Pick Me Up! magazine asked for my professional opinion on Gerard Schaefer, an American serial killer from Florida who was imprisoned in 1973 for two murders (although he privately boasted in his writing of murdering over 30 women). Out in the 25th October 2012 edition, I supplied the following psychological insight.
How did sibling rivalry and jealousy affect Gerard Schaefer?
Sibling rivalry is normal and healthy, but when this turns into extreme jealousy or envy, it can bring out the worst in people. The worst in most people is not that bad, but for someone with the psychological make-up of Schaefer, bringing out the worst can have devastating implications. The impact of sibling rivalry is so strong that it often follows a person into adulthood. A combination of Schaefer’s disturbed mind and the extreme sibling rivalry he experienced are likely to be key factors in his crimes and his need to release any anger created by the jealousy he had of his sister and the hatred he had towards his father, who he believed preferred his sister.
Was his interest in women’s underwear linked somehow to his feelings for his sister? And why do some men find it sexy to wear women’s underwear?
Some men find it sexy to wear women’s underwear because they want to be a woman. For others, it is the closest they feel they will get to being with a woman. For Schaefer, it is possible that his desire for the love and attention he believed his sister was getting created a desire to be what she was – female.
At first, Gerard was violent towards himself, tying himself up and hurting himself for sexual thrills. Why did this behaviour develop into wanting to hurt first animals and then women?
Schaefer first learnt to deal with his emotions through self-harm, possibly blaming himself for not getting on with his father and, indeed, not being his sister. However, the self-hate clearly led to a hate of others, whereby he could no longer satisfy his emotions by turning them on himself – he now needed to externalise his emotions. Directing his aggression towards animals was a stepping stone towards moving on to humans.
What pleasure would Gerard have got from voyeurism?
One of the primary thrills experienced through voyeurism is the sense of power gained from observing people who don’t realise they are being observed.
Why do you think he wanted to enter the priesthood?
Every occupation Schaefer sought, from teaching to priesthood to law enforcement, had one thing in common – they put Schaefer in a powerful role where people would listen to him and look up to him. It is questionable as to whether Schaefer wanted to be a priest – more so, it appears that he wanted to be a powerful force that had influence over others. Also, what better way for a serial killer to hide their true self than to wear the mask of a priest? Schaefer was clearly an intelligent man.
Gerard was very open about his feelings of aggression and violence towards women – telling both his girlfriend Sandy and one of his college teachers about them. Why was he so open like this?
This is indicative of passive aggressive behaviour. By making these women aware of his feelings, he was exerting control over them by giving the message that, if pushed, he could be capable of harming women. It is likely that Schaefer had a need, for whatever reason, to have some emotional control over these particular women.
Gerard started decapitating cows and raping their carcasses. What motivated him to do this? And what was the pleasure he got from this?
Schaefer gained sexual gratification from violating others – be they animals or humans. He would have felt superior when carrying out such acts.
He wrote heavily fictionalised accounts of his attacks on women. Why would he do this?
It is likely that Schaefer wrote fictionalised accounts of his attacks to either relive the experience or describe how he would have liked the attacks to have been. It also appears that a major factor here was Schaefer’s desire to boast about what he had done by keeping documented evidence of his murderous mind. His obsession with Ted Bundy also indicates a competitive nature and the possibility that these fictionalised accounts were written by Schaefer as his lasting legacy. Schaefer wants to be talked about and he wants to live on after his death.
Schaefer was a delusional man – he wanted to be the innocent victim of being falsely accused of these murders while also being the greatest serial killer. His fiction allowed him to pretend he was innocent whilst also, through his fiction, gaining pleasure through reliving his crimes.