Retired FBI Profiler and ‘Mindhunter’ Author John Douglas on ID’s ‘Serial Killer’ Series

     July 29, 2019

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Over the course of the last year, I have read nearly every crime book written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the authors of Mindhunter, which inspired David Fincher‘s Netflix series of the same name. So when I was offered the chance to interview Douglas, a retired FBI profile who served as the basis for Scott Glenn‘s character in The Silence of the Lambs, I jumped at the opportunity.

Douglas has come face-to-face with the worst evil this world has to offer, so it’s fitting that he appears as an expert on Investigation Discovery’s Serial Killer: Devil Unchained, a three-part limited series about convicted murderer and rapist Todd Kohlhepp, who was arrested after a young woman escaped from a shipping container on his property. Kohlhepp is one of four murderers whose crimes are examined in Douglas and Olshaker’s latest book, The Killer Across the Table, which was published in May.

Douglas made for an absolutely fascinating interview, and while I can see why his headstrong attitude might have rubbed some folks at the FBI the wrong way, it’s clear that he’s an expert on the darkest corners of the human psyche. I could’ve spoken with him for several more hours, but I made the most out of time our limited time together, and I hope you’ll enjoy my chat with the Mindhunter himself.

How do you prepare to interview a guy like Todd Kohlhepp? How many hours do you spend reviewing case files and evidence and all that?

John E. Douglas: When you do interviews, and you know this because you’ve read my books, you know that to understand the artist, you must look at the artwork. You’ve heard me say that behavior reflects personality. The key thing I learned early on, which I didn’t do initially… I wasn’t as thorough years and years ago… but the thing I learned is, you cannot rely on self-reporting. So before I do the interview, I’m pretty well-versed in the crime itself, the victims, and the circumstances surrounding the crime. I’m looking through the records within the correctional system as well, and then, if possible, I’ll try to even stage the interview itself. I didn’t do it initially, but as time went on, if I had the opportunity, I would stage it, and I was always big on low-lighting and a very minimal amount of furniture, but a room where the subject could have choices as to where he would like to sit.

Manson, I knew he would do this, he sat up on a credenza looking down, and I expected him to do that. I’m trying to make the person feel comfortable and make him, or her, in some cases, make them feel like they’re in control. Even in control of me. But I have to show them through my knowledge and communications with them that I’m very, very knowledgable about the case, so if you pull the wool over my eyes, I’m not going to confront you, I’m not going to slap you in the head, I may just chuckle and say, ‘c’mon, I know the case pretty well.’ Often times, they’re surprised by the response. If you’re walking by the cell, you may have a hard time of differentiating who the bad guy was and who the good guy was — so it’s really this degree of comfort.

Surprisingly, even to this day, a lot of the people making these decisions about corrections, probation, parole and sentencing, they rely on self-reporting. They don’t look at the material, and they get angry if I’m confronting them. Like, ‘well, we don’t like what you say about us in your books, that we don’t know what we’re doing.’ It just seems so obvious! Unless you delve into the crime itself and the specifics of the crime — now, you may not be able to understand it, you may need someone to interpret it for you and explain what really happened, but you have to know all the elements of it, even up to the time of arrest. Did the subject give a confession? Did he lie? Did he come up with some phony alibi? These people are going to lie and they’re going to test you. Those are the things I learned early on.

In the series Mindhunter, they bring in tape recorders, and we did that once, and we’d take notes and stuff in front of them, but we quickly learned you can’t do that. You have to give them your 100 percent attention — looking at them, listening to them, kind of like hostage negotiations. Paraphrasing, restatement of content. Letting them know that you understand what they’re saying. If I’m writing notes, they’re asking, ‘why are you taking notes? Who’s going to see the notes? Why do you have a tape recorder? Who’s going to be listening to this tape that you’re making with me?’ Those are the kinds of things you have to prepare for.

Now with Kohlhepp, I tried to go into the prison and do the interview. I went through SLEDD in South Carolina. It’s a law enforcement group, a state agency. And the local sheriff’s department, as well as corrections, they wouldn’t let me do it, for several reasons. First of all, the correctional institutions, they’re way, way understaffed. When I was down there, seven inmates were murdered in the local prisons. In fact, corrections was criticized that they didn’t move in right away. So what I ended up doing with Kohlhepp, and I would never do this with a David Berkowitz or a Manson-type of personality, or Dennis Rader, the BTK Strangler, I sent him, through our producer Maria Awes, the 57-page instrument protocol that I and Dr. Ann Burgess and my former colleague Robert Ressler developed early on in our research, which covers everything from the crime to the arrest to the subject himself, with information that’s in corrections that the police may have, to the victimology, and everything about the victim. It’s the ‘why plus how equals who.’ It’s an UNSUB case, and in an unknown subject case, we’re trying to come up with the ‘who.’

Here, we have someone incarcerated like Kohlhepp, so we’re trying to come up with the ‘why’ — the motivation. We communicated with him, and Maria received an extensive amount of communications with him, and we sent off the instrument. Not only did he fill it out all 57 pages, but he went way beyond. He provided dozens of addendums to it, and additional writings. He’s very, very introspective, and at the same time, he wanted my opinion on what makes him tick. He was a totally different kind of killer than some of the other ones that I’ve been involved with. He’s not really a sexually motivated type, who has fantasies of locking somebody up in a storage bin. It wasn’t that way at all. He was more of a retaliation type of offender. He was a mass murderer and a serial murderer. So was Dennis Rader, who killed the Otero family, and then five or six other people. So if he feels you did him wrong, it kind of goes back to when he was in prison.

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Image via Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office

When he’s 15 years of age, he doesn’t go to a juvenile facility, they send him to an adult male prison after he was convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl when he’s 15 years of age. So you learn pretty quickly who to trust, who not to trust, and if someone is distrustful, or does you wrong, or is a snitch, there’s going to be retaliation. He doesn’t have the social skills when he’s released from prison at age 30, and as far as who he dates — he dates some women, but his sexual gratification, more times than not, is coming from prostitutes. But no matter what he achieves in his life, including two college degrees, a private pilot’s license, a real estate license, a real estate broker’s license, and then he owns a real estate company, has no respect at all from his family, particularly his mother. His father abandoned him at 2 years of age, and he was abused by his grandfather, while his mother was very dispassionate and saw other men, and moved him from school to school to school. He began acting out in elementary school, and went to a psychiatric hospital at 9 years of age. So what happened was predictable — that this person, at some point in his life, will perpetrate a crime.

In the motorcycle shop, he felt wronged, in his opinion. They made fun of him when he bought the motorcycle, because he didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle. It’s not long before he crashes it and tries to return it, and they laugh at him. He believes that they came back and stole the bike, because they delivered it to him, so they knew where he lived, and whether that happened or not, he waited and waited and waited months and months, and then the day came, and one day after school he says to himself, ‘I’m going to this motorcycle shop.’

And he’s very proud of how he kills these four people. He talks as if he’s in the military, and he’s a real gun buff, a gun fanatic, and he kills a guy working on the bike. He’s in the shop supposedly to buy another bike, but his intention is to kill whoever is there, so he ends up killing the owner, the manager of the shop, the mechanic, and the owner’s mother. He was just a different breed of cat. And that’s how I got involved in the case. It was with the Motorcycle Killings. I was speaking down in at South Carolina University as part of a speakers bureau, and the cops came up to me after my presentation at this university — I didn’t even know they were in the audience — asking if I could help them. This was about a year after the mass murder in the motorcycle shop. And I said, ‘it just depends… the more cycles of pathology, the easier it becomes, so send me what you’ve got.’

That’s when they sent me all the case materials, and I went through everything, and then called them back up and told them that it is my opinion that there aren’t multiple offenders involved, so this is not a group-cause murder, and it’s not a criminal enterprise because no money was taken. There was plenty of money on the victims, as well as in the business office — thousands of dollars was ready to be sent to the bank, so it’s not that. It’s not a sexual motivation-type. ‘So what is it, John?’ I said it’s a personal cause homicide, a revenge/retaliation-type, because the person responsible feels they’ve been wronged. So it’s either a disgruntled employee or a disgruntled customer, and if it’s a disgruntled customer then the name of this person will be in their files.

So they took the information, and there’s an article I did with an investigative reporter, and we put it in the paper hoping someone would recognize the traits and characteristics, but the cops never followed through. They went through some of the names, but they stopped because they focused in on another suspect who they believed showed inappropriate affect at the crime scenes. This was a guy who showed up right after the homicides, and they just thought he was weird. But had they continued running checks on all the people who purchased bikes from this bike shop, they would’ve come across Todd Kohlhepp, and then with a simple criminal check they would’ve seen he had a criminal history as a registered sex offender out of Tempe, Arizona, and it certainly would’ve been worth while to knock on his door and have a talk with him.

With Kohlhepp, unfortunately, I couldn’t get to do the interview, but he filled out the instrument, and Maria and I talked about it, and I said because of his intellectual level and how introspective he is, I couldn’t give that form to David Berkowitz or Dennis Rader and expect them to fill it out, because they’re not that smart. But this guy had about a 118 IQ, and based on the communications that Maria and I received from him, I thought he’d do well. And he gave us a lot of information, which was very helpful and very believable to me. He said he’s involved in other cases, and I believe him, whereas some other law enforcement agencies don’t believe him, but I do believe him.

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Image via Investigation Discovery

Tell me about your partnership with Mark Olshaker and how that collaboration works?

Douglas: First of all, I met Mark in 1994. He had a contract at Nova Television to do a story about the unit, and it was called The Mind of a Serial Killer, and that’s how I got to meet him. I was getting near retirement and starting to think, ‘there’s a book in me.’ He wrote books, but nothing like my subject area. We went up to New York and met an agent, and then we went around, when the time came, to different publishers, and they were well aware of me. In fact, some of the publishers had books from other authors who had written books about cases I’d done. So we got the first contract with Simon & Schuster.

The way it works is, I’m really an instructor, and then I go out for a task force, and I’m instructing there, to give them some leadership and direction. Sometimes I’ll write it out, or I’ll go through the story and tape it, and then Mark will flesh it out and send it to me, then I’ll review it and add to it, or change the organization of the story. Things like that. Mark has known me for so long.

The thing about Mark is, I have to remind him sometimes and be like, ‘hey Mark, you know a lot, but you are not a profiler.’ I’m not going to imitate being a writer. Because sometimes he’ll say, ‘we did this…’ like with the Ramsay case, and I’ll say, ‘we? Mark, you weren’t there when I testified in front of a grand jury in Boulder, Colorado. I didn’t see you sitting next to me when I was going through that.’ But he’s been around me so long that he knows me and knows the buzz words and all that. He wasn’t involved when I went down to South Carolina in this Kohlhepp case, as I was involved with Maria, but for this next book that I did, The Killer Across the Table, I just felt that this Kohlhepp case could be one of the ones in this next book, because it’s just so different, and the other three guys in the book are kind of different killers as well, and that’s pretty much how we do it.

How does somebody go about getting a job like yours? Where does someone like me, who is fascinated with profiling, start?

Douglas: In the bureau, all the profilers, there’s not really a profiler position, there’s an agent position. So you join the bureau as an FBI agent, and then you’re out in the field, and let’s say you’re in the LA office. The FBI investigates a couple hundred different federal violations, so you’re assigned to some squad, and then you tip your hand and you say you’re interested in criminal profiling, so you become a profiler coordinator. And a coordinator’s job is, we’ll send you to a two-week in-service, then you head back into the field, and if a case comes up in your territory, and you think it’s something we can be of assistance on, you coordinate and work with police to send files back to Virginia.

There are police departments that have profiling people in there, so it’s not just federal — federal has a lot of them — and I think right now it’s an agent position in the bureau, but I think that’s going to change in the future. It’s good to have that investigative experience, but you could find someone who may have investigative experience in some capacity, or maybe they spent some time working in corrections but they also have a degree. The degree today, which I didn’t have this kind of degree because it wasn’t around, is forensic psychology, which is a new degree, and which would be a good background for someone. But I have people in my unit, I had one, Gregg McCrary, who was a music major. Had others who had business degrees. My doctorate is in adult education. You have to have that rub though, around law enforcement, and you have to be able to understand the language and the cases and the work.

And then to be accepted… when I came back to Quantico, I had it all. I had degrees, four years of military service, seven years in the field, but I was young. I was like, 32. but what really got me accepted, and I almost did them strictly as survival, was to do the interviews and go into the prison and do the interviews from an investigative perspective. So that’s what cops will look at. Not so much your degree, but your understanding of the crime, and their work, and the criminal perspective. By going into the prisons and conducting interviews from that kind of perspective. And people can do it. People write to me all the time, and some do it through communiques, but others have actually gone to the prison, and as long as they see you as a friend, a so-called friend, they’ll talk to you.

Early on, I saw instructors being challenged in the classroom, but they didn’t really have the facts of the case, and they were challenged by cops who actually worked the case. So by the time I was 34, if I was in a class and I was talking about the Manson case, for example, I’d ask the people in the class, ‘anyone here work the Manson case?’ and a hand might go up. Well, let me tell you something, I got to spend quite a bit of time with him and the Manson Family members, and you probably didn’t have the opportunity to ask him the kinds of questions I would ask him, so then I’d lay it out for him. So that was a quick way of being accepted. But the bureau is already making changes, where there are more civilian jobs and non-agent positions. There are still good technical positions, but it’s not always necessary to be an FBI agent to do criminal profiling.

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Image via Investigation Discovery

Who’s the scariest person you’ve ever met face-to-face?

Douglas: There have been different ones for different reasons, but it’s probably Lawrence Bittaker, out in California. He was a convicted rapist who teamed up with another convicted rapist named Roy Norris. He was really… his nickname was “Pliers Bittaker,” because that’s what he used on some of the victims. And they made audio tapes of the torture. I’m not intimidated by it, but when you do an interview and you’re looking in the eyes of this guy, who now seems pretty normal when you’re looking at him, I’m trying to visualize what this guy was like, what his face was like, when his victim was looking at this face. It was a different kind of face, I’m sure. A different kind of expression, that she saw on his face as he was scripting them and telling them things to say during the torture and rape. So he was pretty bad.

But then some other ones, like a Todd Kohlhepp. There was no interview, but what’s scary about him is that he’s so, kind of, normal. He’s normal in his appearance, and he’s smart. Had Kala Brown never been recovered from that Conex storage container, there’s no way you could all tie those cases together, because they’re all different. All the cases were so different, and they were retaliation types of crimes. He’s scary in a different way. Criminally smart-scary.

Who was the one criminal who you always wanted to meet but never got the chance to for whatever reason?

Douglas: The guy who’d be a good one now is the African-American, Sam Little. But the one I really wanted to interview is the one I nearly lost my life on, and that was Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer. I think he may have pulled the wool over some of the interviewers’ eyes on some of the cases. He was one of these guys who was admitting to all kinds of cases, which he felt free to, because he wasn’t going to face the death penalty, so I don’t fully believe him 100 percent. But there are questions I wanted to ask him regarding victim selection and post-offense behavioral kind of things, like following the press. Did he go back to the locations where he killed the victims or where disposed of the victims, or the gravesites? What precipitated the crimes? Really to go back and learn, and I may still try to do that, because you can get access to him. He’d be one I’d be interested in.

Do you think that you could commit the perfect crime if properly motivated?

Douglas: No, because it would have to be something… well, maybe if it was a contract type of thing, because if you’re contracted to do something, you’re not emotionally involved, kind of like in organized crime or a hitman, like with the Iceman up in New York-New Jersey, so you have no emotional attachment. But if it was committing a crime against people I know or in my area here, a good profiler or someone with those skills should be able to pick up some things.

For example, maybe I would stage the crime to make it look like something that it was not, maybe make it look like robbery was the intent. Now, they may have a difficult time with the first case, but then if I do multiple cases, they may start seeing a pattern. Again, it’s the emotional attachment. I’d have to have a motive behind it, and so it’d be up to you or the cops to figure out that motive and to look at who are the victims who he’s killing, and are there are any commonalities among the victims. I say that kiddingly to my wife. We get into arguments and I say, I could do something and they would never know it was me. Ha! No, I’d be the first person they would be after.

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Image via Investigation Discovery

I know the Holy Trilogy of fire-starting, bedwetting and torturing animals, but are there any modern signs you’d look for in today’s youth, maybe regarding their online activity.

Douglas: The big one of those three is animal cruelty. Up until a year ago, the bureau’s uniform crime report never had a category of animal cruelty. Say it was a case of domestic violence, and the guy kills the woman’s dog or pet to get back at her. There was no category for that. Now there’s a category because after all these years they realized what we did back in the early ’80s, that it’s a pretty good predictor or red flag, something that you’d have keep your eye on.

Violent themes. You could be on the computer. What are they watching? Because you can become desensitized through some of the violence that you see on television or computers, or by playing war games on the computer. It can desensitize you. I don’t think you should necessarily do away with that, but if somebody has a dysfunctional background, or they’re coming from childhood abuse of some form, then you throw in this other mix of violence on the computer, or in movies or books or the internet, then you observe behavior in school… the kid’s an asocial loner, not so much anti-social, but asocial, and he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the kids in the school, and he’s kind of lost in the shuffle of 2000-3000 kids… there’s a big potential for a problem in the future. In fact, some of those characteristics I just gave, that’s what they’ve seen with school shooters, who are generally asocial types who don’t fit in. It’s not one thing, you look at all the different areas, or several different areas, because one thing alone may not be enough to cause anybody to do anything violent.

How has your job affected your dreams of late, because you often write about your nightmares in your books, so I’m wondering how you’re sleeping these days.

Douglas: Not that great, because if I’m involved in something, I’m thinking all the time of cases, or ideas on a specific case, and I find that that helps at nighttime, because it’s kind of peaceful. When I was younger though, I would have more nightmares. It was hard to turn off something like a violent murder, where you visualize a scene and it’s not just a gunshot and the person’s dead, but it’s things that may have been done to the victim before and after death. And then you come home at the end of the day, and you’re in bed with your wife, I’d be lying if I say you don’t have flashbacks. You see something like that and it’s hard to get that out of your brain,

With law enforcement, you see that they try to desensitize these feelings. You may even look at them and say, ‘well, I have inappropriate affect, and I’m laughing at a crime scene,’ but that’s the way they’re attempting to cope with it. What I do, me personally, I felt like I could not put up any kind of wall. To really understand and interpret a crime, you have to walk in the shoes of the offender as well as the victim, and you try to reconstruct in your mind that interaction, and what took place.

And that’s why, when I was 38 years of age, I was on the brink of disaster when I was up in New York City training cops, because I had this anxiety attack in the middle of my presentation, but no one even caught it. My mouth was talking, because I know my materials, but my brain is elsewhere. My brain is thinking of the cases I’m doing, the cases I have to do. I’m pretty much alone and they’re promising me new people, but it takes a couple of years to train a new person. So by the time I get back home, I’m 38 and I feel like something’s going to happen. I may die here. And the day I leave for the Green River murder case, I say goodbye to my wife at home, and she’s a schoolteacher, so then I went by her school to say goodbye again, and she said, ‘why are you telling me this? You don’t look well.’ I had this tremendous headache, and that’s when I finally get up to Seattle and I take out two agents who are understudying me.

That night I say, ‘look, I think I’m getting the flu. It’s Tuesday. I’ll see you Friday.’ As you know, I collapsed, and then they kicked down the door on Friday. Nobody checked on me because I told them not to check on me, but also because I had the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, so there was no maid service or anything like that. I was on the floor for three days in a coma, and I was paralyzed. I was a wreck. I had to go through five months of rehabilitation. Emotionally. I was a basket case, and when I went to a stress psychologist he said, ‘John, you’re burning the candle at both ends. You’re showing indicators of post-traumatic stress disorder. And if this viral encephalitis didn’t get you because of your low immune system, the doctors say that something would’ve happened to you. So it’s not easy. It’s better today, plus I’m in control, and I can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to different requests, whereas when I was in the bureau, they used to kid around and say ‘Douglas is like a male whore. He can’t say ‘no’ to his customers.’ And you can’t say ‘no,’ because if a family makes a request for help through the bureau, you can’t turn your back, so you do whatever you can to try to help.

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Image via MGM/Orion

What are some of your favorite serial killer movies, or portrayals of serial killers in film and television?

Douglas: The Silence of the Lambs was really a great movie. Jonathan Demme and Jodie Foster did a tremendous job. It was terrific, but that was not really very realistic. There was no Hannibal Lecter type, and we would not send a young agent out to work a case alone. Criminal Minds is another one. In that first year when they started, they were patterning Mandy Patinkin after me and my background. They were taking my cases from my books and twisting a few things, so it was no longer John Douglas’ cases, so we don’t have to option any of his books, we’ll just twist a few things around.

But then, when you get back to the unit, yeah, you have a gun, but you’re not making arrest, you’re not kicking down doors. You’re not so much the player anymore as you are the coach. So I would be the coach, and even though people are asking me, many times, to do some of these interviews, some I would do, but the majority of the time, no, I will coach you. I will find the best person in your department to conduct this type of interview. So that show is just way beyond, and that’s what I like about Mindhunter. It’s conversation that they’re having. It’s not an interrogation, it’s not an interview. It’s a conversation with violent offenders, but from an investigative perspective, and it’s non-violent.

That’s how it all started, by going into these prisons. I wanted to be a good instructor, and I thought, ‘how can I accelerate my learning? By doing these interviews.’ The bureau wasn’t in favor of this. I butted heads with the bureau throughout my career, not just in the ’80s, but right up to ’95, when I retired from the bureau. Knowledge is power, and when you start getting this knowledge on the criminal personality, and that applies to not just homicides, but it can apply to other violent crimes within the FBI, like I did for the bureau. Actually, the bureau was the last ones to embrace it.

So you get this power, and as an example, you get a call from the LA FBI office and the agent-in-charge of that office, asking me to provide him information — how best should he talk to the press; what should he say, and what shouldn’t he say? Because we have this kidnapping case, and I’ll be going before the media soon, so what should I say? So you give him ideas of how he should present it, just in case the offender is listening in. So everything works out fine, and he’s very happy.

Who’s not happy is FBI headquarters, and the criminal investigative division that works kidnappings, but they don’t work it. They have the violation on the desk, so they oversee it, and they go back and tell the office administratively what to do. So they jump on my case, saying, ‘Who the hell are you, telling the agent-in-charge, and how come you’re not going through us?’ And I said, ‘well, the agent-in-charge of LA called me.’ And they say. ‘well you tell that agent-in-charge he has to come through headquarters,’ so when you do that and tell that guy in charge of LA, he may come back and say, ‘well screw them. All they’re going to tell me is to dot my i’s and cross my t’s. I want it from you.’

So it’s a form of power. You’re not looking for the power, but you get this power, so people are maybe upset with you, and then you may get some notoriety. Again, you’re not looking for the notoriety, but you’re getting notoriety in the Atlanta Child Killings. You’re not looking for it when they do an article down there after the trial, and they say ‘FBI Super Sleuth Plays Major Role in Atlanta Case.’ So some people are happy, but there are always some who are not too happy.

I know Mindhunter Season 2 is going to explore the Atlanta child murders and Manson and Berkowitz, but if it were up to you, what would you like to see the show focus on in Season 3?

Douglas: There’s a lot more they could do. A good one would be the Hanson case up in Alaska. Robert Hanson. He’s the one who hunted down women, flew them up into the wilderness in his airplane that he owned, and then he’d strip ’em down naked and hunt them down like wild animals. That’s going to be a big one. And Green River is going to be a big one.

The BTK, they’re doing it now. I don’t know if they’ll come to a resolution. It’s based on the book, but they may Hollywood-ize it, like the backstory with me and the girlfriend. I was married with one young daughter, and then later a son. There are some other cases, and some cases are not well known, but they’re interesting cases. We were involved, my partner and I, in the John Gacy case. And of course you’ve got Ted Bundy. That was another agent in my unit who I sent down to spend time with Ted Bundy. That has to be one as well.

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Image via Investigation Discovery

What’s on your recommended reading list?

Douglas: Ressler, my partner, did some. He did Whoever Fights Monsters. Most of the ones who are doing the writing, they’re not so much investigators. So you’re not necessarily getting the investigative perspective, you’re getting the journalistic perspective, but they might be good books. And I’m prejudiced toward my own books, but the Crime Classification Manual (CCM). We’re on our third edition of that, and I tell reporters and police to take a look at that when they’re investigating a case or writing about a case.

And then we’re going to be doing a podcast, and we may start in August. We don’t have a name — we had a name but we don’t know if we can use it — but it’s going to be me and Olshaker, and Maria Awes, from Devil Unchained, she’s going to be the producer. She’s going to produce our podcast with her team. We don’t know where you’ll be able to find it yet, but right now, UTA and my speakers bureau, Greater Talent Network, are getting ready to shop it around, and there’s interest already. Because there are a lot of true crime podcasts, and I’ve spoken at these conventions and people are doing podcasts at these actual conventions.

What do you make of this current true crime boom and what is it about the worst fo human nature that makes people wants to watch and listen to those stories?

Douglas: It’s kind of like how I started, which was with the ‘why plus how equals who.’ They want to know who are these people, and what motivates them. Most of the audience though are 80-90% women. I did a big one over in the UK in May, for the last two Tuesdays, I’ve spoken to a group of 400 teens from all over the US up in northern Virginia, and the majority of the audience, about 80%, are female, and they are the victims of these crimes. Of course, we’re seeing so much of it on television. It’s been with us ever since Silence of the Lambs came out. Some thought it could be a fad that would come and go, but there are so many cases. They just want to try to understand the criminal personality and motivation, and what really makes these people tick. Are there ways to identify them, or identify early indicators in childhood that would predict that they would perpetrate these crimes?

They just busted a guy over in the UK who had been writing true crime books. I think his name is Paul Harrison. He got busted because he said that when he was 23 of age, he understudied at Quantico, and we taught him profiling, and he interviewed Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, John Gacy, all these people. He’s in his late-40s and he’s done a ton of books. And they sent information asking if we knew this guy, and we didn’t know this guy. He’s getting ready to do a big speaking conference, and after all these years someone decided to check up on the guy, and he’s a phony. It just came out a few days ago. It’s crazy.

Serial Killer: Devil Unchained is currently airing Monday nights on Investigation Discovery, while the second season of Mindhunter will debut on Netflix on Aug. 16.

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