Italian novelist Donato Carrisi is a maestro of psychological writing. He knows how to write so that we could be afraid while we read. That is a virtue of a good mind walker and each one of his books is a proof that he reached the top of thrilling story telling. But, above all, he has touched the deepest instincts of our inner beings and make us breathe in the panic, like we are fighting to survive.

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The idea about the chameleon syndrome of serial killers is not so new but the idea about the serial killer transformist is even more exciting. It combines the chameleon effects of killer with his pure ability for transforming, but not into someone somewhere and sometime, but into taking or overtaking the identity of the victim.


What we know about the  serial killers is that they are having a serious issue with their own identity which comes from the fact that many of them suffer from the severe mental diseases. That usually named bipolar disorder is merged with fascinating sociopaths and psychopaths attributes so the mask of the soul monster is something we will never forget. When serial killers kill, he recognizes his lost identity in the killed one and he experiences the sadistic joy, accumulated in traumatic  past. Nevertheless, Donato Carrisi in his novel ” The lost Girls of Rome” introduced us with the term of serial killer transformist, the special chameleon killer that assumes the physical and personality traits of his victims, trying to solve his own identity crisis, borrowing the another’s one life:“He was a unique example, an extremely rare psychiatric case. He didn’t just take another’s person place and imitate his behaviour, he actually became that person. It was impossible to predict his moves. The transformist had exceptional learning skills, especially as regards languages and accents.


The point about the serial killer transformist  is not that he hunts everyone everywhere, he is rather selective. It is almost like an elitist approach to the killing ritual. He takes time to define the potential victim and to make a mosaic if that person is suitable for his own mental cracks to fulfill with the own death.


The killing is a ceremony for the serial killer transformist because he believes it must be done or he will be lost without “borrowed identity”. It is not a simple chameleon effects that we are familiar with when it comes to the serial killers field and media coverage. There are many of serial killers that have managed to escape the judicial system and the jaws of law just because they were gone within the society they have terrorized with their random murders. Some that have killed tens of people are simply vanished and none ever detected them again. This occurs in the U.S. because the land is large and the population huge so that makes easier for killers to embrace the chameleon strategy and be gone. Zodiac is just one famous example but there are those less famous but never ending riddles for old police records and doubts.

According to criminal files, the curious case of Serial Killer Transformist has been born in the 19th and early 20th century. Because of the lack of forensic methods and investigative tools, the circumstances were differently stated. The bodies have never been found but there was an idea that NN had killed the people before he consumed their identity. Later, the advanced police operative work raised the problem again and forensic psychiatry come out with the new observations:“We’re not dealing with a case of multiple personality, or the kind of patient who claims to be Napoleon or the Queen of England. Subjects affected by chameleon syndrome tend to imitate perfectly whoever they meet. Faced with a doctor they become doctors, faced with a cook they say they know how to cook. Questioned on their profession, they respond in a general but appropriate manner.”

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In the age of Internet homicide, when the killers have all freedom to pick their victims, it seems that serial killer transformist has a open highway for his own modus operandi and the ideas about finding his lost identity. Just to mention social media and the lack of personal security on the web which also has its dark side.  Chat-rooms, online meeting services, digital marriage clubs, popular social networks…very fertile ground for a hunter to look for a prey. There are people who offer their routine life on the horror table of social media scene. Facebook is definitely one of the most popular, both for predators and victims. The first seek for a weak flesh, the second seek for an attention. At the end of the day, it is just an illusion that makes us separated. As once wrote, what is normal for a spider, it is a chaos for the fly. Spiders hunt flies. Natural circle. The serial killer transformist in this case is a spider that becomes a fly.


I find very disturbing the fact that many people have identity crisis. It has it benign and its malign side. The benign way is one life process through the finding own selves without harming others. The malign option is one we do not want for ourselves because it harms us and everyone else. The serial killer transformist is one who did not managed to stay on the light but he fell down into the hell of his own spirit. He kills his victim on the  physical level but on the mental level, he becomes that victim. That is a silent admiration of the object of the killing. He or she deserves to die because his or her identity is enough attractive for a transformist to overtake it. Since the serial killers are highly intelligent, they  analyze the possible victim and all attributes so they are ready to jump only when they are sure that they won’t be caught in their own web. The spider doesn’t want to end up like the fly dying in own web of confusions. They always pick grey mouses, the people they are not remarkable and whose missing wont be so obvious.


Based on FBI statistics, there are about 25 and 50 active serial killers throughout the U.S. at any given moment. Not every of them have chameleon syndrome, not every of those who have chameleon syndrome could be an exceptional transformist. It is very rare but it exists and having in mind the level of  mental disorders within our communities, it is to be expected the growing side of crime and challenging psychological key questions for the future murders. The spider never sleeps. It always hunts, mostly in the shadow of our own happy, peaceful lives.

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  1. An excellent piece Sarah! A wonderful article that does exactly what is says: provides in an amazing style the real answers to the many important questions asked about the Chameleon Syndrome and Serial Killers Transformist theory. In this article, you became the feminine version of Donato Carrisi. You knew how to write this article, so that we too could be afraid while we read it.
    I agree with you that even though, serial killers are smart, they are mentally sick and cowered. I hope that science and medicine one day will have the ability to identify them early enough and prevent them from harming others and themselves.


  2. Thank you, Sarah, for this fascinating, yet scary article! There are really some sick people out there.

    I remember watching an episode of “Castle” the TV drama show, where the killer embraced and used the identity of the victim.

    In my opinion, those killers are people who feel a total lack of attention from society and are hungry for such attention. They, therefore, commit such crimes so that the media would talk about them, which in turn glorifies them and gives them the attention they had been craving!

    It may be, and I’m hypothesizing here, that those “transformists”, in adopting this method of imitating the victim and using his/her identity, lose themselves in the new persona and feel, therefore, less guilty about the crime they committed !

    Thank you again, Sarah, for your riveting and beautiful writing style!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sarah’s intriguing article reminded me of Hungarian serial killer Béla Kiss (1877-?), who lured his 24 victims by using personal advertisements published in newspapers (i.e. reference to social media). He is thought to have murdered at least 23 young women and 1 man, and attempted to pickle them in giant metal drums that he kept on his property, between 1900-1914.

    In 1912, he began to correspond with a number of women and took them to his home, occasionally. He had a secret room in his house, which was filled with bookcases, but also a desk that held a number of letters: his correspondence with 74 women and a photograph album. Many of the books were about poisons and strangulation.

    The oldest of the letters were from 1903, and it became clear that Béla Kiss was defrauding the women who had been looking for marriage. He had placed advertisements in the marriage columns of several newspapers and had selected mainly women who had no relatives living nearby and knew no one who would quickly notice their disappearance. He wooed them and convinced them to send him money. Police found old court records that indicated that two of his victims had initiated court proceedings, because he had taken money from them. Both women had disappeared and the cases had been dismissed.

    Each woman that came to the house was strangled. Béla Kiss then pickled their bodies in alcohol and sealed them in the metal drums. Police found that the bodies had puncture marks on their necks and their bodies were drained of blood. This led them to believe that Kiss was some kind of vampire (superstitions were widespread, in those days).

    When World War I began in 1914, Béla Kiss was conscripted and left his house in his housekeeper’s care. He was injured in 1916 and was recuperating in a Serbian hospital. The police learned of this, but the murderer had fled and substituted a dead body of another soldier in his bed. In 1920, a soldier in the French Foreign Legion reported on another legionnaire named Hoffman (the name Kiss had used in some letters) who had boasted how good he was at using a garrote (i.e. for strangulation), and who fit Kiss’ physical description. Hoffman deserted before police could reach him. In 1932, North American homicide detective Henry Oswald was certain he had seen Kiss coming out of Times Square Subway in New York City. There were rumors that Kiss was living in the city and working as a janitor, but they could not be verified. When the police went to interview the janitor, he had already left. His death and exact number of victims remain unknown…

    The Internet is a perfect medium for serial killers; as Sarah mentions in her evocative article. All that potential victims can do is depend upon their respective logic and common sense to comprehend whether or not an individual represents a threat. As their are so many pseudonyms and fake identities in social media today it is not easy to instigate a private investigation of others. Yet, there are certain words and language use that can identify probable serial killers and there are websites and resources that provide such linguistic information; aside infamous case studies of serial killers. One does not need to be a psychologist to determine certain aspects of a psyche.

    Sarah’s article should be a discussion piece in Sociology classes of high schools in countries where there are high rates of serial killer incidents (e.g. The United States of America). There needs to be much more public education on such issues.

    Liked by 1 person

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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !