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.


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."


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'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 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" 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.