David Richard Berkowitz also known as the son of Sam and the 44. Caliber Killer is an American serial killer, whose crimes terrorized New York City from July 1976 until his arrest in August 1977. He said, “I didn’t want to hurt them; I only wanted to kill them.” All serial killers think in the same way like David Berkowitz. (Freeessays, 2003) In my paper, I will discuss the categories of schizophrenia and serial killers, common features and different phases of schizophrenic serial killers, and the similarities between schizophrenia and serial killers.
“Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness characterized by a variety of symptoms,
including loss of contact with reality, bizarre behavior, disorganized thinking
and speech, decreased emotional expressiveness, and social withdrawal.” (Vanderworker, 2010) A schizophrenic person may possess all or some of these symptoms stated above. Schizophrenia is originally a Greek word which means, “Split mind.” Often schizophrenia is mistakenly understood as a disease of “multiple personality” or “split personality” and to most people who witness cases of schizophrenia, it may seem like madness or insanity. Compared to any other mental illness, schizophrenia has an unbearable effect on the lives of the people who put up with it. A person who suffers from schizophrenia may have difficulty telling the difference between what is real and what is not, appropriate and inappropriate behavior and logical and illogical thoughts. Schizophrenia may fatally hinder a sufferer from working, learning, enjoying relationships with others, or even taking care of oneself. Because people with schizophrenia may endanger themselves, they frequently require hospitalization. According to research, approximately ten percent of people with schizophrenia commit or attempt suicide. Once people develop schizophrenia, it becomes chronic. Clinical treatments are available but there is no definite cure. Some of these treatments can help schizophrenics lead productive lives however the illness also bares sociological costs. In the United States, schizophrenics occupy about one-third of all beds in psychiatric hospitals and they account for at least ten percent of the homeless population. (“Schizophrenia,”)
This illness changes the person’s perception about the real world through hallucinations and delusions. “Schizophrenia is classified into two specific classes which are positive characteristic and negative characteristic and those possibly causes for each class.” (Green, 2001) The most common one is positive schizophrenia. Positive psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions; hallucinations, for positive schizophrenics can be determined by hearing voices when there is no identifiable source which are typically auditory; delusions, are strange beliefs that are maintained despite evidence to the contrary such as the idea that someone means them harm. However, what I will mainly focus on is negative schizophrenia which is concentrated on individual cases involving violent death. These can be suicides in striking circumstances, such as “the man who entered the lions’ den at London Zoo” and was severely mauled, or unmotivated murders like the case of Christopher Clunis who stabbed to death a total stranger on the platfrom of Finsbury Park which is a public park in the London area of Harringay. These reports give us the impression that schizophrenia is a dangerous form of madness and schizophrenics behave in ways that are impossible to understand. Most serial killers are negative schizophrenics and have common characteristics. There are also visionary killers who usually listen to instructions in their head and kill somebody by the commands. (Freeessays, 2003) This situation shows that those killers have both positive and negative characteristics of schizophrenia and it can be clinically easy to treat visionary killers using strong antidepressant and observing them 24/7. Serial killers have common features of schizophrenia. For example, they hear audible thoughts, voices that argue, and voices commenting on one’s action and also, they are driven to play on the body, and they consider withdrawal, insertion, or broadcasting. They express feelings, impulses, and volitional acts which are the control of delusions. Serial killers kill people because of sub-conscious delusions, strange beliefs and the pleasure that they get from doing it. Many serial killers believe that anyone would kill if they could or were given the chance to do so. These killers think they are morally superior and able to express their feelings by being open and honest about their desires. (Vaknin) “Thrill killers, gain killers, and lust killers”- these are the three sub-categories of schizophrenic serial killers.
“Thrill killers kill people because it brings them a rush. These types of hedonists usually kill a lot more because they are addicted to this rush. Gain killers always kill people for some type of gain. This is usually money but it can also be something like a job promotion. Lust killers kill for sexual pleasure. They are usually sexually underdeveloped and they kill for sexual gratification.” (Freeessays, 2003)
As examples of these categories above, first, the Brooklyn Thrill Killers, a gang of Jewish Nazi teenage boys, killed two men in the summer of 1954, and tortured many, in Brooklyn. Second, Gary Mark Gilmore, an American Gain Killers, gained international fame because of his death sentence after committing two crimes in Utah. Final example is Jane Toppan, an American female Lust Killer, committed 31 murders in 1901. She said “her ambition was to have killed more people – helpless people – than any other man or woman who ever lived…”
Because the motives of serial killers are completely different, this distinguishes them from other types of murderers. First, serial killers take the lives of several people often three or more. Second, although the reasons may differ from one killer to another, they are simply motivated to kill. Consequently, serial killers will never stop killing unless they are institutionalized or confined. It is common for them to have a “cooling down” or “cooling off” period after which they carry on. The serial killers dream fantasies of killing, which keep them awake, and influence them to tke the life of their victims. Moreover, most serial killers do not have a partner in crime, but they sometimes commit the murders with their spouse. I can sort some serial killers that are committing the case with their spouse such as Peter Sutcliffe and his wife, and Fred and Rosemary West. (“Serial killers”)
Furthermore, in 1984, previous FBI agent Robert K. Ressler signed a research about common traits of serial killers and submitted to Commission of the International Forensic Medicine Sciences. These common traits can be arranged as following:
More than 90 % of serial killers are white males.
They are intelligent and their IQ is over “normal” status.
Although they have high IQ rate, they are not successful at school. They cannot work in the same job for a long time and they generally work as unqualified workers.
They are genetically from unbalanced families and typically, their fathers left home when they were children and they grow up by authoritarian mothers.
In their family background, there are probably criminals, alcohol addicts, and people who have psychological problems.
They hate their fathers and mothers.
Generally, while they were child, they were harassed by physically, psychologically, and sexual. Harassment can be sometimes a stranger, sometimes a friend, and sometimes a member of family.
Most of them spend their childhood in government agencies and in early ages, they start to show up psychiatric problems.
They have high percentages to attempt a suicide.
Finally, beginning from their childhood, serial killers are greatly interested in voyeurism, fetishism, and sadomasochistic pornography.
Some examples of serial killers who have these common traits, are Peter Sutcliffe and his wife, Fred and Rosemary West, Dennis Nilsen, Donald Neilson, Beverley Allitt, and Robert Black and so on.
In addition to their features, serial killers go through seven phases before and after they commit their crimes. During the first or the “Aura Phase”, the killer starts dreaming about death and destruction of anything such as an animal or a human being after which these fantasies that are difficult to control convince the serial killer to start acting. In the second stage, “Trolling Phase”, the serial killer searches for a victim. He or she usually targets schools or neighborhoods where sex workers linger. The search for a victim can last for hours, days and sometimes even months. Next is the “Wooing Phase.” A Serial Killers lures his victims by first gaining their trust and by being charming and pleasant. In the “Capture Stage” the killer plays his sadistic games. For example, he will offer his victims a ride in his car where there are no door handles. The most important phase of a serial killer’s endeavor is the “Murder Stage”. He can just decide to kill his victims, but sometimes, he prefers to torture them before killing them. In the sixth phase or the “Totem Stage” the killer will take his victim’s jewelry, clothes or even a piece of his body as a souvenir. The seventh and the final phase is “Depression.” After accomplishing his mission, in this phase, he will be resentful and depressed which may lead him to attempt suicide. Ultimately, he will start dreaming more and killing more people until the killer is either caught or dies. (Freeessays, 2003)
There are a number of possible causes of this disorder. That the disorder may be a genetic problem that runs in the family is one determining factor. Another factor may be an imbalance in the brain that results in the client chaotic thought processes. Other factors may include birth complications, stresses in life, and family structure. Any of these factors and others can generate action that leads to this insane or abnormal behavior.
There are some similarities between serial killers and schizophrenics. Studies show serial killers like schizophrenics experience difficulties during their childhood. All serial killers almost have had bedwetting, sadistic abuse of animals, and pyromania. There are many serial killers whose past have killing and abusing animals especially cats. They throw out the cats of windows and slice them, to see how long they would live. The other trait of serial killers is Pyromania. Until they discover new harmful things, they like to set fires and this is extremely fun for them. They also have bedwetting during their childhood and the sixty percent of all serial killers have their bed wet past the age of twelve. This causes great emotional pain on them as well as on schizophrenics too. For example, Alton Coleman, an African-American spree killer, was one of these bedwetters. He was called Pissy by all of his neighbors. He killed eight people and everyday, he had fantasies to torture more people with violent acts. Also, there are other relations between schizophrenia and serial killers. Bad parenting causes many mental problems for both schizophrenics and serial killers. Sexual or physical abuse and child neglect are experienced by most of the serial killers.
Neglected children can easily grab the attention of people. Also, serial killers use the same way which comes from their childhood habits when they kill the people. This is shown in the serial killers` case because they are killing people for attention. (Freeessays, 2003) When they see themselves in media, they think, it is an amazing situation that somebody noticed them. They say in the following quote, “Wow somebody out there does know that I exist”. This will only activate them more and will let them to commit more crimes. In addition, serial killers like being in control of their world or their environment. This is always the heart of how they easily commit the crimes. It is a serious passion for them and even if they feel any weaknesses on themselves, they would go further to ensure that they have their strong power back. (Saxena) This feeling of power occurs because of child abuse, child neglect and low self-esteem. Being unwanted and unloved children influences them to have lower self-esteem. Lower self-esteem makes them feel that they need back their power and this will continue with a new act of killing more innocent people. (Freeessays, 2003) Schizophrenic serial killers have great imaginations of violence and they are passionate about their interesting scenarios in their mind. This is obviously what makes them to live. None of the doctors or researchers could find what serial killers have in their sick mind before it arises and has problems for society. (Saxena)
There are some other mental disorders that occur within serial killers because of experiencing bad childhood. For example, “Schizophreniform”, “Schizoaffective disorder”, “Delusional disorder”, and “Substance-abuse psychotic disorder” are like sub-categories of schizophrenia because mostly, these illnesses have same symptoms but they last in a few months or few weeks. (Saxena) However, as I mentioned before, negative schizophrenia is hard to cure and generally it ends with the death of patients. According to inquiry, slightly less than 1 percent of the world’s population has schizophrenia. Although this is statistically low rate, it is common enough to create a huge problem for society as in the examples of negative schizophrenia. Negative schizophrenics, who are mostly serial killers, have occasions that cause them to act in their way. If they are given any chance to change what brings them their childhood, they would probably want to live in a family that they can pass through individuation stage rather than killing a living, breathing human being. (Freeessays, 2003) This stage gives children their maturity, and self-esteem. Serial killers are a serious problem as much as schizophrenics to the society. Even though it might seem like what they do is bringing of their illnesses, it is perfectly planned scenario that will cause problems for the society.