Warning Signs That Someone You Know Might Be A Serial Killer

If you believe any Law and Order or Criminal Minds episode, you would think millions of serial killers are wandering around every day. But just because there's probably not really that many serial killers roaming everywhere, it doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared. There are certain serial killer warning signs that you should watch out for in the people that you call your friends and family.

You need to be informed about serial killer personality traits that should tell you to run away and never come back. Check out this list below for all the signs that someone is a serial killer so you can be prepared and keep yourself safe. 


  • They Start Fires

    They Start Fires
    Photo: Emily Rachel Poisel / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Do you know someone who always insists on starting the campfire? Do you ever find them just staring at a lighter for long periods of time? Do they joke about burning everything down and then say "JK, but really though..." all the time?

    If you've answered yes to any of these, you might want to be careful. One of the most predominant early signs of being a serial killer is a desire to start fires. Psychologists say serial killers start off as arsonists because setting fire to things offers the ability to wield power and be in control, two things that go hand-in-hand with serial killing. 

    A famous example of a serial killer who started off as a pyromaniac is David Berkowitz, AKA the Son of Sam killer. When he was arrested, he took responsibility for dozens of fires across New York. 


  • They Torture Small Animals

    If someone you know likes to take small animals and put them in elaborate traps straight out of a Saw movie, it's a pretty safe bet to assume they'll be a serial killer when they grow up.

    Torturing small animals is a major indicator for something more serious. Serial killers kill to control other peoples' lives, and when they are younger, small animals are one of the only types of lives that they have the power to control.

    Famous serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz, and Albert DeSalvo all admitted that small animal abuse was one of their first violent acts, and when studies were performed on violent prisoners in prison, it was revealed that 70% of the most violent prisoners often engaged in animal cruelty when they were younger. 

  • They Struggle With Substance Abuse

    Criminologist Craig Traube revealed in a study that serial killers share several overlapping behaviors with substance abusers. Serial killers often have a need to kill that they can't control. They often experiment with different methods or victims until they find a pattern they like and then stick with it.

    With serial killers being so similar to addicts, it's not surprising to discover that a lot of major serial killers were substance abusers as well. Jeffrey Dahmer was an alcoholic by the time he was in high school, and Ted Bundy quickly shifted to alcohol, drugs, and porn when he was arrested and could no longer kill. So, next time you're at a party, keep an eye out for the person who sips just a little too much from the tequila bottle. 

  • They Have Vivid Fantasies

    According to the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, serial killers train themselves to become murderers, often since childhood. Much of this training has to do with engaging in an increasingly intense loop of fantasy.

    The fantasies that young serial killers often have help relieve anxiety and fear over things like abuse and neglect. Of course, not everyone who fantasizes about things is immediately a serial killer, but if your fantasies are overwhelmingly sadistic and violent, you might have a problem. 

    Serial killer Ed Kemper, AKA the Coed Killer, was quoted saying, "I knew long before I started killing that I was going to be killing; that it was going to end up like that. The fantasies were too strong. They were going on for too long and were too elaborate."

    So, to recap: fantasies about winning a million dollars? Good. Fantasies about murdering all your friends and loved ones? Bad.