Crime – Serial Killer Myths – Scientific American mag’s truth – Tutorial II

Hope you were able to check out the first in a number of tutorials I’m writing about serial killer myths. Check back for others from time to time.

If you’re a writer of a true-crime books as I am, you may need to brush up, as I do, on your serial killer IQ.

The same may be true for criminology students or anyone interested in what science can tell us about these most-heinous of criminals.

Unfortunately, a lot of our  general knowledge concerning serial murder is a product of sensationalized and stereotypical depictions of it.

In movies and TV crime shows, rich story lines are written to grain the interest of audiences, not to portray an accurate picture of serial murder.
News programs  and infotainment shows are also often guilty of this.

Luckily, the excerpts below from  Scott Bonn‘s recent  Scientific American article sets th record straight.

Serial killer myths – They Travel Widely and Kill across States.    

“Reality: The roaming, homicidal maniac such as Freddy Krueger in the cult film A Nightmare on Elm Street is another entertainment media stereotype that is rarely found in real life.

Among the most infamous serial killers, Ted Bundy is the rare exception who traveled and killed interstate. Bundy twice escaped from police custody and committed at least 30 homicides in the states of Washington, Utah, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho and California.

Articulate, educated, well-groomed and charming, Bundy was truly atypical among serial killers in his cross-country killing rampage.

Unlike Bundy, most serial killers have very well defined geographic areas of operation.

They typically have a comfort zone—that is, an area that they are intimately familiar with and where they like to stalk and kill their prey.

Jack the Ripper provides the classic example of this geographic preference because he stalked and killed exclusively in the small Whitechapel district of London in the fall of 1888.

The comfort zone of a serial killer is often defined by an anchor point such as a place of residence or employment.

Crime statistics reveal that serial killers are most likely to commit their first murder very close to their place of residence …

John Wayne Gacy “The Killer Clown” buried most of his thirty-three young, male victims in the crawl space beneath his house after sexually assaulting and murdering them.

Gacy - Clown Murderer -Serial killer myths

Gacy – Clown Murderer – Serial killer myths

Serial killers sometimes return to commit murder in an area they know well from the past such as the community in which they were raised.

Over time, serial murderers may extend their activities outside of their comfort zone [. But they do this] only after building their confidence by executing several successful murders while avoiding detection by law enforcement authorities.

As noted by the FBI in its 2005 report on serial murder, the crime data reveal that very few serial predators actually travel interstate to kill.

The few serial killers who do travel interstate to kill typically fall into one of 3 categories:


  • Itinerant individuals who periodically move from place to place;
  • Chronically homeless individuals who live transiently; or
  • Individuals whose job function lends itself to interstate or transnational travel such as truck drivers or those in the military service.The major difference between these individuals who kill serially and other serial murderers is the nature of their traveling lifestyle which provides them with many zones of comfort in which to operate.

Most serial killers do not have such opportunities to travel and keep their killings close to home.”

Serial killer myths  – They Are Men.

“Reality: This is simply not true, but it is understandable why the public would hold this erroneous belief.

As late as 1998, a highly regarded former FBI profiler said ‘there are no female serial killers.’

The news and entertainment media also perpetuate the stereotypes that all serial offenders are male and that women do not engage in horrible acts of violence.

When the lethality of a femme fatale is presented in book or film, she is most often portrayed as the manipulated victim of a dominant male. [See Homolka case below.]

This popular but stereotypical media image is consistent with traditional gender myths in society.

[One] claims that boys are aggressive by nature while girls are passive. In fact, both aggressiveness and passivity can be learned through socialization and they are not gender specific.

The reality concerning the gender of serial killers is quite different than the mythology of it.

Although there have been many more male serial killers than females throughout history, the presence of female serial killers is well documented in the crime data.

In fact, approximately 17 percent of all serial homicides in the U.S. are committed by women. Interestingly, only 10 percent of total murders in the U.S. are committed by women.

Therefore, relative to men, women represent a larger percentage of serial murders than all other homicide cases in the U.S.

This is an important and revealing fact that defies the popular understanding of serial murder.”

The ten most Evil Women in History.

Take a look at the video below and let me know what you think.

Does Canadian Karla Homolka** make the Top 10 list?

Homolka - Serial killer myths,

Homolka – Serial killer myths,







When Karla was 17 she attended a pet convention in Toronto where she met 23 year-old, Paul Bernardo.
Like Karla, Paul was tall, blonde, and very smart and she was attracted to him instantly.
The two soon realized that they both shared the same sado-masochistic desires.
As the two became more and more intimate, Paul soon assumed the role of “Master, ” while Karla took the role of “Slave” (Montaldo).
Karla and Paul worked as a team, killing and raping their victims in the early 1990s.

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