Common Elements Represented in the Fantasies of Serial Murderers

Common Elements Represented in the Fantasies of Serial Murderers

A deviant and consuming fantasy appears to be the fuel that fires serial killing. Serial killers seem, at an early age, to become immersed in a deep state of fantasy, often losing track of the boundaries between fantasy and reality. They dream of dominance, control, sexual conquest, violence, and eventually murder. Fantasy would seem to be the place where a serial killer retreats in a dissociated episode.Many studies have supported the role that fantasy plays in motivating the serial murderer.

Giannangelo (2012) states that a pattern of sadistic fantasiescan be found that, in repetition-compulsion fashion, were played out repeatedly- initially in fantasy only, later on in behavioral mock trials, and eventually in assaults. The more the fantasies are cognitively rehearsed, the more power they acquired. The author found that once the restraints inhibiting the acting out of the fantasy are no longer present, the individual is likely to engage in a series of progressively more accurate ‘trial runs’ in an attempt to enact the fantasy as imagined.Given a scenario in which a person has developed no real sense of self, no concept of esteem or self-worth, and no meaningful reciprocal relationships with those around him, he or she is likely to see an avenue of escape from hate and rejection. In this person’s fantasy, he or she may remake the present, the past and the future. He or she may recreate a world of acceptance and respect. He or she can enjoy the status of a worthwhile person and be a desirable sex partner. Most important, he or she can call all the shots, write all the lines, and fill in all the blanks. The carte blanche control offered in the world of fantasy is priceless, and addicting.

According toHickey(2015), as established by a study by Burgess (1993) found a fantasy-based motivational model for sexual homicide. According to the author interactive components of serial killers included impaired development or attachments in early life; formative traumatic event; patterned responses that serve to generate  fantasies; a private, internal world consumed with violent thoughts that leaves the person isolated and preoccupied; and a feedback filter sustaining repetitive thinking patterns.Serial killers often retreat into their world of fantasy at some point in their developing pathology. They may delve into sexual, violent, graphic scenarios, and use pornography or detective magazines to assist their creative process.  In self-imposed isolation, they begin down the path of a murderous obsession. Fantasy is also a logical first step toward a dissociative state, a process that allows the serial killer to leave his stream of consciousness for what is, to him, a better place.

Through fantasy a serial murderer attempts to wall himself in against the fatal act, while at the same time qualifying the compulsive psychic demands in the development and use of fantasy. These sadistic fantasies seem always to precede the brutal act of murder. They take all sorts of grotesque and cruel forms. The murderer, on this level of degeneracy, may resort to pornographic pictures, grotesque and cruel literally episodes, out of which he weaves fantasies. On these, his imagination dwells until he loses all contact with reality, only to find himself suddenly impelled to carry out his fantasies into the world of actuality. This is done, by drawing some human objects into the fantasy.

In summary, the serial killer often loses himself in a world of fantasy. A world where fantasy is omnipresent and cannot discern what fantasy is and what reality is. This psychodynamic makes possible the continued execution of violence, sadism and murder for personal satisfaction. Fantasy can also be seen as a reason the serial killer can calmly and methodically dehumanize his victims. He then reconnects with the real world and carries on immediately after the crime with such seemingly mundane activities as going out for hamburgers.



Giannangelo, S. J. (2012). Real-Life Monsters: A Psychological Examination of the Serial Murderer. Carlifornia: ABC-CLIO.

Hickey, E. W. (2015). Serial Murderers and Their Victims. New York: Cengage Learning.

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