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Serial Killers

by Brandon Phifer 5 days ago in fact or fiction

Monsters Who Blend In

When you think of 'monsters' you may think of vampires or zombies or a werewolf. Maybe the word conjures up a character from any number of movies you've seen like Freedy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, or Leatherface (the Chainsaw Massacre).

But these are not real monsters. They're fictional.

Real monsters don't have sharp teeth, grow hair when the moon is full, or mindlessly stumble toward you trying to consume your flesh. They don't wear creepy masks to make themselves instantly recognizable.

What makes a monster is not how he looks at all, but how he can blend in with the rest of society despite the darkness that lingers within. Many people have some pretty dark thoughts floating around in their mind now and again, but you aren't branded the "Monster" label until malicious thought manifests in the real world.

Serial Killers rightfully get labelled as monsters because they become consumed by those evil intentions and then somehow have the capacity to compartmentalize their horrors and go right back to blending in with the rest of society as if nothing has changed.

A Few Serial Killer Examples

Ted Bundy, who violently killed no less than 30 women, also worked at a Suicide Hotline Crisis Center and one of his friends even commented that he would walk her to her car at night to ensure she was safe. She described him as "kind, solicitious, and empathetic"

Jeffrey Dahmer killed and dismembered and fed on 17 young men. He actually drilled a hole in the head of a 14 year old boy and poured in acid. This particular boy escaped, but could not speak. Dahmer managed to convince a couple police officers that the boy was an adult and they were lovers. Police believed him and let Dahmer take the boy back home where he then strangled him to death. There must have also been enough charisma for so many young men to be willing to go with him back to his home.

Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer claimed the lives of 10 people. He was active in his church and the congregation, as well as other neighbors, were unable to believe the man they had known so long was responsible for the horrific murders that haunted their community.

John Wayne Gacy is one reason so many people are scared of clowns; claiming the lives of 33 young boys in Illinois. Many of his victims were found in a crawl space beneath his house. But he also learned the art of blending in. He was part of the Chicago-area clown club and performed at parties and charity fundraisers. He organized community gatherings and was described as well liked by many.

Charles Sobhraj, nicknamed The Serpent, killed somewhere between 12 and 20 people. He had incredible charm and seemed to easily attract tourists to spend time with him before ultimately ending their lives. His charm did not end after being caught either and married his lawyer's daughter while serving time.

Calculated Camouflage or Uncontrollable Urge

Are serial killers deceptive monsters who study the habits of normal people to better help them attract prey to kill? Or, are they humans with hopes and dreams and goals who compartmentalize their uncontrollable urges so they can keep living life in society?

A vampire looks plenty normal until fangs suddenly grow when it's time to feed, but he knows every moment what he is and what he will do to his victims when the time is right.

A werewolf is a cursed man who aims to live a normal life, but cannot stop the transformation to wolf when the night circumstances align in the right way. The results of this all consuming, unconscious transformation lead to devastating destruction.

Is a Serial Killer more like a Vampire or Werewolf? Perhaps he starts off as the uncontrolled werewolf driven only by impulse, and later, after not getting caught, becomes the calculated, charismatic and seducing vampire, thirsty for blood. I assume some serial killers fit the vampire code while others are more like a werewolf. Either way, Monster is a fitting description.

Three Aligning Elements: Nature AND Nurture

Research suggests that Nature AND Nurture play a role in the creation of a serial killer. You can be predisposed to being a killer (nature) and your life experiences (nurture) can be the icing on the cake that create the monster.

Nurture = #1 and #2. It was discovered that low levels of Monoamine Oxidase (MAOA) lead to higher rates of aggression. In addition, brain scans of sociopaths and psychopaths show low activity in the orbital cortex.

Nature = #3. A less than ideal upbringing seems to nearly always be linked to a serial killer's past. The exact conditions are not exact because this 3rd element is based largely on the individuals perception of the cards he's been dealt.

This research implies that if you are just dealt a bad hand in life with these three elements in hand, you are more susceptible to becoming a killer. Neuroscientist Dr. James Fallon always had an interest in the criminal brain and decided to specialize in what makes a killers mind different. He began looking into his lineage and discovered his great-grandfather was hanged for murdering his mother in 1667. He also discovered seven other alleged murderers in his family tree.

Dr. Fallon convinced several family members to have brain scans and look at genotyping. He compared the brain scans to the psychopaths he studied in his career that exhibited low activity in the orbital cortex and looked at the genotypes to determine who was prone to higher aggression. Most of the family had normal brain scans and showed the low-aggression variant, but one resembled the psychopaths with disturbing similarities...his own!

Fallon believes he has the #1 and #2 traits (attached to nature), but not #3 (nurture) because he has a great family and a wonderful upbringing. The three elements are not a flawless determination to becoming a serial killer, but they can certainly tip you in one direction. Fallon feels compassion for psychopaths because it seems they merely got "a bad roll of the dice."

Be Careful Out There

While I don't exactly know how this statistic is calculated, they say on average you will walk past 36 murderers in your lifetime. How can this be? How can we cross paths with so many monsters and not even realize it?

Real monsters are not wearing hockey masks or walking around in a mechanic's jumper carrying a large butcher life for everyone to see. They don't flippantly run around with chainsaws revved up either.

They blend in.

A killer may be a vampire on the hunt, eager to sink his teeth into you or he may be a werewolf suddenly overtaken by an uncontrollable urge. Either way, you likely will not be able to "judge a book by it's cover."

Perhaps the Buddy System Rule I had to follow as a kid is still a good idea as an adult. If the hairs on the back of your neck stand up for any reason, don't ignore it. Many survivors have commented they got a weird feeling, but did not want to be rude.

We cannot visually scan a brain or discern a person's aggression levels. We cannot peer into their eyes and see their past trials and upbringing. We cannot calculate the three ingredients and don't know if we're talking to a vampire, werewolf, or a normal human being. Don't live in fear that everyone's dangerous, but also don't ignore intuition for the sake of pleasantries.

Be careful out there!

fact or fiction

Brandon Phifer

Happily married, father of four. Writing has always taken a back seat to life, but I seem to always find my way back to it. I've decided to finally trust my mom's lifelong encouragement and write more consistently & let creativity flow!

Read next: The Brown Paper Box

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