In honor of the spooky season that has just passed, today’s topic of discussion is not for the faint-hearted. Let us talk about the Netflix mini-series « inside the criminal mind. » This mini-documentary goes into detail about profiling a criminal and the reasons as to why these people did what they did.
The first person interviewed in the first episode is profiling division FBI agent Mullany. He said: » When you look at the development of serial killers, they often come from pretty broken homes. » Absent fathers, dominant mothers, and more than often, serial killers let out the repulsion towards the dominant mother by murdering women in the future.
What are the signs of a serial killer?
Many theories try to predict and profile psychopaths and serial killers. One of these theories is the triad of the homicidal personality that is made up of three elements. The first element is being a bed wetter, the second is being a fire setter, and the third is being an animal killer. These things would give any professional a lead. This theory applied to some serial killers such as Ted Bundy. However, the theory lost credibility soon after.
Most serial killers have had a dysfunctional childhood that provided a lack of empathy which is the primary sign of a psychopath. That being said, not all psychopaths are criminals, but most serial killers are.
The first serial killer that was talked about in the documentary was the infamous Ted Bundy, who was born to a single mother. He grew up surrounded by lies, thinking that his mother was his sister. Once he grew up, Bundy murdered 30 women and compared his serial killing to stamp collecting.
Meeting a serial killer
Coming face to face with a serial killer might leave two impressions: the surprise that they look normal and the surprise that they are even condescending. These people are strikingly successful in life. They can be well educated and quite appealing to others during the day. However, at night, they turn to serial killing to satisfy their fantasies.
John Wayne Gasey, the infamous killer clown, was mentioned in the documentary. He is a case in point. A born salesman, he could talk his way in and out of any situation. A respected member of the community, he often dressed as a clown for kids’ birthday parties which earned him the name ‘the killer clown.’ He was desperate for his fathers’ attention.
Was it a dreadful childhood that turned these people into serial killers?
That is a question often asked throughout the episode; why is it that of two children who suffered the same traumatic childhood, one will cope, and the other will kill?
This question has been highly debated for over a decade. Is someone born a criminal? Does one become one with time?In the new field of neuro-criminology, cutting-edge technology has been trying to determine if some people are predisposed to violent behavior at birth.
The recent research seems favorable to the idea that a predisposition to particular abnormal behavior might exist.
A study by the neurologist Adrian Raine was mentioned, observing the brain of murderers, psychopaths, and serial killers. Their brains were observed to be different from ordinary people with diminished activities in the brain in the areas of sensitivity to self-awareness.
Serial killers are calm, methodical, and cold. They have a high functioning prefrontal cortex but a low functioning amygdala; This is the seat of emotion involving empathy and remorse. It could account for why they kill without guilt or remorse.
So the long-running question remains, is it nature? Or nurture?
Doctors have concluded that criminal behavior cannot be solely justified by the neuro-anatomy and biology of the brain. However, the environment certainly affects one’s behavior. Therefore, people are not born evil.
It is probably more likely to be a combination of the two; they may have some predisposition that the person is born with, but the environment also contributes to those elements.
What goes through the mind of a killer?
The documentary does a deep dive into what goes on in these criminals’ minds.
According to psychologists, there are several phases that a serial killer goes through. The first is the aura phase, where the killer begins to their lose grip on reality. It is the fantasy that goes on in their head before doing anything. Some may medicate with drinks and drugs, but they may want to act out their fantasies when they enter the trolling phase. Trolling involves looking for a location or a victim type that would seem to match the killer’s fantasy.
Let us say the victim type would be a blond-haired woman with blue eyes, for example. Having gone through the choice of the location and the victim, the criminal goes through the wooing phase, where they lure the victim in. Once the serial killer has their victim, they go onto the next phase: The capture phase. The killer’s mask finally comes off. The murder phase is described as the ritual reuniting of the killers’ childhood with roles now reversed.
They are in control and can do with their victim what they will. Torture, degradation and sexual abuse often lead up to murder.
Some offenders might want to stay with the body postmortem. The next phase after the murder is known as the totem phase. One of the common things seen within serial killers is that they love to keep trophies. The killer often gathers a souvenir from their victims or even body parts to preserve that feeling of power and control.
After the kill, the excitement is over, and the serial killer returns from their fantasy to reality. Depression is likely to set in. Part of the reason most offenders do it again is because once they attain the behavior that matches their fantasy, they may become depressed. After all, it did not live up to what they hoped it would be. This is why they might take notes or make videos of the offense to refine the behavior further to meet the fantasy. As a result, the killer can become so depressed that they may attempt suicide.
Their fantasy will grow and become more real, and they start planning their next murder, and the vicious cycle repeats itself.
More than meets the eye
This mini-series makes the watcher realize that there is more to a criminal than meets the eye. There is a series of neuropathological and environmental causes that alters the judgment of a criminal. However, that fact does not excuse nor justify the atrocious things that some people do. This article was a deep dive into the mind of a serial killer. However, that was only the first episode! Tune in for more episodes that talk about kidnappers, cult leaders, and mobsters.