In the fictional world of books and movies, some of us may be fascinated by serial killers. The mystery keeps us hooked. Ironically when we talk about this happening in reality, it scares us to death. Serial killers and their crimes sometimes seem far-fetched, but they are all too close to reality. The origin of serial killers can be traced back to ancient Rome. The Roman Emperor Caligula tested torture and perversion on his prisoners. However, serial killers did not become well-known until after World War II.

Serial killers are murderers who kill more than three people with no apparent motive. Many of these killers have survived sexual abuse, trauma, and dysfunction within their families in their childhood. Based on their motivation to kill, serial killers can be divided into four types: the ‘visionary’, the ‘mission-oriented’‘hedonistic’, and ‘power/control-oriented’.

Visionary serial killers believe that a person or entity is commanding them to kill. These kinds of killers are often suffering from psychosis.

Mission-oriented serial killers kill to “rid” society of a certain group or type of people.

Hedonistic serial killers commit their acts for their pleasure. Acts of rape, torture, or killing for money are categorised as hedonistic.

Power/control serial killers fantasize about having power and seek to dominate and control their victims.


Rejection, childhood humiliation, neglect, abuse, early adoption, and abandonment are the main psychological factors related to serial murder.

Several serial killers have been found to possess a fascination with setting objects on fire just to destroy them. Killing or intentionally harming animals is another commonly found trait amongst serial killers. They may provoke, torture, or even kill cats, dogs, and other animals.

Being master manipulators, they like to be in control of the life of another human. Unlike regular murderers, serial killers do not kill because of hate or anger, but because they want to keep their victims with them at all times. Some of them even exhibit cannibalism and keep mementos of their victims to remember their appearance and the kill. They do not feel remorse or repulsed after the killing, it becomes like an addiction to them. Serial killers are obsessive, egocentric, impulsive, and show a severe lack of empathy and responsibility.


The debate between nature versus nurture is a very difficult one to argue. One side argues that a child is born inherently good and the situations they are exposed to are the reason they become killers. Childhood experiences play a crucial role in a person’s personality and behavioural development. The other side argues that genetics is the reason a person becomes a serial killer. Differentiating nature vs. nurture can be very difficult, due to the simple fact that one’s environment (nurture) can impact one’s behaviour (nature). The Monoamine Oxidase A (MAO-A) gene is the greatest denominator in the mind of a criminal. When this gene is defective, it may cause outbursts of violence and aggression.

Genetics, environment, trauma, and personality are various factors that drive a serial killers’ behaviour. Generalizing the cause of criminal behaviour would be presumptuous and inaccurate, but the link between childhood abuse and serial killing has been apparent in many studies over the decades. Beyond certain common personality traits, serial killers are uniquely shaped by their own extraordinary experiences, circumstances, and mindsets. They thrive on media attention and their horrific nature, in turn, feeds the media frenzy. Killing is like a drug for them.

By Sakshi Srinivasan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s