Getting to know your local psychopath can be a challenge, especially if you’ve no idea how to track him or her down. Using the latest research – and a little wisdom gleaned from “lucky” personal experience – I hope to define, in no uncertain terms, what you really need to look out for when you start hunting for a psychopath.
1. They are more attractive than the rest of us
Half true. Psychopaths are rated as being more attractive than everyone else, but it’s not because they actually are naturally prettier or more handsome. They are simply more likely to use clothing, makeup and hairstyles effectively to improve their appearance and appeal. Researchers at Washington University found that those individuals with the “Dark Triad” of personality traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy) were more successful at making themselves look good to others when they wore their own choice of clothes and makeup. It’s a skill, not a birth right. When they washed their makeup off, put on jeans and a plain t-shirt and tied their hair back, they were seen as “average” in terms of attractiveness. To spot this in the street, you’ll either need to look out for extreme pampering, or give them a bucket shower.
2. Natural amount of eye contact or too much of it?
Women often mistake long, intense periods of trancelike eye contact displayed by male psychopaths as sexual interest or two-way “magnetism”. Big mistake. One woman judged it better. She reported feeling “eaten” by the unflinching stare of a psychopath she met. A steady, deliberate, intimidating gaze is a trait common with their personality type. It’s an extension of their need to control, their confidence and their desire to tell the world about their lack of fear. It’s a look aimed at potential inferiors – or even victims.
What about the choice between contact lenses or glasses? Well, generally speaking, criminals are known to have especially acute eyesight, so glasses are less likely. However, it’s not clear whether this also applies to non-criminal psychopaths. Because of their desire to appear charming, well-turned-out, talkative, open and in control, they are probably more likely to opt for discreet contact lenses. To an average person, glasses might be useful for hiding behind or secretly observing others and, although both tricks would probably be useful to a psychopath, they actually go against the classic desire to be approachable characters who love being on show, entertaining the crowd – their role as an all-round “king of the cats”.
Extra tip: If a psychopath’s really on the ball, he’ll use a technique called “mirroring”. If you’re wearing glasses, he’ll get a pair out and put them on. If you’re eyes are free and easy to see, he’ll keep his the same. People are more likely to trust a mirror man.
3. Let’s talk about hair
Are psychopaths bald or hairy? Do they grow beards? Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox won the “Impish Psychopath Beard of the Year” category at the 2013 MLB Beard Awards, but this doesn’t really mean beards are a psychopath thing …. does it?
If we look at beards from first principles, psychopaths will be less likely to want one because it might give the impression the wearer wants to hide or lacks confidence. On average, people see beards as less clean than shaven faces, perhaps less elegant in some ways, but there are exceptions. Many women find beards attractive. Actor Joquaim Pheonix sports a beard that breaks boundaries: it is confident, it is trend-setting, it is the kind of beard that says, “I can turn my own, clean-cut image upside down if I want to and you’ll have to deal with it.”
Research shows some interesting twists on the stereotype, too. A person’s beardedness actually has an impact on their perceived credibility, especially in advertising. The concept of credibility is made up of three facets: attractiveness, expertise and trustworthiness. Bearded people are seen as more trustworthy when it comes to selling products like phones or toothpastes (although people without beards create more sales potential for products like underwear). The presence of a beard also increases perceived charisma and reliability.
It’s not an exact science, but maybe psychopaths need to consider the latest research if they want to take full advantage of current opinion on beards.
4. Do psychopaths tell jokes?
Yes, is the simple answer. Psychopaths crack jokes because it builds their charming, confident veneer. They also rarely get depressed.
5. What do psychopaths think of crowds and being in a crowd?
They want to be noticed. They dress up for public appearances. They also have an unusual startle response – and this is one of the best ways of spotting one in a crowd. Shout out, do a spontaneous dance, then look around. Even psychopaths will turn around and look, but only a psychopath won’t blink an eye.
6. Can I spot a psychopath using social media? In a virtual crowd?
You sure can. Let’s take Twitter for example. Frequency, content and style of tweets can lead to reasonably accurate profiling of people in terms of their levels of psychopathy. Superficial charm, grandiosity, lying, manipulation, lack of guilt, irresponsibility, desire for stimulation, parasitic behaviour, impulsiveness and poor social control are all good indicators of a possible online psychopath, but to really know who you’re looking at, you’ve got to dig a little deeper.
Regular swearing and use of “anger” words such as “hate”, “kill”, “death” and “annoy” are commonplace in a psychopath’s vocab, whereas “love”, “sweet” and “nice” are far less likely to get a look in. Psychopaths rarely chat about family or friends unless it’s for selfish reasons – like manipulating someone into thinking they’re caring. Perhaps most interestingly, words relating to physical needs like “food”, “money” or “sex” are key to the psychopath’s online life.
Frequency is another factor. Impulsive, erratic tweets are a good indicator of possible “@psychos”. It’s the short, sharp burst tactic. Calm, well-planned, well-spaced tweets are far less likely, although let’s not forget, these people are skilled at emulating “normal” behaviour to get the response they want.
If a person is regularly using several of these techniques to tweet, you might want to think twice before clicking “follow” – unless you want to practice your psychopath watching skills that is …. (and who doesn’t?)
Quick-fire test for when you’ve caught your psychopath and you just want to make sure:
Favourite music? Rap
Favourite animal? Some kind of fish
Often caught reading? The Financial Times
Most likely career? Banker
Number of best friends? Give me a break
Weekend pursuits? Extreme sports, the more dangerous and current the better (skydiving is a bit eighties)
Birthday treat? Plastic surgery
And a personal favourite of mine: Best bit of the body? The eyeballs ….
Visit again soon to learn more about becoming a psychopath watcher.
It’s a subject I’m passionate about – and I know you are, too.
Who doesn’t want to know how a crazy person ticks? Who doesn’t want to follow an investigation into a dark, horrible murder? Who doesn’t want to know why people kill? But are psychopaths really crazy? Or is that just our misconception? Can psychopaths be more intelligent than the rest of us? Do they really lack empathy? Or is everything they do just an act? I’m not sure. By creating this series of blogposts, I hope to find out. Maybe you’ll join me in my quest to discover more about …. WHAT MAKES A PSYCHOPATH?
First of all, let’s find out what you already know. Don’t be scared – this is a very short test!
True or false? Psychopaths prefer rap to jazz.
True or false? Psychopaths enjoy power.
True or false? Most psychopaths prefer fish to snakes.
Hang on a minute – that’s completely not what I was expecting! Surely a psychopath would be a fan of snakes or cats or something scary and sly? Well, the research says they’re not. So there you go.
The point of all this is, our subject has not been done to death. (Pun intended.) There are going to be plenty of surprises along the journey …. As well as looking at what it means to be a psychopath and where you can find one of your own to chat to, I’ll also be talking about a few favourite works of fiction that led to real-life crimes and, to make sure no lunatic gets left out, we’ll discover some real-life crimes that inspired fiction. Get your thinking caps on – this is going to be an interactive few months.
So, to hack a long story into nice little chunks, all you need to do is stick to Ellman Books like blood to a bodysuit. (Yes, I’m a self-confessed pun-generator!) To keep up with the psycho crowd, you can follow this blog or follow me on Twitter (my blogposts pop up occasionally). Everything I do here also goes straight over to Goodreads, so join me there if you prefer.
And, remember, if you hate learning about psychopaths, madness, murder or stray body parts, this blog series is definitely for you – it’s your free ticket to becoming a true PSYCHOPATH WATCHER ….
Ellman Books asked our avid readers and thriller/horror fans to give us their top #ScariestCharacters of all time (books or films/movies) – and we had a fantastic response. Due to time constraints, we had to stop at 15, but a few extras were added to the bottom as they came through. Thanks to everyone who contributed!
Here’s the full list, in vivid, nightmare-quality order . . .
- Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, written and directed by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel). In The News: True crimes behind the character.
- Regan (The Exorcist, written by William Peter Blatty, film directed by William Friedkin). Can you remember what it said on Regan’s stomach? Answers here at Fun Trivia.
- Annie Wilkes (Misery by Stephen King). Find out how Annie would be diagnosed if she visited a psychiatrist!
- Freddie Krueger (Nightmare On Elm Street, directed by Wes Craven). In The News: Southeast Asia’s “nightmare deaths” inspiration for Krueger monster.
- Candyman (Candyman Films, directed by Bernard Rose). Discover the heartbreaking legend behind Candyman.
- Peter Quint (Turn Of The Screw by Henry James). Role of repression in Turn Of The Screw.
- Norman Bates (Psycho by Robert Bloch). 10 interesting facts about Psycho.
- Håkan (Let The Right One In, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, directed by Tomas Alfredson). Read a review from Love Vampires.
- Pennywise (It by Stephen King). Based on the Tibetan Tulpa. Have you brought a dangerous tulpa into your life?
- Hannibal Lecter (Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris). In The News: Man who inspired a maniac. Dr. Alfredo Balli Trevino knew he was the real Hannibal.
- Xenomorph (Alien, directed by Ridley Scott). What is a Xenomorph?
- Kurt Barlow, Master Vampire (Salem’s Lot, Stephen King). Kurt Barlow versus Dracula: a vampire essay.
- Child Catcher (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, written by Ian Flemming). “There are children here. I can smell them.” What happened to actor Robert Helpmann?
- Nurse Mildred Ratched (One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey). Trivia: The name Ratched or “rat-shed” was used to indicate that the nurse was like a rat. Read more about her character.
- The alien (The Thing directed by John Carpenter). In The News: The director of The Thing reveals alien backstory.
Other suggestions included Jack (Lord Of The Flies by William Golding), Queen Of Hearts (Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Caroll) and The Weeping Angels (Dr. Who).
Play Our Video Gallery: See if you can match names to faces – if there even is a face . . .
The author’s “Top 3″ – and why
Freddie Krueger – because he is more than just a man who tortures and kills children during nightmares. Before the victim’s parents burned him alive and turned him into a monstrous ghost, he was a real person, living in their street.
Annie Wilkes – because I adore the horror of the mundane, the slow, grinding tortures of a woman who is sugary sweet to begin with, but as vicious and twisted as they come as time moves on. Who needs a three hour stint in make up when you can scare like Annie?
Leatherface – because I enjoy characters based on real life villains, and there are few in criminal history as fascinating and devious as the infamous grave robber, Ed Gein. Their crimes were not identical, but the feelings and emotions I took from both fiction and fact were the same: impending doom; a family gone mad.
Post a comment or contact us on Twitter @ellmanbooks if you agree or disagree or if you have another name you think should have been up there. You can also compare our list to other compilations around the web. Try these for size: Loomings’ Top 50 from film or TV, Entertainment Wise’s Scariest Movie Characters and Ranker’s Most Terrifying.
Related Ellman Books Links:
- Folly A Deux, Madness In Two People: Short horror story based on Ed Gein
- Dare Before You Die: Horror/thriller for people who enjoyed Misery or Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Slaughterhouse is now available as a new-look, matt-finish paperback or e-book at Amazon and Kobo. If you’re already brave enough to have the book on your Goodreads shelf, why not update to the new cover?
If you haven’t already been introduced to Slaughterhouse, here’s a little taste:
A dark, brooding, psychological thriller set in Fort Worth, Texas featuring cool, collected Kris Kartofski, a man who takes a risk any of us could take – meeting a quiet girl for a first date – with devastating consequences.
“The storm batters the roof. Unfazed, Dawn says a rambling prayer about appreciating all the food God gives us every day of our lives and Janis hands me a heavy carving knife for the pig. ‘You’re man of the house now,’ she says softly. I stand up, take the knife from her and nod: the ritual is about to begin.”
Slaughterhouse featured in Crime Fiction Lover’s ‘New Talent November’ series in 2012 and has been nominated for a major 2013 international thriller award.
Want to share your experience with others? Want to scare your friends? Join the discussion on Twitter @ellmanbooks or become a fan or friend of the author at Goodreads. Join a growing community of dark fiction lovers.
Recommended related posts:
Foods that are aromatic, fresh, flavourful and vibrant can help us access memories and bring past experiences closer to us. Good food also makes us more creative. That’s why we’ve added a distinctive, powerful recipe to our website, one that is perfect for people who want to experience food, rather than just eat it.
The delicious “Ellman Books Curry” is a unique, fiery Thai Green Curry with a Nepalese twist designed and eaten by the Ellman Books crew. You’ll be twisted, too, when you see how much chilli we’ve put in. The recipe is inspired by a two-week visit to Koh Kret, Thailand and a recent trip a bit closer to home – our busy, atmospheric, local Nepalese restaurant.
So why don’t you dive in?
Real gardening – soil under fingernails, spade over shoulder, handful of baby geraniums – is not my scene. I prefer sowing the seeds of a story and watching it grow into a book.
Nurture and nature battle against one another during the process of development; it’s a true tug-of-war. Often, I write what feels natural. Sometimes, I push my ideas in different directions depending on what I want to achieve or what I think my readers might enjoy. I usually want to make a statement, but not always.
Ideas form into chapters, chapters are edited or rewritten, shuffled about, split up, drawn together and checked for flow. A second edit; a third. I read through it all in one go, then I might edit again or even add fresh material. There’s no set order; surprising myself during the creative stage spices the writing up. When the basics are complete, I take a break – maybe a drive in the wilderness or a walk up the hill or even a big cry – then I start work again to make real sense of the story as a whole.
Day after day, week after week; it takes time, emotion, skill and effort.