Oh, what ecstasy setting fires brings to my body! What power I feel at the thought of fire…

— Joseph Kallinger
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Serial Killers – The Most Important Characteristics


  1. They tend to be smart, with a mean IQ of “bright normal.”
  2. Despite their intelligence, they do poorly in school, have spotty employment records, and generally end up as unskilled workers.
  3. They come from deeply troubled families. Typically, they have been abandoned at an early age by their fathers and grow up in broken homes dominated by their mothers.
  4. There is a long history of psychiatric problems, criminal behavior, and alcoholism in their families.
  5. As children, they suffer significant abuse-sometimes psychological, sometimes physical, often sexual. Such brutal mistreatment instills them with profound feelings of humiliation and helplessness.
  6. Because of their resentment toward their distant, absent, or abusive fathers, they have a great deal of trouble with male authority figures. Because they were dominated by their mothers, they have a powerful hostility toward women.
  7. They manifest psychiatric problems at an early age and often spend time in institutions as children.
  8. Because of their extreme social isolation and a general hatred of the world and everyone in it (including themselves), they often feel suicidal as teenagers.
  9. They display a precocious and abiding interest in deviant sexuality and are obsessed with fetishism, voyeurism, and violent pornography.

There are three more important characteristics-behavioral red flags-often referred to as psychopathological traid. And those are:

  • Bed-Wetting – enuresis

    There’s nothing unusual or alarming about bed-wetting in itself; it’s a common phenomenon among little children. When the problem persists into puberty, however, it may well be a sign of significant and even dangerous emotional disturbance. According to the findings of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, fully 60 percent of sex-murderers were still suffering from this condition as adolescents-like the African-American serial killer Alton Coleman, who wet his pants so often that he was saddled with the taunting nickname “Pissy.”

  • Fire-Starting – pyromania

    Given their lust for destruction, it’s no surprise that, among their other twisted pleasures, many serial killers love to set fires, a practice they often begin at an early age. Some of the most notorious serial killers of modern times were juvenile arsonists. Ottis Toole, for example-Henry Lee Lucas’s loathsome accomplice-began torching vacant houses when he was six years old. Carl Panzram -arguably the most unrepentant killer in the annals of American crime-took positive pride in the havoc he could wreak with a matchstick, boasting in his jailhouse memoirs that, at the tender age of twelve, he caused $100,000 worth of damage by burning down a building at reform school. Carlton Gary firebombed a grocery store while still in his teens. And David Berkowitz-who ultimately confessed to more than fourteen hundred acts of arson-was so obsessed with fires as a little boy that his schoolmates nicknamed him “Pyro.”

  • Animal Torture – precocious sadism

    Juvenile sadism directed at lower life-forms is nothing new. There have always been children and adolescents (usually male) who enjoy hurting small creatures. Certainly Shakespeare knew about such things. InKing Lear, he writes about “wanton boys” who pull the wings off of flies for “sport.” And in Mark Twain’sAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, the hero finds himself in a one-horse town where a bunch of young loafers are amusing themselves by tying a tin pan to the tail of a stray dog and watching him “run himself to death.”