While most of the Dreams & Reality books deal with serial killers, there are actually three types of killers that should our society ever devolve to match Cain’s will be a serious problem. Serial killers, mass murderers, and spree killers would all cause significant population decreases if they existed in the sheer volume that they exist in the fictitious world of my creation.
- Serial killer is defined as a person who kills three or more people over the course of a month or longer. They must have “cooling off periods” between times of activity.
- Mass murderer is defined as a person who kills four or more people with no inactivity between kills. The activity is usually committed at a single location. However, this definition is somewhat fluid in nature, as mass murder also includes genocide. The difficulty arises because genocide must meet more criteria than mass murder, but we do consider genocidal maniacs mass murderers.
- Spree killer is defined as a person who commits two or more murders, in two separate events with relatively no inactivity between kills. This definition is also a little fluid, as spree killers are usually limited in how much time is considered “no inactivity” and there is no exact number placed on it. However, the FBI likes to limit it to less than 30 days. So, a spree killer might kill one person every five days for a month or he might kill three people on Friday, six on Saturday, one on Monday, and then take the rest of the week off before resuming activities on Friday.
As neat and tidy as these definitions would like to be, most multiple murderers fit more than one category.
- Charles Whitman climbed the bell tower at the University of Texas on 1 August 1966. He shot 49 people, 18 of whom died due to injuries. However, the night before he climbed the tower, he drove to his mother’s apartment and stabbed her to death, then he picked up his wife from work, brought her home and stabbed her to death. Meaning that while Whitman is most definitely a mass murderer, he could also qualify as a spree killer.
- H H Holmes will forever be known as America’s First Serial Killer (even though it isn’t true). However, what most people don’t realize is that Holmes had times when he was a bit of a mass murderer and a bit of a spree killer. During the World’s Fair in Chicago, an event that lasted 6 months; Holmes used the Murder Castle as an efficient killing machine. Estimates differ greatly on the number of victims that saw their last days inside the hotel Holmes had built. The lowest is twelve, so he was murdering at least two people a month. The highest I’ve ever heard was a 100. If that number is anywhere close to being true, than Holmes would not have had much cooling off periods between murders. He would have qualified as a spree killer as well as a serial killer. Furthermore, there is a subset of mass murders that do take place over prolonged periods of time and are not involved in genocide. Holmes would qualify for that as well, even if that number is greatly exaggerated.
- Ed Gein is technically none of these things. However, he is still lumped in with the rest of the serial killers because police suspected that he killed at least five people above and beyond the two he confessed to. Aside from the three prostitutes in LaCrosse, Wisconsin whose disappearance might be linked to Gein, he was found in possession of two pubescent vulvas. The medical examiners who looked through Gein’s treasure trove of body parts didn’t believe they came from dead teenaged girls. They just couldn’t find the link to any missing teen girls and the vulvas; they don’t exactly have fingerprints or facial features.
- Charles Starkweather is occasionally called a spree killer and occasionally called a serial killer. It depends on who one asks. The problem with classifying Starkweather is that his murders happened over a period of time, longer than a month, but only because there was one murder that was an outlier. In the wee hours of the morning on 1 December 1957, Starkweather killed a gas station attendant. However, the rest of his murders (all 10 of them) happened between 21 January and 28 January 1958.
- Jim Jones is definitely a mass murderer. However, he is suspected of killing followers who wanted to leave his commune before the mass death took place, making it possible that he was also a serial killer. And unlike most people think, not all of the followers in Jonestown wanted to drink the punch… The few survivors of Jonestown tell a frightening tale of the last night, with Jones ordering the murders of those that didn’t want to drink poison, either by holding them down and forcing them to drink the punch or by shooting them, and goons chasing people who ran off. The survivors are the ones that said unhappy Jonestown residents tended to disappear.
Most multiple murderers cross into grey areas. It happens. It’s also why classifying them can occasionally be difficult.