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Thursday, March 2, 2017

The best way to understand sociopaths

If you want to study sociopathy, look at how serial killers behave when they're not indulging their deadly hobby. It's the perfect controlled experiment, since there's absolutely no doubt that they're sociopaths, and their sociopathy never leaves them. (Being a sociopath is a 24 hour occupation.) And their psychology is the basically same as other sociopaths, except for the little quirk that killing helps them get off sexually.

So how do such sociopaths act when they're not killing?

Look at Ted Bundy, working at that suicide hotline. If you heard about someone you knew nothing else about who worked at a suicide hotline, you might think, "Hmm, nice guy....nicer than me anyway; personally I wouldn't want to spend the time working at one of those places. I'd find it a little depressing to have to talk people out of committing suicide all the time."

But Ted, obviously, didn't feel sympathy for those people; that wasn't his nature. In fact, he probably would have enjoyed killing them himself, if he could have gotten away with it. He just wanted to savor their pain while posing as a do-gooder. Not much information ever came out about how he performed in that capacity, but it's hard not to suspect that he subtly encouraged some of them to go ahead and kill themselves.

Because of Bundy, we better understand the kind of emotional falsity that sociopaths engage in and the real motivations of some who do ostensibly noble work.

(Likewise, you'd think that those who adopt rescue dogs are good-hearted folk. But animal shelters evidently have to be on the lookout for people who come in too frequently looking for new pets. Certain people -- whose psychology is not dissimilar to Bundy's -- will adopt a pet, torture it and kill it, then come in to ask for a new one, claiming that the previous pet died of natural causes.)

Look at Dennis Rader, the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) killer. He worked as, among other jobs, as a dogcatcher and compliance officer in park City, Kansas. He was married with two children, President of the church council of the local Lutheran Church, and a Cub Scout troop leader. And he had a degree from Wichita State University in justice administration.

Sounds like a pillar of the community. But sociopaths will often make more of an effort than most to appear as such, to disguise their true natures. And Rader was known in his community as a stickler for the rules, one who would his job to harass people. One neighbor said that he euthanized her dog for no reason. And he would impose penalties for infractions as minor as letting grass grow too long.

Meanwhile, Rader himself was the BTK serial killer, strangling and killing innocent women for his own sexual pleasure. But god forbid your grass was half an inch above regulation height. That's sociopathy for you: self-righteously condemning others for minor infractions while doing far, far worse themselves.

When you see extremely hypocrisy, beware.

John Wayne Gacy was another stalwart member of his community. He managed three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants and was a vice president of the local Jaycees. Despite being primarily homosexual, Gacy got married and had two children. He even had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalyn Carter.

In Gacy's case, the effort expended to appear "normal" was part of his sociopathic nature. He later characterized the period of his life when he was married and managing those KFC franchises as the "best part" of his life.

When you see someone for whom appearances are all, beware.

David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, provides the perfect case study of a sociopath who later "reforms." We know that sociopaths never stop being sociopaths, so Berkowitz's new pose, as a man of God, is illuminative. He is now a preacher who ministers to other prisoners and, when given the chance, talks about all the good works he does. It is a peculiarly sociopathic quirk to broadcast one's virtuousness, and as always with sociopaths, Berkowitz is a little heavy-handed about letting us know how good he now is.

It's also a sociopathic quirk to think that people will believe you when you claim to have turned over a new leaf.

So if you encounter a self-proclaimed man of God who admits that he was once a sinner, but is now redeemed, beware.

There's a whole field of study here. When serial killers act in certain ways when not plying their distinctive trade, if you meet someone else with those same behavior patterns, beware. Chances are he's not a serial killer, but he could well be a sociopath.


Anonymous said...

"So if you encounter a self-proclaimed man of God who admits that he was once a sinner, but is now redeemed, beware."

I had a worker, a big black guy, who was always in and out of prison. I had him do menial work. I knew he had a drug (crack) and alcohol problem. He was smooth and very likable. My mom was very impressed when she first met him working on one of my housing rentals. On a couple of occasions he stole from me. I quickly distanced myself from him. It turns out that he just got out of prison in Mississippi. He hit me on Facebook. He now perches about the lord and claims that he's a changed man. Here's where I'm confused: was he a criminal because of his dependency problem or was he a sociopath to begin with? I never knew him when he was sober, so I'm not really sure. I'm leaning to sociopath because he was once a gang member.


John Craig said...

Spartan --
Honestly, I can't answer that question, I'd have to know a lot more about him. I will say this, being a drug addict can effectively turn one into a functional sociopath. Addicts, if they're desperate enough, will do anything for their fix, meaning, ANYTHING. So even if he hadn't been one before, he was, for all practical purposes, one once he was addicted. That said, someone who is a sociopath is far more likely to be self-indulgent to begin with and thus more likely to let themselves slip down that slippery slope. And the bit about how he's now a changed man adds to the suspicion that he is one. Plus being smooth (read: glib) and likable (read: charming) tend to be sociopathic traits.

But, again, I can't say for sure.

Justin said...

I saw in a Bundy documentary on YouTube that he reportedly spoke very sharply/verbally abused people while working at the hotline. Just wanted to confirm your suspicion. Keep up the good work exposing these animals.

John Craig said...

Justin --
Ah, thank you, that's interesting, and it makes sense. I hadn't heard anything about that before; I wonder who they got that from. One of Bundy's coworkers there was Ann Rule, who later gained fame as a crime writer (she got started on that career because of Bundy.)

GT said...

The thicker the veneer the more is being hidden.

Shaun F said...

John - A lady I knew was at the SPCA in the 80s in St Catherines, Ontario and who was working there? Karla Homolka. Karla apparently loved animals.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
Wow; thank you for that. I wonder what her motivation was. It's not even clear how guilty she was, usually when it's a man-woman team like that, it's the man who's the leader and often the woman is just a passive accomplice.

That's actually a fascinating case, and most US citizens probably aren't familiar with it, though most Canadians are. For anyone who's interested, here's the Wiki summary of it:

Karla Leanne Homolka (born May 4, 1970), also known as Karla Leanne Teale and Leanne Bordelais, is a Canadian serial killer who, with her husband Paul Bernardo, raped and murdered at least three young women. She attracted worldwide media attention when she was convicted of manslaughter following a plea bargain in the 1991 and 1992 rape-murders of two Ontario teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as the rape and death of her sister Tammy.

Homolka and Bernardo were arrested in 1993. In 1995, Bernardo was convicted of the two teenagers' murders and received life in prison and a dangerous offender designation, the full maximum sentence allowed in Canada. During the 1993 investigation, Homolka stated to investigators that Bernardo had abused her and that she had been an unwilling accomplice to the murders. As a result, she struck a deal with prosecutors for a reduced prison sentence of 12 years in exchange for a guilty plea for manslaughter. Homolka scored 5/40 on the Psychopathy Checklist, in contrast to Bernardo's 35/40.

However, videotapes of the crimes surfaced after the plea bargain and demonstrated that she was a more active participant than she had claimed. As a result, the deal that she had struck with prosecutors was dubbed in the Canadian press the "Deal with the Devil". Public outrage about Homolka's plea deal continued until her high-profile release from prison in 2005.

Following her release from prison, she settled in the province of Quebec, where she married again and gave birth to a boy. In 2007, the Canadian press reported that she had left Canada for the Antilles with her husband and their baby, and had changed her name to Leanne Teale. In 2012, journalist Paula Todd found Homolka living in Guadeloupe, under the name Leanne Bordelais, with her husband and their three children.[9] On October 17, 2014, the jury in the first-degree murder trial of Luka Magnotta heard that Karla Homolka is living in Quebec.

Shaun F said...

John - Karla's motivation for working there? Maybe unconditional love? That's a big speculation though.

I have looked into this case in a significant fashion. The plea bargain deal with the Government was a crime in itself and she is ironically not on the sex offender's registry. Karla is very very dangerous sociopath. I've gathered Bernardo was no saint, but more of a puppet.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
Most people like pets because of the unconditional love they get from them, but they also enjoy giving them love, and I'm not so sure that sociopaths operate the same way. One of the two sociopaths I knew best, whom I wrote about here --

-- was given a pet kitten once, and I'm pretty sure she just put it in a plastic bag and threw it in the garbage. And when I think of the other sociopaths I've known personally, I can't think of any who've had pets.

I just read Bernardo's Wiki bio. He was a rapist before he knew Karla Homolka, and many of his rapes had nothing to do with her. He hated his own mother, who evidently conceived him during an affair, and his own father molested his sister. So he had the type of background you'd expect from a serial killer. And it had to have been his lust, rather than Homolka's, which motivated their "mutual" rapes. (Homolka, subsequent to her release, got married and had children, indicating that she was probably not a lesbian.)

Anonymous said...

After reading a bit about Karla Homolka, I believe her to be a sociopath. One blog that I read described her childhood - to put, it mildly, Karla was not the friendliest girl in school - she could be mean spirited, having a fascination with death, the dark side.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
I don't doubt that Karla is a sociopath; the discussion above was about whether she would have been a killer without Bernardo's influence. I doubt it. Very few female sociopaths become serial killers, and when they do, it's almost always for monetary reasons. (Women who run boarding houses and kill the old men who live there in order to be able to cash their social security checks, or black widows who murder their husbands for their money, or Aileen Wuornos who basically robbed and killed seven or eight of her johns. The Bernardo/Homolka killings were sexually motivated, and that just doesn't seem to happen with women.