The Psychopath Test… a reporter’s strange scary descent into the mindset of some wild and crazy serial killers

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Dr. Bob Hare is a Canadian Psychologist renowned for his studies into psychopathy] Bob seemed melancholy. It was as if the crash had made him introspective. He said, almost to himself, “I should never have done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well.”


Best read on Because Ronson narrating Ronson is a joy!

I looked at Bob.

“Do you mean that?” I asked.

“I mean it,” he said.

“But surely stock market psychopaths can’t be as bad as serial killer psychopaths,” I said.

“Serial killers ruin families,” shrugged Bob. “Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.”


The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry – Jon Ronson – Audible Book Review

Jon Ronson is unique and has an intuitive almost introspective sense of the ironic.

I was introduced to irony early on in my life through the short stories of O Henry. And there was a reason that O Henry’s works were mandatory reading. Nothing succeeds like irony for delivering peculiar and fundamental truthiness (nod to Steven Colbert) to the people.

Ronson is the man responsible for Men who stare at Goats (another great listen) and other delinquent dallies into the minds of some very strange people.[pullquote_right]“We journalists love writing about eccentrics. We hate writing about impenetrable, boring people. It makes us look bad: the duller the interviewee, the duller the prose. If you want to get away with wielding true, malevolent power, be boring.”
― Jon RonsonThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry[/pullquote_right]

In The Psychopath Test Ronson’s first subject study concerns a man who decided to feign insanity rather than do five years in a normal prison environment.

The man (Called by the alias: Tom, because Ronson did not want to spoil the man’s chances re parole and release) decided to dupe authorities into thinking he was mentally insane, for the purposes of doing an easier stint in a mental institution. So Tom, the better to feign insanity, did research in the prison library into the minds of some very unsavory characters. He brought quotes from serial killer Ted Bundy – and others – into the equation, thinking (correctly) that real life psychopaths could advance his case. For institution rather than prison. Be careful what you wish for. Tom passed his psych review with flying colors. Quoting real life serial killers to earn a spot in an institution for the criminally insane is not advisable. Tony found that out the hard way when he landed in Broadmoor, an estimable patch of hell, which is rather infamous in Great Britain.

“Trying to prove you’re not a psychopath is even harder than trying to prove you’re not mentally ill,’ said Tony.”
― Jon RonsonThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

Tony should have read his O Henry. Because when Ronson visited him for the first (but not the last) time, with the help of some scientologists who were trying to get Tony’s case reviewed, the young man who mimed Ted Bundy to earn a cushy seat in a country club, was in the 12th year of a sentence with no hope of release in his future.

Why? Because Tony had been diagnosed as a psychopath and at Broadmoor (and other places all over the world) the psychopathy diagnosis is a de facto life sentence. Because, as we go on to find out, from Dr. Hare and other researchers, the nature of psychopathy is incurable. Once a low-affect offender? Always a low-affect offender.

The story is built around Tony, but there are wiggles and meanders through the minds of other serial killers. He retains a constant, if simmering link, to Dr. Hare, the Canadian who has built a cottage industry with his formula and precis regarding the habits of psychopaths. Other experts are summoned, and most agree that people like Bundy are predisposed to repeat their acts, should they be given access to the light of day in society.

He traipses through the primal scream therapy of one therapist who believes, truly believes that he has found a cure for psychopathy. More irony here. Many of the dozens of psychopaths that trained in the program used the lessons to good advantage. Psychopaths know that they are low-affect and cannot muster the proper facial expressions that mask their disinterest in things that normal people find disgusting or horrifying. Thus their facial responses can out them in normal society. The clients in the therapy said that the lessons allowed them to fit in better. The better to mimic normal response. This in turn gives them access… to more victims. Should they be released. What follows is a description of some of that therapy.

“This was truly to be a radical milestone: the world’s first-ever marathon nude psychotherapy session for criminal psychopaths. Elliott’s raw, naked, LSD-fueled sessions lasted for epic eleven day stretches. The psychopaths spent every waking moment journeying to their darkest corners in an attempt to get better. There were no distractions—no television, no clothes, no clocks, no calendars, only a perpetual discussion (at least one hundred hours every week) of their feelings. When they got hungry, they sucked food through straws that protruded through the walls. As during Paul Bindrim’s own nude psychotherapy sessions, the patients were encouraged to go to their rawest emotional places by screaming and clawing at the walls and confessing fantasies of forbidden sexual longing for one another…”

And we shall leave you with that dance into Ronson’s seemingly endless litany of “truth is stranger than fiction” accounts.

This is a good read.

“I heard a story about her once,’ said James. ‘She was interviewing a psychopath. She showed him a picture of a frightened face and asked him to identify the emotion. He said he didn’t know what the emotion was but it was the face people pulled just before he killed them.”
― Jon RonsonThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry