By Request: The Types of Stranger Murderers


So, I was asked to define the different types of stranger killers. There are four and it seems weird that there are four, but it’s done for a very specific reason – the psychology is different for each. The four types are mass murderers, spree killers, serial killers, and terrorists.

Stranger murderers are still among the rarest types of killers and the hardest to catch. Spree killers also known as rampage killers are the very rarest of stranger killers. The definition of a spree killer is multiple murders over the course of a short time, with location changes. They differ from mass murderers in that spree killings, are usually done to cover up other crimes. They don’t wake up on a Thursday and decide they are going to go on the run and kill a bunch of people in the process. Starkweather’s spree started when the parents of his fourteen year old girlfriend forbid the two to see each other. From there it deteriorated into a multi-state killing spree done to protect “their love” and cover up the other crimes Starkweather and she were committing like shoplifting and stealing.

I won’t spend a great deal of time on serial killers in this post, as you can read several blog posts from me this month to get the definition of a serial killer. Until the late 2000s, serial killers were the most common type of stranger multiple murderer. It has fallen to second most common because mass murderers are on the rise, especially in the US. This is partly due to the fact that juveniles rarely become serial killers. They prefer to take their homicidal rages out on groups of their peers and don’t have the attention and focus needed to be a serial killer. This doesn’t mean they are never serial killers, Jesse Pomeroy and Mary Bell were both juvenile offenders (Pomeroy in the US and Bell in the UK). Most researchers would leave Mary Bell off this list, she confessed to killing two kids. I won’t because I believe if Bell had not become suspect, she would have continued to kill.

Mass murderers kill to get revenge or release their rage or any number of reasons. Which is why terrorists are not included in mass murderers. The goal of a mass murderer is to kill lots of people. The purpose of a terrorist is to instill fear. It helps if they kill lots of people, but that’s a means to an end, not the goal. And usually a terrorist can get their message across “fear me, for I am powerful because I am chosen” even if they only kill a couple of people. Like mass murderers terrorists have been on the rise since the early 2000s. Terrorists have to have a cause and be wholeheartedly dedicated to it. Whereas mass murderers are rarely dedicated to a cause. And while we’ve been trained in Western countries to think of extremist Muslims when the word terrorist is used, there are lots of terrorists groups that are not extremist Muslims. The attack in Charlotte a few years ago, by the white supremacist that drove his car into a protest was in fact an act of terrorism and it is not an uncommon tactic for white supremacist groups to use terrorism tactics. Furthermore, terrorist groups work like cults (I would actually just bridge that gap and say they are cults and now you know how I feel about white supremacists). Finally, they are equally likely to appeal to females as males.

Now for the scary facts about mass murderers. I’ve already mentioned, they are on the rise. Female mass murderers who kill outside their family are incredibly rare. There have been maybe 30 since 1900 (only female spree killers are more rare, I found zero, except for maybe Starkweather’s girlfriend since 1900). There have been way more female serial killers in the same 119 years. Mass murderers, like serial killers are not new. Although, the instance of school shooters has made it something like a thousand times more common in the last 20 years. I will also note thought that while I don’t remember a school shooting before the one in Jonesboro, my research into mass murderers over the past couple of months have pulled up three dozen that occured before 1997. And a Michigan janitor in the 1910s or 1920s that tried to blow up a school while it was in session. I once heard a news anchor refer to Charles Whitmore as the original school shooter (the guy in the 1960s that climbed the clock tower on the Texas A&M campus and began shooting people on campus with a rifle). But my research shows the first known school shooting happened in the 1800s in the UK. The first mass shooting in the US seems to have occurred in 1893, in Plain Dealing, Louisiana in which 4 people died. With a second occuring in 1899 when a fight lead to the shooting deaths of six people at a school in Virginia. Interestingly, in the years since the 1890s, the psychology of a school shooter hasn’t changed much. The motivation behind school shooters seems to be revenge or getting even. The fight shooting in 1893, happened at a school dance. When one boy tried to dance with a girl being danced with by another boy. The second boy, tired of rejection from the girl and her friends pulled out a pistol and shot her, the boy she was with, a friend of theirs, and a teacher. He went on to shoot three others that didn’t die. The 1899 shooting, a student that had been expelled showed up during an exhibition (I found one source that said it was a singing performance). Teachers tried to make him and a friend leave, a fight ensued; the two boys pulled pistols and began shooting. The audience became a mob and restrained both boys. This proves that there will always be school shootings (I also found about two dozen instances of mass school stabbings in the US and UK – which is sort of weird, but I guess they couldn’t get a gun). Unless teenagers change all around the world. However, they have become more deadly because of technological advances made in the weapons industry. And they have become much more frequent since 1996.

Those are your types of stranger multi-murderers. It should be noted, that serial killers are the only ones on the list not prone to suicide. Mass murderers, spree killers, and terrorists have higher than average suicide rates once they have completed their crimes. This tendency is why it is easy to find suicide bombers. It goes beyond their ideology, the type of people that will commit mass murder, spree killings, and acts of terrorism are psychologically made up where suicide is a viable option. Interestingly, researchers have discovered kamikaze pilots have the same psychological makeup as terrorists.

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