But twenty-five years of observation has also told me that criminals are more ‘made’ than ‘born,’ which means that somewhere along the line, someone who provided a profound negative influence could have provided a profound positive one instead. So what I truly believe is that along with more money and police and prisons, what we need more of is love. This is not being simplistic; it’s at the very heart of the issue.John Douglas, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
The other night I was on one of my daily walks just minding my own business, thinking about my life, and jamming out to some tunes, when out of nowhere I’m thinking about serial killers. I’m thinking about serial killers because at the time, I was walking by myself, in a park (not too far from my apartment), and I’m wearing headphones. I was in a park. At night. By myself. With headphones in. I felt like I put a target on my back that said, “Come and get me, crazy psycho murderers!”
This, of course, leads me to think about Mindhunter, and how John Douglas says everyone is vulnerable. Anyone could be a victim. For the crazy pants murderer, all it takes is the right person, at the right time, in the right place. Everyone is vulnerable. I’m vulnerable. You’re vulnerable. We are all vulnerable, and that’s scary. It’s scary knowing that there are people out there that want to hurt you. Maybe not you specifically, but people in general.
This had me rushing out of the park and heading to a busier part of the neighborhood for safety, but I still couldn’t push those thoughts out of my mind. I was instantly suspicious of any other pedestrian I walked past that night. I even cut my walk short because I could not stop thinking about it.
That’s the kind of effect Mindhunter had on me. It had me critically analyzing everyone and getting freaked out on walks, but it also fascinated me.
If you missed my post about how excited I was to read this book, then you can check out that post here.
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He has hunted some of the most notorious and sadistic criminals of our time: The Trailside Killer in San Francisco, the Atlanta Child murderer. He has confronted, interviewed and researched dozens of serial killers and assassins, including Charles Manson, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and James Earl Ray – for a landmark study to understand their motives. To get inside their minds. He is Special Agent John Douglas, the model for law enforcement legend Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris’s thrillers Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, and the man who ushered in a new age in behavioral science and criminal profiling. Recently retired after twenty-five years of service, John Douglas can finally tell his unique and compelling story.
The interviews are big aspect of Mindhunter, and honestly one of my favorite parts of the book. It gave me the chills for sure.
The reason Douglas and Bob Ressler, his partner, started interviewing convicted killers was because they both felt they had so much to learn from them. What better way to catch killers than by getting inside their heads? Douglas even says throughout the book:
“If you want to understand the ‘artist,’ you must study his ‘art.’ If you want to understand the criminal mind, you must go directly to the source and learn to decipher what he tells you.”
John Douglas mentions that the key to conducting a good interview was to treat the interviews as a casual conversation. Recording the interviews and taking notes made their interviewees nervous and often played into their paranoia, so Douglas and Ressler stopped that after the first few interviews.
Why were these interviews so beneficial? Essentially, these interviews helped Douglas and other agents understand criminals. In understanding the criminal, they began to get a better idea of what kind of person would commit a certain kind of crime.
Catching Serial Killers
The rest of the book focuses on how Douglas and other profilers use their deductive reasoning to create criminal profiles on active murder cases. Douglas talks about some of the cases he worked on like, Atlanta child murders, BTK, and the Green River killer, to name a few. The profiles created by the BSU in the FBI became really important when it was time to convict the killers. It used to be that in order to get a conviction in a murder case you needed conclusive forensic evidence, eyewitness accounts or a confession, or good, strong circumstantial evidence. But, now with profiling, there’s added evidence for a murder conviction. Of course, you can’t get a conviction on a criminal profile alone, it only works along side other evidence. Still, that development was a pretty big deal. John Douglas and other profilers testified in a lot cases, helping put away many killers.
John Douglas is a real life hero. And it’s not just him, it’s all of the other agents, past and current, who are working in the Investigative Support Unit (previously the Behavioral Science Unit) at the FBI.
Nature Vs. Nurture
A big thing that stuck with me from reading this book is the quote I included at the beginning of this post, “What we need more of is love.” Douglas tells us towards the end of his book that many people ask him if it’s possible to prevent these serial crimes. Is there a way to prevent these killers from killing in the first place? What is needed to make this happen? Douglas tells us that he believes criminals are more than likely made than born. Almost all of the killers he interviewed had grown up in a dysfunctional environment, which Douglas believes is what led them to become violent offenders. He wonders if that would still be the case had they been treated with more love.
A book that causes a debate, in my opinion, is good. It wasn’t hard for Douglas to do this since he was writing about something that’s already a huge topic of discussion. The nature vs. nurture debate will never go away. People will always discuss this. Even after reading Douglas’ opinion on the matter, I still wonder about the validity of his argument. Maybe most criminals are made, but one also has to wonder if a small part of that person was born that way. I think it’s a little bit of both. Then again, I’m not the leading expert in criminal profiling.
Just Read It
If you are a true crime fan like myself, then you’ll probably love this book. If you’re a fan of the show then you will also love this book. So stop reading this and just read Mindhunter instead. You won’t regret it!