The Difference Between Male and Female Serial Killers

TIME

Researchers including psychologist Marvin Zuckerman have long noted the morbid curiosity of humans: There’s just something about horror and terror that captures our attention.

Indeed, there may be nothing more horrifying – and fascinating – than murder. With my colleague Tom Bowers at Penn State Harrisburg, I’ve studied the crimes and characteristics of mass murderers for years, and still, I’m alarmed by every reread of each case.

But it wasn’t until last year when an undergraduate student, Erin Murphy, approached me about studying female serial killers (FSKs) that I realized how little scientific literature existed on this topic. Many routinely hear about male serial killers (MSKs) – the Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys of true crime lore – and one can indeed find volumes of literature analyzing their killing sprees.

On the other hand, few have heard of Belle Gunness and Nannie Doss, whose crimes were no less heinous: Gunness…

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