Criminal Justice Resources :
Serial or Mass Murder
Serial killers are individuals who have a history of multiple slayings of individuals usually unknown to them beforehand. A phenomenon which seemed to gain some prominence in the second half of the twentieth century, record of the practice can be found at least as far back as London's Jack the Ripper (1888) or Hanover's Fritz Haarmann (1924).
Although the terms "serial killer" and "mass murderer" are often used synonymously, criminologists distinguish the two. The following distinctions are commonly made:
A serial killer is one who commits a number of murders over a long period of time, with the killings separated by often long periods of apparent normalcy. A mass murderer, on the other hand, is an individual who kills several people in a single event. A spree killer kills in a series of closely connected events.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a serial killing as: "[involving] the killing of several victims in three or more separate events." This definition is especially close to that of a spree killer, and perhaps the primary difference between the two is that a serial killer tends to "lure" victims to their death, whereas a spree killer tends to go "hunting."
Serial killers are often acting on extreme sadistic urges and are often classified as sociopathic, lacking any ability to empathize with the suffering of others. In many cases, a serial killer will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. In the United States this defense is almost universally unsuccessful.
The public's fascination with serial killers led to some successful crime novels and films about fictional serial killers, including Helen Zahavi's novel Dirty Weekend, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, and the Academy Award-winning movie Silence of the Lambs. For more information, see the Serial Killer entry from the Wikipedia.
Mass murder (massacre) is the act of murdering a large number of people, typically at the same time, or over a relatively short period of time. Mass murder may be committed by individuals or organizations.
The term may not always be applied in relation to the acts of serial killers, who may kill many people, but not necessarily all at the same time.
Unlike the term "murder", the term "mass murder" does not have a formal legal definition but it does invoke negative moral connotations. Whether a specific event can be described as an instance of "mass murder" is sometimes a matter of controversy, as the characterization can be a subjective exercise and predicated on the historical and moral context. For example, some pacifist philosophies consider any killing during war as mass murder, on the basis that all human life is sacred.
The largest mass killings in history have been attempts to exterminate entire groups or communities of people, often on the basis of ethnicity or religion. In modern times such events are sometimes described as genocide. Although some consider that "genocide" may exist where there is merely an intention or plan to exterminate a particular group, and that killing is not a necessary condition, by contrast "mass murder" involves the actual killing of a large number of people.
Outside of a political context, the term "mass murder" refers to the killing of several people at the same time. Examples would include shooting several people in the course of a robbery, or setting a crowded nightclub on fire. This is an ambiguous term, similar to serial killing and spree killing.
The USA Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a mass murder as "[involving] the murder of four or more victims at one location, within one event."
Most mass murderers fall into one of three categories: family annihilators, individuals with mental defects, and disgruntled workers.
For more information about mass murder, see the Mass murder entry from the Wikipedia.
Serial Killers: Do We Know Enough to Catch Them?
As the trials get under way for the two men accused in the 10 Washington-area sniper deaths last October, questions are being raised about our understanding of serial killers, and how many there are. Most research has focused on those who kill for sexual gratification. Far less is known about “spree killers,” as some have described the Washington snipers. Since the 1970s, the FBI has touted its criminal-profiling method for finding serial killers. But critics say profiles have little science behind them and can lead investigators astray. Modern DNA technology holds out promise for linking serial killers to crime scenes — and even stopping killers before they strike again. But civil rights lawyers are challenging the widespread sharing of suspects' DNA by law enforcement agencies as unconstitutional. Article by Sarah Glazer, CQ Researcher, Vol. 13, no. 38, Oct. 31, 2003. Note: Access restricted to MSU faculty and students and other subscribers of CQ Researcher.
About.Com Serial Killers and Mass Murderers Page
A compilation of web sites by the former Mining Company.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Anyone You Want Me to Be : A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet (Book)
John Douglas and Stephen Singular. New York : Scribner, c2003. 308pp. Available in the MSU Main Library stacks under the call number HV6529 .D68 2003
The story of the internet's first serial killer illustrates what can go wrong in the virtual world where relationships are established without the benefit of physical contact. The John Robinson story is the perfect window into cybercrime and how mainstream Americans can be drawn into a dark world that can lead to temptation and end in death. Douglas and Singular will weave these regional murders into the much larger pattern of internet sex that is occurring everywhere. A cautionary tale about trusting strangers and being wary of false intimacy, Anyone You Want Me to Be is a contemporary, high-tech story of crime and punishment.
A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (Book)
Harold Schechter and David Everitt. New York : Pocket Books, c1997. 357pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6515 .S343 1997
The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers is a lighthearted but reasonably tasteful collection of information about serial killers, by a respected historian of crime (Harold Schechter) and the author of Human Monsters (David Everitt). It includes individual entries devoted to the most famous killers from all over the world, and amusing sections devoted to such topics as black widows, bluebeards, killer couples, Lustmord, Nazi buffs, power tools, pyromania, and trophies. There are also useful tips for further ventures into art, movies, books, zines, music, and tourist attractions devoted to serial killers. The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers is cross-indexed, with numerous black-and-white illustrations.
Books About Serial Murderers in the MSU Main Library
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Charles Manson and the Manson Family
Contains biographical information on the cult leader, an overview of the 1969 California "Helter Skelter" murders and profiles of the victims, information on the subsequent investigation and trial, updates on members of "the family" (including Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, "convicted of attempting to assassinate President Gerald L. Ford in 1975"), and bibliography. From The Crime Library.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Crime Library: Serial Killers
Find out more about serial killers such as Albert Fish (the model for Hannibal Lector), Albert DeSalva (the Boston Strangler), Jeffrey Dahmer (the cannibal killer), John Wayne Gacy (the killer clown), David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam), Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (the Ken and Barbie of murder and mayhem), plus many more.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Depraved : The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer (Book)
Depraved : The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago
Harold Schecter. Pocket Star Books, 2004. 418pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6248.M8 S34 2004
Herman Mudgett, who called himself Dr. H. H. Holmes, seemed the epitome of the late 19th century "Golden Age": he was a well-dressed, charismatic, self-made entrepreneur (think Andrew Carnegie). Unfortunately for his many victims, he was also a liar, bigamist, debtor, con man, and murderer. The setting for several of his murders was the bizarre urban "castle" he built in Chicago--a ramshackle construction with mazelike corridors, soundproof rooms, sealed vaults, oversized furnaces, and chutes leading down to the cellar. Holmes's undoing was an insurance scam in which he planned to use a corpse supplied by a doctor to fake his partner's death, but ended up killing the partner, his wife, and his five children. The Boston Book Review wrote, "[Harold] Schechter's account of this charming, repulsive monster is both an astonishing piece of popular history as well as a near clinical analysis of as sinister a killer as this country has ever produced."
Deranged : The Shocking True Story of America's Most Fiendish Killer (Book)
Harold Schecter. Pocket Books, 1998. 242pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6529 .S33 1998
Harold Schechter is a professor of American culture at Queens College (CUNY) who takes an academic interest in the history of violent folklore: "Our pop entertainments aren't necessarily more brutal than those of the past," he writes. "They are simply ... more state of the art." In this book Schechter turns his keen historian's gaze on real-life serial killer Albert Fish, who killed--and ate--as many as 15 children in New York City in the 20s. Fish resembled a meek, kindly, white-haired grandfather, but was actually an intense sadomasochist whose sexual fetishes included almost everything known to psychiatry. For example, he stuck 29 needles into his pelvic region.
Deviant : the Shocking True Story of the Original "Psycho"
New York, NY : Pocket Books, c1989. 274pp. Available in the MSU Library Special Collections under the call number HV6534.W38 S34 1989. Also on order for the Main Library Stacks
Harold Schechter is a historian: he takes old files and yellowed newspaper clippings, and brings their stories to life. Deviant is about everyone's favorite ghoul, Ed Gein--whose crimes inspired the writers of Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs. Schechter deftly evokes the small-town 1950s Wisconsin setting--not pretty farms and cheese factories, but infertile soil and a bleak, hardscrabble existence. The details of Gein's "death house" are perhaps well known by now, but the murderer's quietly crazy, almost gentle personality comes forth in this book as never before. As Gary Kadet wrote, in The Boston Book Review, "Schechter is a dogged researcher [who backs up] every bizarre detail and curious twist in this and his other books ... More importantly, he nimbly avoids miring his writing and our reading with minutiae or researched overstatement, which means that although he can occasionally be dry, he is never boring."
Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (Book)
391pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Reference (1 East) area under the call number HV6245 .N49 2000
From Jack the Ripper to the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP), this reference book by Michael Newston gives readers an exhaustive overview of what is undoubtedly the most macabre and fascinating branch of crime and modern criminology. The book details individual cases of serial murder, law enforcement agents and their techniques, the factors that contribute to the development of a serial killer, and how society chooses to deal with and punish these vicious criminals. In-depth coverage is provided on the realities of serial murder versus popular myths depicted in film and television, key figures on both sides of the law, pivotal cases and events, and criminal activities that have shaped law enforcement responses. Among the most infamous criminals profiled are: Jack the Ripper, Albert DeSalvo (a.k.a. "The Boston Strangler"), Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz (a.k.a. "The Son of Sam"), and many more.
Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer
Harold Schechter. Pocket Books, 2000. 308pp. Available in the MSU Main Library stacks under the call number HV6248.P6 S34 2000
A chilling portrait of America's youngest serial killer describes the shocking crime spree of young Jesse Pomeroy, arrested in 1874 for a vicious series of child abductions, tortures, and murders that terrorized nineteenth-century Boston.
Flash Point: The American Mass Murderer (Book)
Praeger Publishers. Westport, Conn. 1997. 224 pages. Available in the MSU Main Library stacks under the call number HV6529 .K45 1997
The crime of mass murder is surrounded by myth, false assumptions, and misinformation. It is frequently sensationalized in the press, while the complex motivations of the perpetrator are ignored or soon forgotten. The mass murderer is rarely a crazed killer who lashes out against his victims in a mindless frenzy of violence. This book by Michael D. Kelleher examines not only the crime of mass murder, but also the complex motivations of the mass murderer, presenting a completely new method of categorizing and analyzing the crime and its perpetrator. The evolving nature of the crime is examined in the context of actual case histories of mass murder in America. Kelleher's insights will be of interest to criminologists and anyone interested in the sociology of crime.
How Serial Killers Work
What makes a person not only murder, but murder multiple people over days, weeks and even years? There's a special name for these types of murderers: serial killers. An article by Shannon Freeman in How Stuff works.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Internet Crime Archives
Subtitled Digital Home of the Mass Murdering Serial Killer. For those with a macabre sense of humor, this site features lists and photographs of serial killers, mass murderers (yes, Virginia, there is a difference) and killer cults. This hall of shame features big-named killers and their death tallies, with brief reports whose flippancy may offend sensitive visitors. Besides Manson, Bundy, and Dahmer, these lists are disturbingly long and include run-of-the-mill killers like Leo Held (killed 6 people who had irked him) alongside the likes of Pedro Lopez, the "Monster of the Andes," credited with at least 300 murders. A "Group Portrait of Evil" features photos of the killers featured.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Journey Into Darkness (Book)
John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. New York : Pocket Star Books, 1997. 382pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks and in Special Collections under the call number HV7914 .D66 1997b
Some authors are worth reading because of their area of expertise, even when their objectivity may be questionable. This is true of John Douglas, who follows up his Mindhunter with another assortment of his observations and opinions from his ex-job as the FBI's top expert on constructing behavioral profiles of criminals. This book contains several passages of interest: a detailed discussion of the modus operandi versus the "signature" of a murder, and how each relates to motive; thoughts on how the press and the public can be used to flush out a killer; a taxonomy of pedophiles, with a chapter on how to protect children from them; a detailed analysis of the savage sex-murder of a female Marine; a profile of the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman killer; and a report on how the courts are handling behavioral testimony.
List of Serial Killers from the Wikipedia
(Last checked 02/25/11)
The Literature of the American Serial Killer
Article by Patterson Smith from AB Bookman’s Weekly, May 9, 1988.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Mind Hunter : Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit (Book)
John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. New York : Pocket Star Books, 1996, c1996. 397pp. Available in the MSU Special Collections under the call number HV6529 .M58 1996
In this, his first book, profiler John Douglas gives us firsthand accounts of some of the most disturbing and fascinating cases of his legendary twenty-five years with the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit. Among these cases are the Atlanta child murderer, the Trailside Killer, and the Green River Killer. The stuff of nightmares, these accounts take us inside the minds of the most infamous, prolific, and sadistic serial killers of our times-including John Wayne Gacy, Robert Hansen, and Ed Kemper.
Of Men and Monsters : Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer (Book)
Richard Tithecott ; foreword by James R. Kincaid. Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, c1997. 192pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6515 .T57 1997
Also available as an eBook. Access restricted to Michigan residents
See a Book Review of Of Men and Monsters.
"This is a book, not about what makes the serial killer tick, but about those of us--all of us--who have wound the clock and need to keep it running." These words by historian James Kincaid, in the foreword to Of Men and Monsters, introduce the idea, explored in depth by author Richard Tithecott, that we construct the phenomenon of serial killing. We also construct ourselves, he says, as audience to that spectacle. The killer himself responds to that audience, in a classic loop of the observer affecting the observed. It is a postmodern view, of course, to say that society, and its designated representatives such as FBI serial-killer experts, actually collude in the actions of a "monster" like Jeffrey Dahmer. Tithecott draws on the ideas of French philosopher Michel Foucault to explain and illustrate this view, using prose that is heavy going in places, but still quite readable."
The Psychology of Serial Killer Investigations (Book)
Oxford: Academic Press, 2003. 232pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV8079.H6 K47 2003
Detective Robert Keppel, PhD, and "New York Times" author Dr. William J. Birnes take a professional audience of psychologists and criminologists behind the scenes of a hunt for a serial killer. The authors go deep inside some of the most famous serial murder investigations in the US and UK, as well as modern cases, to see how the behavioural sciences are applied in practical ways to identify serial killers, predict some of their likeliest course of action, prevent potential victims from falling into their traps and prepare investigators to interrogate them in the event they are ever caught. In the process, Keppel and Birnes examine two contrasting psychologies: the psychology of the homicidal solitary individual and the collective institutional psychology of the police taskforce tracing them. The authors illustrate how within the serial killer task force a corporate identity emerges which many times defeats the mission of the task force, allowing the serial killer to stay on the loose or even avoid detection entirely. In contrasting the individual and institutional personalities and evaluating them against the backdrop of one another, the authors explain the reasons serial killers kill and the reasons police often defeat themselves in pursuing the case.
Serial Killers : Do we know enough to catch them?
As the trials get under way for the two men accused in the 10 Washington-area sniper deaths last October, questions are being raised about our understanding of serial killers, and how many there are. Most research has focused on those who kill for sexual gratification. Far less is known about “spree killers,” as some have described the Washington snipers. Since the 1970s, the FBI has touted its criminal-profiling method for finding serial killers. But critics say profiles have little science behind them and can lead investigators astray. Modern DNA technology holds out promise for linking serial killers to crime scenes — and even stopping killers before they strike again. But civil rights lawyers are challenging the widespread sharing of suspects' DNA by law enforcement agencies as unconstitutional. Sarah Glazer, CQ Researcher, October 31, 2003. Access restricted to subscribers.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Serial Killers from Seize the Night Web Page
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators
The topic of serial murder occupies a unique niche within the criminal justice community. In addition to the signi?cant investigative challenges they bring to law enforcement, serial murder cases attract an over-abundance of attention from the media, mental health experts, academia, and the general public. While there has been significant, independent work conducted by a variety of experts to identify and analyze the many issues related to serial murder, there have been few efforts to reach a consensus between law enforcement and other experts, regarding these matters.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the many views of issues related to serial murder, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hosted a multi-disciplinary Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, on August 29, 2005 through September 2, 2005. The goal of the Symposium was to bring together a group of respected experts on serial murder from a variety of fields and specialties, to identify the commonalities of knowledge regarding serial murder.
A total of 135 subject matter experts attended the five-day event. These individuals included law enforcement officials who have successfully investigated and apprehended serial killers; mental health, academic, and other experts who have studied serial killers and shared their expertise through education and publication; of?cers of the court, who have judged, prosecuted, and defended serial killers; and members of the media, who inform and educate the public when serial killers strike. The attendees also reflected the international nature of the serial murder problem, as there were attendees from ten different countries on five continents.
The agenda encompassed a variety of topics related to serial murder including common myths, definitions, typologies, pathology and causality, forensics, the role of the media, prosecution issues, investigative task force organization, and major case management issues. Each day included panel discussions, case presentations, and discussion groups addressing a range of topics related to serial murder. Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Behavioral Analysis Unit, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper
Charles A. Moose and Charles Fleming. Dutton, 2003. Available in the MSU Main Library stacks under the call number HV8079.H6 M66 2003
During the first three weeks of October 2002, 14 random people were gunned down in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C., setting off the largest manhunt in American history. Through it all, Montgomery County Police Chief Moose was the face America watched. He was comfortingly there, on television, before people went to work in the morning and when they got home at night. But as soon as the snipers were no longer generating news, Chief Moose began making news himself. And when he decided to write a book about those three notorious weeks, a full-scale controversy erupted over the propriety of "exploiting" these events for financial gain. Eventually, he decided to resign from the police department. Written in short, awkward sentences, his book lacks polish, but its raw honesty and idiosyncratic charm more than compensate for the hurried prose. Despite the title, Moose adds very little to the story of the shootings he lets you know what he did and how he felt about it, but there are no sizzling revelations. Most of the book tells his own remarkable story in a gutsy, endearing, no-nonsense way, from growing up in an all-black neighborhood in North Carolina in the 19TKs to his unlikely entry into law enforcement and his even more unlikely rise to the top of the profession. Moose writes unapologetically about his mistakes and personal hardships, his views on leadership and his struggles with racial prejudice, and about his loving wife and how he keeps his uniform looking so sharp. Moose also takes up his own defense, cutting through all the hubbub to show that behind the provocative headlines was little more than a simple, heartfelt man just trying to do the best job he could. -- Publisher's Weekly.
True Court Stories : Angels of Death
An angel of death is a term used to reflect man’s nature towards death, as death is a hard subject for many of us to cope with. Commonly referred to as a grim reaper, an angel of death is believed to have control over who dies and when they die. While many refer to the angel of death as a type of spirit or entity, real life death angels walk the earth. These include regular men and women who, as trusted doctors and nurses, believe they have the power to control when another person lives or dies. Some kill for the feeling of power, some kill for attention and some for sexual gratification. The worst of these killers have been compiled here, read on if you dare.
(Last checked 02/25/11)
The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators Among Us (Book)
Gregg O. McCrary. New York : Morrow, 2003. 324pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6505 .M39 2003
From one of the country's most preeminent criminal profilers comes this gripping, behind-the-scenes account of America's most disturbing and complex serial killer and murder investigations. A former Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, Gregg McCrary takes us deep into the minds of the nation's shrewdest and most sinister predators. In The Unknown Darkness, he digs beneath the crime scene to examine in raw first-person detail the lethal competition between the country's deviously dangerous killers and the dedicated professionals who are determined to get them off the streets.
In the basement offices of the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia -- now familiar from the books and films The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal -- McCrary served in one of the most elite forces for criminal investigation in the world, profiling criminals for over twenty-five years in more than a thousand cases involving homicide, serial murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault. He takes us inside his process on some of his most fascinating cases, including:
The Unknown Darkness also explores the strengths and pitfalls of modern criminal investigation and offers vivid details about what happens at a crime scene, what is actually involved in bringing a killer to justice, and finally what kind of a person is able to devote his or her life to grappling with the predators among us. Daring to relive the often harrowing experiences of his time with the FBI, McCrary has put together an eye-opening account of ten of America's most frightening and riveting manhunts. He has also written an engrossing narrative on our justice system -- from the perspective of someone who has lived it day to day.
Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide (Book)
Philip Jenkins. New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1994. 262pp. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6529 .J46 1994
See a Book Review courtesy of the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 2(4) (1994) 87-92
A Pennsylvania State University historian argues that the FBI has exaggerated the threat of serial murder in an effort to gain funding and authority for its profiling unit.
Whoever Fights Monsters (Book)
Robert K. Ressler & Tom Shachtman. New York : St. Martin's Press, 1992. 262pp. Available in the MSU Library Stacks under the call number HV6529 .R473 1992
Face-to-face with some of America's most terrifying killers, FBI veteran and ex-Army CID colonel Robert Ressler learned form then how to identify the unknown monsters who walk among us--and put them behind bars. Now the man who coined the phrase "serial killer" and advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs shows how is able to track down some of today's most brutal murderers.
Just as it happened in The Silence of the Lambs, Ressler used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them--Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers of the police to capture.
And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler's gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills, is one of the FBI's most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large.
Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for toady's most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget.
The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder (Book)
James Alan Fox, Jack Levin. Allyn and Bacon, 2001. Available in the MSU Main Library Stacks under the call number HV6515 .F69 2001
2005 edition also available.
Why do people kill one another? Theories abound to explain the rampages in our schools and work-places or the cult killings, horrific hate crimes and serial murders that dominate today's headlines. A bad seed, diseased brain, poor parenting, bullying, drugs, the wrong crowd, violent media, poor opportunities, bad days, bad breaks, are all popular-but somehow unconvincing and simplistic-notions to explain the violence we've seen in Massachusetts and throughout the nation. In their new book, The Will to Kill (Allyn and Bacon, 2001), renowned criminologists James Alan Fox and Jack Levin of Northeastern University summarize the growing body of academic research that helps make sense of senseless murders.
Phone: 1-800-500-1554 and 1-517-355-2345. 100 Library, East Lansing, MI 48824 USA. Email us: email@example.com
© 2006 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.