Friday, December 25, 2009

Have A Killer Christmas...Happy Holidays!!

To my readers...Have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy this rather tongue-in-cheek Christmas video by The Killers...."Don't Shoot Me Santa".

Friday, December 18, 2009

Safety Special: Holiday Shopping

As the holiday season comes into full swing the stores can go from almost barren to overcrowded in a matter of hours.  With all these people about it's easy to lose track of things: that gift for Uncle Bob, where the car is parked, where little Timmy and Jane wandered off to.  It's this last one that, while equally typical as the others, can turn into a potential nightmare for a family.  See, it's not just other shoppers engaged in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season but also child predators and crowded, busy, malls and department stores make their "shopping" so much easier.

Child predators, like any predator, count on distractions, the presumption of safety, and a child's general tendency to wander and trust adults to separate them first from their parents and then from everyone else.  Once it's just the child and the predator it can be the start of a nightmare from which the child and his or her family may never awake.  But there are several safety precautions that a parent who's shopping with their children can and should take (especially during the holiday season):

Watch Your Kids

Pretty obvious, I'm sure, but if you go to a mall you'd be amazed how many parents turn their backs on their kids or go to get something leaving the child two aisles behind.  But this statement goes beyond the obvious...it includes bathrooms and changing rooms.  Approximately a month ago in a JC Penny in Massachusetts town a boy was raped inside a changing room when his mother left him to make a phone call.  Now this is an extreme case but it makes brutally clear what can happen when a child is left unattended and there's a predator about.  So, what to do?

First, never assume...never assume a child's going to stay somewhere while you go pay or look for something and never assume the child's automatically going to follow you as you continue shopping.  To keep from having to constantly look around to ensure the little tike's there try holding their hand or keeping them in a stroller/cart/leash-thing/what have you.  Also, always accompany your child to the restroom; many malls now have restrooms and changing areas made especially for families so parents don't have to drag their kids into restrooms of the opposite genders and such.  Depending on their age it's possible to let the child go to the bathroom or change without either being directly in the stall with them...that doesn't mean you shouldn't stay close by though.  While that their most vulnerable being within earshot and ignoring potential distractions (phone, other conversations, etc) is important for your child's safety and security.

Now older kids, and those mature enough to be trusted, may be allowed more freedom in going to other stores in the mall without supervision in which case make sure they check with you before they go and that they do not go to locations other than where they stated...this is where technology is beneficial, have them text you when they get to the store they're going to and again when they leave it, sharing their next plans with you.  (Obviously if you try this and the child doesn't follow the rules then it should be back to sticking with the 'rents until they can be trusted.)  However that doesn't mean you should give them completely free reign...have them go with some friends or siblings of about the same age and check in with you in person every so often.  Plans for meeting each other should always be clearly conveyed and adhered to by everyone.

Separation Anti-Anxiety

Despite best efforts, it happens...kids can become separated from parents in the hustle and bustle of shopping.  Because of this it's of the utmost importance that a child know what to do if it happens before it happens.  First thing to tell them is that, if they discover they are lost, they shouldn't wander off in search of you...inevitably this only makes finding one another harder.  They should also be taught to never leave the mall in search of you or the family car.  Now should they get lost out in the open (i.e. not at a specific store) they should go to the mall's help/customer service desk or, because 'tis the season, perhaps the line for Santa which the child is likely to find easily and to have plenty of other mothers with their children to watch over him or her until you're reunited; that choice is up to you and your child, just make sure it's clear before you enter the mall.  You should teach children to look for specific people who can help return him to her to you such as law-enforcement officers, security officers, store personnel, or another mother with children.  ...Also helpful is for your child to take note of what you're wearing, your name (not just Mommy or Daddy), and being able to describe you should they find an acceptable person to assist them in finding you once more.

A special note for those who ride trains (such those of the Massachusetts MBTA):  As my own mother would make clear to me...if your child gets stuck on the train as you get off they should get off at the next stop and wait until you arrive.  If your child gets off at the wrong stop they should stay right there until you're able to relocate them.  The last thing either parent or child wants is for the child to ride a confusing train system within a busy, crowded, city, on their own.  ...These days there are also occasionally MBTA security who your child might be able to locate and request to stay with them until reunited with you but those people are few and far between.

Practice Makes Perfect

Visit the mall with your kids for the sole purpose of getting them used to the layout of the mall you'll be shopping at and having them practice what they should do while in the mall.  This is when you can ensure they can use a public telephone, locate then help/customer service desk along with other help within the mall and the stores and, for older children, go to the restroom with a friend and/or obey your "text when you're there, text when you go" rule suggested earlier.  ...Do this on a day when you aren't aiming to shop and can keep a continuous eye on your kids in case they aren't sure of everything yet.  With enough practice the things you've taught them should come as second nature so, if and when the time comes, they won't have to panic or worry...they'll already be confident in what to do.

Anonymity Is Key

Yes, they can be cute and help you tell the kids apart at a distance but never dress your children in clothing with their names on them.  That type of clothing allows a predatory person an easy way to convince you child they are not “strangers” and therefore should be trusted which could lead to disaster. No stranger should have an invitation to talk to your child and a name on a jacket or little purse gives them just that.  And, on a further note, those little car decals with the stick figure families all named in row...equally bad if not worse.  Now a potential predator has the name of your children and you and all they really have to do is say "Hey, are you Timmy?  Are your parents Sally and John?  Yes, well, they've been hurt and told me to come get you." and it's more than likely your child will follow the predator off god knows where.

Kid Friendly ≠ Kid Safe

Malls may have any number of kid-friendly places available...video arcades, movie theaters, toy stores, and even playgrounds.  At first glance they seem a wonderful place to stick some whining kids while you run off to buy some presents for the season nearby.  But, at a closer look, these places are clear magnets for child predators and aren't anywhere a parent or guardian should leave a child alone.  These places have little to no supervision and the staff in these areas are generally not much older than your children.  Frankly, most are teens more interested in just socializing with friends that stop by and picking up their checks to pay their new phone or car.  They don’t really care about your kids, aren't watching for any suspicious behavior, and if even a minor problem comes up (a fight over a game, for example) they can quickly and easily become overwhelmed.  ...Any child in these kid-friendly areas are rather easy targets for a predator and, in the end, there is no substitute for parental supervision.

Have a Safe Season's Greetings!

In the end, if you can’t adequately supervise your children without being distracted, stay at home or leave them with someone else while you do your shopping.

An excellent source for all manner of information regarding child safety, preventing abduction, and identifying potentially dangerous circumstances is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com). Give them a visit and your children will be safer for it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Killer Kiddies

When most hear of children as killers they might first think of school shooters...all frequently of high school age and qualifying for the mass murder category (those who kill multiple people in one area at one time).  While sad and disturbing to hear about it's not terribly shocking anymore; many schools now have metal detectors, bag checks, and other safety precautions set up just to prevent a possible school shooting from occurring.  However something that really can't be prepared for by a school, or anyone, something still rare enough to shock others, is the child serial killer.  Those pretty little girls and bright young boys who target, hunt, and kill other children around them just as Dahmer, Bundy, and the other adult serial killers did.

Bad Boys

Jesse Pomeroy was known as "The Boston Boy Fiend" in the papers and with good reason.  At just twelve young Pomeroy seemed a full grown sociopath; a boy who delighted in the torturing of other, smaller, children.  For nine months, starting in December 871, he began to lure smaller boys away with him to bound, beat, and torture.  When finally caught he was sentenced to reform school until he turned eighteen...after serving just under 17 months he was paroled and then promptly killed ten-year-old Katie Curran and four-year-old Horace Millen.  He was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder but, being young as he was, there was controversy regarding the morality of executing such a young boy and so the sentence was commuted to life.

The youngest serial killer in the United States was Craig Price, aka "The Slasher of Warwick" of Warwick, Rhode Island, who at the tender age of thirteen began killing in the 1980s.  His first victim, Rebecca Spencer, was a woman who'd he started out peeping on before graduating to breaking into her home and stabbing her to death with a kitchen knife.  Two years later he killed Joan Heaton and the woman's two daughters (Melissa, eight, and Jennifer, ten), also using a knife.  Price freely confessed to the murders, sentenced to prison, and is up for parole in 2019.

As of 2007 it seems the youngest serial killer on record might be eight-year-old Amardeep Sada of India.  According to news articles the boy was caught when his latest victim, a six-month-old girl named  Kushboo, was reported missing after she left the infant sleeping  in the village's primary school.  Some villagers and family of little Sada already knew to look in the young man's direction since this wasn't the first time he'd been suspected of having killed an infant.  The boy had apparently killed his eight-month-old sister three months before and had started with killing his six-month-old cousin the year prior.  The boy's uncle (and father of the first victim) told local media explained that some villagers and family member were aware of the first to killings committed by the boy but they were not reported since it was considered a "family matter".  With this final murder though the police were called in and the eight-year-old Sada confessed saying that he'd taken the babies out to fields near the village, beat them with rocks, and then buried them in shallow graves.  While he's already been arrested and confessed to the murders the authorities wished to do some investigating into his mental state and there have been no new developments reported since.

Aggressive Girls

Little Mary Bell had big blue eyes and a heart-shaped face at the age of eleven.  She was downright adorable.  She was also the killer of two preschoolers and without remorse for what she'd done...in fact she seemed to find it enjoyable, amusing even.  Unlike the boy killers mentioned she did have an accomplice in her best friend Norma, who joined her in the assaults on four other children in the span of one day before they moved onto murder.  On May 25, 1968 the body of three-year-old Martin Brown was found in an abandoned, run-down, house with blood and saliva caked around his mouth.  It was little Mary who excitedly gave the boy's aunt, Rita Finley, the terrible news...she and Norma also continued to return to the woman's house with happy grins asking if she missed her nephew and cried for him until the distraught woman threw them out and told them not to return.  Two months later, on July 31, another three-year-old boy named Brian Howe disappeared and, when his older sister, Pat, went to look for him is was Mary and Norma who offered the help.  The little boy was found later between two concrete blocks on a stretch of industrial waste ground where the local kids were known to play.  He'd been strangled, sexually mutilated with a broken pair of scissors, and had the letter "M" carved into his belly with a razor.  It didn't take long for suspicions to fall on the two girls and soon they were brought in for questioning.  With each girl blaming the other both were brought to trial...Norma was acquitted, Mary was sentenced to "detention for life"...she was released from jail in 1980 and has since tried to live a quiet, anonymous, life with the daughter she had in 1984.

Some Things Never Change

While these cases certainly differ from the "normal" serial killer cases in the age of the one committing the murders many other factors remain the same.  All these youthful killers selected victims that were smaller and weaker than them - even Craig Price who at thirteen had the body of a large, fully grown, man and so the physical ability to kill the adult women he did - and that's a cornerstone of serial killers, to pick the easiest targets available that suit their deviant needs and desires.

Like many adult killers both Jesse Pomeroy and Mary Bell were the subject of horrific abuse; Jesse reenacted his father's torturous beatings on his victims and Mary seemed to be taking her anger at being abused physically and sexually by the men her mother sold her out to on her victims (as with her sexually mutilation of little Brian Howe).  Both Jesse and Mary also started out on animals, a frequent occurrence with all serial killers no matter the age they begin to kill other humans.  In Jesse's case it became so that the family was unable to keep any kind of pet at all.

Mary is also recorded as having filled out the other aspects frequently found in adult serial killers.  She had all characteristics of the Homicidal Triad; cruelty to animals, prolonged bedwetting into her adult life, and vandalism (though not the more commonly seen pyromania it's the same idea, destruction of property).  She also did a few other things seen in adult serial killers such as inject herself into the investigations by offering to inform the victim's family in the Martin Brown case and help in the search for her second victim.  She also boasted about her kills to others in the form of peers and in leaving notes - such as one that said "we did murder Martain brown Fuckof you Bastard" - behind in a nursery she and Norma broke into and destroyed two days after the tot's body was found.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Truth Behind the Triad

Most people have heard of "The Homicidal Triad" in reference to serial killers...bedwetting, fire-setting, and cruelty to animals.  It's believed that a serial killer will have all of these in their childhood and that these things alone are signs of a sociopathic personality.  Neither of those things are completely true, there's a little more to it than those simple statements.

Not every serial killer will have the triad show up in their past and not everyone who has these three characteristics is destined to grow up to kill (though they certainly should be watched carefully and, preferably, gotten professional help).  Each of these warning signs are a touch more complex than would first seem and signify deeper issues for those that have them...and it's the deeper issues the triad represents that's consistently found in the budding sociopath.

Bedwetting

The clinical term for this is enuresis and, in small children, isn't anything to be concerned about.  In fact it's a common stage in a young child and one that they usually grow out of by age six at the latest.  But when a child doesn't grow out of it, when they continue to wet the bed into puberty, it becomes a problem and a sign of something far more troubling.  Presuming, of course, the continued nighttime accidents aren't due to a medical disorder of some kind it's possible that they are a signal of emotional disturbances.  Findings of the FBI's BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) state that 60% of sex-murders were still wetting their beds past age 12 and into their teens.   Alton Coleman, who killed eight people in a number of states in the Midwest, would wet his pants so often that it earned him the humiliating nickname "Pissy."

Fire-Setting

This characteristic is a little more clearly a sign of trouble...but some people still seem a little confused about what's normal childhood curiosity with fire and what's true pyromania.  Certain kids really are just curious by fire - the heat, the light, the fact it's somewhat forbidden (only adults should work with fire) - and are offhandedly, and wrongly, defined as pyromaniacs.  A child who sets a fire once in the backyard or enjoys playing with the flame of a candle is not the child to be overly worried about...the child who frequently sets fire to things, even after gaining the knowledge that it can be destructive and dangerous, is though.  In fact, frequently, it's the fact that they're aware of the destructive and dangerous nature of fire that drives the budding sociopath to set more fires.  "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz was so obsessed with fires that he got the nickname "Pyro" from classmates and, as an adult, he confessed to setting more than fourteen hundred fires in his life.  Killer of seven, Carlton Gary, firebombed a grocery store when in his teens.  Carl Panzram, who killed 22 people, boasted that, at twelve, he caused about $100,000 damage when he burnt down a reform school building.

At its most obvious fire-setting in the budding serial killer is an expression of anger and aggression (as opposed to a rather benign curiosity with other children).  A child would find it very difficult to organize a meeting with a realtor at an empty house as a prospective buyer as a ruse to rape and kill like Mike DeBardeleben did, but they sure could set the neighbor's shed on fire without too much trouble.  There is, however, another emotion that comes to the young sociopath who sets fires...sexual arousal.  Just like with killing it's generally the power they feel and the destruction they cause in setting the fire that really gives them the sexual charge.  In the words of serial killer Joseph Kallinger, "Oh, what ecstasy setting fires brings to my body!  What power I feel at the thought of fire...Oh, what a pleasure, what a heavenly pleasure!  I see the flames and no longer is a fire just a daydream.  It is the reality of heaven on earth!  I love the excitement of the power fire gives me...The mental image is greater than sex!"

Cruelty to Animals

The idea of being cruel and violent towards animals is the most obvious and well-known of the characteristics in the triad.  While rather self-explanatory there are still levels of cruelty...after all most people have a story from their youth about using a magnifying glass on some ants, kicking a dog, or pulling a cat's tail, either having done it themselves or knowing of another child that did it.  While these obviously aren't proper behaviors for any child and should be corrected when seen some of it could be defined as a single incident or a small phase; especially in children who haven't yet developed a full sense of empathy or impulse and anger control.  That being said these acts of cruelty towards weaker creatures pale greatly in comparison to the acts of torture the budding sociopath will preform.  Ed Kemper was ten when he buried his first cat alive then dug it back up, decapitated it, and stuck the head on a spindle; with the next unfortunate cat to be the family pet a now thirteen-year-old Kemper sliced the top of its skull with a machete and let the dying creature shower him in blood while he held onto its foreleg.

Unlike the average child, who will look back more than a little embarrassed about the time he blew up that anthill with a cherry bomb, the budding sociopath never regrets what he's done.  Cutting open goldfish to see how they work (something a young Jeffrey Dahmer did) isn't a stage...it's practice.  Their cruelty to animals grows more extreme until, eventually, they move on up to other humans as targets.  For instance Carroll "The Barfly Strangler" Cole started off getting his kicks from choking the family dog unconscious before he progressed to strangling women to death.  And, just as with their pyromania, the serial killer in the making will likely feel that same sexual rush in torturing animals as they do in setting fires and, as adults, killing other human beings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Killer IQ Final: What Did You Learn?

So we've reviewed the intelligences according to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences as they might relate to killers.  We've found that, on some, they likely rank high and on others likely low...just like everyone else.  The truth is, in the end, serial killers aren't anything special.  They aren't  mad geniuses or criminal masterminds; Hannibal Lector will only ever exist in the movies...and in a criminal's own mind. Lector, for all his psychotic, sociopathic, glamour is a myth and one that most killers - narcissists that they generally are - fancy themselves to be like.

Terribly Average

Most profiles of serial killers given by the FBI state that they are of average to above average intelligence.  And, yes, it frequently is the case.  There's a reason for this.  Generally speaking one needs a vague amount of intelligence to get away with more than one murder without getting caught.  Enough to think ahead some, to know how to avoid leaving a great deal of evidence behind that would lead directly to them, or at least not come stumbling out of an alley covered in the victim's blood and a knife in hand.  There's also evidence (from a Radford University project collecting data on serial killers) that, statistically, serial killers tend to fall into the "normal/average" range of IQ overall.  ...Both the reasoning that intelligence is needed to repeatedly commit and get away with homicide and the statistics say that at least average intelligence is generally needed to become a serial killer.  Of course that does lead to another question.  Why, if at least of functioning intelligence, do some of these killers do such stupid things?

Pitiful Pride

So often these killers have such a serious narcissistic personality disorder that they get in the way of their own success...in all aspects of their life, including their murders.  These (most frequently) men like to consider themselves criminal masterminds, able to outwit the rest of the world which simply isn't a thought based in reality to begin with.  Add to that the belief that most, if not all, others are less than human and these people take risks and flaunt the law in a way that make the average, normal, person shake their heads in utter disbelief.

Ted Bundy, once referred to as "The High IQ Killer", thought so highly of himself that he decided to be his own lawyer.  Aside from the old adage that the man who defends himself has a fool for a client Bundy didn't realize something very key about himself...he wasn't charming or clever enough to hide the fact that he was enthralled by his own case.  That, as he worked to defend himself, he couldn't hide the fact he was reliving the crimes from anyone, including the jury.  He thought he'd done a fine job...the jury thought he needed to be put down via electric chair.

Randy Kraft (who killed 16 people throughout much of the 1970s) had a recorded IQ of 129 and made a great deal of money as a computer consultant...he also was caught after driving drunk with a strangled body in the passenger seat. Even a relatively "stupid" person would know better than to do something like that but these individuals, these serial killers, have such an inflated ego that it blinds them from basic logic and self-preservation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Killer IQ Part 8: Is It In Their Nature?

The final intelligence listed in Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences is naturalistic.  This intelligence has to do with nature,  nurturing and relating information to one's natural surroundings.  People who rank high in this form of intelligence are supposed to having a greater sensitivity to nature, to better understand their place in it, and to be able to handle plants, crops, and animals.  Noticing changes in weather, the differences in species, and other such things about their natural surroundings are also abilities those might have with this intelligence.  In order to learn best they must connect a new experience with earlier information gained; collecting and analyzing, being outside, kinesthetic ways (doing physical activity), or in dealing with things prominent in nature, are all ways in which they learn best.  Careers which suit those with this intelligence include scientists, naturalists, conservationists, gardeners and farmers.

It's Not Natural

I hesitate to even write on this intelligence since it wasn't originally part of Gardner's original Theory of Multiple Intelligences (it was added in 1997) and has often been criticized as and interest and not really indicative of intelligence.  However, it is on the list and, for those who might live almost entirely off of nature it remains an indispensable intelligence.   ...Now the question is...are there any killers who live off the land, so to speak?

Not really, no.  Those people who live off the land in these modern times do so either almost completely on their own or in small (usually native) communities and neither those to ways of life make for the sort of victim pool or anonymity required to be a killer, let alone serial killer, with any actual success.  The closest one might get is bomber, Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber) when, in 1973, he moved to Lincoln, Montana, to live off the land.  ...He was successful at it for the most part, even as the modern world imposed by cutting down the forest around him, but that really didn't have much to do with his abilities as a bomb maker.  Even though he did use more natural pieces (plugs to the bombs made of handcrafted wood, etc) at the start of his bombings, the intelligence used in creating and constructing the bombs themselves required logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, and even bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, not natural.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Philia Friday: Fetishism

Fetishes themselves are not an precursor for violence, they are simply a condition in which a person is turned on by an object or specific body part - usually feet - and are so fixated on it that the sex partner becomes secondary to the object of the fetish.  But, when combined with a psychopathic personality, fetishes can get bizarrely extreme (eating fingernails off corpses rather than just enjoying them on a living woman) and the things done in order to satisfy the urges of a fetish can be unspeakably violent.

Terrifying Trophies

Fetishism in serial killers tends to account for their taking trophies.  A trophy could be almost anything that once belonged to the victim - jewelry, driver's licenses, underpants, - that the killer takes to relive the crime  as a fantasy, often while masturbating.  This fact, that they use the trophy to gain sexual gratification from, alone makes them fetish objects.  Of course some killers aren't satisfied with just taking an object that once belonged to their victims...they want a part of their victims body to relive the fantasy with.  This was the case of foot fetishist and serial killer Jerry Brudos, aka "Shoe Fetish Slayer".

It's hard to say how, exactly, his fetish began but it started as early as when Brudos was five.  After finding a pair of lady's shoes at the local dump and taking them home he was caught by his mother walking around in them; the woman promptly took the high-heels, burned them, and beat her son for having them.  Of course that didn't stop him and, as he grew, his desires - and the acts he took to fulfill them - grew in scope and darkness.  In first grade he got in trouble for stealing a spare pair of his teacher's shoes and, by his early teens, he was sneaking into women's homes to snatch their shoes and underwear (which, by this time, he had taken to wearing under his clothing).  At 17 he'd attacked a young girl at knifepoint and tried to force her to strip - for this he spent nine months in Oregon State Hospital.  At 23, while his young wife gave birth to his child, he broke into the home of a young lady, choked her unconscious, and then raped her before running off with her shoes.  And, by his 30s, Brudos violence escalated to murder.

He killed four women total, though it was what he did after their deaths that served to shock and disgust others.  Brudos would use them as sort of life-sized dolls, dressing the bodies in the underwear collection he had and then taking photographs of the results.  The photographs weren't the only trophies he took however.  From the first victim, Linda Slawson, he severed her left foot and placed it in a spike-heeled shoe before tucking it away in his freezer.  From his second, Jan Whitney, he took one of her breasts which he kept as a macabre paperweight and the third, Karen Sprinkler, he removed both.  Once caught and asked by the police why he didn't remove body parts from the final victim, Linda Salee, he explained he was turned off by her pink nipples, "They should be brown," he stated to the authorities.  After each of his kills it's reported he would dress in high-heels and masturbate.

Even once in prison his fetish continued...he wrote to major companies asking for their women's shoes catalogues and used them as his own personal version of pornography.  A fetish alone does not make a person dangerous or violent.  But a sick and twisted mind like that of Jerry Brudos coupled with a fetish can be a terrifying and deadly thing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Killer IQ Part 7: Feelin' Groovy

Musical-rhythmic intelligence has to do with rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who rank high in this form of intelligence have a greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. They normally have good pitch; they may even have perfect pitch (the ability to identify or recreate a musical note without the benefit of an external reference).  They are able to sing, play musical instruments, compose music, and (of course) tend to be those in the music field: instrumentalists, singers, conductors, disc-jockeys, orators, and composers.  In addition, they may learn best via lecture and often use songs or rhythms to learn and memorize information, and may work best with music playing in the background.

Such Beautiful Music

While there are a number of instances in which killers and the music world seem to collide it's a little hard to determine if killers tend to rank high in musical-rhythmic intelligence simply from the fact that they enjoy music.  It's possible, with his tendency to enjoy writing poetry (which many could consider a somewhat musical intervention), that BTK Killer Dennis Rader would rank high though.  Also potentially ranking high is Charles Manson.

Charles Manson took the lyrics to The Beatles' "Helter Skelter" to manipulate a group of outcasts, his "family", to kill seven people in what was referred to as the Tate/LaBianca murders.  But that was the least impressive thing he did involving music.  Before (and after) he was leading a murderous cult he was not only an avid music fan but fancied himself a musician...and so did some in the music business.  His first encounter within the music industry was with Beach Boy, Dennis Wilson.  While their exact way of meeting is debated some - whether Wilson told him to stop by the house sometime or Manson just showed up - it seemed that the two hung out at Wilson's house enough to become friendly and for Wilson to buy studio time for Manson to record songs (ones Manson wrote and performed himself).  The Beach Boy also introduced Manson to a few of his industry friends one of which,  songwriter Gregg Jakobson, also paid for Manson to have time to record songs.

...About 7 to 8 months after the Tate/LaBianca murders an album of the man's music was released.  As with all forms of art whether or not a piece is good is debatable (though reviews I found were generally favorable) and there were changes made by Dennis Wilson and others.  But what isn't debatable, what doesn't change, is the impact that even Charles Manson's music had on pop culture at large.  Famous musicians, including Guns 'N' Roses and Marilyn Manson, have re-recorded or sampled his music either in whole or part.  Now maybe these artists used Manson's creations in their own work for shock value or, possibly, they recognized someone who (despite a very sick and twisted mind) shared a high musical-rhythmic intelligence like them and used the man's pieces to their own benefit - putting their own spin on his creation - which is something that happens frequently in the arts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Killer IQ Part 6: An Eye For Killing

Visual-spatial intelligence has to do with, well, vision and judgment of where things fit in space (such as where pieces of puzzles fit together). People high on this intelligence are typically very good at visualizing and mentally manipulating objects and often very skilled at solving puzzles. They have a strong visual memory, generally have a very good sense of direction, and are often artistically inclined.  Artists, engineers, and architects are all careers that require visual-spatial intelligence.

Awfully Artistic

There's a number of serial killers who've shown off their creative sides in painting or drawing - John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, and Henry Lee Lucas to name a few. Perry Smith, killer of the Clutter family known from Truman Capote's famous nonfiction work In Cold Blood, was also known to be a prolific artist. And there are also many a killer that seem to consider what they do "art"...in fact frequently law enforcement will feign being impressed with what the killer has done ("it was a masterpiece!") to try and get a confession.

In one case though it's possible these two ideas collided, that a killer tried to copy art pieces in a crime scene...the infamous Black Dahlia case.  While the case has never been officially solved and, like Jack the Ripper and Zodiac, so much myth has seeped into reality, one man posed a rather interesting theory that, if true, certainly shows how "artistic" a killer can be.  Steve Hodel, a former LAPD detective (years served total: 1963-1986), believes it was his own father, Dr George Hodel who killed Elizabeth Short and that's not all.  According to Hodel the doctor posed the body at the murder scene after two of his Surrealist artist friend, Man Ray's, pieces...Minotaur and Lovers.  At first this seems a rather wild accusation but, if one were to compare the crime scene, what was done to the body of Ms. Short, it does begin to appear to be a real possibility.

Minotaur, shows a woman's bisected body, with arms posed above her head, the elbows bent at 90 degree angles, just as the killer has posed Short's at the crime-scene.  Lovers, too, involves a bisected woman as well as a pair of elongated lips with a series of (faint) cuts running down on the bottom lip.  According to the corner's report on Short: “There are five linear lacerations on the right upper lip which extend into the soft tissues for a distance of 1⁄2 [inches, I presume]”...It would seem that the killer switched it up some, cutting the upper lips rather than lower, but the fact there are still five cuts is a little suggestive...especially if it were Dr Hodel who enjoyed the image of the lips in Lovers so much he once painted his own version!

This is just a theory set forth by Steve Hodel but, if it were true, it'd certainly be one of the most gruesome examples of a killer's high visual-spatial intelligence - which Dr Hodel did seem to have even in just his hobbies of photography and painting -  being used in a crime.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Killer IQ Part 5: Serial Self-Awareness

Previously covered was interpersonal intelligence, the opposite of that is intrapersonal intelligence.  It's focus is more introverted, focusing on understanding oneself.  Those ranking high in this intelligence are introverts, very self-aware, and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations.  They prefer to work alone and tend to be perfectionists. Their interests also lean towards thought-based pursuits such as philosophy which is why they may seek out careers as philosophers, psychologists, and theologians.

Know Thyself

This intelligence may be one that serial killers do well in overall, though better in certain aspects.  Serial killers are most certainly introverted, frequently in their own head enjoying their own twisted fantasies, and generally prefer to work alone.  In their kills they're perfectionists...or at least try their best to be.  (For them, in the end, nothing can really live up to their fantasies.)  They also tend philosophize a great on different things - especially good and evil - an activity that seems to increase once caught and jailed.  Whether they all come up with any answers is a matter for debate, but then that fact holds true for the average person and their motives for their actions as well.

One that did seem to find some answers about himself, about his own ultimate motives, was "Co-ed Killer" Ed Kemper.  After killing eight people, including his grandparents, it seemed Kemper realized what he'd been wanting to do all along...kill his mother.  In prison interviews with FBI profiler John Douglas the killer also seemed aware of the reasons behind his other kills (the non-family-oriented ones) explaining that the co-eds were the women his mother told him he was never good enough for.  True that it is illogical to then go and want to possess every part of a person, even their life, but that was how Kemper felt and he was well aware of that fact.

Other killers might not be aware of specifics, of exactly what drives them to attack and murder others, but many seem to know there is something driving them.  Albert Fish, murderer and cannibal of at least three children, confessed, "I always had the desire to inflict pain on others and to have others inflict pain on me. I always seemed to enjoy everything that hurt. The desire to inflict pain, that is all that is uppermost." He had theories on why, including the abuse of young boys at the orphanage he grew up in, but it's hard to tell if it was his explanation or just his excuse.  But, still, he was self-aware to know it was the pain, and most especially inflicting it on others, that spurred him to his horrific crimes.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Philia Friday: Vampirism

In pop culture media some vampires are handsome young things who're deeply remorseful for what they are - Edward from Twilight, Louis from The Vampire Chronicles - while others are (at least slightly more physically) grotesque creatures who revel in the monsters they are - Count Orlok from Nosferatu, Severen from Near Dark.   Whether to tell a story of love and passion or one of horror the idea of the vampire is romanticized.  There seems to be two kinds of real life blood-drinkers; one kind is relatively harmless to the everyday person because they, too, romanticize vampirism and consider it simply a sexual preference or fetish.  The other kind, however, are those that are serial killers with a desire to drink their victims blood and very much a danger to those who come in contact with them.

Sanguineous Is Sexy

There are some for whom vampirism is a consensual, sexualized, act that simply feeds (so to speak) their own personal preferences.  Some decide to embrace the part complete with fangs - bought or created through filing down already existent teeth - and coming part of online or in-person vampire communities.  But even for those who don't chose to make vampirism a major part of their lifestyle if they practice the act of drinking blood and derive sexual pleasure from it they'd be considered real-life "vampires".

Blood Drive

In serial killers vampirism is something far more dangerous...it is a sadistic act upon a victim and/or the uncontrolable drive to drink the blood of whoever (or whatever) they can get their hands on.  One such killer with this drive was Italian lust-killer, Eusebius Pieydagnelle, would smell blood from butcher shops and it would arouse him so much that it compelled him to go out and kill six women in 1878.  Another, Italian madman, Vincenz Verzeni, tore apart two young woman in 1871, chewing on their flesh and drinking their blood in a frenzy of vampiric desire.

Peter Kurten, "The Vampire of Dusseldorf", started early in his depravity, including vampirism.  As a youth he would decapitate swans and drink the blood that would spurt out from their necks as he would sexual violate the rest of the body.  As he grew into murderous adulthood he frequently drank the blood of his victims - over two dozen men, women, and children.

Fritz Haarmann, "The Vampire of Hanover", started with escaping institutionalization in the late 1800s.  For a while after he remained a vagrant before he learned to butcher meat and was able to start his own business with the skill, thus getting the money to afford a place to live.  While it's likely he started killing then, the home allowing him the privacy he needed with his victims, his murders really picked up when he gained himself a lover in, Hans Grans also called Graf in some places, an attractive male prostitute.  (There is some debate as to how much of an accomplice Grans was but, at the very least, he seemed aware of what his lover was doing and enjoyed the clothing and money taken from the victims.)  Luring them to the couple's home Haarmann would first feed his victims then, still sleepy from the large meal, he would grab the young men and bite right through his young male victims throats while sodomizing them.   In fact, Haarmann was known to chew until the head was practically severed from the body in some cases and, as he tasted their blood, he achieved orgasm.  He would then take the possessions of victims to sell on the black market or retain them for himself or Grans, then cut the flesh from their bodies, eat some of it, and sell the rest on the open market as butchered meat.  The rest he dumped into the canal.  When cops checked his house (with where the bodies were found and his past history he was a rather clear suspect) and found clothing from "missing" young men and boys and blood all over the walls Haarmann was arrested...he confessed shortly after.

Men, however, are not the only vampiric killers.  Elizabeth Bathory is the most obvious example, a countess from modern day Slovakia (Hungry in her time) who killed anywhere from 50-600+ victims and reportedly bathed in their blood in an effort to stay young.  There was also Magdalena Solis, "High Priestess of Blood", in 1963 Yerba Buena, Mexico, who convinced the villagers that she was a goddess and created a vampiric sex cult based around her.  As a way to pay tribute to her blood rituals were orchestrated in which she drank the blood of those murdered at her behest...when the human sacrifices were discovered outside the village, police came in and rounded up the cult.

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Author's Note:  Yes, this is a day late but how perfect is it to have this posted on Halloween, right?  Happy Halloween all, and stay safe!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Killer IQ Part 4: Are There Evil Einsteins?

Logical-mathematical intelligence has, of course, to do with logic and math (numbers) as well as reasoning and dealing in abstractions.  Those who score high in this intelligence excel in scientific thinking and investigation, they can perform complex calculations and recognize abstract patterns...they are puzzle-solvers, can think events out in advance, and tend to focus on precision.  This intelligence strongly correlates with the traditional ideas of IQ and high-rankers include scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists.

It's Highly Ill-Logical

This is another intelligence where serial killers seem to both excel and falter depending on the situation.  Some killers, certainly the more successful ones, have thought out their kills beforehand, have considered how events will play out during and after the kill which immediately implies they rank at least average in this intelligence.  But I think the biggest revealer of this intelligence in killer's lie in precision.  Some killers are very precise, almost to the point of obsession, in their "work".  Bombers, for example, would fall into this category not in the least because, without precision, they risk becoming a victim of their own creations.

Also likely to rank high on this intelligence is Zodiac and BTK.  As mentioned previously Zodiac enjoyed playing with words (changing spellings of things, etc) but he also seemed to like other games and puzzles.  Included in his infamous letters was his equally infamous cipher that, he claimed, held the key to he was.  While I personally doubt that he'd reveal who he was under any circumstances, the self-made code was very real and an indication of his skill in logical-mathematical intelligence.  For his own personal amusement, and to show off no doubt, Zodiac created his own twisted puzzle that had virtually the whole world scrambling to solve it.

BTK, on the other hand, was merely precise in in writing about his victims.  On a separate piece of paper, as a sort of "P.S.", of his 1978 letter to law enforcement and media Dennis Rader (BTK) wrote about what he did - or intended to do - to victims.  The comments didn't just stop with the basics either, he noted specific details such as a female victim being on a "made bed in southwest bedroom", the temperature of the house being at 90 degrees, and how much pre-planning he'd done ("some", "little", etc).  Rader showed precision before the crimes by preparing for them (which included stalking beforehand at times), presumably during since he was able to control and kill a family of four (the Otero's) single-handedly, and after the crime by writing detailed accounts of his kills.

There are, however, those killers that seem to be lacking in this intelligence.  Disorganized killers - those who don't plan ahead, who kill on a whim, and don't care about leaving evidence behind - fall into this category.  Some blitz attackers, especially those that literally just whack victims over the head and leave them to die (and, yes, those do exist), would qualify...as would those like Ed Gein and Richard Chase ("The Vampire of Sacramento" who killed 6 people and engaged in such things as vampirism, cannibalism, and necrophilia with victims and animals alike).  Now while some of these killers may get away with killing a fair number of people beforehand they are nearly almost caught eventually - they're just so sloppy and erratic - and, when asked about their kills, most give an even more twisted logic behind them than even the average serial killer.  Gein wanted a woman's suit, Chase claimed he committed his atrocities because he needed to prevent Nazis from turning his blood into powder via poison they had planted beneath his soap dish.

This form of intelligence also seems in constant battle with the psychological issues these killers have.  After all if it weren't for his serious narcissism BTK killer Rader might never have been caught...but he had such a drive to prove his greatness he stupidly contacted police and press again after years of staying off the radar and, from that contact, police were able to discover who he was.  Bundy, likewise, seemed to let his smugness get the better of him when he allowed a cop to search his trunk when his kill-kit was still inside it.  Because of their severe personality impairments killers sometimes seem incapable of thinking logically when they (and most anyone else) would which makes assigning killers a set ranking in logical-mathematical intelligence rather difficult if not impossible.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Killer IQ Part 3: A Way With Words

The third category of intelligence according to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences is verbal-linguistic which involves using words, spoken and written.  Those who rank high on this form of intelligence are typically skilled at reading, writing, and in using words whether it's to tell stories or recall words and dates.  Learning is done via listening to lectures, taking notes, reading, and through discussing and debating with others.  This form of intelligence makes individuals that rank high in it good teaching, explaining, speech making, and persuading others through speaking...it also implies a skill at playing "word games" (understanding and being able to manipulate words, syntax, and structure).

Wicked Wordsmiths

Dennis Rader, aka The BTK Killer, fancied himself a poet...no, seriously.  In one of the many letters (this one sent in 1978) he wrote to police and press he suggested "POETIC STRANGLER" as a possible name that he could be referred to as and also enclosed a poem of his.  Now whether or not the poetry was any good is hard to say - art is in the eye of the beholder and all - but there's no doubt Rader was a word-oriented person and and he's not the only serial killer to use words to his own advantage.

Zodiac also did his fair share of corresponding via letters with the press and police as well and he even added his own creative spelling ("Christmass" instead of "Christmas", "Fry" instead of "Fri", the abbreviation for Friday) and punctuation (which was to not have much).  Part of this could, of course, just be an effort on the part of the killer to have a flair, so to speak, but either way he's playing with words and their meanings just like a person who'd scale high on verbal-linguistic intelligence might.

But even for those killers who don't write letters to law enforcement or the press, it would seem that a great many do fairly well with activities involving this intelligence.  Provided the killer isn't a blitz-attacker or simply waves a gun in the victims face with orders to obey it's likely they rate as good as the average person...and some possible better than average.  Both ruses, which require the creation of a story, and being able to be discounted as a suspect after being interviewed by authorities (recalling names, dates, and explaining your whereabouts along with lying aka "story-telling" to some, etc) would require skills related to this form of intelligence.  In fact it's likely serial killers' potentially high ratings in this category is what's mistaken for interpersonal intelligence (the ability to deal with/relate to others)...they talk a good enough game to the everyday person that they can seem very sociable and, well, normal, when they're anything but.  They know the textbook definitions and proper uses of words yet not the true meanings behind them but, in passing, that's enough to fit in and go unnoticed.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Special: Avoiding "Tricks" Tips


Halloween is this upcoming Saturday so I'd like to share some safety tips now, before the holiday.  Most have been ingrained in every man, woman, and child's head already,  but there might be a few that have been overlooked, need to be updated for the times, or people heard so often they've stopped actually taking to heart.  I'll be covering five that would fit into at least one of those categories.


Tip #1:  Make Your Cellphone Part of the Costume

Even the undead would probably roam around with a cellphone these days so dressing like a zombie, vampire, or anything else, doesn't mean to you can't bring yours.  Yes, I imagine having a cell ring while dressed as a ninja could be a little awkward - and totally kill those stealth moves of yours - but it's better than being out on the town, in trouble, and having no way to call for help.  My advice is to work it into your costume somehow; whether attaching it to your superhero (or is that villain?) utility belt, sticking it in a bag adjusted to match your costume, or just tucking it in a back pocket, bra, or waistband.  If you made your costume than you're more than creative enough to find a place for your cell.  To better suit the season you can always use a really creepy ringtone for the night; just be sure you've got a way to keep in touch with others while out on Hallow's Eve.


Tip #2: Pre-Plan Your Route

This is geared towards Trick-Or-Treaters old enough to go off with their friends…or any adult doing a Halloween inspired party-hop/pub-crawl.  There's actually a few reasons this is a good idea, both outside of safety or for it.  Outside of safety the group you're with won't ever really have to stop the expedition throughout the neighborhood/city to debate which street to head down next, you'll already have it pre-planned.  You can even plan according to the places known for the best treats/drinks/atmosphere to optimize the night’s experience.  On the safety end it's good simply because people know where you'll be so if you go missing due to confusion or foul play others will know where to look - along your route - and be able to search from there.  For the Trick-Or-Treaters there can also be an agreed upon time that you'll return home (or to whatever end point is chosen from which you'll call adults in charge) so people - a.k.a. parents or guardians - know when to start worrying.  For the costumed partiers and pub-crawlers there can be an agreed upon crash pad so that no one needs to worry about getting home alone safely after all the festivities.


Tip #3 Treats Stay Outside!

Just like any other day of the calendar do not, under any circumstances, enter someone's house or car while trick-or-treating.  There is no reason to.  Any candy you're going to get you can get right there on the front porch (in front of witnesses) and any offers to come inside should be refused.  As far as cars...well who hands out candy to random folks from their cars without some other ulterior motive?  Keep your trick-or-treating to the the front porches of well-lit houses on your route.  (If you’re going to a party or on a pub-crawl the opposite is true - don’t leave with people you don’t know, just like you shouldn’t at any other time of the year.)


Tip #4 Avoid Shortcuts

Shortcuts, especially those through unlit and unpopulated areas, are never a good idea.  True they can get you to the place with the better candy, booze, or party faster, but they're also a great place for those of ill-intent to hide in wait for a victim.  Quite simply, the risk isn't worth it.  The possible urge to take shortcuts can be avoided if the tip to pre-plan your route is taken…in planning your route ahead of time you can find the best and fastest routes without having to even think about using shortcuts.  Also included in shortcuts should be yards, parking lots, and (visits to/cuts through) graveyards since they are also places where you don't know what or who might be around.  What’s true for trick-or-treating is true for party-hopping/pub-crawling in this case; just stick to a nicely lit, safe, route so you can enjoy yourself without worry.


Tip #5 Use Sidewalks

While obvious almost any other time of the year, a great deal of folks forget this one on Halloween night.  It's understandable, in a group of costumed individuals, everyone hyped on sugar and/or liquor, one might feel special and not required to follow the usual rules of the road...after all cars will be looking out for you and other revelers.  However, some drivers might be coming back from a Halloween event where they've been drinking - in other words: drunk drivers are around! - and even the most careful and sober driver might have trouble seeing someone dressed all in black as a Sith lord.  In the end it's better to stick to sidewalks and making sure to look out for cars while crossing road like you’d normally do.



Now...go!  Give those costumes a final touch, grab an extra bag of candy, queue up some horror films, and enjoy the greatness that is Halloween!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Philia Friday: Transvestism

Let's first start with a firm and clear statement: transvestites are not a violent group of people as a whole, cross-dressing is not an illegal activity nor should it be.  It's a personal preference that may or may not have to do with the individual's sexuality.  ...Of course now you're probably asking, with that disclaimer, why am I going to cover the topic at all?  Because, frequently, serial killers have had some experience in transvestism whether they've wanted to or not.  For the serial killer involved in transvestism it's usually a progression of sorts, their earliest, unwanted, encounters in cross-dressing leading them both to their desire to kill and cross-dress later.

Forced Into Frills

The idea of severe childhood abuse contributing in the creating a serial killer is common, probably because it often is the case.  When child abuse is mentioned in this capacity thoughts of physical violence, sexual molestation, and extreme verbal abuse are the most common to pop up.  There is another form of abuse that seems to occur frequently in the male killer's childhood and that is forced cross-dressing - being made to wear dresses, being referred to by female names, and even being presented to others under these circumstances.  For this "form" of cross-dressing it's less about transvestism and more about the utter humiliation caused to the young, developing, male child forced to undergo it.  At its bare-bones it's simply a creative form of child abuse perpetrated by the abuser.

Charles Manson had an uncle who sent him to school in a dress, Henry Lee Lucas's mother did the same.  Carroll Edward Cole, aka "The Barfly Strangler", who murdered 16 people from 1948-1980 (the earliest being when he was just ten and drowned a classmate) in a number of states, also seemed to have a mother who forced him to dress like a girl.  According to crimewriter Michael Newton, after forcing her son into frilly skirts and petticoats and the like, Cole's mother would make the boy serve her and her friends at tea parties where they would all mock him, sometimes referring to him as "mama's little girl."  ...It's no wonder the man grew up to despise women!

Dress-Up Turns Deadly

None of the previously mentioned killers ever continued their cross-dressing into their adult years, however some other killers did.  Hadden Clark was born to two parents of wealth and privilege (his mother could date her family back to the Mayflower and his father helped to invent Saran Wrap); something that is not only rare in the cases of serial killers but also the only real difference in his childhood from others who grow up to kill like he did.  Despite that "leg-up" of money and a good name Clark's parents were alcoholics who, when drunk (which was most, if not all, the time) were vicious to each other and their children.  When drinking the boy's mother would dress him as a girl and refer to him as Kristen and, as a man, Clark retained the alias of Kristen Bluefin...one can only assume that the alias came directly from his mother's "nickname" for him.

As he grew up Clark was disturbed at best...continuing the early forced cross-dressing and frequently identifying himself as female as a result of the childhood abuse was, in fact, the least of his bizarre adult behaviors.  Clark, who most often worked as a chef, was recorded as urinating in the mashed potatoes of customers he disliked and/or felt had slighted him, chugging down beef's blood, and masturbating in front of his little niece in 1986.  It was as he packed after getting kicked out for the last behavior that his first of two confirmed kills (he claimed there were more, but none of the others were confirmed) occurred...that of six year old, Michelle Dorr.  The little girl showed up looking for the niece when Clark stabbed and killed her with one of his chef knives.  After failing in his attempt to have sex with the body, he ate some of the flesh before putting the child in a duffle bag and burying the cargo in a shallow grave in a nearby park.

His second kill occurred in 1992 and more closely related to his transvestism as well as his fast deteriorating mental state.  This time he went after the daughter of a woman he was gardening for,  a recent college grad named Laura Houghteling.  In the middle of the night Clark, dressed entirely as a woman (wig, blouse, slacks, and even a purse), he snuck into the young woman's room with a .22-caliber rifle as a weapon.  He woke the girl up demanding to know what she was doing in his bed and forcing her to admit that he, in fact, was Laura and she was just some impostor.  At gunpoint he then made her undress and bathe before covering her face entirely in duct tape, killing her via suffocation in the process.  Once dead Clark then used scissors to cut off the young lady's earlobes, carried her body and bloodied bedding into his truck, and buried her in a shallow grave.

Clark was immediately suspected of the murder of Laura Houghteling and arrested when a bloody pillowcase he'd kept as a souvenir was found with his fingerprints on it.  While in prison for that murder he confessed to killing little Michelle to his cellmate and then later brought police to her body.  As recently as 2000 Clark agreed to show law enforcement other sites where he claims he's committed murders...provided they bought him a wardrobe for a woman at Kmart and he could wear the clothes while helping the officers, of course.  Dressed in an outfit that included bra, panties, wig, and skirt Clark escorted the lawmen over a few states (including Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) and to land in Cape Cod once owned by his grandfather where a bucket of approximately two hundred pieces of women's jewelry - including some owned by Laura - was found.  Clark claims they were all trophies of kills, whether or not that's the case is debatable though since only the remains of the two kills covered here have ever been found to date.

Killer IQ Part 2: The Empathy Issue

The next category of intelligence according to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences is interpersonal; it has to do with interacting with other people.  Those who rank high on this form of intelligence are generally outgoing, sociable, people who are greatly in tune with the emotions, motivations, and sociability of those around them.  They learn best working in groups, can easily be leaders or followers depending on the situation, and enjoy discussion and debate.

Fake It Until You Make It??

It's pretty clear just from the definition that serial killers aren't likely to rank at all high on this intelligence.  Interpersonally intelligent people are able to empathize with others while serial killers lack empathy (which is why they can do what they do to others).  There is, however, a slight catch 22 in just writing these kinds of criminals off as virtual retards in this category and it's this...serial killers are generally known to make some of the best profilers and, to do that, logic dictates you'd need to understand those around you deeply.  So how can they seem to have the possibility of ranking so low and so high at the same time?   It probably partly lies under the idea of faking it until you make it and partly under the fact some of these guys (consciously or otherwise) know of their short-fallings in this form of intelligence and so study extra hard to fit in.

Let's first settle on the fact that empathy is normally developed naturally, though can be taught to small children ("you'd want the other children to share their toys with you" "you wouldn't want your brother/sister to bite you") up to a point.  But once a person has entered adulthood either they have it or they don't.  That being said there's a reason that, so frequently, when police find a bunch of dead bodies under the crawl space of Johnny's house the neighbors seem confused and horrified, proclaiming to press and police alike, "But he was such a nice/normal guy."...sociopathic personalities (such as those that serial killers have) can show a shocking amount of emotion deemed appropriate at the appropriate time when they have to.  When claiming that childhood abuse caused them to kill or that they have remorse they will cry virtually on cue and this trick of faking emotions comes into interacting with people on a day to day basis as well as in the use of their ruses.  Here's the rub though, and what disproves the "fake it until you make it idea"...those who really, truly, get to know these killers will tell you they're creeps.  Family, exs, coworkers will all admit that Johnny kinda gave them the willies after awhile and, even if they didn't suspect the guy was a serial killer, they aren't all that surprised to find out he is.

Even with all those emotions and interactions essentially being faked there's still one other issue to contend with...the frequently heard statement that "serial killers make the best profilers".  Assuming that statement is true then the serial killer would have to be highly skilled at understanding and being in tune with the emotions of others and thus would rate high in interpersonal intelligence.  This is a tricky one because while serial killers do seem to have a rather great understanding of those around them it's really not all that deep...and it frequently takes them years and years of study to understand what comes to the average person naturally.  And, even if and when they do understand others emotions, they only use it to their own personal advantage - "I want to hurt someone, raping and torturing them will do that" or "She seems upset I killed her son, perhaps I should act the same way to get off on the murder charge?".  All the studying in the world won't get these killers to really rate high in this intelligence because everything about them (feelings-wise) is fake, anything learned is used to their own personal advantage, to help in meeting their own twisted goals, and so it's a lost cause...when it comes to interpersonal intelligence, without true empathy, these guys are all defectives.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Killer IQ Part 1: Using Bodies to Their Best

There is the belief, thanks in great part to the entertainment industry, that serial killers aren't just bright individuals but evil geniuses.  It's an understandable assumption sometimes considering how long these people can go on killing over and over without ever being caught...months, years, decades even.  But rarely (if ever) are there any true genius, Hannibal Lector, types in the group and their intelligence overall depends greatly on how it's being determined.  A great many serial killers would qualify as bright on some levels but downright stupid on others...take Ted Bundy; IQ of 124 or so (a rating of above average/bright) but caught because he let a police officer search his trunk where his rape & murder kit were.

Because the determination of intelligence is so tricky - killer or not - it might be a good idea to use different forms of intelligence rather than just straight IQ ratings.  So, for the purposes of these forthcoming essays, let's review the 8 categories of intelligence as set forth by Howard Gardner in 1983's Theory of Multiple Intelligences and see how some (or at least the "garden variety" forms of) serial killers would rate...and then maybe we'll throw in IQ for good measure.

I Like the Way You Move

The first category is bodily-kinesthetic which has to do with, well, the body, how well someone can move, and even the ability to build or create physical objects.  Those rated high in this form of intelligence tend to learn through doing and have good muscle memory - their bodies recall movements easily; when you perform all the steps to a dance over and over until it grows automatic that's muscle memory.

Gotta say, in this category, most serial killers probably rate pretty high.  If they didn't their killings wouldn't succeed and there'd be far more survivors than victims.  Not that serial killers are muscle men, pictures alone indicate "Greenriver Killer" Gary Ridgway probably would've lost most fights with men...but then he probably knew that and chose his victims and kill method accordingly.  Knowing that, knowing his limits and adjusting for them in order to get the job done, alone makes him smart for this form of intelligence.  Ridgway and other killers also seem to know how to use whatever physicality they have for maximum impact and make up for what they lack.  Small killers who would loose a fight even to a woman might target children or use a blitz attack (sneak up and whack the victim upside the head) first to subdue the person.  Have the urge to strangle a victim but lack the upper body strength?  Use a belt, some kind of pulley system, or hang the person and let their own weight work against them as you watch the life leave their eyes.

As far as serial killer builders are concerned there's no end to the different kinds of contraptions of torture these guys have created...including that pulley system previously mentioned.  But there is one serial killer that really was tops in this department...H. H. Holmes.  In 1893, just in time for the Chicago World's Fair, Holmes opened his self created and built hotel of horrors later to be called the "Murder Castle".  Yes, he did hire teams of builders since the job was so big, but it's highly likely certain rooms - such as the ones set up to become gas chambers - Holmes had to personally work on...otherwise he'd raise some eyebrows even before he got a chance to open for business, as it were.  The fact he went to medical school and, in using his skills for darker purposes, frequently dissected, stripped the flesh from, and then pieced bones together into skeleton models of his victims also all speak to a high level of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Survivor Sunday: The Dangers in Daylight

Most people are fully aware and prepared for the dangers that come as the sun goes down.  They lock their doors, set their alarms, and stay inside until the next day arrives.  It's understandable; a great deal of crimes do occur at night with all those opportunities the cover of dark gives the criminal that can't be had when the sun's out.  But that doesn't mean one's risk of becoming a victim leaves with the night so here are some tips to keep in mind to remain safe even in the sunlight:

Tip #1: Beware of Dusk and Dawn

These two times of day, where it's still or getting to be light out, frequently give people a false sense of security.  Those early morning and late evening joggers become prime targets for just that reason...with their iPods rocking and concentration set on the run rather than their surroundings joggers are ripe for the kill.  It's true that these times of the day are great opportunities to get a workout in without the hassle of other runners, but it's also true that the potential killer simply sees it as a time in which a target is available minus all those pesky witnesses.  ...The tip?  Either push your run times to where there will be more people around than just you (and a potential attacker) or run with some friends.  The calories burned are the same no matter the time of day or the number of people out with you.

Tip #2: Midday Murders Happen

The sun is shining and people are out and about enjoying the fine midday weather.  A guy, his arm in a sling, walks up to a pretty girl and asks if she could help him in unloading a sailboat from his car...he would himself but, well, the busted arm and all makes it hard for him to do all on his own.  The pretty girl agrees and heads off with him...the pretty girl is never seen alive again.  That was the story of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund from Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, Washington...both victims of serial killer Ted Bundy on July 14, 1974.  ...The tip?  No matter the time of day it's deeply unwise to follow a stranger (even a seemingly handsome and somewhat crippled one) off somewhere alone.  Don't be afraid to decline to help and suggest the person go in search of someone better able to help.  If you really do feel the need to help there's always suggesting someone else for them ("I'm not strong enough to help, sorry, but that friggin' huge guy looks pretty capable") or asking others in the area to go with you and Mr. Sailor-In-Need ("The more the merrier, right?")  If the person in distress moves on or declines your new offers then you're off the hook from the guilt of not helping and all the safer...of course if the guy does turn you down and appears to go off to the next available pretty lil' thing with the same story you might want to notify the nearest official (lifeguard, park ranger, cop, etc) that there's a guy that might to be in search of more than just a helpful hand walking around.

Tip #3: Secluded is Secluded, No Matter the Time

The title pretty much speaks for itself.  Yes, I'm sure the national park or nice country road is lovely to walk down on a nice sunny day, but that doesn't mean it has to be walked alone people!  Think of it this way, while you can better see the scenery an attacker can better see you, the lack of witnesses, and what he's doing.  ...The tip?  Bring some friends.  None of the natural beauty of where you are will be lost if some friends join you in the appreciation of it; heck having friends along might increase your enjoyment because you're sharing the experience with those you know, care for, and trust.  Remember, what can be enjoyed alone can often be better, and safer, enjoyed with others.

Tip #4: Go Ahead, Make A Scene

This is something that parents frequently teach their children but forget the importance of themselves; don't be afraid to make a scene.  It's understandable that people fear that, if wrong in the threat assessment (or, even if correct, the threat level not being obvious to others), they will look strange, incredibly rude, or even crazy to others nearby...but kidnappers, car-jackers (the ones where they want you to stay in the car with them), and killers likely depend on this fact for their success at times.  Take a tip from yourselves on this one, moms (and other older family members), and don't be afraid to scream, yell, hit, kick, and otherwise make as much noise and fuss as possible if some creep tries to grab or threaten you in attempts to take you somewhere you don't want to go.  Better safe and thought crazy than be remembered fondly by those you loved and left behind.

Tip #5: Always Be Aware!

It would seem this essay is encouraging paranoia or hyper-vigilance, but that's not the case.  The idea isn't to assume every person or circumstance is a threat, it's merely to be more aware in general.  For the most part criminals aren't really all that invested in one specific victim, they're just going for the easiest mark and a good way from keeping from being that is to be aware of what's going on.  Look around you, keep your headphones low enough so that you can still hear people, and avoid areas that look a little unsafe (i.e. secluded).  Even if you're really not taking in that much look like you are.  Look people in the eye, keep your head up, and give off the vibe of being fully in charge...killers are losers looking for an easy win, if you look like the type to fight they're going to move onto the next person.  Also it never hurts to bring that herding mentality so frequently used in trips to the ladies' room into other aspects of life - smoking breaks, walks to the car (the last two in the group can park next to each other), and even taking the family out to the beach or park (this one gives moms and dads the added bonus of extra babysitters and helps with that whole "it takes a village to raise a child" ideal).  The more aware you are of your surroundings the safer you are, enough said.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Philia Friday: Necrophilia

Necrophilia, the cornerstone of every psycho it seems...and a damn creepy idea to the rest of us.  After all who in the world would want to have sex with a dead person?!  Well there are a number of different reasons, some more understandable or romanticized and others more ghoulish and, honestly, stomach-turning.  Whatever the reason though it's pretty safe to say that this love/sexual preference/fetish is not the norm and likely (if not certainly) indicates some serious mental, emotional, and social problems in those that have it.

Romancing the Remains

The first category of those with this philia don't so much love the dead as they love the person so much when he or she was living that they sort of just take that last kiss goodbye a little too far.  Famed American author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, confessed in his journal to be being so distraught over his young wife, Ellen's, death that shortly after she was buried he dug her back up.  What he did after that is anyone's guess (he never said) but should he have done more than look he'd fall into this category.

On the far more grotesque end of love gone to the burial ground is that of Carl Von Cosel in 1930's Key West, Florida.  The radiologist who worked at a sanitarium he fell deeply in love with a 22 year old patient of his, Maria Elena de Hoyos, and his love carried over into her death of tuberculosis.  He snatched the young woman from her burial place and brought her back to his place to keep as his love, and lover, for the next seven years or so.  Even as the woman's body began to discompose.  Over the years Cosel was forced to use piano wire to hold her bones together, replace rotting skin with wax and silk, use glass eyes to replace ones long gone, and even insert a tube between her legs to have a "vagina" to continue having sex with her.  When his activities were finally discovered and what was left of Maria Elena was returned to rest in peace Cosel continued to love, and lust after, her using a personalized sex doll in her place...when he died in 1952 he was found clutching said doll which had a death mask of his dearly departed on it.

Loser Lovin'

The next type of necrophile has a slight more, um, "open relationship" with the dead...still not violent but certainly not one to settle down with just one corpse as it were.  It's with these folks that we tend to find those misbehaving morticians and gravediggers who get busy with those they're trusted to care for by loved ones.  These types do love the dead, not because they're dead per say but because they can't say no.  These men (there are some cases of female necrophiles but the vast majority are men) don't do so well with the living ladies - too shy, too weird, etc - and so turn to those that they're certain won't (can't) reject them.

Viktor Ardisson was a mortician and gravedigger who supposedly had sex with over a hundred of the dead - or, in some cases, at least parts of them.  He was caught when the smell of a decomposing three-year-old girl, who'd he'd been performing oral sex on since digging her up, alerted neighbors enough to call the police.  Also found at his place of residence was his "bride"...the severed head of a thirteen-year-old girl that he kept on his beside table and was known to kiss from time to time.  (It's important to remember, despite the ages of the two defiled mentioned, Ardisson was not a pedophile - it was the fact they were dead, not their ages, that aroused the man.)

Another such corpse loving creep, Henri Bolt, was caught fast asleep after having dug up and had sex with a recently deceased ballerina.  While on trial the judge commented that what Bolt had done was depraved to which Bolt was quoted as replying, "How would you have it?  Every man to his own tastes.  Mine is for corpses."

Deadly Desires

The final form of necrophile being covered is the dangerous, violent, killing kind.  At the core these types are the same in that they use sex with the dead as another form of power over their victims.  Frequently all that comes prior to the death - the rape, the torture, what have you - is all foreplay until the main act of killing.  Once the victim is dead they want that one last form of "owning" their victim in performing some sort of sexual act upon them whether it be intercourse or giving or receiving sexual pleasure in some other manner.

Some big names in the serial killer world were involved in doing the dirty deed with the dead.  Ed Kemper not only would rape his dead victims but also was said to have done so after decapitating one of them.  The "Sunset Slayer" Douglas Clark (with the help of his girlfriend Carol Bundy) would pick up hookers for oral sex and then shoot them in the head during the act, climaxing with the now dead woman's mouth over his member - he kept one victim's head in the freezer as a morbid sex toy.  And, after strangling his victims (thus leaving them with the common "Angel Lust" erection seen in strangulation cases), Jeffery Dahmer would perform oral sex on his victims...he was also known to cut the bodies open to have sex with the victim's innards.

...While mentioned at the start of this section these killers are the same at the core, there are subtle differences that are to be made.  Those like Dennis Nilsen the murder was more just a means to an end; the end being a lover they have power over and that will never, ever, leave them.  Others, like Ted Bundy and Andrei Chikatilo, the raping of corpses is just an extension of their sexual sadism, another way to completely dominate their victims.  It will hardly matter to the victim's families, of course, but for those in law enforcement these small differences may help in catching the killer but also possibly getting them to confess and/or convicting them of their crimes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh, the Places They Will (and Won't) Go!

Ah geography, it can tell you so much...the history of a continent, the political and religious undertones of a country, social growth and expansion of a society...if there's a serial criminal in your neighborhood.  One frequently used method in law enforcement is geographical profiling - basically studying the crimes as they relate to, well, geography - which can help to connect crimes and victims and narrow down a suspect pool.

Connecting the Dots

A series of couples are killed - some shot, some stabbed - in their cars and it is determined that there is, in fact, a serial killer on the loose.  During this time, in the same general area, a lone cab driver is shot, his wallet and keys taken, and his shirt ripped.  At first glance these two crimes are totally unrelated.  Then..."This is the Zodiac speaking..."and what would've been thrown aside as a possible robbery of the cabbie gone violent suddenly becomes another victim of that ever elusive serial killer that's been terrorizing lower California.  Now this is a rather extreme case in which geographical profiling would've at least encouraged a stronger look at the cabbie murder (after all, the shooting was in the same area Zodiac had been hunting) but that's what makes it a good example of how important examining the geography of crimes can help to connect apparent unrelated crimes.  Naturally not ever crime committed in a five mile radius will be the doing of a single person, but certain crimes (burglaries and arsons especially) that occur close together do tend to be.

No Place Like Home

Aside from the lucky few with the money or profession to travel most killers stay local, close to home and work, while killing.  It is appropriately called their comfort zone.  This comfort zone offers a bunch of pluses for the killer, not in the least because they know the area - which means they know the best spots to snatch people from, places that they would be able to discreetly kill, and places to hide the bodies after they're done.  There's also the fact that it's an area that the killer is fairly confident he won't be suspected.  Who's going to think good ol' Hank from the bank is capable of multiple rape and homicide even if all those women just happened to be his bank's customers?  Not many...at least not right off the bat anyway.  Still, when n a bunch of folks go missing from the same bar, 10 block radius, or people start getting attacked in the same apartment buildings there's a good bet the same person may be responsible.  A likelihood that increases if the crimes are the same or at least involve similar circumstances (i.e. all disappeared walking out to their car, getting off the bus to walk home, or on a jog).

Respect the Boundaries

Everyone has boundaries, even the criminal, and they can stick within them just like anyone else in the world...even when it doesn't appear so.  From 1991-1999 (though 1997-1999 at it's high point) a killer crosses not just city and county lines but multiple state lines as well in order to kill his victims; of which there were somewhere between 15 and 24.  At first glance it appears this killer is without boundaries at all, that he could strike anywhere because nothing holds him to any kind of set location, and his crossing all these jurisdiction lines is his clever way of making things more difficult for law enforcement - which, offhand, would make most consider him pretty darn clever.  The sad, and slightly more disturbing, truth was that the man, Angel Maturino Resendez (aka The Railway/Railroad Killer), was just following the railroad tracks he illegally rode around the United States.  In this case the boundaries by which the killer was held was how far he could get from the train tracks to find his victims (which he robbed and sometimes even stayed in the homes of after the kill) but still be able to easily hop back on the train out of town before he was caught...no wonder virtually all the crimes took place very close to the railroad tracks - 100 yards is the farthest I could find documented - any farther and he'd loose his ride!

With a good geographic profile law enforcement can link crimes and significantly narrow the search for a suspect.  How the victims are being targeted and where the killer feels all comfy and cozy enough to do what he does can be revealed.  While this alone isn't going to catch a suspect it certainly makes things one heck of a lot easier than the generalized panicked statement, "he could be anywhere!" that could otherwise be thrown around.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Survivor Sunday: The Myth of Males

So, I'll be trying a little something different and special for weekends...Sundays will be "Survivor Sundays" which will give some (admittedly sometimes tongue-in-cheek) information on how to stay just a little safer, or at least a little more aware of potential danger.  For the first try at this I'll be looking at male-victimhood and how the idea that men can't, or are rarely, victims of serial killers is a big ol' myth.  Beware boys!

Myth #1: Men aren't really victims of serial killers.

Au contraire mon fraire, they most certainly are!  The reasons they become victims are varied, some are just the guy between the killer and the girl while others are, in fact, very much the target.  Their murders just happen to be seriously downplayed or overlooked.  A series of murders in which the victims are all gay men strangled to death may be attributed to a series of lover's spats or sexual encounters turned violent without a connection ever being made.  And a woman who loses a few hubbies might be considered to just have terrible luck instead of being a suspect.

Myth #2: The men that are victims, aren't victims of serial sexual homicide.

It's cute to think that, but also totally wrong.  Anyone remember Jeffery Dahmer?  He murdered 17 males between 1978-1991; murders that included a number of sexually charged acts beside the kill itself - such as rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism.  Even without those sexually charged acts Dahmer's own quote concerning what he did makes it a sexual homicide: "I would cook [the body], and look at the pictures and masturbate."  He killed, it got him off, so Dahmer was very much committing serial sexual homicide and his victims were exclusively male.

Myth #3:  Only gay men are victims of those types of murders.

Not at all.  True Dahmer targeted gay men...but then he was a gay man himself and it was simply very easy for him to pick up a gay guy at a bar, bring him back home for sex, and then attack.  Honestly the victim's sexuality has little to do with whether or not they're a victim...it's more about the sexuality, or apparent sexuality, of the killer.  John Wayne Gacy, bisexual, killed straight men - straight men to keep up an appearance of heterosexuality in the community.  He frequently offered his targets jobs to lure them to his place where he would then ply them with liquor and (straight) porn to get their guard down before attacking.

Myth #4: Men can fight off their attacker.

Well so can women, but that doesn't always mean they'll win.  Just like the serial killer targeting women the serial killer targeting men is going to pick the guy he's pretty sure he can take.  The little guy's a pretty frequent target, so's the overly drunk or drugged (which can happen before or after the victim and killer meet).  A killer might also blitz attack first - it's kind of hard to fight back if you're smashed over the head with a bat beforehand - to ensure they have total control.  The killer wants to be successful no matter the victim he chooses so he'll do just about anything to make sure he is.

Myth #5:  Men only have to fear female serial killers who are "black widows".

One name, two words:  Aileen Wuornos.  She shot and killed seven men, all of whom were her "johns".  Think of it this way...it's a little hard to avoid becoming the victim of a female killer with your pants down and a gun in your face.