Serial Killer Question (mmmmmm.... serial...)

O.K. I was watching some show on the tube the other night that was a documentary about serial killers. One a’ dem fellers was givin’ his confession on video tape, and was talkin’ funny. Instead of describing the events as “I did this, and then she did that”, he was telling his story like “Now I am doing this, and now she is doing that”. In other words, he was telling his story in the present tense, as if he were actually re-living it in his mind as he was telling it, rather than simply remembering the events.

I had heard this before from other serial killers, but had always chalked it up to something along the lines of: bad education, being from a different part of the country, or just an unusual personal preference in story telling style. Since it had never seemed a big deal to me, I did not remember its occurrence from one time to the next. For some reason, this time, it registered that I had heard several serial killers confess in the same way.

(Finally) Here’s my question… What the heck’s up with that? :slight_smile:

Um, well, it didn’t happen to be Henry Lee Lucas, did it? I had the unusual experience of going to secondary school very close to where Lucas was raised, in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachians. When I was there at school, the family name was well represented, in name but thankfully not in spirit. Almost everyone spoke in the present tense when recounting anecdotes, including my grandmother, grandfather, and most of my friends.

In fact, I had a little trouble telling what was wrong with your quote. It is a little difficult to describe on a post; it is usually accompanied by a nod or a hand gesture or other body language.

[nodding toward the intended… listener] I tell him my hemi could bust a notch in his 440 any day o’ the year, 'cept maybe Opening Day. [/nod]

[lean back arrogantly] He says, “let’s go.” [/lean]

I’m very grisly and have been facinated with serial killers for awhile now…with that said…

Serial killers might naturally speak or think in this manner when referring to their crimes. After all for most of them reliving the event is often very important. Many of them take “trophies” or make photos and videos so they can re-experience the thrill of the crime. Then when that becomes unsatisifying they go out and kill again. So reliving the event over again is very much tied up in their psychology. They also will often have a tendency to speak in the third person as though it is someone else and they are an observer. Most all of them depersonalize their victims. Many will even refer to their prey as “it” instead of he or she.

Perhaps if you are talking about the same program I watched the other night. It profiled Henry Lee Lucas, Eileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy and Wayne Williams. I didn’t pay much attention to the “way” Henry Lee was speaking. (I was interested in Eileen. I had not seen anything televised on her before.) Many of his “confessions” have proven to be false. Authorities figure he probably killed a few people but they are certain he isn’t responsible for as many killings as to which he orginally confessed. Many of them confess and recant and confess and recant. They like the game they are playing with authorities and often love the attention. Henry is differnt than Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer and a few of the others in that he was very uneducated. Not a smoothie type. Actually he “looks” like most people would expect a serial killer to look; scary with his glass eye and scruffy appearance. He is also quite obviously the product of a neglectful and abusive childhood.

What it looks like to me is…the more of these psychopaths they catch the more it is harder for them to pin down the psychology of what makes these people tick. There is no real “profile” of a serial killer anymore. Some are educated, some not, some are organized, some disorganized. Some come from terrible childhood backgrounds, others do not. What does seem to be the case is that the world is turning out more and more of these types of people. Individuals that prey on others to satisfy some twisted need and who are not capable of seeing their victims as anything but a means to that end.


What does “organized” mean in the context of serial killers? I gather its not just if they pick up their dirt clothes and balance their checkbooks and stuff.

No, not really.

I think that what Needs2Know is referring to is the habit of some serial killers to keep souvenirs, trophies or records in a meticulous order so that they can reference and enjoy their memories of killing experiences vividly. There is a certain level of organization needed to keep up with the cat-and-mouse games that serial killers, all the way back to Jack the Ripper, like to play with law enforcement and their victims.

Most serial killers also lead double lives requiring detailed organization. Ted Bundy was a very organized person in both his criminal and straight lives, managing to keep them separate for a long time, even with a live-in girlfriend. He acted as his own attorney at his trial and he managed to fuse the 2 lives at that point. It was his undoing, because the jury observed that he was relishing the cross-examinations with investigators that described the crime scenes. It seemed to the jury that he was taking their testimony as complimentary, especially when they described the carnage they found and their bewilderment when trying to solve the crimes.

I consider Jeffrey Dahmer’s system of chemically stripping his victims’ flesh so that he could keep their bones and other trophies a measure of organization. He knew the limits of his small apartment and managed things so as to be able to keep quite a bit of trophy matter in it.

Dude, sick.

Here’s an interesting link about serial killers… is a good site.

I have seen the terms organization and disorganization used quite a bit. It generally refers to their planning and methods. Yes, Bundy would be considered a very organized killer. While Dalhmer I’m not sure about. I might think that he would be classified as the opposite. He doesn’t seem to have gone in for elaborate schemes and plans in order to trap his victims. He simply selected from the poor and disenfranchised. Otherwise I believe he might not have gotten away with his crimes for so long. Gacy would be an organized killer. He went to great lengths to appear normal, a pillar of the community. He used quite a bit of planning in his crimes. His last victim was a boy who answered one of his employment ads.


Henry Lee Lucas is an odd case. He may not have been a serial killer at all, just a serial liar. He pretty definitely DID kill a few victims he knew, and deserves to be in the slammer for those. Whether he actually killed any strangers, and how many, is still a subject for debate. Ironically, the one he’s doing time for is one of the suspicious cases (“Orange Socks”).

It’s psychologically interesting - he and law enforcement wound up colluding on having him confess to killing after killing. The cops from several states were getting cases cleared wholesale by his confessions, and desparately wanted to believe every word. Lucas was clearly aware that he would continue to get attention and better treatment as long as he kept confessing. He displayed a flair for picking up cues from his interrogators and telling them what they wanted to hear. At some point, somebody realized it was getting numerically ridiculous, and chronologically impossible …