Category Archives: Serial Killers

Some People Kill Just For The Thrill Of It. Doc Bonn Explains Why

Thrill Killers, Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn


*photo by Evan Lavine

Incredibly, there are people who kill simply for the excitement it gives them. Killing provides them with an adrenaline rush similar to what you or I might receive from an extreme roller coaster ride. Such individuals are usually psychopaths so they rarely, if ever, suffer remorse for their murders.

Serial killers of this variety are defined as hedonist thrill killers by criminologists Ronald Holmes and Stephen Holmes in their typology of serial killer motivations.1 Israel Keyes, the army veteran, who stalked and killed eight people across several states prior to his capture and suicide in Alaska in December 2012, is the most recent example of this type of serial predator.

Thrill killers are emotionally detached from their victims and generally view them as objects. They are cold-blooded, meticulous predators who are driven to kill by compulsion rather than by passion. Hunting their prey becomes an addiction for them much like a narcotic drug.

As explained by Peter Vronsky in his 2004 book Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters, thrill killers derive intense satisfaction from the process of murder—that is, the acts leading up to it—rather than the killing itself.  Once they have experienced the exhilarating thrill of the hunt they want it again and again.

The victims of a thrill killer are generally strangers, although the killer may stalk them for a period of time before the attack in order to fuel the excitement of the hunt. They come to crave the euphoric adrenaline rush provided by stalking and capturing their victims. The primary motive of thrill killers is to induce pain or terror in their victims prior to killing them which provides intense stimulation and excitement.2 The inability of a psychopathic thrill killer such as Israel Keyes to feel compassion or sympathy enables him to view the torture and killing of his victims as a sport.

Normally, the attack of a thrill killer is swift and there is generally no sexual aspect to the murder. Once the victim is dead, a thrill killer typically loses interest in him/her almost immediately. Therefore, postmortem mutilation or necrophilia is rarely engaged in by this type of serial killer. This pattern represents a stark contrast to hedonist lust killers such as the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer who love to engage in postmortem sexual activities.

Hedonist thrill killers can abstain from murder for long periods of time and become more adept at killing as they gain experience and refine their skills.3 They are typically meticulous and highly organized in the planning and execution of their crimes. Thrill killers are perfectionists and often have narcissistic personalities. Such traits may drive them to pursue the goal of a perfect murder or delude them into thinking that they will never be caught.

Another example of the hedonist thrill killer is Robert Hansen, who murdered at least seventeen women near Anchorage, Alaska, between 1980 and his capture in 1983. A psychopath, Hansen took his captured victims to a secluded area where he would let them loose and then hunt and kill them just for the sport of it. He was in essence a twisted trophy hunter who preyed on humans.

Perhaps the ultimate hedonist thrill killer was the unidentified predator who called himself “Zodiac” and operated in Northern California during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The Zodiac terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area and aggressively tormented his pursuers throughout his crime spree. He targeted four men and three women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine in the San Francisco area from December 1968 until October 1969. Five of his victims died and two were injured in the attacks. He finally stopped killing for unknown reasons and his identity remains a mystery.

The killer gave himself the name Zodiac in a series of taunting letters that he sent to local newspapers in the Bay Area. His numerous letters also included four cryptograms (or ciphers)—only one of which was definitively solved. The tremendous excitement that the Zodiac Killer derived from his murders is evident in the words contained in his one cipher that was solved. In it he wrote, “[Killing people] is so much fun. It’s even better than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal. To kill gives me the most thrilling experience. It is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl.” For the Zodiac Killer and other psychopathic thrill killers like him, the process leading up to the act of murder affords them the greatest satisfaction of their lives.

Doc Bonn, Dr. Scott BonnTo learn more about the pathological minds and motivations of serial killers look for the release of Dr. Scott Bonn’s new book Why We Love Serial Killers from Skyhorse Press later this year. Scott Bonn, PhD, is an author, media analyst and professor of criminology at Drew University. Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter.  

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities.




1Holmes, R.M. and Holmes, S.T. 1998. Serial Murder, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

2Vronsky, P. 2004. Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. New York:

Berkley Books



Jack the Ripper Unmasked: One Hundred and Twenty-Five Years Later

Jack the ripper, Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn

(picture courtesy mjg

On November 9, 1888, Jack the Ripper killed his fifth and final victim, Mary Kelly. He then disappeared without a trace. One hundred and twenty-five years after his killing spree abruptly ended without his capture, the murders of Jack the Ripper continue to haunt and tantalize the world. The Ripper killings are the greatest unsolved “whodunit” mystery of all time. I write this is to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper murders and share my thoughts on his true identity.

The tale of Jack the Ripper involves five extremely brutal slayings of prostitutes between August and November of 1888 in the Whitechapel area of London, England. Legend has it that the perpetrator called himself Jack the Ripper in letters he sent to the London police—taking credit for the crimes. Prior to the Jack the Ripper letters, the London newspapers called the unknown killer “Leather Apron” based on a suspicion that the killer was a local butcher. It was later believed that the Ripper was a medical doctor due to the significant cutting of the victims’ bodies.

The Ripper case was the first serial killer story in history to cause a widespread media frenzy and that was due to the proliferation of inexpensive broadsheet newspapers in Victorian London in the late nineteenth century. By the fall of 1888, at the height of the Ripper’s killing spree, one million newspapers with updated stories on the case were sold each day—an unprecedented circulation of newspapers at the time.

The Jack the Ripper case has generated a glut of conspiracy theories concerning his identity over the years. Incredibly, there are at least one hundred different theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper. One of the most colorful involves a British royal family connection and the freemasons. It became the basis for the Johnny Depp film From Hell.

I believe that Jack the Ripper was in fact a poor, insane Polish Jew with homicidal tendencies called “David Cohen” who was admitted to the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in London, December 1888. He died in the asylum in October 1889. The name David Cohen is a pseudonym similar to “John Doe” that was given to him because his actual name was never determined or at least not recorded.

Let me explain my rationale for identifying David Cohen as Jack the Ripper. First and foremost, forensic evidence supports this conclusion. In what is frequently cited as the first application of criminal profiling techniques, London physicians George Phillips and Thomas Bond used autopsy results and crime scene evidence in the fall of 1888 to make rudimentary but informed predictions about Jack the Ripper’s personality, behavioral characteristics and lifestyle.

In his written report after examining the available forensic evidence, including the bodies, Dr. Thomas Bond concluded that “all five murders no doubt were committed by the same hand… the women must have been lying down when murdered and in every case the throat was cut first.”  Dr. Bond stated that Jack the Ripper had no medical training or knowledge of anatomy, despite the killer’s extensive cutting and mutilation of his victims.

This bold statement by Dr. Bond directly opposed what law enforcement authorities had previously concluded—that Jack the Ripper was either a physician or had medical training due to the fact that he had removed internal organs from some of his victims. Dr. Bond reached his conclusion after noting that the gaping wounds inflicted by the Ripper were not consistent with the training of a medical expert or “even the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer.”

In the opinion of Dr. Bond, the murderer must have been “a man of solitary habits,  subject to periodic attacks of homicidal and erotic mania, and the character of the mutilations  possibly indicating satyriasis” or uncontrollable sexual desire.

Based on an approach established by the FBI to categorize serial predators, the Ripper was a “disorganized” killer. Disorganized crimes are not planned and the criminal typically leaves evidence such as fingerprints or blood at the scene of the murder. There is often no attempt to move or otherwise conceal the corpse after the murder. Disorganized criminals are often insane. They also have deficient communication and social skills.

Disorganized killers will often “blitz” their victims—that is, use sudden and overwhelming force to capture and kill them. The victim’s body is usually left where the attack took place and the killer makes no attempt to hide it. In all of these regards, Jack the Ripper is a classic example of the disorganized serial killer.

The Ripper also had what is known as a signature. The signature is not required in order to commit the crime. Rather, it serves the emotional or psychological needs of the offender. The signature comes from within the psyche of the offender and it reflects a deep fantasy need that the killer has about his victims. The signature may involve mutilation or dismemberment of the victim’s body. The signature of Jack the Ripper was the extensive hacking and mutilation of his victims’ bodies that characterized all of his murders.

In addition, Jack the Ripper sometimes posed his victims’ nude bodies with their legs spread apart to shock onlookers and the police in Victorian England.

David Cohen fits the profile of Jack the Ripper almost perfectly. He was admitted to the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum just one month after the murder of Mary Kelly, the Ripper’s final victim. The asylum’s records show that Cohen had “homicidal tendencies and a great hatred of women.” Cohen reportedly exhibited violent, destructive tendencies while at the asylum and had to be restrained at all times. Consistent with the profile of a disorganized killer, David Cohen was mentally ill and virtually non-communicative.

Also pointing to David Cohen is the fact that a leading theory of Scotland Yard at the time said Jack the Ripper was a “low class Polish Jew and sexual maniac living in Whitechapel.” As noted by author and Ripper historian Martin Fido, David Cohen is the only insane Polish Jew who was committed to an asylum at the right time for the murders to stop as they did, and the only registered lunatic pauper admitted to Colney Hatch between 1888 and 1890 that fits the suspect described by Scotland Yard.

Moreover, in his book The Cases That Haunt Us, former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas said that behavioral clues gathered from the Ripper murders all point to a person “known to the police as David Cohen … or someone very much like him.”

We will never know if David Cohen was Jack the Ripper but it is fun to speculate. It is also hard to overstate the impact of the Ripper case in terms of its impact on the popular culture. As noted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in its 2005 report titled Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, the name Jack the Ripper has become synonymous with serial murder over the years.

In the 1970s and 1980s the exploits of high-profile serial killers in the U.S. such as the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer rekindled public interest in serial murder, which then exploded after the 1991 release of the now classic Hollywood film The Silence of the Lambs and its subsequent sequels and prequels.

Most recently, the world tuned in to watch an avenging angel serial killer named Dexter for eight seasons on Showtime Network. We seem to love our serial killers and Jack the Ripper was the granddaddy of them all.

Scott Bonn, PhD, is an author, media analyst and professor of criminology at Drew University. He is the author of a forthcoming book “Why We Love Serial Killers” from Skyhorse Press in 2014. He can be reached @DocBonn on Twitter.      

Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn,ImaginePublicity


Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities.



Related articles

Serial Killer Groupies and Collectors of “Murderabilia”

murderabilia,Unabomber jacket, Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn

*photo released by US Marshals Service Office of Public Affairs

The public’s fascination with serial killers is not limited to what is portrayed about them in the news or entertainment media. There are people who take their fascination to an extreme and become ardent fans or collectors of serial killer artifacts. There are even groupies who become lovers or spouses of serial killers. For example, Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker) married an obsessed groupie and journalist, Doreen Lioy, in 1996 while he was awaiting execution in California. Lioy vowed to commit suicide the day he was executed but Ramirez died of liver failure while still on death row in 2013. Former FBI profiler, Roy Hazelwood, commented to me on such extreme fascination and behavior:

There are some people (mostly females, but also males) who are fascinated by corresponding or meeting with serial offenders.  Here I am referring to individuals who correspond not to learn but to [develop a] relationship.  Some women even “fall in love” with these men, believing them to be misunderstood.  Such people, in my opinion, generally have low self-esteem.  By interacting with serial killers, they fulfill their own need for attention.

Hazelwood explained that in some rare instances a groupie actually wants to become vicariously involved in the crimes of the killer. He told me, “I interviewed four women who participated with their husbands in the murder of others.  Every one of them admitted to being afraid of the killer and yet aroused by the acts.”

The general public seems to have a tremendous appetite for the sensationalized atrocity tales of serial killers that are continually presented in the entertainment media and it appears to be willing to spend millions of dollars to satisfy it. Since the 1970s there has been a growing consumer market worldwide for serial killer themed content and merchandise. For example, author Stieg Larsson’s “The Millennium Trilogy” (based on “The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo”) has sold more than 75 million copies around the world. In addition, the success of television series such as The Killing, Hannibal, The Following and Bates Motel demonstrate that stories based on serial killer themes have become mainstream entertainment material.

Above and beyond the many millions of consumers who are entertained and frightened by serial killers in the mass media and other mainstream outlets, there are also obsessive collectors of serial killer memorabilia who help to catapult individuals like Richard Ramirez and BTK into the status of criminal celebrity icons.

Can you imagine wanting to own an article of clothing once worn by Ted Bundy or an oil painting by the late John Wayne Gacy? How about collecting serial killer trading cards? For people who want such things, there are a number of outlets where they can be purchased. In fact, there are at least six websites in the United States which currently sell murder memorabilia, and these sites offer artifacts from almost any notorious killer imaginable. On one of the most popular sites,, the starting bid for a lock of Charles Manson‘s hair is $2,500, for a “skull clown” painting by John Wayne Gacy the starting bid is $2,999, and for a painting of his alter-ego “Pogo the clown” it is $19,999. In addition to top-sellers like Manson and Gacy, collectors can purchase items from other infamous killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Joel Rifkin. The objects range from personal items such as letters, artwork, and clothing to manufactured items such as action figures, trading cards and comic books. If one is perhaps looking for a bargain, the starting bid on for a small bag of backyard (burial ground) dirt from the boarding house of serial killer Dorothea Puente is only $25.

Exactly what leads a person to collect artifacts from notorious killers? That question was asked of several prominent sellers of murderabilia who are also avid collectors of the items themselves. One of these individuals is Eric Gein, who owns and operates—a leading website that sells murderabilia—from his home in Jacksonville, FL. His adopted last name is homage to psychotic 1950s multiple murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein. In an interview with ABC News he said, “I started writing guys [in prison] in the mid-90s. I wanted to get inside their minds and see what made them tick, see what they did and why they did it.”

Along the way, Gein discovered that he was not alone in his macabre interest. He said there are many people who have a fascination with “going to the source” and “actually holding something that an infamous monster has created or owned.” The fascination with serial killer memorabilia that Gein shares with many others led to his website business. He claims to have a diverse customer base that includes collectors of the bizarre and macabre, university professors who use the murderabilia items as teaching tools, college students looking for unusual dorm room decorations, U.S. military personnel, and true crime enthusiasts. He believes that the items he sells have historical value. “It’s a dark history, but it is part of our history,” Gein, said. “Why not have these items, study these items, preserve these items for future generations? Maybe one day find out why [serial murderers] do what they do.”

To learn more about the public’s obsession with serial killers, look for Doc Bonn’s forthcoming book, “Why We Love Serial Killers” from Skyhorse Press in 2014. Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter

Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn,ImaginePublicity

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities.


Dr. Scott Bonn and Rita Cosby Talk About David Berkowitz, Son of Sam

Image of Rita CosbyOn Monday, May 6, Dr. Scott Bonn joined television news anchor and correspondent, radio host, and best-selling author, Rita Cosby on her national radio show on WOR710 New York’s News and Talk to discuss his recent prison visit with David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam.

Cosby landed an in person interview with Berkowitz in 2002 when he wrote a three page letter to her during the DC sniper shootings imparting his opinions and asking for the sniper to stop. A common subject, Berkowitz, Bonn and Cosby share their views about their individual time spent with him.

Scott Bonn has been corresponding with Berkowitz for several years as research for an upcoming book (tentatively titled Why We Love Serial Killers thus gaining his trust and finally being granted an in person visit at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, NY.  Bonn came away from the meeting with a sense of sincerity from Berkowitz about his conversion to Christianity and his ministry within the prison. Bonn reports that the Son of Sam is now known as Son of Hope because of his wish to help others spiritually.

Listen to the podcast

Scott Bonn and Rita Cosby are two of several who have corresponded with David Berkowitz over the years, including many who are skeptical about his conversion.  In a 2010 New York Times story  it states:

Joseph Coffey, the police sergeant who took Mr. Berkowitz’s initial confession, said his statements about his religious convictions were as believable as his amended claim that members of a satanic cult to which he belonged were responsible for some of the shootings.

“It’s a total charade to promote himself,” said Mr. Coffey, who retired from the Police Department in 1985. “I have had people who I sent to prison or put in the witness protection program find religion because it suits them by providing them access to the outside world.”

But, the article contains several accounts from others who feel Berkowitz is sincere in his beliefs and his actions prove that he has turned over a new leaf, including Andy Kahan, the crime victims assistance director to the mayor of Houston who works diligently to prevent people from profiting on the sale of items from notorious criminals, received assistance from Berkowitz in statements and opinions on the “murderabilia” industry. Kahan read the statements in the Texas legislature hearings. He concurs with those who feel Berkowitz is genuine:

“You can’t change the past, but you can alter the future,” Mr. Kahan said, “and by working with me on this issue, it certainly shows that he is trying to make amends.”

Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn,Son of Sam,David Berkowitz, serial killer, spiritual awakening, religious conversion

The debate about Berkowitz will go on for a long time, he will never be out from behind prison walls and, according to Scott Bonn, has no intention of asking for parole in the future. He seems content with his life, has made apologies, and is working on being an example to others.

Dr. Scott Bonn will include even more details of his visit in his upcoming book, along with his insights to other serial killers he has corresponded with, including Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer and his theories on the identity of Jack the Ripper. Why We Love Serial Killers is being published by Skyhorse Publishing and will be released in Fall of 2014.

Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn,ImaginePublicity

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities.

Dr. Scott Bonn and Rita Cosby Talk About David Berkowitz, Son of Sam

Doc Bonn Visits with David Berkowitz, Son of Sam

I recently spent five enlightening hours with the man whose pseudonym, “Son of Sam,” has become synonymous with evil.

Dr. Scott Bonn visits David Berkowitz, Son of Sam

David Berkowitz, the man behind the pseudonym, shot and murdered six people, and wounded seven others, with a .44 revolver during his reign of terror several decades ago in New York City. He ignited a public panic of epic proportions during the so-called summer of Sam in 1977.

After the largest manhunt in New York history, Berkowitz was arrested without incident outside his apartment on August 10, 1977. As he was being taken into custody he mildly said, “Well, you got me. How come it took you such a long time?”

Jeff Kamen, the Emmy-winning journalist who covered the Son of Sam case extensively, and who also sat close to Berkowitz during his court appearances said, “Sitting there I felt as if I was in the presence of pure evil.” Berkowitz received six consecutive life sentences for his crimes. During his stay at Attica Correctional Facility, Berkowitz was attacked by another inmate in 1979 and received a potentially fatal slash to the left side of his neck that required nearly 60 stitches to close. Incredibly, Berkowitz became a born-again Christian in 1987 after having a self-proclaimed spiritual awakening one night in his cell at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, NY, where he will likely remain for the rest of his life.

I visited with David Berkowitz on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at Sullivan after corresponding with him regularly through the mail for nearly two years. He has been offering me unique insights for an upcoming book on why so many people are fascinated with serial killers and the dark side of mankind. David gave me a rare, one-on-one interview that I will not soon forget.

To read the complete story go to CBS News Crimesider

Dr. Scott Bonn writes for CBS News Crimesider

Follow criminologist and media analyst and consultant Dr. Scott Bonn @DocBonn on Twitter and visit his website  

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities

Doc Bonn Visits with David Berkowitz, Son of Sam

“Monster Dearest: Our Macabre Fascination with Serial Killers” Tell me what YOU think!

Monster Dearest: Our Macabre Fascination with Serial Killers, Dr. Scott Bonn, ImaginePublicity

Are you fascinated with serial killers?  I’d like to hear your comments on my forthcoming book.

Synopsis of “Monster Dearest: Our Macabre Fascination with Serial Killers”

Since at least the 1970s serial killers have been frequent and chilling actors on center stage in the news and entertainment media.  Massive and highly stylized news coverage of real life serial killers such as David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam,” and Jeffrey Dahmer transforms them into ghoulish celebrities.  Similarly, fictional serial killers such as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in the blockbuster 1991 film Silence of the Lambs have also become popular culture icons.  More recently, the tremendous financial successes of the Showtime television series Dexter and the book and film franchise based on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo demonstrate how eager the public is to be frightened by serial killers.

When you bring up the name of an infamous real life predator such as Jack the Ripper or Ted Bundy in conversation with a group of people, it is clear that serial killers are a hot topic.  Some folks actually become gleeful in their demeanor when discussing them.  Why is that, I wonder?  Could it be that some of us have a macabre fascination with serial killers for the same reason(s) that many of us are morbidly drawn to stare at a catastrophic automobile accident unexpectedly encountered along a highway?  Therein lies the central question of this book.  Why are so many people, including myself, fascinated by serial killers?  Answering this intriguing social question while also debunking serial killer myths and providing compelling new insights into serial predators are the primary objectives of this book.

Unlike other books about serial killers which focus on the behavior of the criminals only, “Monster Dearest” offers an exploration into the nature of society itself and its powerful appetite for the macabre, while also providing new and unique insights into serial murderers.  Significantly, this book provides a penetrating sociological look at the public’s fascination with serial homicide which is groundbreaking in its approach.  In order to understand why so many people in society seem to be captivated by serial killers, “Monster Dearest” examines the social agents and processes that turn them into fiendish celebrities.  In order to achieve its objectives, this book contains the following components:

•           An in-depth examination of serial murder realities in the U.S. and a comparison of serial killing to other types of multiple homicide such as mass murder.

•           A discussion of antisocial personality disorders, including sociopathy and psychopathy, and how such conditions may be manifested in serial killers.

•           An examination of criminal profiling techniques used by law enforcement professionals such as the FBI to identify and apprehend unknown serial predators.

•           An investigation of important social processes, including news media reporting, that may help to explain how and why serial killers often become grizzly popular culture personalities.

•         An examination of the role of key social agents such as the news media, state officials (e.g., law enforcement) and the general public in the creation of the public identities of serial killers.

•           A compelling exploration of the actual words of two notorious serial killers, i.e., David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) and Dennis Rader (Bind, Torture, Kill), gained through exclusive correspondence with them, which offers insights into their minds and the public’s fascination with serial predators.

•           An argument that the sudden appearance of a serial killer in the public eye, driven by massive news media coverage and journalistic hyperbole, can create public anxiety or “anomie” (i.e., conflicting social norms) when the public is confronted by a socially defined super predator that defies all conventional wisdom concerning criminal motivations and behavior.

•           A second argument that the stereotypical representation of serial killers as inhuman monsters by law enforcement and the media reduces anomie or public anxiety by clarifying moral boundaries and defining evil while also establishing serial killers as the “other” in society—that is, they are separate and distinct from decent, normal people.

I am writing “Monster Dearest” as you read this, so your feedback will make a contribution to my work.

Would you like to read this book?  Why or why not?

What appeals to you the most about it?

What would you like to see added or changed?

Please give me your comments below.

Thank you. “Doc Bonn”

“Monster Dearest: Our Macabre Fascination with Serial Killers” Tell me what YOU think!

Follow criminologist and media analyst and consultant Dr. Scott Bonn @DocBonn on Twitter and visit his website  Listen to Doc Bonn’s bi-weekly segment on Wednesdays at 11pm ET on  The Roth Show

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities

Sociopath or Psychopath, Which is a Serial Killer More Likely to Be?

Jack the Ripper,Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn

Sociopathy and psychopathy are both antisocial personality disorders and they share many common behavioral traits.  Their similarities lead to the confusion between them and help to explain why many people incorrectly believe they are the same, identical disorder.  Key traits that both sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior and emotional outbursts

In addition to their similarities, each of these two antisocial personality disorders also has its own unique characteristics which are explained below.

First, sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated.  They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage.  Second, they are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place. They are frequently transients and drifters.  Third, it is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others.  They are capable of bonding emotionally and demonstrating empathy with certain people, and in certain situations, but not others.  Thus, some sociopaths are able to form attachments to an individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general.  Finally, in the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear clearly disturbed.  Any crimes committed by a sociopath will tend to be haphazard and spontaneous.  A sociopath who becomes a serial killer will most likely conform to the FBI’s disorganized category of serial predator.  Jack the Ripper offers a classic example of the volatile, spontaneous and disorganized serial killer.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have charming and disarming personalities.  They are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust.  They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to other unsuspecting people.  Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs.  Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.  When committing crimes, psychopaths carefully plan out every detail and often have a contingency plan in place.  Unlike their sociopathic counterparts, psychopathic criminals are cool, calm and meticulous.  They make few mistakes.  A psychopath who becomes a serial killer would most likely conform to the FBI’s organized category of killer.  The charming Ted Bundy provides a classic example of the poised, articulate and highly organized serial killer.

The etiology or cause of psychopathy is different than the cause of sociopathy.  It is believed that psychopathy is the result of “nature” (genetics) while sociopathy is the result of “nurture” (environment).  According to the late David Lykken, a behavioral geneticist known for his studies on twins, psychopathy is related to a physiological defect that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Sociopathy, on the other hand, is more the product of childhood traumas and abuse.  Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy or emotional connection with others but only to certain individuals, such as a family member or friend, and only in certain contexts.  Psychopaths, on the other hand, are simply incapable of empathy and are unable to form real emotional bonds with anyone.  Ironically, it is the ability of psychopaths to so effectively mimic empathy and emotional bonds with others that make them especially dangerous, deceptive and highly successful serial killers.

The traits of the psychopathic personality are more highly correlated with the characteristics of highly successful, organized serial killers than are sociopathic traits.  Many of the most infamous and prolific serial killers in U.S. history, including Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Dennis Rader, Ed Kemper, Joel Rifkin, Jeffrey Dahmer and Gary Ridgway, have manifested the central traits of psychopathy, and many of these killers have been classified as psychopaths by forensic psychologists.  A cool and unemotional demeanor combined with a keen intellect and charming personality makes the psychopath a very effective predator.

It should come as no surprise that the entertainment industry has provided many inaccurate examples of psychopaths in film, television and books, etc.  Psychopaths are often incorrectly presented by the media as scary people who look frightening or have other off-putting characteristics.  In reality, a psychopath like Ted Bundy can be anyone—a neighbor, coworker, lover or homeless person on the street.  Each of these seemingly harmless people may in reality prey ruthlessly on others around them.

Follow criminologist and media expert Dr. Scott Bonn @DocBonn on Twitter and visit his website

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities.


Doc Bonn shares the real life atrocity tale of serial killer Edmund Kemper


The following is a real life horror story and atrocity tale that defies comprehension.  Edmund Kemper III, a U.S. serial killer and necrophile, also known as “The Co-ed Killer,” was born December 18, 1948, in Burbank, CA.  He was arrested in April, 1973, at the age of 24, after murdering six female students, his own mother, and her mother’s best friend.

Despite his relative youth upon capture, Kemper had actually committed his first two murders nearly a decade earlier.  Kemper was an extremely intelligent child but he engaged in sociopathic behavior early on, including the torture and killing of animals, a common childhood practice among nearly half of all serial killers.  During childhood, Kemper was physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic mother, Clarnell, who was divorced from his father.  Clarnell frequently locked her son in a dark basement alone at night.

Not too surprisingly, Edmund grew up to hate his mother and, at the age of 14, ran away from home in search of his father in Van Nuys, CA. After locating but being rejected by his father, young Edmund was sent to live with his paternal grandmother and grandfather in North Fork, CA.  Kemper claims that his grandmother, similar to his mother, was very abusive and he disliked her intensely.

In 1964, at the age of 15, Edmund shot his grandmother in the head allegedly just to see what it felt like, and then killed his grandfather, too, because he knew that his grandfather would be angry at him for killing his grandmother.  Kemper was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane.  To his chagrin, he was released into his mother’s care in 1969, after less than five years of confinement and treatment.  His juvenile criminal record was expunged.

As a young adult, Kemper stood six-foot-nine and weighed 280 pounds.  He frequently thought about killing his mother but wasn’t yet ready to pursue that goal.  The prospect of killing his mother without first perfecting his murder skills on others was too overwhelming for Kemper.  So, between May, 1972, and February, 1973, Kemper embarked on a series of six shocking serial murders in which he picked up hitchhiking female students along the highway and then transported them to rural areas where he would kill them, decapitate, and have sex with their corpses.  He collected their dismembered heads in his apartment and would later have sex with them, too.

Like certain other notorious serial killers such as Dennis Rader, who called himself “Bind, Torture, Kill” based on his actual criminal motivations and modus operandi, Ed Kemper sought public recognition and acclaim for his murders.  This led him to befriend, socialize and drink in a bar called “The Jury Room” with the very law enforcement officers who were actually pursuing the man they called “Big Eddie.”

After finally realizing his ultimate fantasy of killing his mother (and her best friend) on Good Friday, 1973, and having sex with her decapitated head, Edmund Kemper confessed what he had done to authorities by telephone.  However, the police initially refused to believe him, thinking that “Big Eddie” was just pulling a prank on them.  After several calls and the disclosure of information that only the killer would know, Kemper finally convinced the police that he was “The Co-ed Killer.”  He was arrested and later charged with eight murders in the first degree.  Kemper was found guilty and given a life sentence because there was a stay on the death penalty in the U.S. at the time of his conviction.

Given his homicidal obsession with his mother, one might wonder if killing her finally exorcised the demons that tormented Edmund Kemper and gave him closure.  Perhaps you can decide for yourself based on his following actual words.  Sometime after his conviction, Kemper was asked allegedly by a Cosmopolitan magazine reporter during a prison interview how he felt when he saw a pretty girl.  He said, “One side of me says, I’d like to talk to her, date her.  The other side says, I wonder how her head would look on a stick.”

What are your reactions to this real life atrocity tale? I’d like to hear from you.


Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq”and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with psychopathic serial killers in reality and fiction. He is @DocBonn on Twitter.

Everyone has something to offer, even serial killer David Berkowitz the “Son of Sam”

Dr. Scott Bonn,David Berkowitz,Serial Killers

I contend that in his own way David Berkowitz is a contributing member of society behind bars where he will remain for the rest of his natural life.  I have been corresponding regularly with David Berkowitz in prison for some time.  David is a born again Christian who spends most of his time working one-on-one with emotionally disturbed prisoners and also reaching out from his prison cell to comfort physically and emotionally ill people around the world.  He has quite a following.  This is his story.

Better known to the public as Son of Sam, David Berkowitz is an infamous 1970s New York City serial killer who killed six people and wounded several others. He became legendary because of the bizarre letters that he wrote to the police and news media throughout his killings, and due to his explanation for committing the attacks.  He claimed to be driven to kill by messages sent from demons in the form of howling dogs.

David Berkowitz, born June 1, 1953, was the adopted son of Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz. The family lived in a middle-class home in the Bronx. The couple loved their son yet David grew up feeling rejected and scorned because of being adopted.  He was told that his natural mother died while giving birth to him.  This became the source of intense guilt and anger in the young Berkowitz.  Around the neighborhood he developed a reputation for being hyperactive and a bully.

Pearl Berkowitz died in 1967 of breast cancer. David was devastated and became severely depressed.  He viewed his mother’s death as a grand conspiracy that was designed to destroy him.  He began to fail in school and spent most of his time alone. When his father remarried in 1971, his new wife did not get along with the young Berkowitz.  The newly married couple moved to Florida, leaving 18-year-old David behind.

Berkowitz joined the army but after a disastrous three years he left the service. During that time he had his one and only sexual experience with a prostitute and caught a venereal disease. When he returned home from the army, he found out that his natural mother was still alive and that he had a sister. There was a brief reunion but, eventually, David Berkowitz stopped visiting them. His isolation, fantasies, and paranoid delusions progressed into full force and he lost touch with reality.

On Christmas Eve, 1975, Berkowitz’s self-reported demons drove him into the streets with a hunting knife to find a victim to kill. Later he confessed to plunging a knife into two female victims that first night, one of which could not be confirmed.  The second victim, 15-year-old Michelle Forman, survived the attack and was treated for six knife wounds. Soon after the attacks, Berkowitz moved out of the Bronx to Yonkers. It was in his new home that the Son of Sam was born.

Howling dogs in the neighborhood kept Berkowitz from sleeping.  In his troubled mind the howls were messages from demons ordering him to kill women. Berkowitz later said that in an attempt to quiet the demons, he began to do what they ordered.  His neighbor, Sam Carr, had a black Labrador named Harvey that Berkowitz also believed was possessed. He eventually shot Harvey but that did not stop the torment because David believed that Sam Carr was actually Satan.

Throughout his murderous rampage in the summer of 1977, Berkowitz wrote letters to the police and news media, including legendary reporter Jimmy Breslin.  In those letters Berkowitz introduced himself as the Son of Sam and claimed responsibility for his murders.  Berkowitz was caught in August, 1977, due to a chain of events stemming from a parking ticket he received at the time and place of one of his murders.  After being evaluated, it was determined that he was competent to stand trial. He pled not guilty and ultimately received a 365-year prison sentence.

In 1979, Berkowitz was interviewed by legendary FBI profiler, Robert Ressler. Berkowitz told Ressler that he invented the Son of Sam stories so that if ever caught he could persuade the court that he was insane.  He said the real reason he killed was because he felt resentment toward his mother and his failures with women. He found killing the women to be sexually arousing.

Berkowitz is currently housed in Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York.  In 1979, there was an attempt on his life.  David refused to identify the person(s) who had attacked him with a knife, but he suggested that the act was in retaliation by a cult he once belonged to.  David bears a permanent scar from the wound that took 52 stitches to close.

In 1987, David became a born again Christian in prison. According to his personal testimony, his moment of conversion occurred after reading Psalm 34:6 from a Gideon’s Pocket Testament Bible given to him by a fellow inmate.  He is now deeply remorseful for his murderous past.  David believes that God has forgiven him for his terrible crimes and he now calls himself the “Son of Hope.”

David has written a memoir titled, Son of Hope: The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz, published by Morning Star Communications.  He receives no money from the publication, and a portion of the proceeds go to the New York State crime victims board for distribution to the victims of his crimes.

David Berkowitz believes that he belongs in prison and has no interest in parole, although he is periodically eligible for review; most recently, earlier this year.  However, David will never be released from prison and he knows it.  He claims that his only desire is to serve God from prison and to ease the suffering of others in any way he can. He knows that he can never undue the harm he has done in this lifetime.

David gets no compensation or incentives for his work with troubled inmates.  He claims that his work with others is the joy of his life.  I believe that David is sincere in his convictions and I can see that he is helping people.  I believe that no one, not even the former Son of Sam, is beyond redemption.  Who is to say that even the worst among us do not have the capacity to do some good?  The Son of Hope is an inspirational story of change and spiritual rebirth.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please send me your comments below or email me directly at  Follow me @DocBonn on Twitter.

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers. 






Doc Bonn Explains: The Difference Between Serial Killers, Spree Killers and Mass Murderers

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Serial Killer Expert

Serial killers hold the fascination of the public whether in real crime news accounts of individuals such as Ted Bundy and the “Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy or fictional characters such as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs.” Serial killers seem so purely predatory and unremorseful that the general public simply cannot help but display a macabre interest in them.  Although they account for no more than 2% of the approximately 17,000 homicides in the U.S. annually, serial killers receive a disproportionately high level of media attention due to the incomprehensible savagery of their deeds.

Significantly, serial killers differ from mass murderers and spree killers. A mass murder involves the killing of multiple people at a single location where the victims may be either randomly selected or targeted.  A mass murder often occurs when the perpetrator who is usually deeply troubled suffers a psychotic break from reality and strikes out at his perceived tormentors.  A mass murderer is often killed at the scene of the crime; sometimes by his/her own hand.

A spree killing involves the murder of multiple people at different locations over a short period of time (the maximum duration is usually seven days).  The perpetrator in spree killings often but not always knows his/her victims and frequently targets family members or romantic partners.  There is no emotional cooling off period between murders on the part of the killer.

The most commonly accepted definition of serial killers was created by the FBI, which identifies a serial killer by three criteria:

1. The perpetrator kills at least three people.
2. The murders take place in separate events and locations.
3. The killer has an emotional cooling off period between the murders.

The key distinction between serial killers and mass or spree killers is the emotional cooling off period between murders in which the killer blends back into his/her seemingly normal life. The predator reemerges to strike again when the urge to kill becomes overwhelming. The duration of the cooling off period can vary from weeks to months or even years, and varies by killer. For example, Dennis Rader, a.k.a. “Bind, Torture, Kill” (BTK) confessed to ten murders committed over a span of nearly 30 years upon his capture in 2005.  In between murders, he lived a remarkably normal outward life with a wife and two children.

There is some disagreement over the serial killer definition among experts, mostly about the number of killings required to be a serial killer. There is also debate as to whether organized crime hit-men should be considered serial killers.  Doc Bonn argues that they are not serial killers because their motivation is purely business and their murders fulfill no emotional needs on the part of the killer.

Serial killers are driven to murder by urges and fantasies they may not even comprehend but which are insatiable and undeniable.  Thus, the defining characteristic of serial killers which distinguishes them from other murderers who also have multiple victims is their disappearance from the public eye during an emotional cooling off period and their shocking reemergence when their desire to kill again becomes overwhelming and uncontrollable.

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  He is currently writing a book on the public’s fascination with serial killers.  Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter or email him directly at



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