Incidence of "spiritual" stirrings in serial killers... Message Board: Theories: Incidence of "spiritual" stirrings in serial killers...

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Thursday, November 14, 2002 - 01:35 am:

I was re-reading some old stuff I have about Ted Bundy, and--as they have before--his claims regarding the "spiritual" aspect of his murders gave me pause.
"You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You're looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God! You then possess them and they shall forever be a part of you. And the grounds where you kill them...become sacred to you..." Almost certainly, Bundy was full of s**t when he said this; he was, after all, glib, opportunistic, and contradictory. But what if there is even the slightest bit of substance to his claim? Aren't there obvious--maybe too obvious--shades of Zodiac's "slaves in paradice" here?
Is there something in these people's minds(and I'm not referring to the rush that serial killers receive from their own power and their victims' helplessness)that causes them to associate violent death with a feeling of the sacred and the eternal?
It's late and I'm tired, so I'm probably not articulating this very well. Just an idea--I'd like to hear your thoughts.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Thursday, November 14, 2002 - 05:25 pm:

Here's the Muskogee psychological theory on this topic (based purely on guesswork, drunken philosophical arguements, and wild speculation):
I think most serial killers, and, more broadly, people with antisocial personality disorder in general, try to "categorize" the excitement they feel when they do something which is not socially acceptable or is morally reprehensible. Most feel some kind of thrill/joy/pleasure, but how does one express that when there is no socially acceptable "feeling of pleasure from killing someone"? I think killers find another category for the pleasure. Many express this pleasure as sexual excitement. Many express it as power or control. I think it makes sense that one might express this pleasure as a spiritual experience, depending on his values/upbringing.
Ok, so I'm not the next Freud, but it's just a thought. I think Oddball brings up a very interesting point and I would love to hear others' opinions.

By Zander Kite (Zk) ( - on Thursday, November 14, 2002 - 07:56 pm:

Bundy did not believe in God, though he faked it toward the end when he was looking for a delay in his execution in the jesus-south. There's nothing in those Bundy quotes that I find inconsistent with Ted Bundy or even with some other sex-slayers. Bundy was generally truthful except when masking necro-activity. Of course, he didn't want to confess either. It goes without saying that Bundys emotional capacities were a bit off. Bundy gave his name as Ted at Lake Sam, not because he wasn't a criminal genius, but because he thought no one would care if a couple of girls disappeared out of a crowd of thousands. Because: "people disappear all the time": "what('s) (are)two less people off the face of the earth". So I think we're dealing with spirituality here more like spirits from a bottle, than a belief in the after-life.

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Thursday, November 14, 2002 - 10:50 pm:

That's my guess too, Zander--I think the possibility that Bundy had any spiritual feelings is a remote one at best, but it deserves consideration. And Muskogee, thanks for your post; you expressed the idea much more clearly than I did!

By Law123 (Law123) ( - on Friday, November 15, 2002 - 01:08 am:

I think ODDBALL is really on to something!!

It remined me of 2 cases:
one is where the serial killer called victim's mom and told her he watched her daughter die "and at that moment our souls became one" (sorry i cant remember his name it was on discovery channel they played the actual tape recording of the phone call too)
the other case that comes to mind is Dahmer- he not only kills his victims but to become one with the victim he eats them! Its his way of making sure the victim never leaves him as one profiler said, it seems even more like he becomes one with the victim which seems like a recurring theme now that ODDBALL hit on it. heres page 269 of "Signature Killers" about Dahlmer "an extreme form is the cannabalistic act of consumming part of the corpse to get into harmony and/or BECOME ONE with the love object " (the love object is the victim, Dahmer wanted boys bundy girls etc). This seems like a separate element from the sadistic pleasure/control gained by torture and murder.

This seems like a fascinating aspect that I havn't seen explored deeply at all, just touched on here and there but with a very similar theme.

Becoming one with the victim thru death.

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Friday, November 15, 2002 - 12:45 pm:

The case from the Discovery Channel show sounds interesting, Law123; I don't think I've ever run across that one. My knowledge of mass murder is far from encyclopedic, but it seems that we might indeed have a recurring theme here. Any further examples of purported "sacred murder", anyone?

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Friday, November 15, 2002 - 05:25 pm:

Law 123, I think you might be thinking of Shari Faye Smith, who was killed by a guy named (I think) Bell. The phone calls are truly unsettling.

By Law123 (Law123) ( - on Friday, November 15, 2002 - 11:03 pm:

I am very sure thats the one, Shari Faye Smith. The phone calls were disturbing. The killer even got obessed with the victim's sister, which helped get him caught.

By Sylvie (Sylvie14) ( on Saturday, November 16, 2002 - 12:08 pm:

Bundy also did not own up to his child murders.
In fact most probably, according to Ann Rule his first murder was that of a little neighbor who lived next to his uncle when Bundy was only 15.

By Nick (Nick) ( on Saturday, November 16, 2002 - 11:51 pm:

I agree with Zander's assessment of Bundy. In the end he seems to be your typical sociopathic sex-slayer. They repulse even themselves, just not enough to stop. They will talk freely of their murders, but clam up when it comes to the sordid details. As far as Bundy's "spiritual" talk, these individuals tend to spout a lot of inane crap once the clock is ticking.

I don't know if I would read too much into Zodiac's ramblings about collecting slaves for the afterlife. My personal opinion is that it was designed for shock value. Just like the threat to blow up a bus load of school children, or slay 10 people over the course of a weekend. Obviously none of these things were going to occur, but it must have given Z a hard-on to know the authorities took it seriously.

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Sunday, November 17, 2002 - 12:58 am:

Well, as I say, I think there's a good possibility that the references these killers make to eternity or the afterlife mean absolutely nothing. But even during the brief course of this thread, Muskogee and Law123 have mentioned other instances of this--what to call it?--"oddity", of which I was previously unaware.
That's why I'd like to see more examples;I think this is interesting and important, even if only as a footnote.

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Sunday, November 17, 2002 - 07:02 am:

Nick, I agree that we shouldn't try to read to much into the "afterlife" remarks. I'm inclined to think that this was a red herring meant to distract people from Zodiac's true motivations, which even he didn't care to admit to himself.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Sunday, November 17, 2002 - 12:20 pm:

Just given what we know about Zodiac, I am inclined to agree that he was full of crap with regard to his "Slaves in the Afterlife" comments. However, I think what's relevant about killers like him and Bundy is that they think to bring up spirituality at all. Many killers do not, so why do these? It may be some subconscious integration based on their beliefs or upbringing.

By Nick (Nick) ( on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 12:25 am:

All of them turn to God. We're all taught to repent. Who else are you gonna turn to when they're wheeling you to the gurney. Your mamma can't save you. Spiritual by nature.

By Scott Bullock (Scott_Bullock) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 10:19 am:

Let us not forget Mr. Edward Gein. As unfathomable and ghastly as it may seem to us, the morally prolific majority, I'm certain that poor ol' Ed really did think that his actions were perfectly justified in the "mind of God," inasmuch as his mother taught him, at any rate.

By Warren (Warren) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 10:24 am:

Ditto the 9/11 terrorists.

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 01:44 pm:

Good point, Scott. This idea is a difficult one to discuss precisely because of its unpleasant nature. And Nick, I agree that all people have spiritual leanings of some sort, but the fact that certain killers(like Z and the murderer of Shari Faye Smith, referenced above)have mentioned these feelings in relation to the act of murder could mean something.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 05:04 pm:

I find the points being raised here very interesting.
Again, why do certain people associate the act of murder with spirituality? Not just justification of the murder, or repenting for the murder, but actually during the murder?
I think it seems disgusting to most of us that killing someone for pleasure would be a religious experience. This is exactly why it is so fascinating and difficult to understand that there are people out there who do.

By Law123 (Law123) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 06:18 pm:

I was going to make this comment I think I should...I did not care for the "spiritual" aspect and dont think it applies. I think that some killers want complete control and possession of their victims..we know this already...its the fact that killers have said they become one with their victim when they are there to cause and experience their death. This may be the ultimate and final act of control and possession ..they now own the victim. Perhaps in their minds, forever. More than one serial killer has repeated this theme. Its just that I for one didnt get it yet till I read ODDBALL's quote from Bundy. (Normal people like us don't get it because its so sick and bizare). Then I recalled so many comments that other serial killers made. "Becoming one with"..."collecting slaves for the afterlife"..."consumming the victim so that they have a union with the victim"...there are more if you research it too. But lets not call it spirituality.

By Ed N. (Ed_N) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 07:26 pm:

It's interesting to note that probably the most prolific "spiritual" serial killer is said to be Behram, who murdered at least 931 people by strangulation from 1790-1840. He was a member of the Thuggee cult (where our word "thug" originates) who worshipped Kali, and murder by strangulation was apparently how they showed their devotion to her.

The bad guys in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were based (probably pretty loosely) on the thuggee cult of Kali.

By Ed N. (Ed_N) ( - on Monday, November 18, 2002 - 07:39 pm:

Check this out about thuggees.

By Nick (Nick) ( on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 12:11 am:

Oddball, I'm not dismissing the connection. The fact that "slaves in the afterlife" was a recurring theme in Zodiac's missives tells us that he was keen on the idea. That has been discussed exhaustively on this board, as well it should be. Find a known suspect that can be conclusively linked to The Mikado and I'll jump on the bandwagon. I just have a hard time seeing a spiritual connection here. Zodiac was a hit and run killer. He didn't stick around to breath his victim's last breath, dip french fries in their blood, or have sex with their lifeless bodies. He was so quick to leave the scene that two of his victim's survived. Everything about Z suggests he wasn't half of what he claimed to be.

To be sure, the annals of serial murder are filled with cases of spiritual killers. That's undeniable. Zodiac, however, doesn't fit the mold. Bundy either. I sometimes think Ted was into the whole necrophilia thing because he wasn't willing to shell out $50 for a decent whore. Or maybe he was just too drunk, like Dahmer, to make the effort.

Law, your probably right. The "spiritual" terminology is so easily misconstrued.

By Ed N. (Ed_N) ( - on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 04:06 am:

I didn't know whores could be decent.

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 11:44 am:

"Spiritual" probably is an awkward word for this phenomenon, but rough synonyms like "religious" and "sacred" have the same problem. I'm not sure exactly how to refer to it.
Regarding Zodiac's style of murder: he didn't hang around to gloat over the bodies or molest them, true enough. Possibly he had fantasized about the act of murder for so long that carrying it out quickly--then retreating back to a safe place--was fulfillment enough. In other words, the "spiritual" thrill might have been generated primarily by his fantasies, but still demanded that the murders be committed, however impersonally.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 05:23 pm:

Law123, you are making my point exactly. It seems you are offended by the idea that someone might see murder as "spiritual". I understand your upset, because the idea is unfathomable to me, personally. However, that doesn't mean that some serial killers equate the two. This doesn't mean it's TRUE, just that some killers may believe it is. Again, I think the Zodiac was blowing smoke about the "slaves in the afterlife" business.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 05:26 pm:

EdN, I guess a whore who's dressed is decent??

By Ed N. (Ed_N) ( - on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 06:22 pm:

Muskogee, et. al.: I've always maintained that Z never believed the "slaves in the afterlife" BS at all. It was just a line to give the cops to keep them guessing or something, considering that, whatever his true motivations were, he obviously could not communicate them to anyone. So why not make it sound "spiritual?"

By Mike (Oklahoma_Mike) ( on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 09:19 pm:

Regarding killers recounting a feeling during killing some have labeled "spriitual" for lack of a better term: Nothing I've ever heard quoted by a killer would fall into the spiritual realm as far as I am concerned (no, I'm not a relegious man, even though I just had a heart attack!). Every feeling I have read and heard by a killer describing his emotions during a murder is nothing more than the extreme megalomaniacal and narcicisstic self-absorbtion that is a calling card of a true psychopath. The feeling may be misread as spiritiual, due to it's intlesity, but all it is is the ultimate magnification of the psychopath's view of themselves as the center of the universe, with a desire to use and dominate everything and everyone for their own gratification. They ARE God (as they would see it, they are unable to understand the concept of a superior being), with total absorption into self-love and self-gratification. For the psychopath, nothing EXISTS except for THEM. Those
of us who don't have such feelings have trouble believing anyone could really feel that way, especially with the level of intensity they do.
As for lots of killers getting relegion as their prision sentence continues or execution date approaches, it is nothing more than another attempt to manuipulate the universe so it is twisted to their purposes.

By Oddball (Oddball) ( - on Wednesday, November 20, 2002 - 01:19 am:

I'm glad that some discussion has been stimulated here. Again, while I feel it's a long shot that this will lead us to any deep understanding of serial killers or their motives, the idea had been rolling around in my head for quite some time--and I thought it was worth tossing out.
Has anything ever been written on this subject? There is such a profusion of true-crime literature that I would guess an essay or two might be floating around.

By Sandy (Sandy) ( - on Thursday, November 21, 2002 - 10:29 am:

Ed, A whore who marries a man for money is thought to be decent ,or so they think.

By Scott Bullock (Scott_Bullock) ( - on Thursday, November 21, 2002 - 12:20 pm:

Do you wonder if Osama bin Laden's real motivation for mass destruction is fueled by anything other than spiritual perseverance? Granted, his take on God can be deemed heretical, especially in Arabic countries, but is there any question that in his brain there exists a notion that his presence in the world isn't for the better? As Warren said, "Ditto the 9/11 terrorists." And, as I stated previously, the same goes for Ed Gein. The fact is, there are instances where horrible individuals have committed atrocious acts all the while believing that they are "doing the right thing in the name of God." It's twisted, and it's weird, but it's real nevertheless.