He targeted and killed multiple women in the 1980’s; then mysteriously disappeared. Fourteen years later, he started killing again. Why would he stop? And why, after so long, would he come back? Greg and Vanessa examine what made “The Grim Sleeper” different from other serial killers operating in the area at the same time, as well as the psychology behind his “trophies.”
With Greg Polcyn & Vanessa Richardson
About Serial Killers
Every Monday, Serial Killers takes a psychological and entertaining approach to provide a rare glimpse into the mind, methods and madness of the most notorious serial killers with the hopes of better understanding their psychological profile. With the help of real recordings and voice actors, we delve deep into their lives and stories. Ad-free archives of episodes six months or older are now available through Stitcher Premium.
A lust killer who dreamed to be known as an outlaw, Paul John Knowles sought infamy. He was so desperate to be remembered; he recorded his own confession to multiple murders while still a free man, and shared the tapes with his lawyer. Knowles killed indiscriminately, occasionally allowing writers to live—so they could chronicle his story. This week, Greg and Vanessa follow Knowles’ cross-country murder spree to its shoot-out conclusion.
He had no pattern. No victim type. No consistent MO. And he killed across the country. Nicknamed the “Casanova Killer” for his good looks, Paul John Knowles confounded the police. Greg and Vanessa dig into Knowles troubled childhood and disrespect for authority, then try to unpack a confusing man who described himself as both Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Bonnie and Clyde.
“The Boogey Man”, AKA Albert Fish, attacked over 100 children, many of them unidentified. A traumatic childhood created a twisted old man, tormented by religious delusions and sick sexual fantasies. Greg and Vanessa explore the kidnapping and murder of Grace Budd, which led to Fish’s downfall, his shocking confessions, and his eventual execution.
Albert Fish preyed on young children in the early 1900s, molesting, murdering, and even cannibalizing them. He wasn’t caught until the 1930s, when three of his most horrifying crimes came to light. This week, Greg and Vanessa discuss Fish’s tumultuous childhood, his paraphilic disorders, and two of his most infamous victims.
These sadistic killers notoriously recorded the audio of their final murder; a recording so disturbing, half the courtroom broke down in tears. Prior to the recording, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris plotted to kill a girl of every age from thirteen to nineteen, and got halfway through their plan. Greg and Vanessa discuss organized killers, and why this pair chose to leave their final victim in a place she was sure to be found.
INTRODUCING…Stick around after the show for a special interview with Edgar-Award Winning Author Meg Gardiner where we discuss how she writes about the psychology of serial killers and detectives in her new book, UNSUB. Moving forward, we will occasionally interview crime writers at the end of Serial Killer episodes, ensuring we do not ruin your experience but giving you the option to hang around and listen to more content!
Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris terrorized the streets Southern California during their five month killing-spree in 1979, taking the lives of at least five teenage girls. Greg and Vanessa dive into the psychology of this “gruesome twosome”, and the factors that can cause an inmate to leave prison ready to commit even more despicable crimes.
If there’s no body, there’s no murder. At least, that’s what John George Haigh thought the legal term “corpus delicti” meant. Haigh dissolved his victims in acid, earning the nickname “The Acid Bath Murderer”. This organized and “paranoiac” killer went after people he knew, aiming to steal their money. Greg and Vanessa follow Haigh’s pattern of murders, and the arrogance that helped the police to bring him in.
John George Haigh poured his victims’ bodies down the sewer. A narcissistic killer, Haigh had a severe lack of empathy which led him to kill people, rob them, and dissolve their bodies in acid. This week, Greg and Vanessa explore narcissistic personality disorder, the insanity defense, and the factors in Haigh’s early life that led to him murdering one of his few friends.
Alexander Pichushkin’s favorite book was How to Win Friends and Influence People, which he used to charm his victims into following him into the woods. He was charged with 49 murders, but was upset the authorities didn’t verify a higher kill count. Pichushkin idolized Russia’s most prolific serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, and wanted to go down as an even more prolific killer. Greg and Vanessa examine how Pichushkin’s desire for validation was the only reason he was caught.
Alexander Pichushkin tracked his murders by marking X’s on his favorite chessboard. Luring victims into a park before bludgeoning them with a blunt object, Pichushkin also earned the nickname “The Bitsevsky Park Maniac”. This week, Greg and Vanessa look into the effects of frontal lobe damage on a child’s brain, and how alcoholism, a porn addiction and a love for chess shaped a prolific killer.
The Zodiac Killer held San Francisco in a grip of terror in the 1960’s largely due to the letters and ciphers he sent the newspapers and police. Greg and Vanessa dig into the meaning of the mysterious messages, and try to figure out how a killer who mailed the authorities clues was never caught. They also take a look at the phenomena of false confessions.
He’s one of the most notorious serial killers in US history, and we don’t even know his real name. A “thrill killer”, the Zodiac targeted couples, but they weren’t the only victims of his terror spree. This week, Greg and Vanessa dive into the Zodiac Killer’s crimes and examine how his methods of murder showed a need for attention.
Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins was so disturbed, he had classifications for the types of murders he’d commit- “coastal” or “serious.” The “Redneck Charles Manson” killed hitchhikers for pleasure, but also committed grudge murders on victims he knew. Greg and Vanessa explore Donald’s misogyny and examine the claims he made in his memoir.
A killer so vicious he managed to kill twice while in prison, earning the nicknames “The Meanest Man in America” and “The Redneck Charles Manson”, Donald Henry Gaskins terrorized the American South in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This week, Greg and Vanessa dig into Donald’s need for dominance and his position in prison hierarchies.
The Axeman drove New Orleans to hysteria, but he also drove the citizens to play loud jazz music. Greg and Vanessa analyze this odd request, as well as police prejudice in investigating the case. Later, they read a letter from the killer, purporting his demonic association. What psychological factors led the Axeman to claim to be “From Hell”?
In the early 1900’s, the Axeman of New Orleans chiseled his way into homes to kill his sleeping victims. Then he’d vanish; leaving the corpse, the weapon, and sometimes his own bloody clothes behind. Greg and Vanessa examine the concept of overkill in this disorganized killer. Then they ask the question: Was the narcissistic Axeman part of the mafia, a German spy, or a demon from hell?
Arguably the most infamous serial killer of the modern day, Ted Bundy’s murders escalated in frequency and depravity as the cops chased him. Though Ted Bundy publicly admitted to thirty murders, Bundy’s lawyer said he committed over a hundred. Greg and Vanessa discuss psychopathy, psychosis, and the “mask of sanity” in relation to Ted Bundy.
More than any serial killer in history, Ted Bundy was known for charming the media, and his victims. Greg and Vanessa explore Bundy’s early life, the mental compartmentalization of killers like Bundy, and the way he manipulated the media.
Karla Homolka helped Paul Bernardo rape and kill her own sister. Why would someone do that? Greg and Vanessa discuss the “Ken and Barbie Killers” and serial killer couples. Their charming public faces made it hard for the police to find them, and easy for the pair to lure victims.