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What is a Serial Killer?

When a life is taken, sometimes it’s not an isolated incident and the same murderer will take another life within a certain period of time. From psychological urges to fulfilling a fantasy, there are many different reasons why someone kills, and then kills again. In this article, you will learn about some of the characteristics and motives associated with a serial killer.

What is a Serial Killer?

A serial killer is generally described as one who takes the life of three or more people over a period of time that is more than between 14 to 30 days. The killer experiences a “cooling off” period between each murder. In the majority of cases, the main motivation for killing comes from a need to psychologically satisfy their needs. A minimum of at least two murders is needed to qualify a person as a serial killer and they typically exhibit other characteristics that are common amongst people who kill more than on one occasion.  

Serial murders may also stem from financial desires, thrill, anger, and a way to gain attention. When completed or attempted, the execution of the murder is usually done in a similar fashion and the victims typically have something in common. Example could include teenage girls, people who resembled a specific celebrity, or those who worked as a lawyer.

It is important to note that serial killers are not the same as mass murderers, who take multiple lives at one time. A serial killer is not the same as a spree killer, who commits murders in two or more locations without a pause in between the crimes.

Infamous Serial Killers

To get an idea of serial killers that have captured the headlines in the past century, consider the following infamous murderers:

Richard Trenton Chase

In the span of one month, Richard Trenton Chase took the lives of six people in California. Because he had a habit of drinking the blood of his victims and engaged in cannibalism, Chase was given the nickname “the Vampire of Sacramento.”

Albert Fish

Albert Fish is not ashamed of the crimes he has committed and often boasted that he molested more than 100 children. Nicknamed the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria (and sometimes the Brooklyn Vampire), he is suspected of killing at least five people. Fish did confess to three murders and the stabbing of at least two other people.  Fish was placed on trial for murdering Grace Budd. He was found guilty and executed by electric chair at Sing Sing.

Jeffrey Dahmer

There are at least 17 murders of men and boys attributed to Jeffrey Dahmer, who did his killing between 1989 and 1991. Dahmer chose forced sodomy, necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism as his methods of murder. The first time Dahmer killed another was when he was 18 years old when he took the life of a 19 year-old hitchhiker named Steven Hicks.