A serial killer is often the guy next door you hardly even noticed.
He is that neighbor you don’t get to know who seemed so “quiet, polite, keeps to himself, and minds his own business.” This is all too often the tag line from the unsuspecting neighbor, or co worker, who appears for the sound bite about the cannibal biter no one suspected of having 18 bodies in his basement freezer.
A serial killer is to also known as a sociopath. A sociopath is a person who exhibits no sense of conscious. They are not emotionally in touch with a sense of empathy, nor sympathy. This does not mean that they cannot know those things exist. Indeed, a serial killer may be skilled at utilizing the experience of sympathy. Ted Bundy is known to have lured his murder victims with a fake leg cast, asking them for due to his injury.
When he abducted, raped, and murdered these young women, he was not unaware there is such a thing as empathy, but he did not feel it. Other killers have been known to use the ploy of a lost puppy, or could ask for help from others, he may ask, for example: “Could you please help me put this (bulky object) in my van?”
They are far more skilled at fitting in with “regular” society than most people realize. In fact, many are very intelligent, have great social skills, are articulate, and often well educated. They are far more likely to be young, male, and white, although certainly there are rare exceptions to this rule.
The over riding sense of power, control, sexual deviance, and notoriety seem to be the motivating factors which propel a serial killer to pursue their victims. This is why they often show patterns of ritual, and trophy collection, in their predations. They often engage in a contest with the media and law enforcement, to outfox, and win fame.
There is no central guiding basis for childhood trauma or similar background shared by these men. Certainly, most abused children do not grow up to be serial killers, nor do all men who enjoy pornography, nor to those who hurt small animals grow up to be serial killers. Still, the reverse is true almost without exception: Serial killers were very often abused as children, they generally have a history of using pornography, and hurting animals, and other living things. General objectification of other organisms seems to be an underlying trait which must be inspected carefully.
With this in mind, a teacher, or concerned adult, cannot be sure that any of these factors are indicators toward severely aberrant behavior, but they should always be monitored, and compassionately corrected, in any case. More easily spotted, are patterns of behavior which exhibit no sense of boundaries, or an over whelming apparent pride, that a young man may take, in what others may see as repugnant, or even cruel. This is an alarm that must not be ignored.
Serial killers can also be thought of as the far extreme of life out of balance, and power out of control. They are a kind of killer in the coal mine, if one will allow the expression. Where as, once societies were held together with close tribal and familial bonds, we now are quite separate, alienated, and out of step with our “natural” senses of compassion, and cooperation. We are not our “brother’s (or hapless sister’s) keeper.” All of humanity, to one degree or another, is possessed by the myth that power and conquest are of greater value than community, connection, and cooperation.
This is not to say that competition and capitalism causes serial killers to be neglected into being, but our now routine non identity, as cogs in wheels, rather than people with connections, is certainly worthy of critical consideration.
What makes a serial killer is what makes most of us “sick,” but we seldom examine that all of society to some degree, with our own dis ease of non-belonging and natural connections, conceal a part of the black shadows of society from which the deadly canary arose in the depths such coal sooted souls.