Netflix's series Mindhunter takes us all the way back to the beginning of our modern-day fascination with serial killers — it even captures the moment the very term "serial killer" was coined. Based on John E. Douglas' book by the same name, the series reveals how psychological profiling was used in the investigation of a string of serial murders in the 1970s.
Sadly, serial killers aren't a relic of that era, so we're still researching their behavior and motives. To get an idea of what the criminology community now knows about serial killers, we spoke with Peter Vronsky, author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters and Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters.
If there's one thing he makes perfectly clear, it's that findings about serial killers, no matter how consistent they may seem, aren't predictive. Whether we're looking at someone's upbringing, mental health, or general behavior, we cannot say that someone is likely a serial killer simply because they share a few characteristics with people who are. But, of course, there's more to it than that.
Ahead, Vronsky helps us narrow down seven things criminologists understand about these intriguing — yet chilling — figures.