The truth about the average IQs of serial killers

Humans like being able to assign universal definitions to the things that scare us. It's easier to process fear when its component parts are collated and filed neatly away in easy, pocket-sized universal truths. For instance, a red sky in the morning means "sailors take warning." When it comes to snakes, if red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow. Don't eat decorative fruit. That sort of thing. These seeming truisms not always accurate — sometimes a red sky just means that a sailor woke up in their ruby quartz X-Men cosplay glasses — but they do help us sleep better at night, feeling like there's some order to the world.

When it comes to acts of unspeakable evil, the common knowledge goes like this: A serial killer is either a Machiavellian genius, or an intellectually stunted oddball. Think of Jigsaw or Leatherface. Hannibal or Elmer Fudd. The outliers of human intelligence make up the bulk of American nefariousness, with Ted Bundy on one end and a cartoon caveman with a machete on the other. However, as is often the case with human attempts to assign unflappable truths, this turns out to be an oversimplification. Serial killers have been observed to possess measurable IQs that run the gamut from MENSA-level brilliance, to learning disabled, and every benchmark in between. 

In short, serial killers are just like us. Comforting, right?

That smarts

Looking at this by the numbers, with some help from Virginia's Radford University and their Serial Killer Information Center, yields clarity. Following the project's inception in 1992, it compiled info on nearly five thousand serial killers and more than thirteen thousand victims around the world. By their estimation, a perpetrator's IQ varies wildly, with their preferred method serving as a better indicator of intelligence than anything else. Bombers tend to possess the highest level of intelligence, averaging around an 140 point IQ. Folks who regularly bludgeon their victims are the only group mentioned with a regularly below-normal IQ score, averaging at 79.1. All other groups represented in the study hovered right around the normal range of human intelligence. For specific examples: Ted Kaczynski, Ted Bundy, and Gary Heidnik all tested as possessing abnormally high intelligence, while Gary Ridgway and Aileen Wuornos came in well below average. 

All of this comes with a sick catch: Killers on the lower end of the spectrum could very well just be messing with investigators. Authorities theorized that Wuornos, for example, may have simply resented the idea of being tested at all. As for the genius level killers? Well, maybe the ones who get caught aren't the smartest of the bunch at all. Maybe the real clever clogs are the still-active serial killers who are never found.