4 Unbelievably Fascinating Phases in Profiling the Criminally Insane

The profiler had a lot of information to sift through — public speaking engagements, the subject caught on film, interviews with people who he had come in contact with and numerous writings, including a manifesto.  The profile took a long time to develop, but when it was published, it had incredibly insightful conclusions.

The profile noted that the subject was meticulous and careful about his appearance, prudish, arrogant, yet robust and viewed himself as a standard-bearer. He would have manic phases, especially when confronted by someone who would not bow to his demands. He would enjoy reasonably good health, but was deteriorating mentally. If challenged, he would become immediately angry.

The subject would have an oedipus complex — anxious to prove his manhood to his mother. He detested the learned and privileged, based on his childhood of struggle and adversity. He would enjoy classical music, particularly rousing military marches like Wagner’s operas. He would speak in long monologues rather than have conversations. He was a sadist. He would not have trusting, close relationships with other people. Since it was apparent that he was delusional, when faced with imminent defeat with no likelihood of escape, the most probable scenario would be that he would commit suicide.


So who was the study subject?

The profiler was Dr. Wagner C. Langer, who created a behavioral study and psychological analysis at the request of Major General William J. Donovan, Chief of the US OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in 1943. The subject was Adolf Hitler. The question was what Hitler would do if the war situation turned against him.


The predictive art of criminal aberration.

Profiling is the study of evidence, victims and characteristics of a criminal act in order to understand the behavior and psychology of the monster who committed the crime. With that understanding, it is possible to predict a future event, discover the identity of the perpetrator, build evidence and guide law enforcement in order to capture and bring him to justice.

According to R.M. Holmes & S.T. Holmes in their book Investigating Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool, a profile is designed to meet three goals: 1) to build a social and psychological assessment; 2) to provide investigators with a psychological inventory of items found at a crime scene or in the possession of an offender, and 3) to provide questions and a strategy for the interviewing process, once a suspect is arrested.


Credibility, assumptions and known facts.

Profiling cannot be initiated until certain criteria are known. Clues from a crime scene, the victim and other evidence must be collected and analyzed. Similarities (or links) to similar crimes must be studied and noted. The crime itself must be categorized as to frequency, geographic location, method of assault and other relevant factors. The detectives may have opinions, witness statements and other proof, which will be closely compared. These are all pieces to a puzzle that constitute gateways into the psyche of the criminal, from which investigators will begin to make predictions and a list of logical correlating characteristics. Without these factors, the universe of suspects becomes too broad for a proper police search.


Dichotomy: public personas and hidden rage.

When Jack the Ripper was profiled in London in the 1880’s, police surgeon Thomas Bond created a profile that included some contrasting idiosyncrasies: the offender would be quiet and harmless in appearance and probably dressed well, in order to get close to the victims. He would be physically strong, so that when his sexually deviant rage against helpless and promiscuous women built up, he would overpower them in such a bloody, vicious way that the horror left behind would remain in the minds of investigators forever.

It is the sudden reveal of the monster hiding inside a seemingly reasonable man that catches the victim off-guard and enhances the horror.


Phases in profiling the insane.

By studying the four crime phases, and comparing that to what is known about criminal behavior, some very close parameters can be developed.

1) Antecedent phase
Is there a fantasy the perpetrator needs to act out or a traumatic act that the criminal experienced? Perhaps as a victim himself, he has to recreate this event using others? What is the trigger event that drives the act?

2) Methodology
What similarities do the victims have in terms of physical features, proximity, profession? What made the predator select them? What was the weapon? How were the wounds administered? How was the crime scene staged?  What other tiny details tie crimes together?

3) Body disposal
Did the crime and disposal all take place at the same location, or was the body dumped, hidden or otherwise disposed of?

4) Post-Offense Behavior
Is the perpetrator leaving messages, trying to interact or taunt the investigators? Does he alter the act depending on publicity? Are there copycats?

The people who commit bizarre and very violent acts are aberrant personalities — essentially criminally insane. There has been substantial research on these personality types on subjects incarcerated in hospitals, prisons and institutions such that predictive behavioral databases have been created, verified and published. While the study of typical characteristics of these monsters helps profilers enter the minds of serial killers and sexual predators in an attempt to figure out what would happen next, the plots and patterns of outrageous acts by new sadistic villains continue to shock our sensibilities.


Your Turn: Have you heard of any particularly remarkable profiles that would be worth mentioning here? Would you like to leave a comment on one of the criminally insane people we’ve discussed here? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.



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