Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unitby Mark Olshaker, John E. Douglas
During his twenty-five year career with the Investigative Support Unit, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the
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In chilling detail, the legendary Mindhunter takes us behind the scenes of some of his most gruesome, fascinating, and challenging cases—and into the darkest recesses of our worst nightmares.
During his twenty-five year career with the Investigative Support Unit, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers of our time: the man who hunted prostitutes for sport in the woods of Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer, and Seattle's Green River killer, the case that nearly cost Douglas his life.
As the model for Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, Douglas has confronted, interviewed, and studied scores of serial killers and assassins, including Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Ed Gein, who dressed himself in his victims' peeled skin. Using his uncanny ability to become both predator and prey, Douglas examines each crime scene, reliving both the killer's and the victim's actions in his mind, creating their profiles, describing their habits, and predicting their next moves.
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From Chapter 1: Inside the Mind of a Killer
Behavior reflects personality.One of the reasons our work is even necessary has to do with the changing natureof violent crime itself. We all know about the drug-related murders that plaguemost of our cities and the gun crimes that have become an everyday occurrence aswell as a national disgrace. Yet it used to be that most crime, particularly mostviolent crime, happened between people who in some way knew each other.We're not seeing that as much any longer. As recently as the 1960s, the solutionrate to homicide in this country was well over 90 percent. We're not seeing thatany longer, either. Now, despite impressive advances in science and technology,despite the advent of the computer age, despite many more police officers withfar better and more sophisticated training and resources, the murder rate hasbeen going up and the solution rate has been going down. More and more crimes arebeing committed by and against "strangers," and in many cases we have no motiveto work with, at least no obvious or "logical" motive.Traditionally, most murders and violent crimes were relatively easy for lawenforcement officials to comprehend. They resulted from critically exaggeratedmanifestations of feelings we all experience: anger, greed, jealousy, profit,revenge. Once this emotional problem was taken care of, the crime or crime spreewould end. Someone would be dead, but that was that and the police generally knewwho and what they were looking for.But a new type of violent criminal has surfaced in recent years-- the serialoffender, who often doesn't stop until he is caught or killed, who learns byexperience and who tends to get better andbetter at what he does, constantlyperfecting his scenario from one crime to the next. I say "surfaced" because, tosome degree, he was probably with us all along, going back long before 1880sLondon and Jack the Ripper, generally considered the first modem serial killer.And I say "he" because, for reasons we'll get into a little later, virtually allreal serial killers are male.Serial murder may, in fact, be a much older phenomenon than we realize. Thestories and legends that have filtered down about witches and werewolves andvampires may have been a way of explaining outrages so hideous that no one in thesmall and close-knit towns of Europe and early America could comprehend theperversities we now take for granted. Monsters had to be supernatural creatures.Theycouldn't be just like us.Serial killers and rapists also tend to be the most bewildering, personallydisturbing, and most difficult to catch of all violent criminals. This is, inpart, because they tend to be motivated by far more complex factors than thebasic ones I've just enumerated. This, in turn, makes their patterns moreconfusing and distances them from such other normal feelings as compassion,guilt, or remorse.Sometimes, the only way to catch them is to learn how to think like they do.Lest anyone think I will be giving away any closely guarded investigative secretsthat could provide a "how-to', to would-be offenders, let me reassure you on thatpoint right now. What I will be relating is how we developed the behavioralapproach to criminal-personality profiling, crime analysis, and prosecutorial strategy, but I couldn't make this a how-to courseeven if I wanted to. For one thing, it takes as much as two years for us to trainthe already experienced, highly accomplished agents selected to come into myunit. For another, no matter how much the criminal thinks he knows, the more hedoes to try to evade detection or throw us off the track, the more behavioralclues he's going to give us to work with.As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes say many decades ago, "Singularityis almost invariablya clue. The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult it isto bring it home." In other words, the more behavior we have, the more completethe profile and analysis we can give to the local police. The better the profilethe local police have to work with, the more they can slice down the potentialsuspect population and concentrate on finding the real guy.Which brings me to the other disclaimer about our work. In the InvestigativeSupport Unit, which is part of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis ofViolent Crime at Quantico, we don't catch criminals. Let me repeat that: we donot catch criminals. Local police catch criminals, and considering the incrediblepressures they're under, most of them do a pretty damn good job of it. What wetry to do is assist local police in focusing their investigations, then suggestsome proactive techniques that might help draw a criminal out. Once they catchhim-- and again, I emphasize they, not we-- we will try toformulate a strategy to help the prosecutor bring out the defendant's truepersonality during the trial.We're able to do this because of our research and our specialized experience.While a local midwestern police department faced with a serial-murderinvestigation might be seeing these horrors for the first time, my unit hasprobably handled hundreds, if not thousands, of similar crimes. I always tell myagents, "If you want to understand the artist, you have to look at the painting."We've looked at many "paintings" over the years and talked extensively to themost "accomplished" "artists."We began methodically developing the work of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit,and what later came to be the Investigative Support Unit, in the late 1970s andearly 1980s. And though most of the books that dramatize and glorify what we do,such as Tom Harris's memorable The Silence of the Lambs are somewhatfanciful and prone to dramatic license, our antecedents actually do go back tocrime fiction more than crime fact. C. August Dupin, the amateur detective heroof Edgar Allan Poe's 1841 classic "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," may have beenhistory's first behavioral profiler. This story may also represent the first useof a proactive technique by the profiler to flush out an unknown subject andvindicate an innocent man imprisoned for the killings.Like the men and women in my unit a hundred and fifty years later, Poe understoodthe value of profiling when forensic evidence alone isn't enough to solve aparticularly brutal and seemingly motiveless crime. "Deprived of ordinaryresources," he wrote, "the analyst throws himself into the spirit of hisopponent, identifies himself therewith, and not infrequently sees thus, at aglance, the sole methods by which he may seduce into error or hurry intomiscalculation."
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(Patricia Cornwell, bestselling author of The Body Farm and From Potter's Field)
Meet the Author
John E. Douglas is a former special agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, one of the first criminal profilers, and a criminal psychology author. His works include Mindhunter, Obsession, and Journey Into Darkness, among others.
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