The Different Types of Serial Killers

Like most of the population, we all fit into a particular group. You get the art lovers, music lovers, animal lovers, nerds, and then, of course, the business world to name but a few. So it is only natural that serial killers also have different types. Here I will discuss the four basic types of serial which is: Power and Control, Visionary, Mission Orientated, and thrill Seeker serial killers. We will also look at some examples of all these types of serial killers.

different types of serial killers infographic

Thrill Seeker Serial Killers

As heinous as it sounds there is actually people that kill others for the thrill. Thrill seekers are usually trying to outsmart the law as some sort of amusement. They keep detailed records of their killings, and they can be unorganized and organized serial killers. Thrill seekers serial killers typically would use weapons and or raped their victims before they kill them. They would hide their victim’s corpse and then move on to the next one. That is creepy, I would freak out if I had to cover up a body. Thrill seekers serial killers can form into a hedonist thrill seeker. One example of a hedonist killer is Israel Keyes, he was a mentally unhinged army veteran who hunted and killed eight people across multiple states. He killed himself in December 2012 in Alaska.

The ultimate hedonist killer is the Zodiac serial killer. He operated in Northern California between 1960’s and 1970’s. He aggressively tormented his victims throughout his crime spree. Five were killed and two other people were injured in the attacks. The Zodiac stopped killing for unknown reasons, and up until today, his identity is a mystery. He gave himself the name The Zodiac in letters that he wrote to the local newspapers. In one of the letters, he wrote “Killing people is so much fun. It’s even better than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal. To kill gives me the most thrilling experience. It’s even better than getting your rocks off with a girl”. For him, the process leading up to the murder gives him the most satisfaction.

Thrill seeker killers victims are usually strangers, the killer might stalk their prey before they strike as it adds to the excitement of the hunt. They crave the euphoric adrenaline rush provided by stalking and capturing their victims. They induce pain or terror in their victims before killing them; it becomes an addiction like a narcotic. The killing is typically swift, and there is no sexual aspect in the murder. Once the victim died the thrill seeker killer loses interest, therefore they do not engage in post-mortem mutilations and necrophilia.

Another example of a thrill-seeking serial killer is The High Desert Bunker Murders. ( 5th January 2008 ) – 24-Year-old Collin Lee McGlaughlin, 15-Year-old Cameron Thomson and 25 Year old David Brian forced 18-Year-old Cody Thompson and 16-Year-old Bodhisattva Sherzer- Potter from their vehicle and killed them execution style with a rifle. They did not know their victims and left them to rot near an abandoned Air Force bunker off Highway 58 in California.

Both Cody and Bodhisattva were excellent students at the Academy for Academic Excellence. Collin received life in prison, his reason for the crime “just for fun.” Collin was fascinated by death and always wanted to commit a random homicide. When I want to have fun, I go to the movies, or the arcade, now he can rot in jail just like he left his victims.

The third example – Chancey Luna 17 years old, Michael Jones 19-year-old and James Edward Jr 17 years old, were bored and decided it was a good day in August 2013 to shoot a random person from the car. Chris Lane was a baseball player from Australia. Chris went for a jog and was happy as he was visiting his girlfriend that weekend, he did not, however, have the chance to see his girlfriend as the bored teenagers decided to shoot him and he was killed.

Another excellent example of this type of serial killer is Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker. Richard was an American serial killer who killed 14 people, raped and stalked several residents of the Los Angeles and San Francisco area. Richard used a variety of weapons including; handguns, knives a machete, tire iron and a hammer. He was an avowed Satanist and never showed any remorse for his crimes. The judge that sentenced him to thirteen death sentences remarked that Richard exhibited “cruelty, callousness, and viciousness beyond any human understanding .“

Richard died of B-cell lymphoma, at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California. He also had chronic substance abuse and hepatitis C viral infection. Richard died at the age of 53 years, and he was already serving more than 23 years on death row. One of Richard’s famous quotes was the following: “We’ve all got power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it. The ones who aren’t afraid control life itself”. I do believe that all of us can kill, but we have a force that stops us, a lot of us will feel guilty, and it is against our religion whatever the reason most of the population can control their anger.

Chancey was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. James was charged with accessory to murder after the fact.

Mission orientated Serial Killers

Mission orientated serial killers are those who think they do society a favor by ridding it of certain people. Their victims can include gay or lesbian, drug dealers, prostitutes or people in different religions. Mission orientated serial killers are not frequently psychotic. The killers believe they are on a mission and the world is grateful for their service. To me, it sounds crazy no one would be grateful if someone else is killed or should be for that matter.

Example one Joseph Paul Franklin. He was an American serial killer who killed between the 1970’s and 1980’s. He was “The Racist Killer” and built his killing spree on a fictional novel, “Hunter” by white supremacist William Luther Pierce. Joseph was convicted of several murders and received six life sentences as well as the death penalty. Joseph’s motive for the killings was to incite a race war.

Most of his life he was a drifter roaming the East Cost to cleanse the world of blacks and Jews. Financially he supported himself through bank robberies. And he supplemented his bank robberies with paid blood bank donations which led to his capture by the FBI.

Joseph’s account of some of the murders changed so much that the police could never determine the full extent of the crimes. Joseph spent 15 years on death row in the city of Missouri for the murder of Gerald Gordon in 1977. He was executed by lethal injection on the 20th November 2013.

2nd Example – Wolfgang Abel & Marco Furlan. They were arrested for several murders committed between 1977 to 1984 in Italy. They claimed innocence saying they were only arrested because the police did not find the real criminals. It is not uncommon for criminals to say they did not commit murder but the evidence counted against them and ultimately gave those 27 years in prison. At every crime scene, the officials found a leaflet, it was in Italian called Ludwig over a Nazi eagle and swastika. The slogan’s on the leaflets said “We are the last of the Nazi’s “and “Death comes to those who betray the real God .“ The victims were selected because they were deemed sub-human according to them: homosexuals, prostitutes and drug addicts who needed to be eliminated.

Wolfgang and Marco started their serial killing career in August 1977 when they burned a drug addict alive with four Molotov cocktails. They moved to Pudua where they stabbed a casino worker to death, in Venice they beat and stabbed a waiter to death.

Their hunger for murder only progressed, in Vicenza, they axed a fifty-one-year-old prostitute to death. And after that went on to religion based targets where they crushed the skulls of two priests with a hammer. In Verona, they burned a sleeping hitchhiker. Wolfgang and Marco had serious issues with burning people especially when they were still alive. In Trento, a homosexual priest was killed with a nail hammered into his forehead.  3rd March 1984, Wolfgang and Marco dressed in Pierrot costumes and were caught dousing the carpet and furniture in a crowded disco with gasoline in Castiglione Delle Stiviere.

Wolfgang and Marco’s trail only started in December 1986. They were found guilty on ten out of twenty-seven counts of murder and in February 1987 were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Wolfgang and Marco both got lucky as their appeals were granted and they both got bail. The two of them went their separate ways with Wolfgang moving to Mestrino and Marco fled the country to Casale di Scodosia. Marco was captured in May 1995 living in Crete under a false name and was returned to Italy.

An appeals court has sentenced Wolfgang and Marco to 27 years in prison. Marco also tried to commit suicide in prison. Marco was released in 2009 into the care of social workers, it seems that all the years of killing and being in prison has not been good for him emotionally. Wolfgang was released in 2013, it must have been hard for both of them to adapt to society.

Visionary Serial Killers

Visionary serial killers occasionally suffer psychotic breaks from society. They believe they are another person or feel compelled to murder by higher entities such as God or the devil. Visionary killers are more unorganized killers and are therefore easy to track down. Visionary serial killers sometimes use other objects and living things such as serial killer David Berkowitz, he claimed that a demon spoke through his neighbor’s dog and told him to kill. These types of killers most likely suffer from a mental illness such as schizophrenia and one percent of serial killers are psychotic.

Here is our first example of a Visionary Serial killer. Herbert William Mullin is an American serial killer who killed thirteen people in California in the early 1970’s. He confessed to the killings, which he believed prevented earthquakes.

When he was in custody, he confessed to his crimes. The Santa Cruz County District charged him with ten murders, and his trial started on July 30th, 1973. Because he admitted to the killings, the trial was a focused on whether he was sane or insane.  His lawyer argued that Herbert had a history of mental illness and had paranoid schizophrenia, the evidence, in turn, shows that he covered his tracks in some of the murders and that shows it was premeditation.

August 19, 1973, Hebert was found guilty of first-degree murder of Henri Tomi. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Santa Cruz County trail; he will be eligible for parole in 2021 at the age of 74. Herbert is currently in Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California.  At least we can take solace that he will be an old and frail man when he will be released from prison and hopefully the voices in his head will have disappeared.

Our second example of a Visionary Serial killer is Joseph Kallinger. He was an American serial killer who murdered three people including one of his sons and tortured four families. He committed these crimes, 7th July 1974 to 8th January 1975 with his fifteen-year-old son. He claimed insanity is saying that God told him to kill and rape. Joseph was found sane and convicted and sent to life in prison 14 October 1976, for arson, murder, and child abuse charges.

While Joseph was in prison, he made several suicide attempts, including setting himself on fire. Joseph was transferred to a mental hospital in Trenton, New Jersey and then to another psychiatric hospital on 18th May 1979 in Philadelphia. He spent 11 years on suicide watch and died 26th March 1996 of heart failure at SCI Cresson.

Power & Control Serial Killers

This is a type of serial killer who enjoys their victim’s pain, terror, suffering and screaming. They are very organized killers and have a history of child abuse, which left them powerless and inadequate as adults. A lot of these serial killers sexually abuse their victims, but they are not motivated by feelings of lust. Rape is just another form of dominating the victim. Some of the most famous serial killers fall into this category:

Our first example of Power and Control serial killers is Jeffery Dahmer aka Milwaukee Cannibal. He raped, murdered and dismembered seventeen boys and men between 1978 and 1991. As time progressed, some murders involved necrophilia and cannibalism of body parts. Jeffery was convicted and received sixteen life sentences on 15 February 1992.  November 28, 1994, Jeffery was beaten to death by Christopher Scarver, a fellow inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution.

Our second example of Power and Control serial killers is Dennis Nilsen aka the Kindly Killer. Dennis is a British serial killer and necrophiliac who murdered 12 young men between 1978 and 1983 in London England. Dennis was sentenced to life imprisonment on 4 November 1983, with a recommendation that he served a minimum of 25 years. One of his quotes that he is famous for is the following: “The most exciting part of the little conundrum was when I lifted the body, carried it. It was that expression of my power to lift and carry and have control. And the dangling element of limp limbs was an expression of his passivity”. He is currently serving his prison sentence at HMP Full Sutton maximum security prison in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England at the age of 71 years.

Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who killed more than 30 women and girls between 1974 and 1978. He would perform sexual acts on some of his victim’s decomposing bodies. Decapitated 12 of his victims and kept some of the victim’s heads in his apartment for mementos. Ted received three death sentences in two separate trails for the Florida murders. He was executed by use of the electric chair at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida at the age of 42 years. He once called himself “the coldest hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” At least the world has been rid of him, one less serial killer to worry about getting released from jail. They say a leopard never change their spots. I think serial killers are never actually cured from killing they only get to perfect their killing method after years behind bars.

Black Widow Serial Killers

Female serial killers are rare, and they usually victimize husbands, former husbands, boyfriends and are motivated by financial gain such as insurance policies. Female serial killers mostly use poison or drug overdose to kill their victims. Another name for these types of women serial killers is the black widow. Male serial killers are more likely to target strangers, especially if they have easy access, are transient or those people whose disappearance will not be noticed.

Angel of Death Mercy Serial Killers

These types of serial killers are mostly in the medical profession and are usually women, but males are not excluded. The reasons for these killings can range from revenge to mercy, and the most common method is poisoning of their victims.

Our first Example of angel of death serial killers is Charles Cullen

Charles was a former nurse who killed 35 people in New Jersey in his 16-year nursing career. Experts have estimated that Charles might have been responsible for 400 deaths, making him the most prolific serial killer in American history. Charles’s motive was to spare the patients going into cardiac or respiratory arrest. He told the police that he gave patients overdoses so that he could end their suffering and prevent hospital staff from de-humanizing them. Interestingly many of his victims were not terminal and could be released from the hospital.

In December 2003 he told the police that he lived most of his life in a fog and blacked out memories of murdering most of his victims. Charles was convicted and sentenced to 18 consecutive life sentences. He is currently serving his sentence in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. He is currently 57 and eligible for parole in 2403. Which is still a long way to go. I think we can assume that he will die in prison before ever getting a chance to be a free man.

2nd Example: Donald Harvey – He was an American serial killer who killed 37 to 57 victims. Donald started out killing to ease the pain of patients, as time went on, he started to enjoy it more and more. He became the self-described angel of death. Donald was serving 28 life sentences pleading guilty to the murders to avoid the death penalty.

He was serving his sentence in Toledo Correctional Institution; he started his sentence on 26th October 1987. His first parole hearing would only have been on April 2043. On 28th March 2017, Donald was found severely beaten, and he died on 30th March 2017 at the age of 64. Not a loss for society, only one less mouth to feed of taxpayer’s money.

Subcategories of Serial Killers

Spree Killers – They kill another person after already killed someone else without a pause in between the murders.

Mass murderers –They are serial killers who kill large groups of people at the time; they have no particular target in mind but kill for the enjoyment.

Lust Killers – They are serial killers who mainly harm their victims for sexual arousal.

Group Killers – These types of serial killers usually form a club that kills for sacrifice and acceptance into the group, more commonly referred to as cults.

Serial killers and Mementos

Apart from the different ways of killing you get two different mementos. The one is Souvenirs – It is personal items which allow the killer to enjoy memories of the crime they committed. It can be jewelry or body parts. Trophies – It can be objects that serial killer makes into a shrine, a collection of their past crimes.

The largest majority of serial killers are white males, whose victims are white men and women. African Americans makes up about 12% of the US population but is estimated to be 22% of serial killers. There are various biological characteristics common to serial killers such as neurological damage and or disorders. Despite all the research the causes are still not well understood and makes it harder to predict or control serial killing.

Serial killing existed since the beginning of human history, Roman Gladiators, medieval executioners, Hessian mercenaries and even the so-called Buffalo Soldier of earlier American history. Today uniformed sadists are employed in the armies of every country of the world, enlisted alongside their patriotic friends to have the chance to legally perform their psychotic fantasies.

An interesting fact about serial killers that in the past they were known as Varedwulfs literally werewolves as their crimes were so brutal to perpetuate the belief that they were committed by supernatural creatures. I am glad that in my lifetime I was never a victim or a witness to one. You will never know when it is going to happen. But armed with the knowledge of the classifications of serial killers we might be able to identify more serial killers and save a lot of people from death and suffering.

Remember we can all make a difference and it is your duty to report somebody. If you suspect foul play even if it is your husband/wife.



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