Myth 1: Serial killers are all dysfunctional loners.
The majority of serial killers are not reclusive, social misfits who live alone. They are not monsters and may not appear strange. Many serial killers hide in plain sight within their communities. Serial murderers often have families and homes, are gainfully employed, and appear to be normal members of the community. Because many serial murderers can blend in so effortlessly, they are oftentimes overlooked by law enforcement and the public.
Myth 2: Serial killers are all white males.
Contrary to popular belief, serial killers span all racial groups. There are white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian serial killers. The racial diversification of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population.
Myth 3: Serial killers are only motivated by sex.
All serial murders are not sexually-based. There are many other motivations for serial murders including anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking.
Myth 4: All serial murderers travel and operate interstate.
Most serial killers have very defined geographic areas of operation. They conduct their killings within comfort zones that are often defined by an anchor point (e.g. place of residence, employment, or residence of a relative). Serial murderers will, at times, spiral their activities outside of their comfort zone, when their confidence has grown through experience or to avoid detection. Very few serial murderers travel interstate to kill.
The few serial killers who do travel interstate to kill fall into a few categories:
- Itinerant individuals who move from place to place.
- Homeless individuals who are transients.
- Individuals whose employment lends itself to interstate or transnational travel, such as truck drivers or those in military service.
The difference between these types of offenders and other serial murderers is the nature of their traveling lifestyle, which provides them with many zones of comfort in which to operate.
Myth 5: Serial killers cannot stop killing.
It has been widely believed that once serial killers start killing, they cannot stop. There are, however, some serial killers who stop murdering altogether before being caught. In these instances, there are events or circumstances in offenders’ lives that inhibit them from pursuing more victims. These can include increased participation in family activities, sexual substitution, and other diversions.
Myth 6: All Serial killers are insane or are evil geniuses.
Another myth that exists is that serial killers have either a debilitating mental condition, or they are extremely clever and intelligent.
As a group, serial killers suffer from a variety of personality disorders, including psychopathy, anti-social personality, and others. Most, however, are not adjudicated as insane under the law.
The media has created a number of fictional serial killer “geniuses”, who outsmart law enforcement at every turn. Like other populations, however, serial killers range in intelligence from borderline to above average levels.
Myth 7: Serial killers want to get caught.
Offenders committing a crime for the first time are inexperienced. They gain experience and confidence with each new offense, eventually succeeding with few mistakes or problems.
While most serial killers plan their offenses more thoroughly than other criminals, the learning curve is still very steep. They must select, target, approach, control, and dispose of their victims. The logistics involved in committing a murder and disposing of the body can become very complex, especially when there are multiple sites involved.
As serial killers continue to offend without being captured, they can become empowered, feeling they will never be identified. As the series continues, the killers may begin to take shortcuts when committing their crimes. This often causes the killers to take more chances, leading to identification by law enforcement. It is not that serial killers want to get caught; they feel that they can’t get caught.