They walk among us, hidden until they strike and then some more serial killer victim photographs appear in the press. Let’s face it, serial killers are about as scary as they come, which may be why these predators feature in so many true-crime podcasts, books, TV shows and even online casino games. The thought of being stalked by a serial killer is enough to make anyone’s blood run cold (anyone, perhaps, except a serial killer!), but what are the chances that you will ever confront one? Fortunately, the odds are lower than being hit by lightning. Let’s take a closer look at some fascinating serial killer statistics!
The allure of evil
Why are people so fascinated by serial killers? The answer has to do with evolution, specifically our relationship with predators. For most animals, avoiding predators is an essential skill. Because predators and prey often live in close proximity, prey will frequently inspect their predators (at a distance) to know when they are actively hunting. This behavior (known as “predation inspection”) enables animals such as zebras and wildebeest to stay safe without exhausting themselves by running away every time they spot a lion, cheetah or some other deadly carnivore.
The same trait may explain our deep-seated fascination with serial killers. We want to know why they behave as they do, how they select their victims and how they behave when they aren’t hunting. What signs can tell us that someone may be a killer? We consume thrillers, horror and true crime shows because they are a safe way to find out answers to these questions.
Killing by numbers
So what are the chances that you will encounter a serial killer in your lifetime? According to author Michael Arntfield, serial killers are responsible for approximately 2% of all murders in the US. In 2020, the murder rate was 7,8 homicides per 100,000 (around 21,570 in total), which makes for around 0.156 serial killer homicides per 100,000. This works out as a 1 in 645,000 chance that a serial killer will murder you. Your chances of dying in a car crash are much higher (11.7 deaths per 100,000 or approximately 1 in 8,547).
Thankfully, serial killers aren’t actively murdering people all the time. Murder Accountability Project founder Thomas Hargroves estimates the number of serial killers in the US at 2,000 to 4,000, with only 50 being active at any given time. At 0.000015% of the population, this means that the chance that you will meet an active serial killer is vanishingly small.
Profiling the killer
RM Holmes’ classic study “Profiles in Terror: The Serial Murderer” breaks serial killers down into four major types, each with a different motivation. Visionary types are psychotics directed to kill by visions or voices. Mission-oriented types are motivated to eliminate specific groups of people, which may include prostitutes, young women, gay men or other minorities. Hedonistic types kill purely for the pleasure of the act. Finally, there are the types who derive satisfaction from exercising power and control over their victims. Generally, serial killers are white males from 25 to 34 years old who are smart, charismatic and mobile.
According to FBI serial killer statistics, many serial killers are frequently abused as children and often abuse drugs and alcohol, which makes them unstable. Killings typically involve contact with the victim and tend to be carefully planned at first, but degenerate into panic and frenzy further down the road. As far as jobs go, killers prefer occupations that are mobile and provide opportunities to strike at vulnerable people. Professions such as policing, military service and truck driving tick these boxes.
Serial killers on the screen
If you’re looking for serial killer content to inform your research, then Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is a good place to start. This dramatized reenactment of Jeffrey Dahmer’s gruesome killing spree between 1978 and 1991 racked up 196.2 million viewer hours in its first full week on Netflix – a new record.
Another Netflix show that delves into the twisted psyches of serial killers is Mindhunter, with FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench drawing on real-life serial killer statistics as they investigate the crimes of Ed Kemper, Charles Manson and other monsters. It’s similar in style to the popular profiling show Criminal Minds, which enjoyed a 15-year run.
For a more fictional approach, the hit show Dexter follows the exploits of forensics expert Dexter Morgan, who solves crimes during the day but roams the city of Miami to commit them by night.
For a more light-hearted take on serial killing, the campy campus spoof series Scream Queens focuses on a series of murders that take place within a campus college sorority. The all-star cast features Jamie Lee Curtis (the original “Scream Queen” of slashers such as Halloween, The Fog and Prom Night) alongside Emma Roberts, Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd, Ariana Grande, Lea Michele and Nick Jonas.
Serial slot satisfaction
Movies and TV shows aren’t the only places where you can encounter the scary charisma typified by serial killers. You may have seen them on a themed online slot machine or in your favorite comic books. Take vampires, for example. With their fatal charm and thirst for blood, they symbolize the essence of serial murder and feature in a list of casino games such as the original Bloodsuckers, Bloodsuckers II (drive a stake through the monster’s heart) and Dracula Awakening. This brand-new game has a Day phase and a Night phase and comes with Dracula Wilds that may transform into a Super Dracula Mega Wild!
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