3 Main Types of Serial Killers

Alex Williams
8 Min Read

We can broadly classify types of serial killers as organized and disorganized. However, this classification is based on the serial killers’ characteristics but not their motives. Human beings are complex creatures, and it is necessary to understand what triggers serial killers. Based on the understanding of their motives, the classification of 3 main types of serial killers is listed below.

1. Visionary Serial Killers

There are several types of serial killers, however one specific type is those who murder people because they feel that the person is commanding them to do so. So, are all serial killers psychopaths in this category? Yes, all of the visionary serial killers suffer from severe psychosis and are mentally disorganized. They suffer from various types of hallucinations such as their thoughts are being read by others or that people are out to hurt them.

They are mostly always random, making it difficult for the police to link all their murders together. They do not plan much before they kill somebody, and they also do not put any effort into covering up their murders. (See How to tell if someone is a Psychopath?)

  • An example of a visionary serial killer is Herbert Mullin, who was suffering from delusions which led him to believe that California would be struck with a massive earthquake if nature did not receive human blood as a sacrifice. He would hear voices warning him about the earthquake and commanding him to kill. Herbert believed that the Vietnam war had caused enough deaths to appease nature. However, the war was almost at its end, and the US was about to withdraw from the conflict. Therefore, Mullin believed that it was now his responsibility to compensate for the lack of people’s deaths which led him to kill 13 people within one year from 1972 to 1973.
  • Another example is Richard Chase who murdered 13 people because he believed that his blood was turning into powder, and to replenish it, he had to drink other people’s blood.

2. Hedonistic Serial Killers

Hedonistic serial killers are the types of serial killers who kill for pleasure. They are driven by the thrill that they get either sex or money. Hedonistic serial killers can be further categorized into three subcategories:

A) Lust Killers

Lust killers are those hedonistic serial killers who rape, mutilate and kill people for their gratification & a sense of pleasure. These killers often fantasize for years about the act before even committing the crime. However, this fantasy can, later on, turn into a desperate psychological need. Once they commit one crime, they must continue murdering other people to get that high they got out of the first murder. As it is hard for them to control their impulses, the period between two consecutive murders gets shorter and shorter. (See 15 Unique Facts About Fingerprints)

  • Lust killers tend to use weapons that require them to come close to their victims. For example, they might choose to stab or strangle their victims.
  • This type of murderers might even revisit the crime scene to relive the act.
  • Some even take back tokens from their victims to be reminded of their acts.
  • Some others return to mutilate their victim’s body and engage in necrophilia.
  • However, sex may not always be a necessity for lust killers. Some get off just by murdering the person and mutilating the body.

B) Comfort Killers

A comfort serial killer is the types of serial killers who kill for material gains or money. For example, these killers might murder their spouse for an insurance payout or their sibling to get their share of the inheritance.  Their motivation is to acquire wealth or comfort. (See 11 Facts on Death Row Inmate Brenda Andrew)

  • According to statistics, females are unlikely to kill just for the sake of it or for sexual gratification. Most female serial killers fall into this category.
  • Comfort killers usually use poison as their weapon as they do not necessarily have to come in close contact with their victims.
  • They most often wait out for long periods before they strike again. It is because killing does not give them any thrill or high. They only do it for their gains.

C) Thrill Killers

As the name suggests, a thrill killer is a serial killer who murders people because they get a thrill out of it. Terrorizing their victims, looking at fear in their eyes, or hunting them down gives them an adrenaline rush. They murder people just to know what it feels like to do so. Looking at their victims’ suffering gives them immense pleasure. These thrill killers usually have a sense of inadequacy and helplessness within them, although they might look confident on the outside. By murdering people, they feel powerful and in charge. Once they have murdered the person, they lose interest in the body as the victims can no longer give them a response. (See Serial Killers Zodiac Signs Statistics)

  • Thrill killers are almost always sadistic, and therefore they might use physical or mental ways to torture their victims.
  • They might even let them loose so that they can chase/hunt them down.
  • In these murders, sex is not the primary motive, although they may occasionally use it as a tool to inflict pain.

3. Mission-Oriented Serial Killers

Mission-oriented serial killers are the types of serial killers that murder people to get rid of a specific group of people. They can be racist, or they might target sex workers/homosexuals. Unlike visionary serial killers, they do not suffer from psychosis. It is entirely their decision to murder people, and no one else orders them to do so. Mission-oriented killers are organized, and they plan well beforehand.

  • They usually do not come in close contact with their victims and mostly always prefer to use guns as they are quick and efficient.
  • Revenge and hatred drives these killers to murder.
  • Usually, mission-oriented killers stick to a specific geographic area.
  • An example of a mission-oriented serial killer is Joseph Paul Franklin. Franklin’s targets were black people and Jewish people. He had hatred towards interracial couples as he believed that mixing race is a crime against God. In June 1980, he shot an interracial couple, Arthur Smothers and Kathleen Mikula. Arthur was black while Kathleen was white. He killed people all along the East coast between 1977 and 1980. 

However, as mentioned previously, human beings have complex natures. Hence, it would not be wise to categorize serial killers into specified categories. (Also See 11 Famous Black Serial Killers)

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