Dirk Gibson is a unique individual. His research is meticulous, his topic alluring, and his writing
witty with a dose of hip. This is an extremely interesting combination considering he is writing
about the topic of international serial murder. You got that right, readers, international serial
killers. These specters that fill our news programs, glut the bookstores with true crime, and
intrigue us beyond all reason are not solely an American phenomenon. In fact, they are not even
new, having been with us for ages in virtually every country. With this book as his itinerary, Dirk
serves as a tour guide through the geography of death, taking us from England to Japan. From
South Africa to Belgium. From Italy to Pakistan, Peru to Australia. Each chapter is a tour stop in
Professor Gibson takes a list of international pattern slayers, some well known like the king-of-allkillers,
Jack the Ripper, others are lesser known having been relegated to the dark, bloody pages of
history and opens their psyches inviting us to look in. This is his knack, his forte, taking obscure
killers, bringing them to life, introducing us to them, then leaving us alone in a room with each of
them, getting to know each more intimately. Dirk takes the well-known concept of profiling and
uses it to breathe life into each terrible entity, each, as Count Dracula offered, “children of the
night”. They are no longer simply on a page. They are, as Nietzsche stated, part of the abyss that
looks into us, as we look into it
The book breaks chapters into easy to read, digestible, well-documented case studies. Each
murder, each murderer is dissected so the reader comes away with a thorough understanding of
each killing, and the circumstances surrounding it. Like modern investigators, Dirk addresses the
method of operation (MO) of each killer, as well as the ritual and signature. Victimology is offered
to allow readers to understand how killers choose their prey; the typology Each chapter is a
detailed case study that could stand-alone.
This is a book that can be used by criminal justice, forensic history, and psychology professionals
to lay a foundation for use in their work. Researchers and students can dig further into what made
the early serial killers tick, and true crime buffs can simply grab a cup of coffee, lock the doors
and windows, kick back and be treated to murder with a twist.
Dirk has written numerous books on the topic of serial murder, each bringing new information to
the forefront. This book is no different. It is a tour through the decades of death, one killer at a
time. He takes us, the readers on a collective walk through the maze of murder, mayhem and
misery. Enjoy the trip.
Steve Daniels, Past President
WISCONSIN ASSOCIATION OF HOMICIDE INVESTIGATORS
This book is a study of global serial murder. Much if not most research and publication about
serial killers has originated in the United States, and it is commonly asserted that the vast majority
of serial killers are Americans. This virtually common knowledge may well be wrong.
I argue that despite agreement that Americans dominate serial murder, a careful reanalysis reveals
that a relatively new country like the U.S. might not have a monopoly on this crime after all.
Therefore this Introduction presents three main topics;
1) Consensus that the U.S. dominates serial killing, 2) Why most serial killers seem to be
American and 3) Serial killers are a global phenomenon.
1. CONSENSUS THAT U.S. DOMINATES SERIAL KILLING
There is a prevalent perception that serial killers are predominately American. It has been
contended that “The distinctiveness of American conditions has been a frequent theme in writings
on serial murder over the last decade,” and it has been claimed that seventy-four percent of all
twentieth-century serial killers were Americans (Jenkins, 1995). We are told that the United States
is the primary source of serial killers, and “76 percent of all recent reported serial killings”
occurred in the United States (Vronsky, 2004).
It is easy to document the misconception that America dominates serial killing. Serial murder has
traditionally been considered mainly an American crime (Vronsky, 2004). Serial murder typically
is regarded as an American concern (Lester, 1995). It is commonly contended that most modern
serial murder is committed by Americans (Lester, 1995). It is believed that the U.S. easily leads
the field and boasts 74% of the world total of serial killers (Newton, 1990).
My study of 1,000 serial killers conservatively confirms the consensus—62.8% were American,
followed by 7.2% from the U.K. French (4%) and German (3.9%) figures were about the same, as
were the South African (2.5%) and Australian (2.2%) number of serial killers. My study identified
nineteen Mexican serial killers, eighteen from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,
fifteen Canadians and eleven Italian serial murderers. On the other hand, seventeen nations had a
solitary serial killer in my study, while ten countries reported two and another seven lands
observed a trio of them.
2. WHY MOST SERIAL KILLERS SEEM TO BE AMERICAN
There seems to be a consensus that serial killing is an American offense, with the great majority of
these offenders being Americans. I’m not sure that’s true. But there are a few reasons for this
A. Most Serial Murder Books Written by Americans
We tend to write on topics we already know about and Americans have produced the majority of
books about serial killers. It stands to reason that much of the extant serial murder literature is
based on American serial slayers. The American book publishing industry might therefore be
credited with the perception that most serial killers are Americans.
American books on serial murder naturally give the impression that the U.S. has the greatest
frequency of serial killers of any country. It is likely that if serial murders from around the world
were as familiar to us we might discover that other lands have a higher incidence of this crime
(Lester, 1995). It is reasonable to assume that writers in various nations could document the serial
murders taking place in their country more effectively than outsiders and most likely produce more
comprehensive and accordingly higher outcomes (Lester, 1995).
B. Better U.S. Serial Killer Record-Keeping
One idiosyncratic element of the American government is the obsession with record-keeping.
Statistics on virtually any salient subject are accumulated in the U.S., and as a result we know
much more about this country than others in some respects. The incidence of serial killers is one of
The greater frequency of recorded serial murder activity in the U.S. probably reflects more
awareness of this crime than in other nations, and greater willingness by the police to investigate
the links between killing (Jenkins, 1994). A comprehensive treatment of the American recordkeeping
variable in determining serial killer rates might be considered:
It is a somewhat peculiarly American trait to publish unflattering information about
criminal activity in our society and to be genuinely surprised when we learn that
other countries do not do likewise. In some democratic European nations as well as
a variety of communist countries and right-wing totalitarian regimes, political
censorship impedes the gathering and/or dissemination of such information. In other
cases the lack of information can be attributed to inadequate or incompetent recordkeeping.
Many countries which regularly publish mortality figures categorized by
cause of death combine “homicide and acts of war” as a single category, making it
difficult to determine the true murder rate (Lunde, 1975).
3. SERIAL KILLERS ARE A GLOBAL PHENOMEMON
Serial killing is an American crime, many experts agree, and therefore a relatively recent
phenomenon. Both of those ideas are probably wrong, if I am correct that serial killers are actually
ancient in origin and certainly a global problem. Both of those notions can be documented.
A. Serial Killers Not a Recent Phenomenon
“More than one book has claimed that serial murder is a new type of crime, although such cases
appear in folk literature and have been documented since the fifteenth century,” it was recently
suggested (Scott, 1998). Although it is often asserted that serial killing is a relatively recent
phenomenon the historical record contradicts this belief (Lester, 1995). There is a “general
impression” that serial killing recently emerged but that perception is invalid (Egger, 2003). Serial
murder is frequently depicted as “a recent phenomenon,” yet in reality “it is not anything new”
B. Serial Killers Did Not Originate in the U.S.
Perhaps it goes without saying but serial murder was not an American invention. This terrible
repetitive homicidal crime originated more than two thousand years before the U.S. was created. It
was noted that the psychological impulses that motivate serial killers are probably as old as the
human race (Seize the Night, 2003). The German experience with serial killers demonstrates that
from a historical perspective, nothing is truly novel about the serial murder phenomenon in the
contemporary United States (Jenkins, 1994).
The crime of serial killing is not a recent phenomenon, although it has dramatically increased in
America since the 1950s (Norris, 1998). Throughout recorded history countries have documented
crimes which appear to be similar to serial murders (Norris, 1998). The lengthy history of serial
murder began long before the medieval era (Schechter, 2003). Feminist scholarship claimed that
historians incorrectly believe that the Ripper crimes were unprecedented. However, long before
Jack the Ripper there were instances of serial killing (Caputi, 1987). The reality of premodern
serial murder was documented in a dozen case studies by Gibson (Gibson, 2012).
C. Serial Killers are an International Phenomenon
It is my contention that serial murder is an international phenomenon. Serial killing is not solely an
American crime but rather a worldwide offense. It is believed that in geographic terms, serial
killers are present on every continent with the exception of Antarctica (Caputi, 1987).
Serial killer locations seem to be increasing in number and are in a dynamic state. Even the Third
World has not escaped the ravages of serial murder. Whereas the Third World once amounted to
only three percent of global serial murder it is now thought that figure must have increased (Egger,
2003). During the past several decades serial killers have spread into more countries (Morrison
and Goldberg, 2004). A study of 3,532 serial killers worldwide was reported by the FBI in 1996.
They quantified the American total at 2,617 of the 3,532 (Newton, 1990). Serial killers “have been
reported in” an increasing number of countries, including the U.K., Australia, South Africa,
Germany, China, Japan, Austria, France, Russia, Nigeria, Bonsai, Italy and Hungary. Numerous
others such as Brazil, Korea, India, Yemen, Switzerland, Denmark, the Bahamas, Vietnam,
Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Costa Rica, Poland, Holland, Mexico, Belize, Venezuela,
Greece and Pakistan have also been victimized by serial killers, along with Columbia, Ecuador,
Peru, Canada, Ireland, Scotland and Argentina. Serial killers were common in all of the
industrialized nations (Vronsky, 2004).
My study of 1,000 serial killers only reveals the tip of the iceburg, I suspect, when it comes to the
international prevalence of serial murder. Table One reveals the global reality of this crime.
Caputi, J. (1987). The Age of Sex Crime. (1st Ed.). Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green
State University Press. 2.
Egger, S.A. (2003). The Need to Kill: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer. (1st Ed.).
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 28.
Everitt, D. (1993). Human Monsters: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s
Most Vicious Murderers. (1st Ed.). Chicago: Contemporary Books. 2.
Gibson, D.C. (2012). Legends, Monsters, or Serial Murderers: The Real Story Behind an
Ancient Crime. (1st Ed.). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.
Jenkins, P. (1994). Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide. (1st Ed.).
New York: Aldine de Gruyter. 41, 44.
Lester, D. (1995). Serial Killers: The Insatiable Passion. (1st Ed.). Philadelphia: The
Charles Press, Publishers, 3, 25-26, 31, 87.
Lunde, D.T. (1975). Murder and Madness. (1st Ed.). San Francisco: San Francisco Book
Morrison, H., & Goldberg, H. (2004). My Life Among the Serial Killers. New York:
Newton, M. (1990). Hunting Humans: The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Volume One
(1st Ed.). New York: Avon Books. 2.
Norris, J. (1998). Serial Killers. (1st Ed.). New York: Doubleday. 47.
Schechter, H. (2003). Fatal: The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer. (1st Ed.).
New York: Pocket Star. xvi.
Scott, G. (1998). Homicide: 100 Years of Murder in America. (1st Ed.). Los Angeles:
Lowell House. 13.
Seize the Night. (2006, September 4). The history of serial killers. Retrieved on April 15,
2011 from http://www.carpenpctem.tv/killers/history.html. 1.
Vronsky, P. (2004). Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. (1st Ed.).
New York: Berkeley Books. 32, 35.
List of Contributors
Dirk C. Gibson
The University of New Mexico