As an author of dark suspense it’s a given that I spend an inordinate amount of time pondering serial killers. Not every novel features one, but enough do that I’ve spent more than my share of hours in the bad guys’ heads. A not always pleasant place to be, but unfailingly educating, nonetheless.
Based on the serial killers that have inhabited my novels and others I’ve studied, I’ve developed a checklist for you to be able to recognize one on sight. You might want to clip this post and carry it with you in your purse. It could save you some time on a blind date, or perhaps when introducing yourself to your strange new next door neighbor.
1—He collects road kill. Red flag. Follow this guy home and you’ll likely discover that his hobby is raising dermestid beetles. These rather unusual bugs survive by stripping dried flesh off skeletal remains. The road kill is just to keep them alive until he has a new corpse to feed them.
2—He carries a chain saw with him everywhere. Granted, I’ve never written about this but all those Texas Chainsaw massacre movies can’t be wrong. Never ever go on a date with a guy like this. Recall the Mae West quote. She did NOT say, “Is that a chainsaw in your pocket, or do you like me?”
3—He drives a yellow Volkswagon. Remember Ted Bundy?
4—He’s a religious zealot. Okay, maybe not all of them are serial killers but enough of them are whacko that you should just steer clear, to be on the safe side.
5—He keeps his dead mother stuffed in the home where they live together. Sure she might make a perfect mother-in-law in SOME ways, but this guy could be on the far side of weird…
6—In his childhood, he hit on all three counts of the terrible triad—bed wetter, fire setter and animal torturer. Run. Fast and far.
7—The guy in your cooking class might seem charming but people he invites for dinner often end up as the main course. Don’t even exchange recipes with the very charming Hannibel Lector…especially the one for liver, fava beans and a fine Chianti…
8–Every time someone goes missing—surprise—this guy has planted a brand new garden. Check out the fertilizer that makes those prize roses so special.
9—He’s an amateur spelunker and he offers to show you this out of the way cave he’s found. This is a no-brainer. You just know that’s where he stashes bodies. And even if he’s on the up-and-up—caves = bats. Which means this guy is plain weird even if he isn’t a serial killer!
10—Despite his kindly demeanor, sweater vests and command of trivia, there was likely a reason for the tall fence keeping Wilson separated from the Tim Taylor clan. Just beware of sweater vests in general. Nothing good can come from the fashion impaired.
Have I missed one that would be a dead giveaway? What’s your trick for recognizing the truly deranged among us?