When it comes to pop culture, trends come and go.
These days, superheroes dominate the box office, but as with any genre, our interest will eventually fade. We still watch gangster movies, but not nearly as much as people did in the 1930s. Every now and then, a major studio may release a musical, but they’re not drawing crowds to the theater like they did decades ago.
Movies about murderers, on the other hand, always have an audience. From classics like “Psycho,” to the latest cheap slasher you stumbled upon while browsing Netflix, these films reflect our undeniable fascination with the dark side of humanity.
But movies also trick us into believing that serial killers are larger-than-life villains. While no one takes fictional maniacs like Freddy Krueger seriously, even so-called “realistic” screen psychopaths aren’t exactly average people. (Looking at you, Hannibal Lecter.)
The truth, though, is much more disturbing. Serial killers often get away with their crimes for so long because they seem remarkably normal. Their common characteristics aren’t that bizarre.
In fact, you might share some of them yourself. Take a look at these traits, and see if you’re all that different from these sinister serial killers.
1. You like to brag.
Although serial killers rarely hope to be caught, that doesn’t mean they try to fly completely under the radar.
From the Zodiac Killer, who taunted police via letters, to Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who couldn’t keep themselves from returning to the burial sites of their victims to celebrate their, uh, “accomplishments,” these people feel proud of their crimes. And they want others to know it.
Kinda makes you wonder about celebs like Kanye.
2. You had a troubled home life.
A common characteristic among serial killers is an inability to feel empathy toward other human beings. They can’t emotionally connect with others, so they can’t feel remorse for their victims.
Some experts believe this stems from a troubled childhood. Serial killers often have parents who divorced early, abused them or suffered from addiction. Being raised in an environment without affection and love keeps them from developing socially like a typical child.
3. You served in the military.
No, this isn’t to say that serving your country gives you an impulse to kill. While many members of the armed forces do return home suffering from mental health disorders, most of them are not dangerous people.
That said, it’s not uncommon for serial killers to serve in the military at some point in their lives. While it’s tempting to assume they’re drawn to such a role because it gives them the chance to act out their violent fantasies, the more realistic explanation is that they also have a tendency to struggle finding work and may enlist in order to give their lives a sense of direction.
4. You’re charming.
Not all serial killers, but many, are psychopaths. That is to say, they are unable to understand emotional connection or form real bonds with people.
A psychopath is a master manipulator. This type of person is a good liar, able to put on a mask and charm others into trusting him or her. No matter what their actual feelings may be, they can mimic appropriate human behavior, coming across as sincere and genuine.
So, you know, there’s another reason to be suspicious of pick-up artists.
5. You’re a thrill-seeker.
Researchers have found that many serial killers are impulsive thrill seekers. The boring grind of being a typical citizen doesn’t give them the excitement they crave, so, even before they resort to murder, they have a tendency to pursue situations that involve a high degree of risk.
Maybe you know a guy who’s intensely obsessed with extreme sports. Maybe you once made a joke about him being insane.
Maybe you were right.
6. You wet the bed past age five.
Back in 1963, forensic psychiatrist JM Macdonald identified three childhood traits common in violent and aggressive killers. Labeled “The Macdonald Triad” (dibs on the band name), the list makes sense at first, indicating that animal torture and fire-setting are signs of a budding serial killer.
But then, there’s also this: wetting the bed past the age of five.
To be fair, in recent years, some experts have started to challenge how valid the Macdonald Triad is. It might, one day, be discredited.
In the meantime, that creepy bed-wetter from “Home Alone” just got even creepier.
7. You’re drawn to positions of power.
Are you an ambitious young person eager to climb the corporate ladder? Sorry to break the bad news, but that canned job interview answer may be a bad a sign.
Serial killers relish power. Because most of them aren’t able to attain it in their professional lives, they use killing to feel like they have a sense of control over other people.
Unfortunately -- but maybe not surprisingly -- researchers have found that this trait is also remarkably common among politicians. Just like violent maniacs, politicians often have an inflated ego, an ability to lie and charm their way to the top, and a hunger for power.
Not a single person reading this is shocked, are they?
8. You want to work in the medical field.
The sadistic nurse who spends years secretly killing patients isn’t a Hollywood invention. More than a few serial killers have worked in hospitals, using their access to lethal drugs to murder those in their care without arousing suspicion.
In truth, potential murderers are frequently drawn to working in the medical field. Such jobs not only play into their fascinations with death, but also satisfy their desire for power. Treating someone suffering from illness or injury, knowing this person is completely at their mercy, gives them the sense of importance they crave.
9. You can’t keep a job.
Sorry, fellow Millennials.
We’ve been able to blame the recession for our inability to hold down steady work, but the real cause of our chronic unemployment may be a lot worse.
Because serial killers often exhibit emotional problems, anti-social behavior and a feeling that the rules don’t apply to them, many are unable to keep a job for long periods of time. They bounce from gig to gig, rarely staying in one place long.
True, your struggle to find and keep a job probably has more to do with economic forces than evil urges. Still, I wouldn’t want to put my resume next to a serial killer’s. They might look a little too similar for my liking.