The Dangers of Serial Killers in the United States

Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, and Richard Ramirez (The night stalker), do any of these names spark a chill in your bones? If they don t, they should. The names I ve mentioned above are just a few examples of some of the most notorious serial killers in America. Serial killers are those individuals who kill more than 3 people within a span of 14 or more days. (Serial Killers, Online AOL) Have you ever stopped and wondered what drives these men to do what they do?

Well, I have, and that is why through the course of this paper, I will seek out in depth and try to explain what motives drive these men to perform these gruesome acts.

The profile of a serial killer usually includes, violence as a child, rejection by the mother, and absence or physical abuse by the father. I will seek to explain, if serial killers share common background experiences and personality traits, if they re born or bred, if they share a psychological profile, if American culture, society, or even satanic cults drive these men to do what they do.

I will also discuss the motives, patterns, and captures of each of the men I describe in my paper.

It is estimated that there are currently 200 Serial Killers known in the world today. The US has 76% of the world s Serial Killers, 84% of American killers are Caucasian, 16% are black, Men make up at least 90%, yet 65% of victims are female, 89% of victims are white.

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44% of all killers start in their 20 s, 26% in their teens, and 24% in their 30 s. Out of all the killers, 86% are heterosexual.

Serial killers look and act like normal people. Ted Bundy, the “all-American guy”, was a perfect example of this. Serial killers have a driving force that motivates them to kill. They fantasize about killing for so long that eventually they must actually carry out the act of murder in order to satisfy their urges. Murdering alleviates the stress and fantasies temporarily, but when they begin to re-occur, they must murder again. It is like an addiction. They are usually difficult to catch due to the fact that the murders are premeditated and highly deliberated. There are different kinds of serial killers. No two are exactly alike, though there are some characteristics that most serial killers share. (Internet Crime Archives, Online AOL) Holmes and DeBurger created a classification scheme for serial killers. (Bavidge, 16) They said there are four main types:

  1. Visionary Killers – These people murder in response to an inner-voice that commands them to kill.
  2. Mission Oriented – These people murder in order to rid the world of a particular type of person.
  3. Hedonistic Thrill-seeking – These people derive sexual pleasure from murdering.
  4. Power-control Oriented – These people typically employ a significant amount of torture in the killing process. They revel in having complete control over the victim.

Serial killers tend to be white, heterosexual males in their twenties and thirties who are sexually dysfunctional and have low self-esteem. Their methodical rampages are almost always sexual in nature. Their killings are usually part of an elaborate fantasy that builds to a climax at the moment of their murderous outburst. Serial killers generally murder strangers with cooling off periods between each crime. Many enjoy cannibalism, necrophilia and keep trophy-like body parts as mementos of their work. Serial killers are sadistic in nature. Some return to crime scenes or gravesites of their victims to fantasize about their deeds. Many like to insert themselves in the investigation of their crimes and some enjoy taunting authorities with letters or carefully placed pieces of evidence. Serial killers tend to prey on women and children of their same race.

Prostitutes, drifters and hitchhikers are their victims of choice. Some homosexual killers enjoy hunting young boys and gay men. Female serial killers tend to be “black widows” who kill a succession of husbands, lovers, or other family members. They can also be nurses or other medical professionals who become self-appointed “angels of death” murdering babies, elderly, or the desperately ill in a misguided effort to relieve their suffering. (Kelleher, 11) Most serial killers grew up in violent households. As youngsters they enjoyed torturing animals, setting fires and were chronic bed-wetters. As adults, many serial have some type of brain damage and are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.

Many serial killers suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder. This syndrome can develop in the first few years of a neglected or severely abused child s life. As a result of family disruption or brutality, the infant never learns to bond or trust his or her caregivers. Some of these unbonded children grow up to be serial murderers that kill without remorse. What happens, right or wrong, in the critical first two years of a baby s life will imprint that child as an adult. A complex set of events must occur in infancy to assure a future of trust and love. If the proper bonding and subsequent attachment does not occur- usually between the child and the mother- the child will develop mistrust and a deep-seated rage. He becomes a child without a conscience.

Not all unattached children grow up to be criminals, but most suffer some form of psychological damage. It may be that such children simply are never able to develop a true loving relationship, or they end up conning others for their own benefit. These too, can be considered tragedies, for no child should have to grow up without this trust bond and loving beginning.

At a certain point in his/her life, the future killer experiences a kind of internal social crisis, when he realizes that he cannot be what he wishes to be- cannot live his version of the American dream. When these killers reach that existential divide, the seed is planted for a vengeance suppress. Sometimes their motives are entirely conscious, while with others, there dimly understood. In either case, it is unrealizable ambition that motivates them, as they launch a kind of sub-political and personal assault on society, aiming always at the class group they feel oppresses or excludes them. By removing those that suppress them, they can attain the position in society they desire. (Douglas, Online AOL) Some require minimal justification for their acts, obtaining temporary relief from their rage through the killings and then forgetting or compartmentalizing their memories. (Douglas, 117)

Serial killers have all reported feelings they could not control, voices whose urgings forced them into criminal acts, or sensations from deep within their minds. The serial killer, unlike the traditional criminal, is addicted to his passion. He is suffering from a disease that is terminal, not only for his numerous victims but also for himself. He is his ultimate victim. On his own initiative, the serial killer can no more stop his killing than a heroin addict can kick his habit. Suffering from waves of a primal pain and fear of the deepest nature after his most recent killing, an unusual set of defense mechanisms emerges. He simply forgets his crime as well as the victim. Soon thereafter, the urge to murder comes upon him again. He my loathe what he does and despise his own weakness, but he can do nothing on his own to control it.

Serial killers often live in a dream like state, confusing their victims with people from their past. To understand how someone can be neurologically impaired and still function like a normal person, and still have episodes during which one would mutilate another, one has to understand the complex of symptoms that serial killers seem to have. And to understand how that damage controls their behavior, we have to look at how what we call consciousness or sentience is the product of a biological mechanism. The behaviors that serial killers possess, is when the individual becomes all encompassing and sees only himself, and nothing else. He recognizes no physical limitations to himself and seems literally to walk over everyone around him. He has no sense of hurting anyone else, feels no remorse, and shows no sympathy.

When the behavior is at its most extreme, the individual exists in his own universe, isolated from the rest of humanity. He may perform violent acts upon small animals at first and ultimately upon people. His own rage is and extension of himself, not capable of being held in check by the part of his brain that never developed properly.

Killer cults were born and nurtured in the comfort zone of America and are now victimizing it at will. A typical coven consists of thirteen members, but that number varies often. The groups will meet regularly, usually at the full moon. Often times, animals, such as dogs and cats, are sacrificed to Satan, and their blood is drunk in fertility rites or for other purposes.

Bundy Ted

Ted was handsome, charming, intelligent, self-assured, with a brilliant future, and deadlier than a rattlesnake. Bundy fell in love with a girl from a prominent family and became engaged to her. Later, she broke off the engagement, and Bundy was devastated. This is what prompted him to begin killing. Using his good looks, he was able to invisibly abduct his victims to kill privately and continue with his seemingly charmed existence. This law student and Young Republican liked to wear an arm sling to appear vulnerable so to get women to help him with his groceries. He favored killing pretty, dark- haired cheerleader types. The crimes began in Washington; his first victim was beaten with a metal rod in 1974 while she was asleep.

She did survive the attack though. It was only four weeks later that Bundy would claim the next victim, Lynda Ann Healy, who vanished from her coed basement room in a group house. Her sheets were bloodstained. He traveled from Washington to Utah to Colorado and Florida leaving a trail of missing, brutally beaten, raped young women behind him. While in Utah, he was arrested. In his car, a ski mask, ice pick, and crowbar were found. Carol DaRonch, then identified him, as the man who tried to kidnap her. Bundy was convicted and sent to Colorado to stand trial. He escaped twice during the pre-trial hearings and was “on the lam” for nearly 2 months.

On January 15, 1978, Bundy entered the Chi Omega sorority house of a Florida university, and went on a rampage, bludgeoning two coeds to death, and critically wounding several others. Two weeks later he stole a van and killed 12-year-old Kimberly Leach in Lake City, Florida, for which, eventually, he was fried. Kimberly’s body was found in a pig trough next to a plaid jacket that was not Ted’s. Two other victims were Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman. It was, in fact, the bite marks on Lisa Levy’s buttocks, which for the most part, sealed his fate. With his law school education and brilliant mind, Bundy acted as his own attorney and defended himself. He proclaimed his innocence, and refused an insanity defense. Bite marks however, were matched with Bundy’s teeth. In July of 1979, Bundy was convicted on two counts of murder, and was convicted to death by electric chair. After ten years of appeals, Bundy was executed by the state of Florida in 1989.

Dahmer Jeffrey

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer grew up in Bath, Ohio, which is near Akron. His parents were termed as “middle class.” As a boy he was intelligent, but did not live up to his potential. Instead, he would disrupt class in a clownish way rather than pay attention to his school work. When he was 16, he had already become an alcoholic and showing signs of what his future would hold. He had an intense interest in chemistry and in torturing and dismembering animals. When Dahmer was 18 years old, he committed his first murder. He picked up a hitchhiker and killed him rather spontaneously in June of 1979. Relevant or not, the year before his parents divorced.

For the next 9 years, his fantasies built up, until in 1981, fantasies became reality. This Milwaukee chocolate factory worker lured gay, black men to his apartment for sex and drugs and instead killed them and had them for dinner. Once his victims were dead, Jeff came to life. He enjoyed sex with corpses and was conscientious enough to always wear a condom. Sex with live beings was not as good, he said, because they could get up and leave at any minute. He also enjoyed mutilation and experimented with different ways of disposing of his victims. He once tried to turn one of his victims into a zombie by performing a homemade lobotomy on the man by drilling into his brain and pouring acid into the holes. Dahmer was a cannibal–consumed human flesh and blood.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s fall began on July 22, 1991, when officers found in Dahmer’s apartment a butcher knife and some Polaroid’s of men in homosexual activity. Some of the pictures were also of dead men. In many of the pictures, the corpses had been dismembered and mutilated in other ways. Police found three dissolving bodies in 55-gallon acid vats in his bedroom. A human head was found in the refrigerator, hands in a cooking pot, 3 heads in a freezer, skeletons in his closet and a penis in a lobster pot, and a total of 5 skulls in a box and filing cabinet.

Curiously, he had no food in the fridge, only condiments. In the freezer he had a heart stashed “to eat later.” Jeff met his end when he was viciously attacked by Christopher Scarver, a convicted killer on antispychotic medication, while mopping the bathroom floor in maximum security. The lethargic cannibal died with a mop handle sticking out of his eye socket. At his mother’s request, his brain was preserved in formaldehyde for future study. A year after his death his parents battled over the killer’s preserved brain. On December 12, 1995, the absurdist saga over his preserved brain finally came to an end when a judge ruled in favor of his father who wanted to honor his son’s request of being cremated.]

Gacy John Wayne

In 1968, John Wayne Gacy was arrested for sexually assaulting a boy. He handcuffed the boy in order to have sex with him. The boy was not murdered. In fact, Gacy paid the boy to keep quiet. However, the boy did not, and in fact, testified against Gacy in court. This prompted Gacy to hire another boy to beat up the other boy. For this crime, Gacy was sentenced to 10 years, but was out by 1971. His wife had divorced him and he moved from lowa to Des Plaines, Illinois. He remarried and ran a construction business from his home. In less than a year, he was once again arrested, this time for soliciting a boy for sex. The boy did not show up for court, so the charges were dropped. To the outside world, Gacy was the original nice-guy. He presented himself as caring and giving, became involved in politics, helped both financially and personally in aiding those less fortunate. He even dressed as a clown for children at social events.

Outwardly, everything was perfect in Gacy’s world. After his second divorce, Gacy was often seen in areas of town which was known to be a homosexual prostitute area. Although many of the young men/boys who Gacy hired were not murdered, they were beaten. Or otherwise inflicted pain upon. Neighbors began seeing young men enter his house all hours of the day. Things took a turn for Gacy in March of 1978 when an abused 27-year-old male checked into a Chicago hospital. When discussing the incident with the police, the man’s mind was hazy, due to being knocked unconscious with a cloth, which had been soaked in Chloroform. He did however remember that the man who had lured him into his car was heavy-set and drove a black Oldsmobile. The man told the officers he was taken to a house, sexually assaulted and beaten with a whip. He could not, though, recall where the house was that he was taken. The victim, unwilling to let the crime go unsolved was dilligent in his pursuit to track down Gacy.

Finally, the victim did spot the car and gave the license plate number to the police. Although arrested, Gacy was released due to lack of evidence. With his luck having been tried already, Gacy pushed his chance even further…until December 11, 1978. On that day, a 15-year old boy who had gone to discuss details of a job with Gacy disappeared. His name was Robert Piest, who was last seen by his mother. After Robert failed to come home, his mother notified the police. This time a warrant was issued and Gacy’s home was searched. The odor filled the house. The investigators followed the smell until they came to a crawlspace beneath the house.

There were 3 decomposing male bodies. Immediately, Gacy was arrested. He then confessed to sexually torturing and murdering over 30 victims. Searching for the other victims, investigators removed floors all throughout the house. They found several bodies in shallow graves and long trenches. To hasten the decomposition, Gacy had covered the bodies with quicklime. The house was raised from its foundation…more bodies were found. Those, which filled the house, plus the 5 more he dumped into the Des Plaines River, made a total of 33 victims. Many had been strangled, had underwear stuffed in their mouths. Gacy was sentenced to die in 1980… Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Manson Charles

Born “no name Maddox” in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 12, 1934, Manson was the illegitimate son of Kathleen Maddox, a 16-year-old prostitute. His surname was derived from one of Kathleen’s many lovers, whom she briefly married, but it signified no blood connection. During 1936, Kathleen filed a paternity suit against one “Colonel Scott,” of Ashland, Kentucky, winning the grand monthly sum of five dollars for the support of “Charles Milles Manson.” From the age of three, Manson was put in and taken out of foster homes, juvenile prisons, and reform centers. At the age of 18, Manson was arrested for car theft, forgery, and fraud. Following his parole, Manson relocated to San Francisco during the ‘Summer of Love’.

Manson used his charisma to attract a large following of outcasts and young women. At it’s peak, the Manson Family had up to 50 members. The Family settled on a desert ranch in Simi Valley, California where they engaged in sex, heavy drug use, and other illegal practices. Manson soon became obsessed with the Beatles’ song ‘Helter Skelter,’ interpreting it as predicting a race war which would soon topple the United States. Manson began targeting enemies of the Family and members began murdering in 1968.

On August 9th 1969, several members of the Family raided the home of movie director Roman Polanski, brutally murdering five people, including film actress, Sharon Tate. Tate, who was several months pregnant, pleaded for her life, and the life of her baby. The following night, another couple was brutally murdered in the same fashion. Graffiti was scrawled on the walls at each crime scene with phrases including “Pigs” and “Helter Skelter”. That same year several members of the Family were arrested for an unrelated crime. One of the family members, Susan Atkins confessed to the murders, implicating 10 other members of the Manson Family, including Manson himself. During the trial, members of the Family continued to support Manson, gathering outside the courthouse from dusk till dawn.

During the trial, attorney Ronald Hughes was murdered. Manson and eight other members were convicted of the murder in 1971. Manson was sentenced to death, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 1972. In 1975, a member of the Manson Family, Lynette Fromme tried to assassinate President Ford. Manson continues to hold influence over members of the Family who follow him to this day.

Ramirez Richard

Richard Ramirez, one of the more recent killers, terrorized Los Angeles during 1985. Ramirez was a drifter from Texas. He was born in 1960 in El Paso, Texas. He had a mother and father who lived with him as well as 6 siblings. Like so many other serial killers, his crimes began early (when he was about 9) in life and they ranged from drug abuse to robbery. He was clearly a troubled teen, but it is not obvious as to what troubled him so. By the time he was 23, he lived in Los Angeles either on the streets or in cheap motels and continued stealing. Ramirez’s victims ranged from 16 to 84 years old, and were shot, bludgeoned, stabbed, and beaten to death in their homes.

Many of the female victims were raped before being killed. The killer often mutilated the victim s bodies, and left satanic messages (such as the pentagram) at the scene. Ramirez, as he later stated, believed that the power of Satan would protect him and would keep him from being caught. Ramirez was unlike any of the serial killers, which had previously been studied. He was hard to categorize because many of his crimes were so different in nature; he varied his methods vastly many times. His victim selection was not specific or particular (he was not like a Bundy whose victims all had long dark hair parted down the middle or Gacy who always picked young males). Ramirez’s victims included the elderly, the young, men, and women. He let some live, but he killed many. He shot his victims, and he also stabbed them.

Sometimes he was careless when committing his crimes, like when he left a baseball hat at a victim’s house. Other times he was more careful. Sometimes he stole from his victims, other times he didn’t. Because of these consistent variations, it took law enforcement quite a bit of time to realize they had a serial killer at large. During the summer of 1984, a 79 year-old woman was stabbed to death and then her throat was slashed. This happened in her own home. Next, a little girl, who was 6 years old, was kidnapped from her bus stop. She was sexually abused and dumped in a desolate area, alive. Then, only 2 weeks later, a 9 year old girl was taken from her bedroom, raped and dumped off.

The next victim, a lady who was arriving home after some event, was shot but not killed. Probably the only reason she lived was that she played dead. However, the attacker went into the victim’s house and shot her 34-year-old roommate in the head. On and on the crimes went, with no apparent rhyme nor reason or set pattern. One thing that was clear though: the killer was getting more sadistic. For example, a few victims later, the killer slashed a 44-year-old woman’s body and cut out her eyeballs while she was still alive. Between composites from the descriptions the witnesses were able to provide and “mug shots” of Ramirez, the identity of the Night Stalker was solved.

His picture went up everywhere. It is said that while in a convenient store, a lady spotted Ramirez and said loudly enough that he was the killer. Ramirez took of on foot with a gang of people trying to get him. He attempted to steal a car, but the husband of the woman driving the car beat him with a pipe. Eventually, the police ended up protecting Ramirez from the mob of people who were saying: Kill him. Ramirez was accused of: 13 murders, 5 attempted murders, 6 rapes, 3 “lewd acts on children”, 2 kidnappings, 3 acts of forced oral copulation, 4 counts of sodomy, 5 robberies, and 14 burglaries. All of these crimes happened from June of 1984 until August of 1985. He was sentenced to the gas chamber in 1989… he is still waiting to die.

The search for understanding the mind of the violent criminal is never-ending. The unfortunate thing is that there are very few, if any at all, absolute answers to violent behavior. (Crime Magazine, Online AOL) With so many different factors and motivations, it is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly one reason, why serial killers perform the acts they do. Many factors are involved. Out of all, one does seem to be more common amongst the rest though.

Childhood abuse, physically/mentally, or parent neglect, seems to be a sign in almost every serial killer. With every case, different factors prevail. Richard Ramirez, is a clear example of a serial killer who was deeply involved with satanic practices, even during his trials, he displayed the pentagram on his palm. Manson was also, highly into satanic cults, and believed in the worship of Satanism. Ted Bundy, converted into a dream like state, when he killed. It was the sight of a pretty young coed (one whom, he d been wronged by before) that drove him to kill. Bundy, is also a classic example of the character-disturbed child. Dahmer, and Gacy, are probably best described as having some sort of brain disorder, that drove these men to thrive on these horrifying events. I believe in all cases, the environment, and the way the individual looked at society, also played an important role.

I thoroughly enjoyed researching my topic this semester, and would encourage anyone who is interested in the unexplained to research yourself, who knows; maybe you II help solve a mystery. I hope the information; I ve provided was very helpful and educational for all. Now, knowing some of the facts of serial killers maybe can prevent you or someone close to you from being their next victim.

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The Dangers of Serial Killers in the United States. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from

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