Why Many Serial Killers Have A Victim Type

Serial killers fascinate and horrify the public at large, with countless shows, movies, books, and podcasts dedicated to figuring out what causes someone to become a murdering monster. According to Crime Museum, a defining aspect of serial killers is their search for a sense of dominance over a person, as they often rejoice in the fear and vulnerability shown by their victims in their tragic final moments.

Many of those who study the psychology of serial killers agree that most have an ideal victim with specific characteristics. But since killers will rarely encounter someone that matches their exact specifications, they usually choose victims that share something in common with the fantasy. Indeed, while some victim lists can seem completely random, the murderer would be able to identify what his prey has in common rather easily. Exceptions are made with the first victim. Since serial killers tend to be highly cautious or methodical, their first target is usually someone they believe has a high chance of success and low chance of drawing significant attention, like sex workers or people living through homelessness. Although establishing these patterns can be extremely difficult, identifying them is crucial to catching a killer.

A killer's type develops over time

According to A&E, a serial killer's ideal victim is someone who is available, accessible, and desirable. Success is the ultimate goal, and being able to kill the target is just as important, if not more, than wanting to kill the target. But the longer a serial killer is on the prowl and the longer their list of murders grows, the greater the focus on the fantasy victim. The preferences for that fantasy will develop after a series of "practice" killings on whatever poor souls the killer thinks are the lowest-risk options.

How specific a killer gets comes down to their style and psyche. Some murderers are highly impulsive, and when they get a craving to take a life, they won't be too picky. Others are more methodical and will wait for whoever most clearly matches their fantasy victim to become available to them. Some examples of specific aspects killers look for include age, voice, and hair color. Since most serial killers are men, attractive young women are a commonly preferred target. It's important to note that even the most disciplined serial killer will occasionally break from their pattern if given the chance, showing that there's no way to completely understand a twisted mind.