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

As a society we are fascinated by serial killers. Horror movies and crime shows are usually about these very worst of offenders but how much do we really know about them?

Check out these 10 grim yet fascinating facts about the darkest types known to human nature: The Serial Killer.

1. The United States has more serial killers than any other country

76% of the world's total of serial killers are reported as coming from the United States. Even taking into account the fact that American law enforcement is more effective than many other world authorities - i.e. more killers in America are caught - this is still pretty interesting (and scary) food for thought...

2. There are four types of motivation for a serial killer

Seven's John Doe is a mission-oriented killer
Seven's John Doe is a mission-oriented killer

These often-overlapping categories are, according to Random History:

1) Visionary: someone who feels compelled by entities such as God or the Devil to murder

2) Mission-oriented: to rid the world of homosexuals or prostitutes or to cure a societal ill

3) Hedonistic: someone who derives pleasure from killing

4) Power - or control- hungry

3. The murderous psychopath can hide among us

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Most people with mental disorders cannot hide their condition. Schizophrenics, for example, will display uncontrollable signs of their mental disarray. Psychopaths are able to hide their desires to kill as they are skilled at manipulation: psychologists call this 'The Mask of Sanity.'

For a deeper look at the differences between a psychopath and a sociopath, see here.

4. A Serial Killer's cycle has six phases

According to The Psychology of a Killer, these are:

1) the Aura Phase, where the serial killer begins losing a grip on reality
2) the Trolling Phase, when the killer searches for a victim
3) the Wooing Phase, where the killer lures his victim in
4) the Capture Phase, where the victim is entrapped
5) the Murder or Totem phase, which is the emotion high for the killer
6) the Depression phase, which occurs after the killing.

5. Most serial killers suffered head trauma

Lobotomy in The Shadow
Lobotomy in The Shadow

Around 70% of all serial killers experienced one or more massive head injuries as children or young adults. Research suggests that this, combined with natural predisposition towards killing, is a strong indicator of murderous tendencies. Scientists believe this may be to do with damage to the prefrontal cortex.

6. The three most prolific serial killers on record were all from Colombia

Garavito, Lopez and Carmago
Garavito, Lopez and Carmago

They were Luis Garavito, Pedro López and Daniel Camargo, with a combined victim total of around 1,000 people by some estimates.

7. The term 'Serial Killer' was invented in 1971

FBI special agent Robert Ressler
FBI special agent Robert Ressler

The name is attributed to Former FBI Special Agent Robert K. Ressler (1937–2013).

8. Psychopaths make excellent businesspeople

Patrick Bateman - a business psychopath
Patrick Bateman - a business psychopath

Psychopathy is a set of ingrained personality traits and impulses which can lead to a dangerous killer - or simply to a ruthlessly determined businessperson.

They are driven, focused to the point of being blinkered, determined, selfish and unshakable in their convictions as they attach little to no value on the opinions and feelings of others. For an in-depth study of this subject, see Kevin Dutton's The Wisdom of Psychopaths.

9. They generally have a favorite method of killing

Strangulation on screen in 'Bloody Birthday'
Strangulation on screen in 'Bloody Birthday'

A serial killer's M.O. - which stands for Modus Operandi, the latin term for 'method of operation' - is usually a very personal thing. Strangulation and shooting are the most popular methods of murder, while poison is used very infrequently.

10. They kill because... they like it

Around half of all serial killers murder purely for enjoyment - sexual desire, thrill or sheer interest, the way a regular person would pursue a hobby.

Do you know a fascinating fact about serial killers?


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