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FOX 25's Bob Ward: Secrets of a serial killer

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(FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – The new psychological thriller "The Following" made its much-anticipated debut on FOX 25 Monday night.

The show details the secret online network that serial killers allegedly use to commit crimes from inside prison walls, but what about real life?

FOX 25's Bob Ward takes a look behind these walls to reveal the secrets of serial killers.

The idea that a vicious serial killer could work with his followers to commit more serial killings, as presented in "The Following" might be unusual; however, it is not out of the question.

"It is very unusual to have a large group of individuals come together to become serial killers, but it does happen," Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin said. Levin studies serial killers and has written extensively about them.

"I think we tend to think that serial killers always work alone, and in the majority of cases, it's true. But there are these exceptional cases, as extraordinary as they may be in a statistical sense, where they come together with their following of fans, with their loyal advocates, and together they commit murders that they probably wouldn't have been able to commit alone."

Three years ago, Levin communicated with the man behind America's best-known serial killing spree – Charles Manson.

In 1969, Manson ordered his so called family members to viciously murder seven people.

"Manson said to me he is the most famous person who ever lived. And he said it with pride. The sad thing is that was only a slight exaggeration. He was certainly one of the most famous individuals. Ever," Levin said.

Over the years, for some, Manson's fame has overshadowed his notoriety.

"Charles Manson still has a following. There are hundreds of people who would still do anything he says. They call him ‘Mr. Manson.' I call him ‘Charlie,' but you can see the respect they have for him."

In late 1989, an American man was one of 13 people murdered by a Mexican drug smuggling group just over the border from Brownsville, Texas. The ritual murders were performed as a rite of human sacrifice to protect their group.

"They killed 13 and committed these human sacrifices burying the bodies in the desert, outside Matamoros. They did it together. They did it as a group, as a cult."

At the center of "The Following," is a serial killer named Joe Carroll. By his appearance, he could be just about anyone.

In his study of serial killers, Levin said that's a chilling detail that's accurate on television and in real life.

"They cover the whole range of human characteristics. So it becomes impossible to ID them beforehand. They look more innocent than an innocent man. And that is the secret of their success."

"The Following" airs on FOX on Monday nights at 9 p.m.

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