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Serial killer

Serial killers are individuals who have a history of multiple slayings of individuals usually unknown to them beforehand. A phenomenon which seemed to gain some prominence in the second half of the twentieth century, record of the practice can be found at least as far back as London's Jack the Ripper (1888).

Although the terms "serial killer" and "mass murderer" are often used synonymously, criminologists distinguish the two. A serial killer is one who commits a number of murders over a long period of time, with the killings separated by often long periods of apparent normalcy. A mass murderer, on the other hand is an individual who kills several people in a single event. A spree killer kills in a series of closely connected events. The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a serial killing as: "[involving] the killing of several victims in three or more separate events." This definition is especially close to that of a spree killer, and perhaps the primary difference between the two is that a serial killer tends to "lure" victims to their death; whereas, a spree killer tends to go "hunting".

Serial killers are often acting on extreme sadistic urges and are often classified as sociopathic, lacking any ability to empathize with the suffering of others. In many cases, a serial killer will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. This defense is almost universally unsuccessful.

The public's fascination with serial killers led to some successful crime novels and films about fictional serial killers, including Helen Zahavi[?]'s novel Dirty Weekend, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, and the Academy Award-winning movie Silence of the Lambs.

List of Serial Killers

Unidentified serial killers:

For the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, see List of terrorist incidents.

See also: spree killer


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