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Extreme Offenders: Psychological Insights

The names: infamous. The crimes: extreme. The insights into the darkest corners of behavioral psychology and the disturbing ways serial killers think and act: illuminating.
Extreme Offenders: Psychological Insights is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 29.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting course! This course is interesting and educational from subject matter perspective, If you are a fan of True Crime genre which is all the craze in TV, film, books and convention I would say this is a good addition to that. Professor is not particulary talkative or articulated but information is good for further reading and research in my opinion.
Date published: 2024-06-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Annoying Presenter Aside from the droning background music that kept my nerves on edge throughout, I found the presenter's manner really offputting. In telling individual offenders' stories, she tends to add vocal cues that suggest facets of the offenders' characters, and that seems wrong to me. For instance, she seems to write off Kemper's inability to date as a kind of affectation instead of the evil influence of his freakish mother. Facts, I can deal with; dramatisation, I can't.
Date published: 2024-03-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Educational, if not always entertaining I found this series to be very insightful into the criminal mind, and I like how far back the subject matter went and how each case offered something different in terms of psychology and what is taught. I can also appreciate how much it's stressed that it's the lessons learned that is emphasized, not the killers. The one downside, and it's pretty hard to ignore, is that the presenter is not particularly talented at orating, and her voice can be a bit dreary and monotone at times. But I'll gladly take that in exchange for the insight which she offers.
Date published: 2023-07-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recounting of Some Extreme Killers I am not a "true crime" fan, so much of what she presented was new to me. I come away with the sense that these killers are more varied than one might think and that we lack any effective means we are willing to implement to prevent such crimes. Rather depressing. But I guess this is our world. I agree with the comments that the background music was distracting.
Date published: 2023-06-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Outstanding topic, grating delivery True crimes are one of my favourite subjects. I can spend hours reading about serial killers and learning about their psychology. was very excited to watch this but the first lecture sadly didn’t grab me. the professor no doubt is an expert in the field and very knowledgeable, but her delivery didn’t match. it was slow and looks like she was reading from a teleprompter, which isn’t really a big deal for me if it’s used occasionally throughout the lecture. i found myself detached from the lecture and just decided to read the guidebook. would love to see this series redone with another professor
Date published: 2023-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Grim Dr. Ramsland is well-versed in the subject of extreme offenders. I am only on lecture 6 and I find she has chosen the worst offenders and describes their deeds in great and gory detail. She also attempts to elucidate some of the psychology of these offenders where known. This series is not for the faint of heart. My complaint about the videos is the low hum in the background. It last through the entire half hour and I guess was put on the video for dramatic effect. There is already enough drama so I find this noise not only unnecessary but annoying and distracting. I can't imagine who thought this was a good idea.
Date published: 2022-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Psychopathy 101 Dr. Ramsland provides an excellent review of the behavior of various psychopaths over the past one hundred plus years: from the woman who killed for financial gain to the man who felt he was deeply unattractive, from Ted Bundy to Jeffrey Dahmer. It is important to emphasize that she looks primarily at behavior and somewhat less at the psychological substrata of the minds of these twisted individuals. This is how it should be, I think. Though she cites at least one study in which intervention is purported to mitigate psychopathic behavior, I'm not very sanguine on the idea that these individuals can be rehabilitated. The psychopath's mind is permanently broken in my opinion. That said, this was a good course and, since I am a novelist, it gave me some ideas for how to build evil characters. So, overall, very good. I do have one small objection though: I don't think the producers should have added music to Ramsland's lectures. While watching them, I became aware of continual deep notes and chords being played barely audibly in the background. This music was added to make the lecture material seem more foreboding but I think adding sound effects detracts from the lecture experience. It's as if the Teaching Company is saying, "We don't think these lectures will be scary enough so we'd better add additional sound." To me, this seems like cheating. Other than that one caveat, I think this was a very rich--but disturbing--course.
Date published: 2022-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! Learned some new stuff about the better known offenders and about some I had never heard of before.
Date published: 2022-05-13
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Professor of Forensic Psychology Katherine Ramsland distills her years of experience studying extreme offenders into 12 fascinating episodes that plunge you inside the troubled minds and infamous crimes of serial killers, spree killers, and mass murderers, including Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer.


Katherine Ramsland

Using penetrating insights from psychology, we’ll deconstruct the “whats” and “whys” of some of the most notorious killers of all time.


DeSales University

Katherine Ramsland is a Professor of Forensic Psychology and the Assistant Provost for Special Programs at DeSales University. She holds graduate degrees in Forensic Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Criminal Justice, and Philosophy. She has been honored as a distinguished alumna by Northern Arizona University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The author of more than 1,000 articles and 68 books, Katherine spent five years working with Dennis Rader on his autobiography Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer. Among her other books are How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, The Mind of a Murderer, Beating the Devil’s Game, and The Devil’s Dozen: 12 Notorious Serial Killers Caught by Cutting-Edge Forensics. Her background positioned her to assist former FBI profiler John Douglas on his book The Cases That Haunt Us and to cowrite books with former FBI profilers Gregg McCrary and Mark Safarik. She also coauthored The Real World of a Forensic Scientist with Elaine M. Pagliaro and renowned forensic criminalist Henry C. Lee. She blogs regularly for Psychology Today.

Katherine trains law enforcement professionals and speaks internationally about forensic psychology, investigative psychology, jury dynamics, suicidology, and extreme offenders. She is an executive producer of Murder House Flip and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. She has also appeared on more than 200 documentaries and shows, including 20/20, 48 Hours, and Nightline. She is a go-to consultant regarding perpetrators of the most deviant forms of criminal behavior.

By This Professor

Extreme Offenders: Psychological Insights
Extreme Offenders: Psychological Insights


Rage and the Serial Killer: Joseph Vacher

01: Rage and the Serial Killer: Joseph Vacher

Forensic psychology first got its start in the late 19th century, which is where this series begins. Joseph Vacher’s vicious spate of murders in France, earning him the name “the South-East Ripper,” would make him an instructive subject on compulsive rage, manipulation, and violent sexual domination.

39 min
Cruelty and Lust Murder: Peter Kürten

02: Cruelty and Lust Murder: Peter Kürten

It’s the rare type of criminal who becomes sexually aroused by the sight of their victim’s blood. A classic lust killer, Peter Kürten demonstrates how a lack of remorse, coupled with narcissism and the need for violence as a stimulant, encourages the conditions for paraphilias and serial sexual murder.

35 min
Killing Husbands for Gain: Belle Gunness

03: Killing Husbands for Gain: Belle Gunness

Some extreme offenders are motivated by anger and lust; some just want money. Meet Belle Gunness, the enigmatic “Indiana Ogress” of the early 1900s who drew the attention of some of the world’s most prominent criminologists in search of psychological reasons why a woman could be so bloodthirsty.

35 min
A Life for a Life: Leonarda Cianciulli

04: A Life for a Life: Leonarda Cianciulli

Some extreme offenders operate with a firm sense of purpose while others are simply delusional. Unlike other extreme offenders in this series, Leonarda Cianciulli believed in the supernatural. In fact, her decision to kill was justified as an act of faith, love, and protection—namely, to spare the life of her military-age son, Giuseppe.

35 min
Deceptions of a Fatal Chameleon: Ted Bundy

05: Deceptions of a Fatal Chameleon: Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy is practically synonymous with the term “serial killer.” He presents the allure of the attractive, confident narcissist who firmly believes he is untouchable. Take a closer look at how, in the end, Bundy’s distorted perceptions of reality undermined him and proved he was not that special or unique.

35 min
Comorbid with Serial Murder: Rodney Alcala

06: Comorbid with Serial Murder: Rodney Alcala

In this discussion of the serial murderer Rodney Acala (who also appeared on the The Dating Game TV show), take a closer look at the nature of psychopathy. During the time of Acala’s early psychological evaluations, it seems likely that psychopathic traits—impulsivity, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and manipulativeness—were misdiagnosed as other conditions.

33 min
The Path to Psychopath: Edmund Kemper

07: The Path to Psychopath: Edmund Kemper

Co-ed killer Edmund Kemper’s case demonstrates how deviant murderous thoughts that become acts can start while the perpetrator is quite young. There exists, fortunately, a treatment program designed to treat specific personality and behavioral issues, and to help re-socialize persistently aggressive juvenile offenders.

35 min
Need to Harm: Joseph DeAngelo

08: Need to Harm: Joseph DeAngelo

What makes an extreme offender successful? Use Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer, as a lens through which to study how major categories of predatory rapists (the “gentleman rapist,” the power-assertive rapist, the anger-retaliatory rapist, and the sexual sadist) set goals, identify escape routes, evaluate obstacles, and react to cues.

36 min
The Mask of Insanity: John Wayne Gacy

09: The Mask of Insanity: John Wayne Gacy

Begin looking at claims about mental illness and its impact on aberrant behavior with the case of John Wayne Gacy, who killed at least 33 young men—but who also resided for several years over the decomposing bodies in the crawlspace under his house. Why did his case so confuse a jury?

37 min
Isolation of a Zombie Maker: Jeffrey Dahmer

10: Isolation of a Zombie Maker: Jeffrey Dahmer

Why do homicidal sex offenders report mostly deviant sexual fantasies and tend to mutilate their victims? Get inside the mind of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who exemplifies how predatory homicidal offenders can often show a greater incidence of fantasy based in paraphilias than non-homicidal offenders.

35 min
Dracula Delusions: Richard Trenton Chase

11: Dracula Delusions: Richard Trenton Chase

While some extreme offenders might fake a disorder when the stakes are high for punishment, sometimes a serious mental instability has been well documented in an offender’s past. Case in point: Richard Trenton Chase, whose history of mental illness manifested in some truly bizarre—and truly bloodthirsty—behavior.

35 min
The Retribution-Day Killer: Elliot Rodger

12: The Retribution-Day Killer: Elliot Rodger

Unlike mass murderers, who kill four or more people in a single event and at a single location, a spree killer slaughters three or more people in at least two locations. Here, meet Elliot Rodger, a spree killer and a symbol of justified violence to men known as “incels,” or involuntary celibates.

38 min