Psychological Stages of Serial Killing
Joel Norris, a renowned psychologist who interviewed and studied over 500 serial killers identified and expounded on the various psychological phases that the serial killer experiences. They include:
- The Aura Phase: Though he hasn’t actually killed anyone yet, he withdraws from any real social contact other than obligatory interactions. Alcohol or drugs may be used to heighten his fantasy life that intensifies for weeks or even years.
- Trolling Phase: Having made a decision to act on his fantasies, he begins to look for an easy victim usually in his comfort zone area. He plans the method of attack and peruses potential dump sites.
- Wooing Phase: Usually reserved for the organized killer who is adept at social skills, he uses them to gain a potential victim’s trust in order to lure them to their fate with him.
- Capture Phase: This is the killer’s most treasured moment where he is in total control. The once charming veneer unravels, a door is sealed shut, and the victim is helpless.
- Murder Phase: An organized killer will savor the time with the victim to act out his fantasy almost in slow motion. He usually rapes and tortures her while she’s still alive and will keep her alive to extend his enjoyment of it as long as he can safely do so. A disorganized killer kills the person in haste, raping and disfiguring them after the murder.
- Totem Phase: The excitement of the kill wanes and an invasion of a sense of disappointment may lead to the stealing of body parts, etc. as trophies to help him rekindle the thrill.
- Depression Phase: The realization sets in that the actual killing didn’t live up to the imagined fantasy leading him to feel unfulfilled. With each new kill he tries to re-enact the perfect replica of the fantasy which can never be as powerful as he had imagined. This pattern leads to an addiction to kill.
These phases explain the progression from fantasy to the compulsive need for re-enactment. Because there is never a satisfactory conclusion for him, he will continue to kill and the cycle usually doesn’t end until he is caught or dies.