Serial killers have been active since the 15th century, yet we are still mesmerized by them. They have and will continue to shock and sicken us to the core of our being, yet they are treated as legends. We, the public, have a very perverse relationship with them and their evil deeds. Books and movies made regarding their atrocities make millions, yet they are still punished and some are put to death. Does this mean that there is a dark side to us all and we are using the active serial killers as an outlet? Perhaps someday someone will figure this mess out. Regardless, it is a fact that serial killers rape, torture, mutilate, and sometimes even eat other human beings, all of which, needless to say, show a total disregard for human life.

There are three agreed upon predictors of a serial killer in the making. The first is fire setting. Fire setting ranges from setting small brush fires to burning large buildings. The second is bed-wetting, which may continue well into the teenage years. The final is experimenting on and killing small animals.

Certain criteria must be met before murderers are considered serial killers. They need to have claimed at least three victims over a period of more than 30 days between their first and last victim. After taking each victim there is always a cooling off period that can consist of hours to days to months.

Serial killers will keep killing until they are either caught or forced to stop through threat of discovery. Many serial killers know what they are doing is wrong and therefore they go to great lengths to avoid detection. It is in this sense that serial killing can be thought of as a disease. Joel Norris, a psychologist who is currently an advocate for victim's rights, states, "the serial murderer… is addicted to his passion. He is suffering from a disease that is terminal, not only to his numerous victims but also for himself. He is the ultimate victim. On his own initiative, the serial killer can no more stop his killing than can a heroin addict kick his habit "(20). Does this mean that they have no control over their actions and therefore should be treated with pity?

As horrible as it seems, it is as if some people are born and raised to become serial killers. As children, they are unwanted and generally go unloved. Some not only go unloved, but also are physically and mentally tortured themselves and become a product of their environment. John Douglas, a respected former FBI profiler, who is still consulted for profiling, reports that, "…research has shown that virtually all serial killers come from dysfunctional backgrounds of sexual or physical abuse, drugs or alcoholism, or any of the related problems" (Mindhunter 364). It is interesting to note that almost all serial killers are male. This brings up the question of how females can come out of a horrible childhood without becoming a serial killer and why some men cannot.

Norris believes that some deficits, which may lead to becoming a serial killer, occur prior to age five (42). These deficits can be anything ranging from malnutrition to brain trauma to lack of parental love. Norris reports that "most of the serial killers whose careers have been documented reported that they were either separated from one or both parents at an early age or otherwise deprived of the mother's direct emotional involvement" (187). There can also be over involvement for a short time, such as in Charles Manson's and Ed Kemper's cases. Both of them were forced to attend school in dresses as if they were girls. This proved to be very damaging to their sexual identity and to their already wavering self-esteem. It was not until Kemper's eighth victim that he realized his rage was actually directed towards his mother. His mother and her friend were his last two victims; he then turned himself in.

Except in rare cases, serial killing is a stranger to stranger event. When David Berkowitz (a.k.a. Son of Sam) could not find someone in the wrong place at the wrong time, he would return to places he had been successful in the past (Mindhunter 140). The victims were random; there was nothing that they