Besides the obvious ones – sick minds, sociopathic personalities, unspeakable desires, etc. – serial killers tend to share a number of characteristics. In a paper presented to the International Association of Forensic Sciences in 1984, FBI Special Agent Robert K. Ressler and several of his colleagues listed the following “general characteristics” of serial sex-murderers:
- Over 90 percent of them are white males
- They tend to be intelligent, with IQs in the “bright normal” range.
- In spite of their high IQs, they do poorly in school, have a hard time holding down jobs, and often work as unskilled laborers.
- They tend to come from markedly unstable families. Typically, they are abandoned as children by their fathers and raised by domineering mothers.
- Their families often have criminal psychiatric, and alcoholic histories.
- They hate their fathers. They hate their mothers.
- They are commonly abused as children – psychologically, physically, and sexually. Sometimes, the abuser is a stranger. Sometimes, it is a friend. Often, it is a family member.
- Many of them end up spending time in institutions as children and have records of early psychiatric problems.
- They have a high rate of suicide attempts.
- They are intensely interested from an early age in voyeurism, fetishism, and sadomasochistic pornography.
In addition to the above list, there are also three more characteristics:
- Enuresis (bed-wetting) – more than 60 percent of serial killers were still wetting their beds over the age of twelve.
- Fire starting – children like to play with matches because they are intrigued by the bright, colorful, flickering flames. But budding serial killers carry this interest to a frightening extreme. Their fascination with fire is an early manifestation of their fondness for spectacular destruction. Otis Toole – the cretinous sidekick of Henry Lee Lucas – burned down a neighborhood house when he was six. Teenage thrill killer George Adorno was even younger when he first displayed his pyromaniac tendencies, setting fire to his own sister when he was only four. The incorrigible Carl Panzram was thrown into a reformatory when he was eleven. A few months later, he torched the place, cause damage to the tune of $100,000.
- Sadistic activity – before they are big enough to inflict harm on other human beings, future serial killers get their kicks from tormenting small creatures (Animal torture).