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Serial killers are a phenomenon erroneously considered recent, even if in the modern age (from 1900) the number of cases has increased significantly. The only very recent thing is the term “serial killer”. A term, indicating a certain continuity of crimes committed by the same person, was used for the first time in 1957 when the term “chain killer” was invented to indicate a killer leaving behind himself a “chain” of murders. Few years later it became “serial murderer”, and finally in the 70ies the term “serial killer” was adopted as definitive. The paternity of this term is to be attributed to FBI agent Robert Ressler, one of the founders of the “Behavioural Science Unit”, the first unit to closely study the phenomenon of serial killers. But serial killers were not rare. There was no technology to be able to link cases happened over a long period of time, or in places different and far one from each other, together with the non knowledge of the phenomenon and of its perverse mechanisms who transform a human being into a predator.

It is beyond argument that in the past decades there have been an increase of cases of this type, due to the new life model of the modern civilisation who bombs us with images, visions and every type of models enhancing, sometimes guiltily, the most dangerous ones.

But which one is the official definition that the modern criminology gives to the term “serial killer”? The universally accepted one is in the FBI “Crime Classification Manual”, published in 1992, that quotes:


" a serial killer is someone who commits three or more murders
in three or more different locations over an extended period
of time with cooling-off periods in between”.

The most important aspect of the definition is to be found not in the number of murders but in the “cooling-off periods” who distinguish a serial killer from a mass murder or a spree killer.

The “mass murderer” is an individual who commits multiple murders in a single event and in one location. It is often an occasional killer because the criminal act is unique, as usually he commits suicide after the insane act. It is prominently a male, but there have been cases in which the murderer was a woman. Usually the reasons are a series of negative events in the course of his life which push him to the limit of the mental health. At this point he gives vent to his rage on anything which can represent one of the causes of his failure. Unfortunately before he commits suicide he tries to take with him as many victims as possible. Favourite weapons used to kill are fire-arms.

The spree killer commits multiple murders during the same criminal act but in different locations. This characteristic distinguish the spree killer from the mass murderer as usually the motive is the same and linked to sentimental or professional failures. It is the classic example of a veteran who decides to shoot people in the street and then escapes until he is arrested or killed by the Police. As the mass murderer he also prefers fire-arms.

The “pure” serial killer is completely different. He acts on behalf of precise schemes of his mind, usually deriving from traumatic experiences of the past or of the childhood: he executes his criminal acts with a meticulous strictness. Differently from the above two mentioned type of killers he plans every single detail of the attack: the victim must respond to certain requirements (different from killer to killer) and everything must happen according to a ritual to satisfy his insane fantasies. This will identify in a unique way “that” serial killer. Also, the serial killer commits murders mostly due to a sexual disturb, often caused by abuses during his childhood. This is why all of his homicides reveal a strong, if not complete, sexual characteristic, associated with one or more paraphilias. Differently from the other two killers, the serial killer never stops until he is arrested or dies. The serial killer rarely uses fire-arms to kill his victims, as he prefers the sadist excitement deriving from torturing, sectioning, strangle and massacring them.


Ever since science and investigative units tried to find out if it was possible to identify in advance a future serial killer so to avoid the terrible effects. In 1800 the most famous Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso thought to have identified some of the physical characteristics of a probable “criminal”. With a tireless activity of measurements and researches in the physiognomy (study of the body) , he got to the conclusion that an asymmetric cranium could indicate a predisposition to commit crimes. Today this theories, although representing an important base of the criminal anthropology, are almost considered over passed.

In any case, after many researches based on direct interviews to numerous serial killers, some common childhood evidences came out:

- BEDWETTING: the disturb present in almost all of the children to wet the bed during the night. Of course this doesn't mean that all of them will be potential murderers, but if the phenomenon continues beyond the age when children normally grow out of such behavior, it is considered a strong emotional decompensation. It has been verified that the 60% of the interviewed serial killers suffered this disturb in the puberal age.

- PYROMANIA: this is a real “mania” for fire and flames, not a simple curiosity of a child to light up a little pyromaniafire. It is the symptom that evidences a violent expression of rage and aggressiveness, the willing of being able to decide the devastation of something. If these signs arrive in the early age, it is possible to understand why it will only get worst in the following years. Fire mania also has a real erotic significant for the pyromaniac. It is not enough to light up the fire, he also feels a sexual excitement to watch it burn. In this case also there are many proves of this tendency in the criminology surveys.

- CRUELTY TO ANIMALS: this is out of doubt the most dangerous sign of a potential future serial killer. Many children unfortunately play this cruel game but almost all pass over this phase and they remember it as an horrible period of their life. When this doesn't happen, the sign becomes worrying as the cruelty towards animal can be potentially done to our simils. It can only be a question of time, waiting for the horrible “jump of quality”. When Dahmer was a child he liked to improvise surgery operations on cats and dogs. Later he bacame the “moster of Milwakee".



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