Science & Tech

Becoming a Mindhunter

John Douglas

Lesson time 12:24 min

In this lesson, we learn how John’s career took a turn to interviewing serial killers. We hear the backstory to the Ed Kemper case, when he decided to break FBI protocol to interview Kemper in prison. John shows you what it was like when 6'9" Kemper first entered the interview room.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: John’s Origin Story • Ed Kemper, the Coed Killer • Understanding Nature vs. Nurture: Are Criminals Born or Made? • A Different Kind of Education: My Interview With Ed Kemper


[MUSIC PLAYING] JOHN DOUGLAS: I've been involved in over 5,000 violent crime cases in my career. I've been doing this for half a century. I've learned a lot along the way, a lot about interrogation. I learned a lot about predictors of violence. I learned a lot from the people I interviewed as to who will perpetrate the crime. What are the precipitating stressors and events that will cause this person to go out one day and maybe become a school shooter, go out one day and maybe become a serial rapist, a extortionist, a bomber, or a murderer? In this chapter, I'm going to talk about warning signs for potential homicidal behavior and the age-old question, are criminals born or made? After I picked up a couple of graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin, I was a hostage negotiator for the FBI. I worked bank robbery, bank robbery coordinator. I did violent fugitives, chasing them down. I was selected to go back to the FBI Academy into the-- what is known as the-- then it was the Behavioral Science Unit. It was composed of eight to nine instructors who were teaching some criminology, some sociology. And I just turned 32 years of age. I was not only the youngest instructor in the entire FBI National Academy at Quantico, but also even in headquarters, which had 1,000 agents there. But as I audited the classes and sat in the back of the room watching these senior instructors, I really began to get worried because the instructors that were teaching these classes really had never gone out and got their facts straight about a case. They maybe present a case about Richard Speck, who killed nurses in Chicago, you know, back in the '60s. And they're presenting a case. And all of a sudden, a hand goes up in the class. And they said, hey, Mr. So-and-so, you've got your facts wrong. I worked that case. I worked that case, and you're totally wrong. If you wanted to be a doctor, you'd interview the top doctors. If you want to be a teacher, a professor, you go out and interview the top people in that field. So what can I do, John Douglas? What can I do to accelerate my learning? And so I saw an opportunity when we were doing what we called road schools. As an FBI instructor, we would take our class on the road and present it to different law enforcement agencies throughout the country. We'd spend, say, a week in LA. And then we would head up maybe and do a school up in San Francisco or Idaho. And we were traveling constantly, two weeks at a time. So I tell my partner, I said, you know, there's only so many margaritas we can drink here. You know, let's go into the prisons. Let's conduct these interviews, conducting the interviews from an investigative perspective. And we didn't ask for Bureau permission because it was better for us in case we get caught to ask for forgiveness rather than permission when-- if the Bureau would jump on us. So we began to do that with our very, very first interview, Ed Kemper...

About the Instructor

Netflix’s “Mindhunter” was inspired by the FBI’s first criminal profiler, John Douglas. As chief of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, he conducted groundbreaking interviews with notorious criminals such as Charles Manson and Ed Kemper, changing interrogative tactics forever. On MasterClass, he teaches you to use his methods in everyday life, unlocking your intuition to read people's motives.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

John Douglas

Legendary Special Agent John Douglas teaches how criminal profiling methods can help you predict people’s motives to benefit your everyday life.

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