Serial killings are defined as “having three or more victims in as many locations and as different events with the killer having a ‘cool off’ between each attack” (Fox & Levin, 2005, p. 17). Serial killings also happen over a period of months or years with the killer leading a normal life in between. Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental process. “There are grounds for the point of view that serial killers act from a conscious perspective but are influenced by a variety of unconscious drives” (Holmes & Burger, 1988, p. 98). There are different views of what makes a serial killer, ranging from mental instability or defect to problematic and abusive childhoods. Looking at the murders, methods, victims, and motivations of three different serial killers received from coroner reports, witness accounts, and their own point of view provides an opportunity to see any similarities behind what drove them to kill.
Psychology of a Serial Killer
Jack the Ripper
Considered one of the most infamous of the world’s serial killers, Jack the Ripper’s murder spree lasted from 1888 to 1892 in the East End of London. Also known as the Whitechapel Murderer, he attacked prostitutes during late night and early morning hours, mutilating his victims’ bodies with the skill of someone who knows basic anatomy. Jack the Ripper’s first known victim was Mary Nichols, a prostitute, who was found early in the morning in a gateway in Bucks Row, Whitechapel on 31 August 1888. “She was lying on her back with her legs straight out, skirts raised almost to her waist and throat slashed almost to the point of beheading” (Jones, 2010). His second victim was Annie Chapman, another prostitute, found 8 September 1888 in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street at 6am. The official coroner report stated: The left arm was placed across the left breast. The legs were drawn up, the feet resting on the ground, and the knees turned outwards. The face was swollen and turned on the right side. The tongue protruded between the front teeth, but not beyond the lips. The tongue was evidently much swollen. The front teeth were perfect as far as the first molar, top and bottom and very fine teeth they were. The body was terribly mutilated...the stiffness of the limbs was not marked, but was evidently commencing. He noticed that the throat was dissevered deeply; that the incisions through the skin were jagged and reached right round the neck. On the wooden paling between the yard in question and the next, smears of blood, corresponding to where the head of the deceased lay, were to be seen. These were about 14 inches from the ground and immediately above the part where the blood from the neck was pooled. (Jones, 2010) Later, after the body was moved to the morgue, the autopsy conducted revealed Annie Chapman was missing her womb. The third victim was Elizabeth Stride on 30 September 1888. She was found at one in the morning in Dutfield Yard. Her throat was cut but, “she was lying on the ground as though quietly placed there” (Jones, 2010), obviously, one of Jack the Ripper’s less horrific murders. Roughly forty-five minutes after finding Stride, the body of Catherine Eddowes was found in Mitre Square laying on her back, clothes thrown above her waist and her throat slit as well. Jack the Ripper’s fifth and supposedly final victim was Mary Kelly on 9 November 1888. She was found that morning at 10:45 in the morning in her room at Millers Court. The coroner report stated: The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, the shoulders flat, but the axis of the body inclined to the left side of the bed. The head was turned on the left cheek. The left arm was close to the body with the forearm flexed at a right angle & lying across the abdomen. The right arm was slightly abducted from the body & rested on the mattress, the elbow bent & the forearm supine with the fingers clenched. The legs were wide...