Killers and Sadistic Murderers—Up Close and Personal
"In Serial Killers and Sadistic Murderers—Up
Close and Personal, I relate my professional and personal experiences
with murderers and other violent criminals. Each encounter conveys
an important point about the characteristics and motivations of
The book is unique in its approach and objective.
Unlike many true crime volumes, this is not a detailed account of
a single case of murder. Unlike academic works, this is not an abstract
analysis. Instead, I seek to make a number of significant points
in the form of lessons I have learned about murder as illustrated
by my experiences as a criminologist who specializes in analyzing
extreme violence and who has met, observed, and corresponded with
a number of serial killers and other murderers.
Over the past 25 years, I have specialized in
the study of murder, especially of the most irrational and despicable
sorts. My interview with the Hillside Strangler took place early
in my career as a criminologist, but I have had many more opportunities
since then to examine the methods and mentality of brutal killers
and other violent criminals. Thus, I have conducted face-to-face
interviews and corresponded by mail and phone with killers, their
family members, their lovers, and their neighbors. I have also testified
in criminal and civil court cases, consulted with prosecution and
defense attorneys, and assisted the police in apprehending violent
predators. Finally, I have often been asked to comment on newsworthy
incidents of homicide for all major network news programs including
NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, 20/20,
48 Hours, and Dateline NBC and most national talk shows including
Today, Good Morning America, Oprah, Larry King Live, and The O Reilly
Factor. Even in the “green room,” I have had lengthy
discussions with killers, victims, killer groupies, as well as the
family and friends of both killers and victims.
The net result of my research into the motives,
minds, and modus operandi of the murderer has taught me a number
of important lessons that I wish to share with readers. My personal
experiences are interesting in themselves, but they are also useful
for making some crucial points about the conditions under which
serial murder occurs."
– Jack Levin
Serial Killers don't look like the glassy-eyed
lunatics depicted in R-rated slasher films. Their ability to appear
to be "the boy next door" is part of the secret of their
success. Yet serial killers share at least two characteristics that,
in combination, make them into killing machines: they have an excessive
need for power and lack any sense of conscience or human warmth.
Hate and Violence
As college campuses become more diverse and competitive, new groups
of students are often seen as a threat or challenge to be neutralized
with violence. In some cases, moreover, college students are attacked
by outsiders who feel that they lack access to opportunities. Effective
measures exist for the purpose of counteracting the threat of violence
and hate on campus.
Gay Hate Crimes
In addressing the issue of hate crimes directed against
gays and lesbians, Levin candidly informs his audiences that, as
a straight American male, he is a member of the perpetrators’
group and must speak from that perspective. He is very careful not
to single out homophobic hate as an isolated phenomenon, but to
imbed it in an analysis of hate crimes generally. Levin emphasizes
what the ordinary person can do to reduce the scourge of hate violence.
Extremism in America:
Militias, Cults, Terrorism and Organized Hate
As confidence in conventional institutions continues to slide, Americans
are searching for solutions to their personal problems at the margins
of society. Some of them turn to violence.
Murder and the
Violence in the mass media has inspired real acts of violence in
everyday life. Television and motion pictures fill a vacuum that
has been left by the withdrawal of our other institutions from the
lives of our youngsters.
We used to associate school shootings with 8th or
12th graders who sought revenge through the barrel of a semi-automatic.
Unfortunately, students who go on a suicidal rampage have now graduated
from high schools and so have their personal issues.
The college campus has, as a result, become the new battleground
for disgruntled students who seek to amass a large body count.
In response, administrators have frequently taken a law and
order approach, just as their counterparts at the middle-
and high-school levels have done. College presidents
talk about instituting lock downs, having students carry concealed
firearms, hiring larger security forces on campus, and recognizing
the warning signs. A more productive approach might involve
breaking the culture of silence that prevents students from informing
when a threat is made, enhancing the communication between
students and administrators, and reaching out to students long
before they have murderous intentions. Moreover, the entire
issue of violence on campus needs to be kept in perspective:
The college campus continues to be among the safest locations in
our society. An unnecessarily aggressive response may only
redistribute resources away from academics and even increase the
paranoia of disgruntled students on campus who already think that
everybody is against them.
Ph.D. is the Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at
Northeastern University, where he directs its Brudnick Center on
Violence and Conflict. He has written or co-written 26 books including
The Functions of Prejudice, Overkill:
Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed, Hate
Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed, The Violence
of Hate, Hate Crimes Revisited, and Why We Hate,
and more than 150 articles in professional journals and major newspapers
such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science
Monitor, The Dallas Morning News, The Chicago Tribune, and The Philadelphia
addition, Levin has appeared frequently on such national television
programs as Larry King Live, The O’Reilly Factor,
Today, Good Morning America, Oprah, 20/20,
48 Hours, Dateline NBC, and all network newscasts.
He has addressed the issue of hate crimes in numerous venues including
the White House Conference on Hate Crimes, the International Association
of Chiefs of Police, the Justice Department, and the Department
of Education. Dr. Levin has
served as an expert witness or consultant in a number of trials
and was recently honored by the Council for Advancement and Support
of Education as its Professor of the Year in Massachusetts.
In his role
as director of the Brudnick Center, Levin has organized a number
of conferences, symposia, and colloquia involving efforts to prevent
and reduce hate violence. In particular, the Center has sponsored
two National Student Conferences on Reducing Hate on Campus and
two International Conferences on Hate Crimes. In addition, Levin
has conducted training sessions with resident assistants, faculty,
and undergraduate students on a number of campuses.