A few months ago I posted an article (see: Love Psychopath Style?), in which I made some points about psychopaths that rarely get much attention these days, especially the unique nature of their lying, their tendency to engage in heartless, hedonistic thrill-seeking, and their uncanny ability to “compartmentalize” emotion. The article dealt with the case of Miranda Barbour, a now 19 year-old female currently awaiting awaiting trial on charges that she and her husband Elytte “celebrated” their 3-week anniversary by murdering a man they lured into a car through an ad placed on Craigslist. In the article, I suggested that given the predatory character of Miranda’s “modus operandi”, it was quite possible that investigators would eventually uncover other victims. And just recently, in an interview granted the New York Daily News, Barbour “confessed” to as many as 22 other murders across several states. But Barbour’s father says we shouldn’t be to quick to assume that his daughter is really a serial killer. He asserts that while his daughter initially gave authorities all kinds of stories about the crime of record (including casting herself as the real victim of an assault), they shouldn’t be so quick to assume she is now telling the truth (for more on this, see the Daily News article: Father of “Craigslist Killer” Miranda Barbour Says “No Way” She’s a Serial Killer). He describes Miranda as the most manipulative person and senseless liar he’s ever known, and you can never believe anything she says. These are some pretty harsh words to come from a someone’s own father. But this is a man that should know Miranda Barbour better than anyone. Still, one would have to wonder why Miranda would lie in a way that incriminates her so seriously.
Miranda’s father says he thinks his daughter is lying for purely for attention and notoriety. He also claims his daughter’s brain has been damaged by a longstanding heroin addiction and that she lives in a virtual fantasy world. And while he believes that she’s been a rebel and manipulator most of her life, he simply can’t believe she’s really a serial killer. But he’s not quite so sure she might not be telling the truth with respect to one other murder. Miranda claims that at age 13 she killed a man in Alaska while she was under the influence of a Satanic Cult. Her father says that she did run away twice around that age and was gone for days, whereabouts unknown. So it’s at least possible that she could have done something horrible at that time. Still, he has his doubts.
As I assert in both In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance, psychopaths are the most extremely disordered characters on the spectrum of character disturbance, and in addition to being the most heartless predators, are the most ardent and skilled of manipulators. And they lie for many hard to understand reasons, and sometimes they lie for reasons that don’t seem to make any sense at all (the term “pathological liar” was first coined to describe this phenomenon). That’s just one feature of their makeup that led early researchers to conjecture that psychopathy is really a form of insanity (i.e. moral insanity). But psychopaths are, for the most part, in their right mind. And when you look more deeply into their lying, there’s actually method to their apparent madness. It’s all about keeping you guessing. It’s about keeping you in a one-down position and themselves in a position of advantage. Whenever you’re dealing with them, you don’t know what’s up, but they know all too well. And that’s the way they like it. They always want to be in a position to put one over on you. So, even though it seems nonsensical that they lie so much, so horrendously, and so seemingly unnecessarily, their lying is really tactical. It’s all part of the elaborate “con game” they play. And they get a particular kind of thrill out of manipulating you so mercilessly.
The Barbour case is worthy of some further comment from time to time because of its unusual nature and because of what could be learned from it. Miranda Barbour may actually be more than your typical psychopath (the very fact that she is female is a rarity in itself). She may even be one of those rare individuals who, in addition to her psychopathic attributes, actually has some degree of neurosis as well as other psychological problems, some of which might stem from early childhood trauma (in fact there is good evidence that Barbour was sexually abused in childhood by a relative and became quite different both in general attitude and personality from that time forward). There are so many possibilities that only the facts can possibly reveal the true story, and it’s likely to be quite some time before all the facts are in. For her part, Barbour has told police that she will be able to give them details (people, locations, circumstances, etc.) that will bear out her claim of being one of the youngest and prolific (Miranda says she “stopped counting” at 22 victims but may have as many as 100) serial killers in modern history. Because of the nature of her crime of record, and the high probability she will either be imprisoned for life or be executed for this crime, she has little to lose by more fully “coming clean.” I’ll be following the Barbour case quite closely because of all that can be learned from it, and will post on any developments that might provide any significant new insights into the nature of the most seriously disordered characters among us.