and Broadway shows as we grew older. But we thought nothing of it.
Later as teens, we would go into NYC to buy a couple of beers (the drinking age in New York State was 18, and 21 in New Jersey) and hang out in Greenwich Village where we saw singers such as Bob Dylan who were on the first rung of the ladder on their way to fame.
The sixties were a time of speaking out and creating change. I decided to do my part by joining the Peace Corps, an innovative cold war program established by John F. Kennedy in 1961. I arrived in Brazil at the end of 1966, and after an adaptation period, was sent to serve in Porto Nacional, in what was Goias at that time. I can’t say I changed the course of the country, especially as I was immediately called upon to teach English in the local high school.
I have been teaching ever since; high schools, college literature, college language pedagogy, financial English and everything in-between. I married a wonderful Brazilian from Rio and we had 3 boys and moved around some, as he was an engineer who worked on hydro dams. Nowadays I am a widow and live in BH with 3 cats, one of which has extraordinary powers, and I have 4 wonderful and uniquely different grandchildren nearby. Thus far, I have had an interesting life, and this new endeavor called a blog should make it even more interesting.
The word cliffhanger comes from cliffs. Duh. Cliffs are vertical, or nearly vertical, rocks that have been formed by erosion and weathering. There are lots of famous cliffs, but the first ones that come to my mind are the White Cliffs of Dover, probably because there was a popular World War II song about them that was part of my childhood, and also because they are on the historical English coastline.
When one thinks of cliffhangers, England and its gothic novels always come to mind. Cliffhangers are the kind of story, book or movie that uses suspense either at the end of an episode or a scene. A good example was the way the final episode of Game of Thrones, season 5, was done. Jon Snow was dead. Or was he? Those of us who sweated it out until season 6 was aired were never really sure. The writers used old-fashioned melodrama, suspense and uncertainty, and the audience was left as if hanging from a cliff in a state of tension and apprehension. And that’s a true cliffhanger.
This part of the blog will not be able to offer any nail-biting cliffhangers, but it will have classes in series, and I hope they will be interesting enough that you will want to come back and read what happens next, even if you don’t lose sleep anticipating the next chapter. Enjoy.
Betsy is a very nice teacher. She is dedicate, loves the students and always try to help us with our problems. Every each class we can learn different things and Betsy prepares excellent exercises each day. I love my English Class.
Betsy is my little sister, and I am very proud of her for her amazing language capabilities. When she was just a small girl, she would sometimes make up new words when she needed to, to avoid being slowed down by not knowing the “mainstream” word. Example: her word, “benext”, a combination of “beside” and “next to”, which simple meant “do lado” (but long before she ever encountered Portuguese, of course).
Betsy was the my English teacher in Uberaba, a long time ago…. An excellent teacher, a wonderful human-being. She gave me the nickname I gladly adopted ever since. We became close friends and we are still close – in our hearts.
Betsy is the best english teacher I’ve ever had! Her classes are always an amazing experience. She guides our conversation with different and interesting topics each day, what allows us not only to improve the vocabulary but also learn/ discuss about other cultures and subjects. I know I’m going to be totally addicted to this blog!