The short answer is probably not.
How do you recognize a serial killer?
Unless it is something very obvious like the smell of dead bodies coming out of their windows, you probably can’t.
Serial killers are a rare phenomenon; a statistical anomaly. Few people are capable of what they do, which is of course a good thing. Serial killers kill several victims with a cooling off period in between kills. They tend to target strangers, especially prostitutes, the homeless, and runaways, as these are people unlikely to be missed for a relatively long time. They are often acting out an elaborately detailed fantasy that they have spent years developing, which climaxes in the killing. The fatal climax produces a relief of tension. They may keep souvenirs of the kill, or images or video, and replay the kills and the events leading up to it over and over, either literally or in their mind, savoring what they have done. Over time, doubt enters in. Did I do everything right in accordance with my fantasy? Did I miss something? I should have said this, the victim didn’t follow the script, and I forgot to do this. Tension builds. They can’t focus at work. They neglect their appearance. They drink, can’t sleep, withdraw and self-isolate. They can’t get aroused from the fantasy any longer. It is time for another kill, often based on refinement of the fantasy. This is their pattern which repeats itself over and over.
They are without conscience, regret, guilt, or remorse, and will kill until they are stopped. They are sadistic, meaning they enjoy their victims suffering. They may have a severe mental illness which distorts their view of reality beyond anything close to normal. They may believe they are acting as avengers, eliminating the unwanted from society, or they may be acting out vengeance toward people who remind them of or share the appearance or characteristics of some hated person from their past.
What is a creep or weirdo exactly?
When confirmed serial killers are apprehended, the reaction from neighbors, coworkers, and other associates tends to be shock and disbelief. They are typically the last person that would be suspected. The truth about serial killers is that they tend to be very socially adept and charismatic. They use a camouflage of social smoothness, which they wear like a cloak to keep their true nature and intentions hidden. In this way they can get close to their intended victims. Creepy weirdos drive people away. They cannot establish trust. People feel uneasy around them, and want to withdraw from their presence as soon as possible. You cast surreptitious glances at them, or stare at them.
Some people are secretive, shy, withdrawn, or introverted. They are not a threat to others; they just value privacy and solitude, or are fearful of social contact or intimacy. Introverts especially get a bad reputation. Introverts are reserved, private people who like quiet and solitude, and are not interested in small talk, parties, going to clubs, or getting to know their neighbors. This is a personality type, and is not pathological.
There are some people lacking in, or utterly devoid of social skills. They act in a manner which we find disturbing, or set off our internal alarms. Their presence makes us feel uncomfortable, unclean, violated, or guarded, on a visceral level.
The nature of creepiness, or the defining element of being a creep, is that creepers provoke an ambiguous threat perception in others. They do not do anything which is an overt or obvious threat, but they engage in behaviors or words which provoke discomfort in others. This does not mean creepy people are harmless. Always listen to your intuition. Your safety is far more important than someone else’s feelings, being perceived as paranoid, or being accused of stereotyping. Use your intuition, your gut, and stereotype away. It keeps you safe. Lesser predators, such as sex offenders will tend to trigger internal alarms that should be heeded.
That being said don’t be paranoid. Some people get themselves so worked up, they see non-existent threats everywhere they look, and gradually become more and more isolated, leading a fearful life. Ironically, you may end up being perceived as a creep.
Conduct Accurate Risk Assessment
What should you actually be concerned about? Active shooters and terrorism are in the headlines, and have become a part of our modern reality. Both are still statistical anomalies that you are unlikely to encounter. There are some precautions that you can put in place to make yourself safer.
Be aware of your surroundings!!! Here are some points to get you started.
- When you go into a building such as a supermarket, learn where the exits and cover and concealment are. Cover is something that will probably stop a bullet. While concealment will hide you.
- Notice people who are busy looking at other people, who appear tense or anxious, or who have a 1000 yard stare. Or wearing clothing inappropriate for the weather, such as a long coat in warm weather.
- Notice unattended backpacks, suitcases, bags, or satchels.
- Listen to your intuition. If something feels wrong it is wrong.
What do you do when your awareness of your surroundings tells you something is wrong? Now what? Get out of the area as fast as possible, and call the police. You may be wrong about what you see, but better to be embarrassed about making a mistake than dead.
There are much greater risks to your safety than serial killers, active shooters, or terrorists. If you are concerned about personal safety, consider adopting the following behaviors:
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a low fat diet
- Don’t drink heavily
- Look both ways before crossing the street
- Wear a seatbelt while in a car
- Wear a helmet on a bicycle, skateboard, or motorcycle.
- Wear a life jacket while in a boat.
- Don’t use drugs, don’t sell drugs, and don’t buy drugs. If you do, it is inevitable you will get involved in violence.
- Don’t be an unfaithful lover. A spurned lover can be dangerous.
All of these items above present a much higher risk than serial killers. They are nowhere as exciting however.