In this article Anderson gives an account of the serial killer reviews he has created for the past 30 years. He focuses on the history, definitions of murder and serial murder, the motives, and phases of serial murder (Anderson, 1999). They are reviewed as a foundation for better understanding of the etiology and motivations of serial killers (Anderson, 1999). Anderson stated that every single little detail is of extreme importance when it comes to studying and understanding the mind of a serial killer. What they do at the crime scenes and their actions usually have a purpose and hold some kind of meaning to the serial killer.
For example; Dennis Rader after killing her family upstairs, took little Josephine Otero to the basement where he hung her from the pipes in the basement and after she had died proceeded to masturbate and ejaculate onto the girl. That piece of information is very important it shows that death is his way of getting off. He doesnt want to rape these women but seeing his handy work is a pleasure for him.
On many different accounts Rader ejaculated at the scene after killing his victim(s). He even told the judge in his full-fledged confession that he had certain fantasies and dreams about these kinds of things, and he needed to fulfill his fantasy. This kind of information is imperative to understanding the M.O. of the serial killer.
Anderson did state in his article that serial killing has increased in the United States over the past 30 years, and to Anderson that is a big issue.
He says that we dont have enough information or research on serial killers; that most of the research that we do have is based on commonalities of the killers and little to no focus is placed on the victims. Anderson felt that it was important to let his readers know that serial killers can come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. That serial killers are represented in every gender, race, culture, and age. Anderson also discusses the many theories that have developed to explain the decision of victim and why they are the victims.
In Andersons article he wanted to be sure and discuss two main theories when it comes to serial killers. The first being; Serial Killers are NOT insane, but rather methodical, and deliberating killers who do know wrong from right (Anderson, 1999), and the second theory is that serial killers have some kind of disease. This disease causes them little to no recollection of the murders and no remorse for the victims (Anderson, 1999). Anderson does however bring up that there could be specific biological characteristics that could cause someone to commit violent acts. These characteristics may be certain abnormalities in the brain caused by trauma, brain damage, or genetic traits from birth (Anderson). I would have to agree with the first theory more than anything, but I still wonder how it is determined that someone is a serial killer. I do not believe that this is a disease by any means. There are multiple accounts where serial killers do remember almost if not everything they did to their victims. They dont just forget. Dennis Rader and Joel Rifkin both knew exactly what they had done, how they did it, and who they did it to. Rader knew exactly who his victims were, how he stalked them, how he got in, what he did while he waited, the thought processes he had, and much more. It was very apparent during the court case and during his confession that there was no remorse for his victims. People described his attitude as if he was being awarded for something, like he was going to get a trophy. I can see a possibility for genetic variations to have caused some kind of biological defect, but this is not a disease. And I dont think that kind of label should be placed on it, because then that gives these people an out to say Oh, Im sorry. I am just sick. I didnt know what I was doing There are many accounts that prove these people DO know what they are doing.
Anderson continues on to discuss the history of serial killers, where he does make mention of the infamous Ted Bundy, and Edmund Kemper. He even gets into a small discussion of the serial killers that we dont even know, like the Zodiac Killer. He stated that serial killing has been going on for centuries (Jack the Ripper for example. He was killing in the Whitechapel, London area in the 19th century), but didnt become a huge interest in the United States in the 70s (Son of Sam era). And although serial killing may seem as if its a recent phenomenon there are many that would disagree. Anderson also stated that even though there are many forms of homicide and murder, the one thing that researchers can agree on that a serial murder is one who has killed more than 3 people, in 3 different locations, with a cooling-off period ranging from a few days to a few years (Anderson). Dennis Rader disappeared for years before killing another victim, where ad Ted Bundy killed two women in one day, but in separate locations. The cooling off period is something that varies with each murderer. Anderson also wanted to place high importance on ones ability to identify and distinguish the different types of murders, and to make sure you understand the proper qualifications to determine serial murder.
Anderson then continues on to discuss the multiple phases that serial killers go through. These include; the Aura Phase, Trolling Phase, Wooing Phase, Capture Phase, The Murder, Totem Phase, and the Depression phase. And finally, Anderson discussed mental health disorders and personality disorders. He stated that it wasnt until recently that researchers have begun to look into the idea that dissociative disorders and serial killers. There is some skepticism that DID even exists, for fear that it could be an artificially created ideas. There has however been some talk of ADHD and serial killers may have some form of correlation. But ultimately Anderson ended his article stating; Personality disorders of serial killers has revealed to be useful, but not definite applications to the problem of identifying serial killers.
One thing I found to be very interesting and helpful to gain more knowledge was when Anderson described his findings that childhood abuse and neglect are not always predisposition factors for violence. Something that I had always noticed about serial killers was that they tended to have awful childhoods. Their parents were either not around and if they were, they were abusive and hateful to them. But I did always catch myself wondering how some children can grow up in an abusive home and find their path to success, while others turn into serial killers. This in turn caused me to think of Joel Rifkin. He was one of the most, if not the most, prolific serial killer in New York City in the 1980s. He is believed to have strangled 17 women with his bare hands but was only charged with the murder of 9 of those women and currently sits in a jail cell and will continue to do so for another 178 years (he was sentenced to 203 years in 1994). The reason I bring this up is because I watched a documentary on him not too long ago and he described his home life as very average. Granted he had his issues with his father, but on all accounts lived in a regular home. His father nor his mother was abusive or neglectful of him and yet he had enough rage inside of him to strangle 17 women. Where did all that anger, and violence come from? Was it because of his inability to discover his sexuality (never really talked to girls, got picked on in school, his first sexual encounter was with a prostitute, which oddly enough were most of his victims), or the fact that he never really made his father proud? Possibly but he still turned into a serial killer, but from a home without violence and neglect. I found this article extremely intriguing and helpful in many ways. I personally feel as if it has added to my knowledge of serial killers and bettered my understanding for certain aspects about them. Another good example was when he went into detail about the different phases serial killers go through. I never knew there were stages, but after reading this article and gaining a better understanding of them it would make sense that they do. But the article has also raised a lot of questions for me about serial killers; about the way their mind functions, their coping and reasoning skills, and many more. One specific question is when I was researching and doing all this, I found an article that Anderson was used as a reference in. It was an article discussing Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber on Fleet Street (Tim Burton directed an actual film), and they were discussing whether or not he was a serial killer. Some say he is, but some say otherwise. I mean yes in a way I think he is but according to the definition Anderson gave in his article he wouldnt be put in that category. Although he murdered many people (Well over 3), he did it all in one location and there wasnt really any cooling off period. He just waited for his next customer and then slit their throats. Anderson said 3 murders in separate locations, with a cooling off period. Is it location or occasion? What is technically considered a cooling off period, does a few hours count? I can understand why this subject could be so difficult to understand at times. (But then again, Sweeny Todd isnt a real person, so it probably doesnt matter). I also did not like that he didnt discuss mental health but for a brief moment at the very end of the article. I felt that he dropped on the ball on that one. Considering the title has to do with personality disorders and mental health he didnt talk much about it. That could be because there is not as much research on this idea as there is on other theories, but I still felt it could have been talked about more. This article was a great read, and as I stated before I think that it was a great resource for great information. Anderson addressed a lot of big topics and gave good information that was easier to understand then most articles. I would highly recommend this article to anyone who is interested in the topic.