Why Do Some People Become Serial Killers?

A new book explores what it takes to become a murderer.

serial killer
Investigators sift through compost looking for human remains in the back area of 53 Mallory Crescent in Toronto, July 5, 2018. The property is linked to the Bruce McArthur murder investigation. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Star via Getty Images

Canadian police believe they discovered more human remains on a property frequented by Bruce McArthur, an alleged serial killer who is thought to have murdered at least eight men in Toronto’s gay community. His victims were recent immigrants of South Asian or Middle Eastern background and he allegedly buried the remains of some of his victims in flower pots, as McArthur was a self-employed landscaper.

A new book by Peter Vronsky, a historian and journalist based in Toronto and the author of several books studying the history and psychopathology of serial killers, look at society’s understanding of serial killers and how it has changed over time. It also asks the difficult question: What “makes” a serial killer? The Guardian talked to Vronsky ahead of the Aug. 14 release of Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present.

“It’s true that almost all serial killers suffered childhood trauma. But here’s the problem: if 100 kids grow up in an abusive foster home, and one turns out to be a serial killer – what about the other 99?” said Vronsky to The Guardian. “They grew up to be, well, maybe not all well-adjusted citizens, but certainly not serial killers. What is the missing X-factor?”

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