Modern Serial Killers
The World's Post Modern Age of Serial Murder: 1900-2000
The Twentieth Century introduced the world to the “serial killer” phenomenon, in which the
number of these violent predators continued to gradually escalate as the 21
Century was fast
While the terms “serial murder” and “serial killers,”
which were first coined during the
have now become a permanent fixture within our present-day society, criminologists and law
enforcement agencies cannot agree on who or what actually constitutes as serial murder.
disagree on how many murdered victims there should be before a killer is introduced as a “serial
killer;" some argue two, many others argue three (Egger, 2002; Newton, 2000; Vronsky, 2004). They
also argue over how much time should pass before the killer strikes again; some proposed “cooling-
off” periods include hours, days, months, or even years.
However, the most commonly used and cited
definition of “serial murder” is one developed by the FBI.
Serial murder, as defined by the FBI, is
“three or more separate events in three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling off period
between homicides” (Egger, 2002; Harbort & Mokros, 2001; Newton, 2000; & Vronsky, 2004).
Although serial killers have existed throughout history and across different territories, most of
the serial murders that have been reported have occurred during the last thirty years, from the late
1960s and 1970s, thus ushering the world into a “post-modern age” of serial murder (Vronsky, 2004).
Moreover, the disputatious researchers and law enforcement agencies cannot agree on whether an
“epidemic” actually exists or simply is the result of an increase in reporting and detecting these crimes.
In 1981, a researcher, Zahn, found that between 1976 and 1978 there was a 6% increase in “no known
victim-offender relationship” homicides and suggested that this indicated a rise in stranger homicides,
including serial murder (Egger, 2002). Furthermore, other researchers (Smith, 1987; Norris, 1989;
. Before the 1950s, criminologists, law enforcement, and the media use the terms lust murder, mass murder,
sexual homicide, multicide, and multiple murder interchangeably (McKenzie, 1995).
. Some accounts state the first usage of “serial killer” was in 1982 or 1983 (Egger, 2002) or during the late 1960s
and 1970s (Newton, 2000).