In a previous post, I wrote about the reasons why serial killers are less common nowadays. Unfortunately, this led me down the rabbit hole. Before I knew it, I was reading books by FBI profilers and scanning the web for articles on serial killer classifications.
One interesting theory among criminal profilers and criminologists is that serial killers can be split into two separate categories. These categories are called “Organized” and “Disorganized“.
Let’s take a look at the differences between them.
A disorganized killer.
The lone “weirdo”.
The disorganized serial killer fits the Hollywood stereotype of that “lone weirdo” who has zero social skills. More often than not, he will live with his parents or by himself. This is because he finds it extremely difficult to form relationships with others. Most people would find him extremely difficult to live with.
When other people think of him, they think of that “shy young boy” or that “quiet kid who rarely spoke in school.” Most people will recall him as being polite and docile.
If the disorganized killer is employed, it will be in a blue collar job that requires little skill, reasoning or expertise. In general, he will find it difficult to hold down a steady job. This is because he lacks the ability to get along with other people.
More often than not, the disorganized killer will not own any reliable form of transport. Nor will he have great hygiene or put much effort into his physical appearance.
If he does own a car, it will be badly kept and messy. If he lives alone, his apartment will be unkempt.
Mental health issues.
When committing crimes, he will not travel too far from home. Nor will he put much planning into his crimes. This is because he lacks confidence and has a below average intelligence. That or his life is paralyzed by mental health issues such as psychosis, paranoia and schizophrenia.
For example, he may hear voices or become convinced that there is some sort of plot against him.
Because he finds it difficult to bond with others, it is highly likely that he has ever been in a serious relationship. As a result, it is also probable that he is still a virgin who is sexually incompetent.
The disorganized killer views himself as inadequate. As a result, he will often withdraw from society and become somewhat of a loner.
A disorganized murder.
Disorganized killers will often surprise their victims in a “blitz attack”. This is because they lack the charm and the interpersonal skills to trick others. In some cases, they may have a physical defect or a speech impediment that lowers their self-confidence.
Random or known victims.
Disorganized killers will often choose their victims at random. More often than not, their victims are chosen because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is a crime of opportunity. In some cases, they may even target people that they know.
The murder itself is usually barbaric and complete overkill. For example, they may stab their victim dozens of times. They may also do shocking things to the body after the person has died. This is because they tend to depersonalize the victim. i.e. They do not care who the person is. In fact, they don’t really see them as a person at all.
Lack of planning.
This kind of killer will not use any restraints as he does not put any planning into his murders. He will not use a “murder kit” or anything like that. It is unlikely that he will stalk his victims days in advance or work out their routines.
The crime scene will often be chaotic. The killer will exhibit fear, confusion and anxiety during the attack.
Lack of a cleanup.
In the aftermath of a murder, the disorganized killer will put little effort into hiding the body or the murder weapon. There will be no attempt to clean the crime scene.
No interest in following news coverage.
He will also not pay much attention to news coverage about the murder. The only time a disorganized killer might pay attention to the news coverage is if he thinks that the media plays some sort of role in his fantasy world. For example, if he believes that the media are conspiring in some soft of plot against him. Or that secret messages are being relayed to him via a certain newspaper.
Essentially, the killer is living in his own fantasy world. He does not think much about the person he has just murdered and he does not care about whether he will be caught or not. He is narrow visioned.
As you can imagine, this kind of killer is a lot easier to catch. However, the randomness of their victims and the methods used can sometimes make it difficult for police to join the dots between their murders.
An organized killer.
An organized killer will often have adequate interpersonal skills. They will also have an average or in some cases, an above-average level of intelligence. However, despite the TV tropes, most serial killers are not particularly smart. They are not evil geniuses. Therefore, he is more likely to be below-average than above-average.
Although he will probably think otherwise.
While the disorganized offender sees himself as inadequate, the organized killer can be narcissistic, to the point that he believes he is smarter than everyone else. This can lead to behavior such as taunting the police and the families of his victims.
Puts effort into appearance and can have relationships.
The organized killer will put effort into their appearance and maintain relatively good levels of hygiene. They can form relationships, get married, have children and live with partners for long periods of time.
However, some organized killers may find it difficult or tiresome to hold down a long-term relationship. Instead, they may end up jumping from one relationship to the next.
Charming and outgoing.
In certain cases, they may be charming or good-looking. Or even both. They can “talk the talk” and trick other people into thinking they’re normal, despite the violent fantasies that are swirling around inside their heads. These killers are far more outgoing than disorganized offenders.
Can hold down a good job.
Organized killers are more likely to hold down a better job and receive further education. They may drive a good car, own a nice house and have the “perfect family”. They might also take part in community events, attend church and help out with charities.
Understands right from wrong and is not delusional.
Essentially, they know what they are and they also know that they must keep that part of them hidden from others. For some organized killers, the act of fooling others into thinking they’re normal gives them great pleasure. It is a part of the “game” for them and it makes them feel smarter than everyone else.
Organized serial killers know what is right from wrong. They are not insane or delusional. They do not suffer from hallucinations. Instead, they choose to commit their murders because it gives them sexual gratification. In many cases, organized serial killers are psychopaths who feel no remorse or guilt. Although they do not feel these emotions, they will have learned to fake them in order to fit in.
An organized murder.
Planning and conning.
Organized killers will sometimes trick, bargain with or sweet talk their victims into being captured. For example, they may fake being in a position of authority. They will generally have some sort of plan when they go out hunting for a victim. If they do not find the right kind of person in the right kind of situation, they may give up and try another day. In some cases, they will carefully stalk their victim for a number of days in order to work out their schedule.
Organized killers will sometimes use a “rape kit” or a “murder kit”. This kit will often contain restraints and other tools that will help them carry out their abhorrent crimes.
Improving on their mistakes.
For the organized killer, it is all about controlling the situation and making the most out of the murder. They want to savor it. In the past, organized serial killers have told investigators that they would often fantasize about ways to “improve” their next kill. “She nearly got away from me because I didn’t do X or Y. I better make sure that I don’t make the same mistake the next time.” “I should have hidden her body in a better spot.” “I’ll use a gun to control her the next time instead of a knife.” “I should have brought some cleaning products.”
As opposed to the disorganized killer, organized killers have the ability to “improve” on their mistakes and change their Modus Operandi. This can make them more difficult to identify and capture.
Because of this, investigators will often pay close to attention to the first known murder. This is because the first murder will often be sloppy in comparison to his subsequent murders. For example, he may have targeted a victim that lived relatively close to his own home. Or might not have gone through as much effort to clean the crime scene.
All in all, he will generally become more confident and efficient with each kill.
Multiple crime scenes.
An organized murder will typically have three crime scenes:
- Where the victim met the murderer.
- Where the victim was killed.
- And where the victim was buried.
This can obviously pose a challenge to law enforcement, as organized offenders will typically go through great lengths to conceal their crimes. The organized killer may attempt to dispose of the victim’s body in a way that makes it difficult to find. He might bury the body in a secluded spot or even dismember it so that it is easier to hide.
Organized offenders are a lot more savvy when it comes to police investigation methods. This means that they will clean the crime scene in attempt to get rid of any trace evidence. The murder weapon will be thrown away or cleaned and hidden. They will also closely follow news reports about the murder.
In some cases, they will even attempt to inject themselves into the investigation in the hope of gleaning some information about it. However, law enforcement in recent times have become more aware about this kind of behavior.
Personalizing the victim.
While the disorganized killers tend to depersonalize their victims and view them as objects, the organized killer does the opposite. For the organized killer, the fact that they are murdering a human being is part of the thrill. It’s what gets them off. This is why they tend to choose specific types of victims instead of random people.
An organized serial killer is far more likely to revisit the scene or keep “trophies” in order to relive the murder in their heads. The disorganized killer, on the other hand, may not remember the event or even think about the person again.
The organized offender can be so narcissistic that he will taunt law enforcement or the victim’s families in the aftermath of the murder. This is so that he can “prove” how smart he is. This is in stark contrast with the disorganized offender, who is so wrapped up in their own distorted reality that they couldn’t care less about the victim’s family or the investigation.
Crime scenes can have both organized and disorganized characteristics.
To make matters more complicated, crime scenes can exhibit characteristics from both categories. This is especially true when there is more than one offender.
A serial killer can also undergo psychological transformations during his “career”. These changes can impact how he operates and how careful he is.
As a result, it can be difficult to simply lump everyone into a certain category. At the end of the day, people are complex creatures. For example, a disorganized killer may gain enough clarity at one point to try and hide his crimes. On the other hand, an organized killer may go through a mental break or a transformation in his life that makes him far more unstable and impulsive. For instance, he may pick up a drinking habit that lowers his inhibitions. He may find it increasingly difficult to control his urges, which leads him to taking risks that he would have never taken before.
Either way, one should never presume that an offender will fit one of these categories like a glove.
Was Ted Bundy organized or disorganized?
Ted Bundy started off as organized. However, he became disorganized towards the end of his killing spree. There are two main reasons why this happened:
- Bundy admitted that his urge to kill was becoming stronger and stronger. As a result, he started to carry out indiscriminate attacks. These attacks were extremely risky from his point of view.
- His alcohol abuse was spiraling out of control and he was drinking every night. This lowered his inhibitions and made him more likely to act on his compulsions. It also made him less careful.
All of this may have been caused by the stress of being a wanted fugitive at the time. Perhaps Bundy felt as though it was only a matter of time before he was sitting behind bars again.
It is worth pointing out that Ted Bundy was not as smart or as organized as many people believe. In fact, many of his crimes were impulsive and they lacked any sophisticated form of planning.
Was Jeffrey Dahmer organized or disorganized?
Jeffrey Dahmer is a good example to look at because many people presume that he was disorganized. However, if you look at the details, you can see that he was predominantly an organized killer:
- Dahmer had an above-average level of intelligence.
- Dahmer specifically targeted strangers. He also had a certain type. i.e. Men and teenage boys that he picked up from gay bars. His victims were not random.
- He had enough interpersonal skills to lure his victims back to his apartment. He sometimes used promises of money to bribe them into doing so. i.e. Dahmer did not have to use blitz attacks. Instead, he coaxed his victims into a situation where he knew he would be able to kill them.
- Dahmer planned his murders. He brought men back to his apartment with the intention of drugging them and raping them. Dahmer also used restraints such as handcuffs.
- Despite keeping the severed heads as trophies, he went through great efforts to get rid of the bodies. He even used bleach and acid solutions to help him dispose of his victim’s skeletons. This shows us that not only did he plan his murders, he also planned the aftermath. This was a man who actually put a great deal of thought into his murders.
- When residents reported foul odors coming from his apartment, Dahmer was able to come up with more than one excuse. In one case, he told the building’s manager that his tropical pet fish had died. The time before that, he claimed that his freezer had broke down and that all of his food had spoiled.
- Clinical psychologist Samuel Friedman spoke with Dahmer and did not believe that he was “psychotic”. i.e. Dahmer knew exactly what he was doing when he committed his crimes. Friedman stated that Dahmer was charming, bright, pleasant and that he had a sense of humor. These are not the characteristics of a disorganized killer.
- He lived alone. Before moving into his own apartment, he lived with his grandmother.
- He engaged in necrophilia.
There has been much debate about whether Dahmer was “psychotic” or not. If he truly was, then that would obviously be a disorganized trait. However, the case details show that he was organized and that he actually planned his murders.
There are a minority of people who feel sorry for Dahmer because they believe that he was insane during the murders and that he showed remorse afterwards. He even became a Born Again Christian. However, forensic psychiatrist George Palermo diagnosed Dahmer as a sociopath. And if there’s one thing that we know about sociopaths, it’s that they do not feel remorse. Furthermore, they are more than willing to put on a show and fool people with their superficial charm. To them, manipulating people is all a part of the game. It is second nature to them.
If Dahmer’s interviews or statements make you emphasize with him or view him as some sort of “poor misunderstood victim”, then remember this. He was a manipulator. Every word he spoke was carefully chosen in order to make viewers like you feel sorry for him. Don’t fall for the sad puppy act. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by someone from beyond the grave.