"We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow."
-Ted Bundy

A Serial Killer is a person who murders multiple people, usually with a "cooling off" period in between. The FBI estimates that at any given time, there are from 35 to 50 active serial killers in the U.S.


The term "serial killer" was coined by FBI Special Agent Robert Ressler who, along with colleague John Douglas, was one of the founders of the Behavioral Analysis Unit.[1] In the past, serial killers were known as Varedwulfs (literally, werewolves), as their crimes were brutal enough in the eyes of locals to perpetuate the belief that they were committed by supernatural creatures[2]


In order to qualify as a serial killer, an Unsub must exhibit the following criteria:

  1. Quantity: There must be at least three victims
  2. Place: The killings must occur at different locations
  3. Time: There must be a cooling off period

There are, of course, exceptions to these criteria: disorganized killers such as Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer often commit their ghastly deeds at home. Sometimes, the term "serial killer" is somewhat loosely applied to killers responsible for less than three murders. Examples are Ed Gein, who killed two, and Gary Heidnik, who also killed two but held four more captive.



Organized serial killers, as profiled by John Douglas, former FBI Profiler, normally share the following common characteristics[3]:

  • White male, aged 25 to 45
  • Above average intelligence (100+)
  • Strong personal and social skills
  • Able to maintain normal family life
  • Usually employed in a menial position, often below their abilities
  • May make an effort to cover up their crimes, often dumping the body in a hidden location and cleaning up the crime scene; some have a working knowledge of forensics


  • Ted Bundy - Certified psychologist
  • John Wayne Gacy - Political activist, artist, chef, Freelance entertainer (clown). Gacy also had special clearance by the US Secret Service
  • Harry Powers - Salesman


Disorganized serial killers may share these characteristics:

  • White male, any age range; but females are common as well
  • Below average intelligence (Edmund Kemper, however, had an IQ of 145)
  • The habit of leaving the body at the scene, not bothering to cover up the crime
  • May be difficult to catch due to constant relocation
  • May have a domineering family member (most notably a parent)
  • Uses "blitz" attacks to subdue, as opposed to seduction or sympathy
  • Has very few close relationships and is often referred to as the "quiet type"



Mixed offenders display traits of both an organized and a disorganized killer. For example, they might have a plan and bring murder weapons, gloves and other things used for the killing, but the crime scene becomes a mess when the plan fails.


Angel of Death/MercyEdit

Angel of Death serial killers may share the following characteristics:

  • Usually in the medical profession
  • Most often female; but males are fairly common
  • Motive is highly variable (revenge, financial gain, mercy, etc.)
  • Most often use passive means (poison, etc.)


Bluebeard/Black WidowEdit

A Bluebeard or Black Widow is a man or woman (respectively) that murders their spouses, one after another, by various means.


Secondary PathologyEdit

One thing that most types have in common is the taking of trophies from the victim. This could be an earring, an article of clothing, and sometimes even a body part.

Female Serial Killers Edit

Though most serial killers are male, history has seen its share of females. There are two types for female serial killers:

  1. The "Sante Kimes Model" are cold and calculating. They prey on men for money. She takes her time building relationships.
  1. The "Aileen Wuornos Archetype" are motivated by paranoia and fear. They lure their victims with sex.

Historical SignificanceEdit

Serial slaughter has existed since the beginning of human history. Bloodthirsty psychopaths have occupied almost every significant era in our past; Roman Gladiators, medieval executioners, Hessian mercenaries, and even the so called Buffalo Soldiers of early American history. Even today, uniformed sadists are employed in the armies of every country in the world, enlisting alongside their patriotic brothers simply to have the chance to legally perform their psychotic fantasies.

On Beyond BordersEdit

Some notable serial killers in Beyond Borders (will be expanded gradually)

See AlsoEdit


  • The earliest known serial killer in recorded history is Liu Pengli, a Chinese prince during the Han Dynasty during the 2nd century B.C. He would go out on expeditions with dozens of slaves and runaways, during which he murdered random people and seized their belongings as sport. The son of one of his victims accused him of being the serial killer to Emperor Jing of Han, Pengli's uncle. Pengli was scheduled to be executed, but the Emperor, unable to bear having his nephew killed, instead made him a commoner and banished him to a faraway county, where he died of unknown causes. The ancient text Records of the Grand Historian later confirmed this story.

Further ReadingEdit


  1. The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schecter. Random House ISBN 978-0-345-46566-5 (0-345-46566-0)
  2. The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schechter p. 129-130
  3. [1]