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Serial Killers: A Comparative Study on the Minds of Murders Stephanie Derksen Submitted to Dale Sullivan, April 9, 2010


Page |2 Serial killers have been integrating themselves into society for as far back as history records. Through the changing times, techniques of murders have evolved, along with motives, typical victims, and even potential suspects. The proposed report will attempt to compare and contrast the way that serial killers have changed or stayed the same throughout time, such as preferred methods, the kinds of different motives, and even how the stereotypical serial killer may have changed in gender, ages, colour, etc.

Introduction: For English 324 (Writing in the Sciences) class at North Dakota State University, my proposal for a class-required research project is comparing the psyche of Victorian and pre-Victorian era serial killers such as Jack the Ripper and Elizabeth Bathory to those of more modern day serial killers, such as Adolph Hitler and John Wayne Gacy. In comparing these killers, we may learn more about how society effects us, such as how common practices (such as witchcraft or other religious beliefs), availability of current events, and the media of said periods effect motives and potential victims of these masterminds. This proposal includes some background information generated by the desire to know just what factors make a serial killer tick, and which, if any, of those factors never change.

Background: Psychology has been trying to explain the mind of the killer for many years. Even the general public tends to find entertainment in watching detectives try to pick apart a person's mind, thus inspiring the growing demand of shows such as Criminal Minds and Numb3rs. Mystery and thriller novels are also some of the most popular genres in literature today, showing that people find interest in not only what goes through the minds of killers and the people who try to catch them, but, of course, the ever-popular happy

Page |3 ending. This is not always the case in real life, however. The police don't always catch the right person or, as in the Jack the Ripper case, may never catch them at all. In comparing previous serial killers (like Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, and Gilles de Rais) to more modern killers (Ted Bundy, William Bonin, and Adolph Hitler), we can perhaps pick apart common factors in each suspect's life and attempt to understand what factors transcend time. As of today, much research has been (and is being) done on the criminal mind and how it tends to differ from the mind of the general public. A serial killer is defined as a person who murders three or more people over a period of more than thirty days, with a "cooling off" period between each murder. The newscast `60 Minutes' ran a segment in 2004 called "The Mind Of A Serial Killer," which was a look into the Gary Ridgeway murders back in the 1980's. In 2003, Ridgeway was arrested and pled guilty for the murders of 48 women, most of them prostitutes. When asked why he killed the women, he replied simply, "Because they were prostitutes and I killed them because I wanted to kill them." (Leung, 2004) Was this the motive for the famous Jack the Ripper killings? Or was it something more personal? And where Ridgeway was a truck painter for thirty years, the methodical way Jack the Ripper's victims were dissected suggests that he must have had anatomical knowledge. Education was rare for those of a lower class in the Victorian age, so the only obvious conclusion would be that he would have been a doctor. Or was he? Butchers were in demand even then, and pigs have been shown to have a similar anatomical structure to a human's. So could he have been a butcher? We may never know. Another comparison we can make is between Elizabeth Bathory and any other modern day serial killer. Bathory is most widely known as the Blood Countess, and is probably one of the most successful killers of all time. Records and witness testimonies tell us that Bathory's victim count at the time of her death was upwards toward 650 people--all of them young virgin girls. Bathory's only known motive was that, through her rituals of torturing,

Page |4 killing, and drinking (some records say even bathing in) her victim's blood, she would stay young and beautiful forever. Moving forward to the modern day; have there been any other cases even remotely resembling Bathory's, who's motives came purely from vanity? Or any modern cases that may have been suggested to the killer by convincing them that witchcraft would be the only option to fix a problem they find so imperative? Robert Meadows gives us a description of the typical serial killer (Meadows, 2004): "Generally white males, between 20 and 39 in age. They have a psychopathic personality, a hedonistic outlook on life, and a pronounced lack of conscience." While this seems like an accurate description for the typical serial killer, there is always an exception to the rule. Elizabeth Bathory was a young Countess in the late 1500's who tortured and killed over 650 young virgin girls simply because she believed bathing in their blood would keep her young and beautiful. What are some possible similarities in a case as horrifying as Countess Bathory's and that of a modern-day killer, such as John Wayne Gacy? That is what this report will attempt to find out.

Proposed Research & Final Report: By analyzing closely the different cases of selected serial killers, I hope to be able to find either distinct parallels or obvious differences in each case. Correlations I will be looking for include not only the characteristics of the murderer involved (race, religion, gender, family, etc.), but also in possible motives, the type of victims the killer seemed to prefer, and the methodology of the kills. Other research will also be attempted, including looking into the kinds of mental afflictions each killer may have had, and examining how much of a role that particular affliction may have had in moulding the person into a killer. I hope to make the report readable to anyone who finds interest in it, and its estimated length at this time is anywhere between six to ten pages, if all goes well.

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Method: While reports in scientific journals on the mind of a killer are few and far between (I have yet to find any), there are plenty of other reliable sources. John E. Douglas, one of the founders of the Behavioural Science Unit for the FBI, has written many books on the subject, and there are plenty of biographies of serial killers to go around. By examining these biographies and comparing them, hopefully I will be able to wheedle out what is fact, and what is merely opinion or speculation. By obtaining all of this information, I will hopefully be able to examine just what makes a serial killer a serial killer. Besides this proposal, other types of files used in this project will include a progress report with a literature review (to be completed by April 16, 2010) and a visual presentation (to be done by April 30, 2010), and a final paper, which is due at the end of the project. The final project is to be completed and submitted by or on May 12, 2010.

Conclusion: So to reiterate, this proposal is a request to being work on a project that will bring together the workings of modern day serial killers and Victorian/pre-Victorian age killers. By bringing them together, this project will hopefully be able to compare these serial killers to see what kind of trends (motives, methods, victims, characteristics of the killers themselves) cross over the boundaries of time. In doing this, we may be able to better understand just why a serial killer does what they do.


Page |6 Meadows, R. J. (2004). Understanding violence and victimization, iii ed.. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Leung, R. (2004, July 07). The Mind of a serial killer. Retrieved from

Appendix A

Brady, I. (2001). The Gates of janus--serial killing and its analysis. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House.

Page |7 This book is especially interesting, as it is written about serial killers by a serial killer. Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley were also known as the "Moors Murderers," because in 1963-1965, they murdered five children between the ages of ten and seventeen, all buried on the moors of Greater Manchester, England. They were eventually caught and detained, and are currently serving life sentences. Brady, who has lived in Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital since 1985 after being declared criminally insane, wrote this book as an attempt to explain the mind of a killer through the eyes of a serial killer.

Brookman, F. (2005). Understanding homicide. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. The section of the book I focused on is contained in pages 210-237, in a section titled `Multiple Homicide: `Serial Killers', Terrorists, and Corporations." In this section, Brookman explains the types of mass murderers, tells us the differences in mass/spree/serial murderers. She describes trends of multiple murderers in the UK, and attempts to explain why people become multiple murderers. She then goes into explaining about terrorism and the "Northern Ireland `Troubles'," a period of time between 1969 and 2002 in which 3,344 people were killed. She also mentions corporate homicides, which occur from negligence from a company in some area.

Burgess, A., & Douglas, J. (1986). Criminal profling: a viable investigative tool against violent crime [Reprinted 1998, pp. 10-14]. (Online PDF file), Retrieved from Burgess and Doulas describe the process of criminal profiling, and how this information helps to bring in a criminal quicker and more efficiently. They give an example of a case from 1982 in which criminal profiling helped to apprehend a suspect that that police hadn't even considered. By studying and using these steps carefully and properly, and by remembering that to every rule there could be an exception, criminals can perhaps be apprehended before doing more damage.

Codrescu, A. (1996). The Blood countess. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. This book, though fictional, is one of the best well-researched pieces of literature I've ever read. Codrescu does a brilliant job in bringing Elizabeth Bathory to life, and it's so wellresearched it's like you're reading a biography. I know we're not supposed to use fictional books in our reports, but as I wrote a 25 page history report based on nothing but this book, I almost feel as if I'm required to use it. Codrescu brings to life the childhood and raising of Elizabeth Bathory, and how she went from a young girl to a young orphan in a single night, and then morphed into the vicious blood countess.

Page |8 Eckhardt, C., & Jamison, T. R. (2002). Articulated thoughts of male dating violence perpetrators during anger arousal. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26(3), 289-308. While this article is not particularly advantageous for me (the form of violence being too mild), it does describe that in 2002, 60 percent of both sexes admitted to sexual aggression, mostly in the form of shoving, grabbing, pushing, etc. While normal and mostly accepted behaviours for young adults in relationships, these kind of things are usually grown-out of in adult relationships. My only thought is--could these particular behaviours, when used in an adult relationship, lead to more and more violent techniques, finally leading up to murder? Perhaps not, but it may be worth looking into.

McMahan, Jeff. (2003). The Ethics of killing. Oxford University Press, USA. McMahan mentions in his preface the four categories of killing, then gives examples of each category. In chapter three, he goes on to compare the killing of animals to the killing of people, claiming that it is more wrong to kill a person than to kill a non-human animal. Giving ethical reasons, he attempts to back up this claim.

Meadows, R. (2004). Understanding violence and victimization, iii ed.. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. This is actually a textbook, one that would certainly be used in a criminology class. The chapter I focused on was chapter three, which goes over the different types of homicides, and goes over the `typical' serial killer. It explains how the killer typically chooses their victims, and what groups of people are normally targeted. It also goes into the background and thoughts of the typical killer, and somewhat into why they do what they do.

Sgarzi, J. M., & McDevitt, J. (2003). Victimology - a study of crime victims and their roles. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. This, again, is a textbook. In it, Sgarzi and McDevitt talk about what kind of victims killers choose. It then goes on to list them in order of relevance and priority: 1) Prostitutes, 2) Children, 3) Homeless people, and 4) Patients. The chapter goes on to say where the victims are typically found, and describes how police methods could (and should) be improved upon.

Various., Initials. (n.d.). Trutv's crime library. Retrieved from Although not in actual print, this website is a wonderful place for finding out the stories of killers. From Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy to Jack the Ripper and the Moorside Killers, this archive has it all. The cases are all wonderfully researched and meticulously pieced

Page |9 together, and I think it'll be really beneficial to have all of that information in one place for this report.



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