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Serial Killers: Reading their Minds

The common people are generally fascinated by the name of serial killers and want to know more about them and their activities including what prompted them to become a serial killer and their modus operandi. There are many factors behind the development of a particular psychology which influences a normal child to grow into a serial killer. Their poor childhood environment, devoid of love early life, abuse and mistreatment during growing days, love for playing with fire and destroying whatever they put their hands on, killing pets, bed wetting, mental illness, chemical and biological disorder etc., although not confirmed, all contribute towards the making of serial killers. The utterances/last words of serial killers and names of some Indian serial killers have also been incorporated in this article.

In the realm of crime, there exists a classification known as a serial killer. These individuals engage in acts of murder, typically exceeding three, driven by a craving for psychological fulfillment. In short, the murders occur sporadically and vary in time with intermittent intervals. Experts argue that murderers often possess negative psychological emotions, including sexual desire. However, it should be noted that not all murderers exhibit these inclinations. Rarely considered insane, most serial killers suffer from mental disorders that drive them to commit crimes. One common psychological characteristic they possess is extreme behavior.

These individuals, lacking sympathy with a disregard for societal rules and traditions, harbor a desire for retribution, ultimately inciting fear and violence amongst others.

Some individuals who commit killings may display signs of psychosis. They may suffer from bipolar disorder or personality disorder. However, it's important to note that only a small fraction of murderers can be considered ill to be deemed legally insane.

What most murderers have in common is a lack of empathy, disregard for the rights of others and antisocial tendencies such as a lack of remorse. Many of them exhibit traits associated with psychopathy or antisocial behavior.

The planning of murders can be connected to personality disorders and studies have indicated that these traits can manifest early as childhood. Research has also established a link between neglect/abuse and long-term effects on the endocrine systems. A growing body of evidence suggests that individuals who have experienced trauma in their past are at a risk for engaging in violent behavior compared to those, without such experiences.

Last Words/Utterances of Serial Killers

In order to delve deep into the psyche of some serial killers, let us first have a glimpse of their utterances made on different occasions. The statements are as follows:
  1. The sixth commandment � "Thou Shalt Not Kill" � fascinated me. I always knew that someday I should defy it � Reginald Halliday Christie, serial killer.
  2. I didnt want to hurt them; I only wanted to kill them. � David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam killer.
  3. It wasnt as scary as it sounds. I had a lot of fun � killing somebodys a funny experience - Alberto De Salvo, serial killer.
  4. I just wanted to see how it felt to shoot Grandma � Ed Kemper, a psychopath.
  5. "Killing became the same thing as having sex � Henry Lee Lucas.
  6. You dont understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond God and evil�. I dont believe in the hypocritical, moralistic dogma of this so-called civilized society - Richard Ramirez, an American serial killer and sex offender, named the "Night Stalker" by the media claimed at his trial.
  7. I dont care if I live or die. Go ahead and kill me � Last words of Jeffrey Dahmer, who raped and killed 17 men and boys in the 1980s, was beaten to death by a fellow inmate on 28 November, 1994.
  8. Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life � last words of George Engel, hanged on 11 November, 1887, he was one of the four responsible for the 1886 Haymarket bombing in Chicago.
  9. Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while youre screwing around � last words of Carl Panzram, hanged on 5 September, 1930, infamous serial killer, arsonist, and rapist.
  10. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul � last words of Timothy McVeigh, executed by lethal injection on 11 June, 2001, found guilty of Oklahoma City bombing killing 168 people in 1995.
  11. Turn up the radio and Ill go quietly � last words of Peter Manuel, who murdered and raped at least 7 people, hanged on 11 July, 1958.
  12. Kiss my ass � last words of John Wayne Gacy, who was executed by lethal injection on 10 May, 1994, raped and murdered 33 men in a 6-year-span.
  13. You sons of bitches. Give my love to Mother � last words of Francis "Two Gun" Crowley, murderer and criminal, executed in the electric chair in 1931.
  14. Id like to thank my family and friends and [attorney Edward] Pankowski for supporting me and all others who treated me with kindness. The rest of you can kiss my ass � last words of James Allen Red Dog, who was convicted of stabbing five men to death in the early 1990s and was executed by lethal injection in Delaware in 1993.
  15. Dont forget to show my head to the people, its well worth seeing � last words of Georges Danton, a modest and unknown lawyer, responsible for inciting the September massacres of prisoners in Paris that occurred in 1792, from Sunday, 2 September until Thursday, 6 September, during the French Revolution.
  16. Take your time. Dont bungle it � last words of H.H. Holmes, proven killer of no less than 22 peoples between 1891 and 1894. He was caught and finally executed on 7 May, 1896.
  17. I have murdered in vain. Nobody should become like me � last words of Kampatimar Shankariya, just before he was hung on May 16, 1979. His murder spree spanned from 1973-1974. Finally in 1974, he was caught and sentenced to death. With around 66+ confirmed victims, he was a scary figure, born in Rajasthan in 1952.

Characteristics of Serial Killers

They lack empathy for others and don't feel guilty for their actions. They can be attractive and draw victims into their own web of destruction. They normally suffer from childhood abuse or trauma. They apparently don't feel any remorse in taking someone's life. Some people say they suffer from dissociative identity disorder (DID), in which a person has two or more selves in their head (a good self and a bad self), apparently unaware of one another.

They do not have or may ignore the emotional inclinations to compare the pain and suffering of others with their own and empathize with that pain. They seem to have little or no ability to empathize with other people's pain and suffering. They normally have a strong will, inspiring a desire to hurt and kill other people.

We cannot ignore the influence of society, which is important in the development of this mental condition. They are insecure people who feel compelled to kill for fear of rejection. Some of them feel elated that the police could not catch them despite their numerous crimes. Mitchell H et al. found in their study that 36% of homicide victims had been subjected to physical abuse, 26% to sexual abuse, and 50% to psychological abuse (Mitchell H. et al. 2005).

In his book To Kill Again, Donald J. Sears states that they often grow up in neglect, abuse, and violence without their basic needs being met. Many researchers believe that biological plausibility can explain the violent behavior of murderers. Mental, genetic and chemical disorders have been linked to murder, Sears and Hickey revealed the relationship in their book. Hirschi also developed the theory that people commit crimes through social interaction.

There is reduced connectivity between the amygdala (the area of ​​the brain that responds to negative stimuli and produces fear responses) and the prefrontal cortex, which explains the amygdala response in such murderers. When the connectivity between these two areas is low, negative activity from the amygdala does not translate into negative emotion. This may explain why psychopathic offenders feel no guilt for their actions and no remorse for their victims.

They believe that they can eliminate the possibility of their again being humiliated, abandoned or hurt like they were in their childhood by finishing off a loved one. They can be very manipulative. One of the main factors that make it difficult to find murderers is that they often go about their daily lives and hide behind their bad lifestyles, making it difficult to investigate. Dr. Stanton Samenow, author of Inside Criminal Minds, 1984 said that "Criminals do not think like responsible people".

Female Serial Killers

Approximately 15 percent of serial killers are female, and their motivations are often different from their male counterparts. Female serial killers are less sexually active and may be more motivated to kill for money. Women in particular prefer unconventional methods, often using poison and other hidden methods to kill. Sometimes the killers are joined by men as partners in crime.

Even in India there are cases of women serial killers. Notables include Troilokya Tarini Devi, KD Kempamma, Renuka Shinde, Seema Gavit, Anjanabai Gavit, Neha Verma, Simrin Sood, Jolly Joseph, Phoolan Devi, Shabnam Ali and Lala Wanh to name a few of the female killers in India.

Indicators of Early Serial Killer Tendencies

People who later become serial killers often show early signs of violent behavior. They have trouble controlling their energy and anger. Some people may see traits of the "McDonald's Triad" described in 1963, which includes animal cruelty, fire setting, and bedwetting. However, it should be noted that not all killers have the history of undergone this trio. They have difficulty controlling their emotions.

They do not respect the dignity and well-being of others. Patterns of irresponsibility, lying, aggressiveness and failure to conform to social norms are other signs that people suffering from antisocial disorder have.

They tend to resort to violence over petty matters. They seek stimulation through drugs or other behaviors. They have problems with their social and family circles and prefer solitude. Many serial killers may suffer from personal or other mental health problems. They can enjoy the suffering of their victims. They experience neglect, abuse and lack of love during their childhood particularly from their parents. They display cunny behavior and intelligence to achieve their goals. They display personality disorder characterized by innocence or sadness, negative behavior, disobedience, and an inability to take responsibility.

They enjoy cruelty to animals and setting fire to different things. Cats, dogs and other animals are provoked, tortured and even killed by them and they don't have any remorse or regret at their actions. The development of voyeuristic tendencies in childhood also shows the basis of psychological traits. By surreptitiously observing others, they feel in control of others. Mass murderers like Ted Bundy exhibited this behavior from an early age.

What Makes a Serial Killer?

The development of homicidal individuals is influenced by a combination of biological and social factors (Raine, 2008). The interaction between genetics and environment often leads to the emergence of bad behavior (Fox, 2017). Harassment, trauma and violence from parents at a young age can cause a person to have a negative personality (Raine, 2008). Studies show that there is a link between child abuse and criminal behavior (Haggerty & Ellerbrok, 2011).

However, it is important to remember that not every child who is abused is a murderer and not every murderer is abused as a child. Dr Berit Broggard (2018) has shown that many of the most dangerous killers have a genetic predisposition to this behavior. FBI profiler Jim Clemente describes the interplay of genetics, personality, and experience that shape killers (FBI, 2021).

Various studies over the years have shown a link between child abuse, trauma, family problems, and homicide (Herrero, Delgado, & Garcia-Mateos, 2017). Studies have investigated the link between murderers and psychopaths because many of their behaviors are similar to those of psychopaths (McGreal S., 2018). These traits include lack of remorse and emotion, impulsivity, behavior, and self-awareness (Martens WHJ, 2014). It has been found that there is a relationship between mental health and crime (Fox B. et al., 2017).

If negative histories and early abuse exist among murderers, it should be recognized that these conditions are not the only factors that cause different patterns of mental or behavioral disorders. In today's society, the pressure to succeed can be overwhelming even for well-educated people. For people who already have mental or emotional problems, this stress can have an impact on mental health.

Some frustrated people take out their frustrations and disappointments on celebrities they admire. Beatles fan Chapman tragically killed John Lennon in 1980 to forever associate his name with the famous musician. In conclusion, the development of a serial killer involves a complex interplay of biological and social factors, including genetic predisposition, childhood upbringing, and psychological well-being.

Analysis of the Serial Killer Edmund Kemper

Edmund Kemper was a notorious serial killer who had a difficult childhood, with his mother often locking him in the basement and abusing him emotionally and physically. She feared that he would molest his two sisters. When he went to his father at the age of 14 for better treatment, he also rejected him. Later he started living with his grandparents who too abused and neglected him.

At the age of 15, he killed his grandmother and then his grandfather because he was afraid of his reaction. He also killed his mother. Between May 1972 and February 1973, he killed six female hitchhikers and brutalized them after they were killed. He would then cut off the victim's head and had posthumous sex with the severed body (Bonn S., 2014). Necrophilia, cannibalism and dismemberment of dead bodies were his characteristics.

Shooting and hitting with a hammer were his mode of operation. He lived in California, USA. In November, 1973, he was awarded life imprisonment. Kemper tried twice to commit suicide while awaiting trial by slashing his wrists, he failed both times. Three prosecution psychiatrists found him to be sane during trial which began on 23 October, 1973. He slaughtered his own pet cat with a machete and stuffed the remains in his closet, which his mother found, when he was thirteen.

According to his account in several interviews, his mother's constant needling and humiliation disturbed him a lot and precipitated his anger. His intelligence quotient was 136, which is very high, and from young age he displayed sociopathic behavior. His mother Clarnell apparently suffered from borderline personality disorder which culminated in her rages and abuse against her son.

Kemper tortured and killed animals and indulged in bizarre sexual rituals with his sisters' doll and once said that in order to kiss his teacher he had crush on he would have to kill her. By shooting both his grandparents while staying with them in California, Kemper started his criminal life as a teenager, a crime for which he was incarcerated. He later killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the same city. However, after murdering his mother and one of her friends he turned himself in to the authorities.

Indian Serial Killers

The names of some infamous Indian serial killers are given below:
  1. Amarjeet Sada (2006-2007) started killing at the age of 8. He killed 3 children and after killing the third child he was arrested and taken to the juvenile home. He was released from a juvenile correctional facility in 2016.
  2. Mohan Kumar (2002-2009), also known as Cyanide Mohan, was at first a primary school teacher. He used to propose marriage to women who could not find a suitable husband due to dowry and killed them for stealing jewelry. He killed nearly 20 women and was sentenced to death in 2013.
  3. KD Kempamma (1999-2007) aka Cyanide Mallika killed 6 women in 8 years. She would befriend female temple devotees and give them cyanide with holy water and then confiscated the victims' jewelry. She was the first woman serial killer to be sentenced to death in Karnataka.
  4. Renuka Shinde & Seema Gavit (1990-1996), sisters, kidnapped 13 children and killed 5 of them. The purpose of kidnapping the children was to use them to steal other people's belongings in crowded places. They would later kill the kidnapped children. Both were convicted by the court and are now serving a life sentence in Yerwada Jail in Pune.
  5. M. Jaishakar (2008-2011), was involved in 30 rape, murder, and robbery cases. He used to kidnap, rape, and kill women. He was also involved in other murders. After a failed escape from the prison in Bangalore Central Prison, he killed himself by slitting his own throat with a shaving blade. He was suffering from mental illness.
  6. Darbara Singh (April-October 2004) kidnapped, tortured, raped, and killed 17 children after kidnapping 23 of them. He was arrested in October 2004 and died in prison in 2018 while serving a life sentence.
  7. Thug Behram (1790-1840) was suspected of killing 931 people by strangulation with a ceremonial handkerchief, but was accused of killing only 125. He was hanged for his crime in 1840.
  8. Devendra Sharma (2002-2004), ayurvedic doctor turned murderer, killed several taxi drivers in 2 years for stealing their cars. He also admitted that he was involved in at least 50-100 murders and that he dumped the bodies in the Hazara canal for crocodiles to eat. He was sentenced to the death penalty in 2008.
  9. Raman Raghav (1965-1968), also known as "Psycho Raman", confessed to killing 40 people in the 1960s, most of them living in the slums of Mumbai. He was not given the death sentence due to mental illness and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison custody of kidney failure in 1995.
  10. In the Nithari murders (2005-2006), wealthy businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his accomplice Surinder Koli allegedly raped and murdered more than 19 children. All the victims were strangulated to death, as revealed by Surinder Koli, who told that Pandher was not aware of his crime, adding that he would rape the victims before taking them to his personal washroom for dismembering. Most of the victims were young girls. Both were sentenced to death.

Serial killers create a sense of fear and thrill in the minds and spurs people to read and know more about them. What actually goes into the minds of a serial killer, though still not confirmed, researchers, psychologists and neurologists etc., have found out a pattern in their psychology, development and activities. New insights into the psychological and neurological aspects of the behavior of serial killers hold promise in identifying future killers and preventing them from committing grave sins.

Proponents of treating the serial killers are well advised to pay heed to the opinion of a psychiatrist who said that there is no effect of counselling and educating a serial killer as this will only lead to the creation of an educated serial killer.

  1. What can neuroscience tell us about the mind of a serial killer? By John Parrington, April 19th 2021,
  2. The Minds of Serial Killers, Posted by Aamuktha Yalamanchili, December 23, 2022
  3. Inside the mind of serial killers � are they born to kill?, Posted by imperialbiosciencereview, July 9, 2021, Luciano Marinelli,
  4. Serial Killers, Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff,
  5. Top 10 psycho killers of India, Shashank, 10 Psycho Killers of India
  6. Early Signs of Serial Killers, Crime Museum,
  7. In the minds of murderers, By Paul Roland, Arcturus Publishing Limited, London,
  8. 10 Notorious Serial Killers in India Who Had Created a Reign of Terror. By Sanskruti Pujari, April 1, 2021
  9. 10 Most Dangerous Indian Serial Killers Whose Tales Send Shivers Down The Spine,
  10. Are Serial Killers Born or Made? Burcak Unal, June 11, 2021
  11. What psychology tells us about the minds of cold-blooded killers, 08 June, 2023, Mumbai, Ainie Rizvi, Mid-Day,
  12. Biology, childhood trauma, and murder: Rethinking justice, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, May-June-2006, Kathleen M. Heide, Eldra P. Solomon
  13. 35 Serial Killers and Their Horrifyingly Creepy Last Words,
  14. 40 Serial Killers' Creepy Last Words (2023 Update), By Cam Russo,
  15. India's Most Dangerous Serial Killer: Kampatimar Shankariya, 15 December, 2019,
  16. Tales Of 10 Female Serial Killers In India That Will Horrify You, By Ronjinee Chattopadhyay On Feb 17, 2022,
  17. Murderpedia, Juan Ignacio Blanco,

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