In the 1980s, a psychologist named Joel Norris identified seven psychological phases that serial killers experience as they commit their crimes. They offer a terrifying glimpse into the minds of those capable of unthinkable evil.


1. Aura Phase

The first phase serial killers experience is withdrawal from reality. It may go unnoticed by those closest to them, but life has lost all meaning for the killer. Their senses are heightened. Violent fantasies begin to form and they feel the urge to act on them.

2. Trolling Phase

This is the phase in which the killer starts to search for their victim as well as looking for a place to commit the crime or dump their body. This phase can last for months or just days, until the would-be serial killer has found the perfect victim.

3. Wooing Phase

This is when the killer sets out to gain the victim’s trust to put them at ease before attacking them. They may present themselves as charming, wanting to help – or harmless and in need to help themselves. This phase is experienced by only the most organised serial killers.

4. Capture Phase

In this phase, the killer reveals his true sadistic self. The victim becomes incapacitated, whether  knocked unconscious or restrained or trapped somewhere.

5. Murder Phase

This is the phase where the murder takes place. Organised killers often chose to kill their victims slowly, causing them much suffering and torture before they die. Whereas disorganised killers are more likely to kill their victims instantly and commit further acts, such as necrophilia or mutilation, on their corpses.

6. Totem Phase

In the totem phase, the thrill of the kill begins to dissipate for serial killers. To keep some of the excitement, they will often take a souvenir from their victims, such as the clothes they were wearing or newspaper stories about the crime. These serve to remind the killer of the moment they made their warped fantasy real.

7. Depression Phase

The final phase in the cycle. The anticlimax causes a depression in the serial killer who comes to feel that his fantasy was not properly fulfilled. Some may even kill themselves in this phase. Those who don’t, will soon begin to experience the violent fantasies of the aura phase and the cycle begins again…