Perhaps one of the reasons for the fascination with serial killers is the mystery surrounding them. How many times have we heard a neighbour of a killer after they were caught say that he was such a normal guy? And most serial killers do appear to be very normal, at least on the outside. Ted Bundy was a law student, a volunteer on a suicide hotline, and an author of a rape prevention manual. The whole time he was raping and murdering young university women. John Gacy made over $200 000 a year at his contracting business, was involved in politics, and even dressed up as a clown to visit sick children in the local hospitals. No one suspected that he had over 30 young men buried in his basement.
No one really knows what turns an individual into a serial killer. It is probably a combination of things. Many experts claim that it is a disease; that serial killers are not even responsible for their actions as they have an inner psychological need to kill. It is difficult to accept that serial killers have no free will. They do not kill every time they see a woman or a child, only when a safe opportunity presents itself, or a safe situation which they have created. Their ability to remain at large indicates that they do have control over their actions. The fact that the majority of them pick vulnerable victims is also another indicator that they are in control. Women and children are the most common victims of serial killers. As one expert says, "they do what works for them."
However, to say that serial killers are completely normal would also be inaccurate. In the majority of offenders, abuse and/or neglect was a factor in their childhood. Charles Manson was made to go to school in a girl's dress, as was Henry Lee Lucas. Many experts feel that each killing is a reenactment of a traumatic childhood experience. Each time Lucas killed, he was killing his mother.
Many serial killers have had some kind of head injury in their past. This may somehow affect them, and is likely a factor in the killings. Others maintain that it is a genetic predisposition to kill. Some have had physical deformities. For example, Bobby Joe Long, who raped over 50 women and murdered 9, grew breasts during adolescence.