Episode 051: The Serial Killer Cycle, Part 1

on October 21, 2011 in Podcast Episodes, Psychology, Serial Killers by

This week, we look at the serial killer cycle, a theory proposed by Joel Norris in 1988. While the theory is rather lacking in scientific testing, it ties in well with the concept of serial murder as addictive behavior, a concept I believe has considerable merit.

Dr. Norris’ “Phases of Serial Murder” are 7 psycho-emotional states that a serial murderer progresses through. They attempt to explain how and why the offender kills again and again.

It most closely aligns with the profile of a sexual murderer, but has some overlap with other forms of recreational killers as well.

It will take us two episodes to get through this topic. We’ll look at the first four phases this week, and the last three next week.

Mentioned in this Episode: Christopher Wilder, Ed Gein, Jerry Brudos, Derek Percy, Donald Gaskins, William Heirens, Henry Lee Lucas, Edmund Kemper, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, Carlton Gary, Richard Biegenwald, Bobby Joe Long, Arthur Shawcross, Gary Ridgway, Richard Ramirez, Fred West, Harvey Glatman, Wayne Williams, Richard Cottingham, Dean Corll, Charlene Gallego, Gerald Gallego, Dorothea Puente, Angelo Buono, Kenneth Bianchi, Kenneth Allen McDuff

You can also download the episode directly.

And feel free to use the comments below for episode discussion.

“Serial Killers” by Joel Norris
“Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters” by Peter Vronsky
“Serial Murderers and Their Victims” by Eric Hickey
“The Serial Killer Files” by Harold Schechter
“The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers” by Schechter and Everitt
“Sexual Homicide: Patters and Motives” by Ressler, Burgess and Douglas
“What Makes Serial Killers Tick?” by Shirley Lynn Scott on TruTV.com


  • Di says:

    Thanks for this week’s podcast Brian. I think that it is great that you have episodes like these interspersed with individual cases.
    You mentioned a little while ago that you may be doing a segment on Edmunder Kemper. I will be very interested in hearing this one as I find Kemper to be a particularly interesting case. I also find it surprising that I can find relatively little information on him as opposed to many other serial killers, so I am looking forward to seeing the resources you use for his segment.
    Once again, thans for all the effort that you put into these podcasts and I wish you well with your impending addition to the family.


    • Brian Combs says:


      I definitely want to do an episode on Kemper as I find him fascinating. There really is a lack of information on him, and much of what’s out there conflicts with other sources.

      Margaret Cheney wrote two books on him. “The Co-ed Killer” is out of print and I’m not seeing used copies for less than $75. Ouch.

      I have her second book on Kemper, “Why? The Serial Killer in America”. Unfortunately, it spends about as much time talking about society’s problems as it does Kemper.

  • Di says:

    “Why? The Serial Killer in America” arrived in my letterbox two days ago! I have only had a chance to read the first few pages and I’m hoping that the slip in naming ‘Richard Dahmer’ isn’t indicative of the rest of the book 🙂
    I would love to get my hands on her other book but it doesn’t seem likely at the prices being asked 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    Congrats on the incoming baby! ^_^
    And looking forward to the second part of this ^_^

  • Di says:

    Hi again Brian,

    I thought that you might be interested in some info that I found out regarding Margaret Cheney’s ‘two’ books.
    The book that we both have -‘Why’ – is actually ‘The Co-ed Killer’, albeit revised and retitled.
    I was actually considering purchasing The Co-ed Killer (yes, even at $75) after I had finished reading Why.A sentence in Chapter 3, where Ms Cheney states ‘that the eighties will see much worse’ (violence) led me to wonder exactly when it was written. Obviously not in 1992, as the publication date on my copy states 🙂
    Long story short,after a little research, I discovered that the two books are, in fact, one and the same – just updated a little.
    ‘The Co-ed Killer’ would seem to be of interest to collectors perhaps, but we do, in essence, already have it.
    I thought others might be interested to know this as it has saved me (at least) $75.

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