ByJancy Richardson, writer at Creators.co
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

Despite the best efforts of highly-trained psychologists and law enforcement officers, we can never predict with 100% accuracy who will become a serial killer. There are, however, some common traits that a huge majority of serial killers have.

Killers thankfully make up a tiny proportion of the population, and so many people will exhibit some or all of these signs without going on to serial murder. That being said, it still pays to be informed...

1. Childhood Abuse or Neglect

John Wayne Gacy's mugshot
John Wayne Gacy's mugshot

A staggering proportion of serial killers experienced a difficult childhood. Abuse - whether sexual, physical or emotional - affects childhood development, and while it certainly does not always make a person violent, will almost definitely affect that child's emotional state in later life.

Chilling example: The Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy was repeatedly beaten and belittled by his alcoholic father, as well as being molested on many occasions by a family friend.

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2. Poor school record, despite intelligence

Killer Edmund Kemper, believed to have a high IQ
Killer Edmund Kemper, believed to have a high IQ

The majority of serial killers are reasonably bright, partly because of the sheer logistics of murdering multiple victims and getting away with it, even temporarily. However, their inability to integrate with others and their lack of respect for social norms means they are often unable to progress in a career, or even hold down a regular job.

Chilling example: The Co-ed Killer, Edmund Kemper reportedly had an IQ of around 140, but like so many 'smart' killers, was more absorbed by killing than developing a worthwhile life and career.

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3. Excessive Antisocial Behavior

Serial Killer Ted Bundy as a child
Serial Killer Ted Bundy as a child

Antisocial personality disorder is ultimately a person with no sense of guilt or remorse, as well as aggression, frequent lying, and lack of responsibility.

Chilling example: Ted Bundy was famously cold and remorseless. When asked about his victims he merely said:

I'm as cold a motherf****r as you've ever put your f***ing eyes on. I don't give a s*** about those people.

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4. Compulsive Fantasising

Unable to act out their violent and twisted desires, serial killers in the making will feverishly imagine what they wish to act out. This fantasising is often accompanied by compulsive masturbation, particularly as potential serial killers often find it difficult to form proper relationships with actual human partners.

Chilling example: 'Rostov Ripper' Andrei Chikatilo actually masturbated so frequently and violently that he developed dreadful scarring on his penis.

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5. Head Injuries

Scientists have found links between head trauma - either as the result of accidents, difficult birth or childhood abuse - and violent behavior. In particular, it's damage to the pre-frontal cortex - the area of the brain used for judgement and planning - that is indicated in increasing aggression.

Chilling example: Bobbie Joe Long, a sick sexual sadist and killer who claimed the lives of 10 women in the Tampa Bay area, sustained multiple head injuries of varying severity as a child.

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6. Voyeurism

'The Peeper' - Derrick Todd Lee
'The Peeper' - Derrick Todd Lee

Voyeurism often appeals to serial killers, both as a way of enjoying sexual pleasure without needing a close or emotional relationship with another person and as a way to violate another person's privacy. Many killers begin with pettier sexual crimes before developing to assault and murder.

Chilling example: The Baton Rouge killer Derrick Todd Lee was actually arrested and fined $400 for being a peeping tom, but spared jail. He went on to kill seven women.

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The MacDonald Triad

Named for the scientist who made the connection, the MacDonald Triad is the following three characteristics, which all indicate - but are certainly not definitive proof of - the development of a serial killer.

7. Bed Wetting

Of course, most children wet the bed until around five, but persistent bed-wetting into teenage years and beyond - or enuresis as it's officially termed - can be an indicator of neuroses, trauma and psychological unrest common in people who go on to kill.

Chilling example: Among others, Ohio state killer Alton Coleman reportedly wet the bed well past the normal age for children.

8. Arson

David Berkowitz liked to start fires
David Berkowitz liked to start fires

Pyromania is common in future serial killers - it makes sense for a twisted mind to find the act of destruction fascinating.

Chilling example: Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz is only one of several teen pyromaniacs Ottis Toole and David Berkowitz were only two of the numerous murdering pyromaniacs.

9. Animal Cruelty

A young Jeffrey Dahmer killed neighbor's pets
A young Jeffrey Dahmer killed neighbor's pets

Their typical lack of empathy and inability to experiment on the actual targets of their twisted desires often compels serial killers to torture and kill animals during childhood and teenage years. Small animals are relatively easy and are not as likely to draw attention to their killer as a human victim.

Chilling example: Many serial killers kill animals before moving on to humans, but Jeffrey Dahmer is a famous case: he impaled a dog's head on a stick and left it out for people to see.

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Of course, there is an exception to every rule, and even the finest minds can only ever predict a serial killer with varying accuracy. Still, it's chilling to think about the contributing factors to the creation of a killer... Are you reminded of anyone you know?

Poll

Do you think you may know a potential serial killer?

Sources: Psychology Today, Crime Museum, Dr Phil, Science360, Listverse, Crime Library, Wordpress

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