John E. Douglas

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John E. Douglas
BornJohn Edward Douglas
(1945-06-18) June 18, 1945 (age 73)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Alma mater
Years active1970–present

John Edward Douglas (born June 18, 1945) is a retired special agent and unit chief in the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was one of the first criminal profilers and has written books on criminal psychology.

Early life[edit]

John Edward Douglas was born in Brooklyn, New York. A veteran of four years in the United States Air Force (1966–1970), he holds several degrees: a B.S. in sociology/physical education/recreation from Eastern New Mexico University; an M.S. in education psychology/guidance and counseling from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; an Ed.S. in Administration and Supervision/Adult Education from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; and a PhD in comparing techniques for teaching police officers how to classify homicides from Nova Southeastern University.


Douglas joined the FBI in 1970 and his first assignment was in Detroit, Michigan. In the field, he served as a sniper on the local FBI SWAT team and later became a hostage negotiator. He transferred to the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) in 1977 where he taught hostage negotiation and applied criminal psychology at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia to new FBI special agents, field agents, and police officers from all over the United States. He created and managed the FBI's Criminal Profiling Program and was later promoted to unit chief of the Investigative Support Unit, a division of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC).[1][2][3]

While traveling around the country providing instruction to police, Douglas began interviewing serial killers and other violent sex offenders at various prisons. He interviewed some of the most notable violent criminals in recent history as part of the study, including David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Lynette Fromme, Sara Jane Moore, Edmund Kemper, James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, Richard Speck, Donald Harvey, and Joseph Paul Franklin. He used the information gleaned from these interviews in the book Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, followed by the Crime Classification Manual (CCM). Douglas later received two Thomas Jefferson Awards for academic excellence from the University of Virginia for his work on the study.[1][2][3]


Douglas examined crime scenes and created profiles of the perpetrators, describing their habits and attempting to predict their next moves. In cases where his work helped to capture the criminals, he built strategies for interrogating and prosecuting them as well. At the time of criminal profiling's conception, Douglas claimed to have been doubted and criticized by his own colleagues until both police and the FBI realized that he had developed an extremely useful tool for the capture of criminals.[4]

Since his retirement from the FBI in 1995, Douglas has gained international fame as the author of a series of books detailing his life tracking serial killers, and has appeared numerous times on television.[1] Douglas has also written textbooks for criminal profiling classes. He is the author, along with Mark Olshaker, of several books.

Individual cases[edit]

Douglas first made a public name for himself with his involvement in the Atlanta murders of 1979–81, initially through an interview he did with People Magazine about his profiling of the as yet unidentified killer as a young black man. When Wayne Williams was arrested, Douglas was widely reported stating that he was "looking pretty good for a good percentage of the killings." He received an official letter of censure from the FBI Director for this. However, he attended the subsequent legal proceedings and helped the prosecution trap Williams into showing anger, which was key in showing the jury that Williams was the murderer.[5]

Douglas was consulted in another, controversial case known as the "West Memphis Three". In 1993, three eight-year-old boys were murdered and police and the prosecutor's office claimed the children died as a result of a Satanic ritual sacrifice. Three teens were later tried and convicted under this scenario (Satanism). Douglas was consulted by the defense in 2006-7, by which time there was new evidence of the three's innocence, and his report concluded that the killings were not related to Satanism but rather were unplanned homicides by a lone adult who knew the victims and felt rage against them.[6] In 2011, the three men were released under an Alford plea.[7]

Douglas has written extensively in support of Amanda Knox, presenting evidence supporting her innocence in his book The Forgotten Killer.

Model for fictional characters[edit]

Jack Crawford, a major character in the Thomas Harris novels Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, was directly based on Douglas.[3] Crawford was played by Dennis Farina in the film Manhunter, by Scott Glenn in the film The Silence of the Lambs, by Harvey Keitel in the 2002 Red Dragon, and by Laurence Fishburne in the 2013 NBC series Hannibal.

According to Bryan Fuller, creator of Hannibal, the series' version of Will Graham is based in part on Douglas, namely in the character suffering a severe case of autoimmune encephalitis throughout the first season.

In January 2015, creators of the TV show Criminal Minds confirmed that the characters of FBI profilers Jason Gideon and David Rossi were based on Douglas.[8]

A screenplay adapted from the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit was picked up by Netflix.[9] Mindhunter stars Jonathan Groff, who plays the character Special Agent Holden Ford, a lead character based on Douglas.[10][11]



  • Douglas, John E., Ann W. Burgess, R.N., D.N Sc., Allen G. Burgess, Robert K. Ressler. Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. 1992. ISBN 978-0-669-24638-4
  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. New York: Scribner. 1995. ISBN 978-0-671-01375-2
  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. Journey into Darkness. New York: Scribner. 1997. ISBN 978-0-684-83304-0
  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. Obsession: The FBI's Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists and Stalkers and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back. New York: Scribner. 1998. ISBN 978-0-684-84560-9
  • Douglas, John E. Guide to Careers in the FBI. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1998. ISBN 978-0-684-85504-2
  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals. New York: Scribner. 1999. ISBN 978-0-684-84598-2
  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. The Cases That Haunt Us. New York: Scribner. 2000. ISBN 978-0-684-84600-2
  • Douglas, John E., John Douglas' Guide to the Police Officer Exams."Kaplan Publishing. 2000. ISBN 978-0-684-85506-6
  • Douglas, John E., Stephen Singular. Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet. New York: Scribner. 2003. ISBN 978-0-7432-2635-6
  • Douglas, John E. John Douglas's Guide to Landing a Career in Law Enforcement. McGraw-Hill. 2004. ISBN 978-0-07-141717-4
  • Douglas, John E., Ann W. Burgess, R.N., D.N Sc., Allen G. Burgess, Robert K. Ressler. Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes, 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2006. ISBN 978-0-7879-8642-1
  • Douglas, John E., Johnny Dodd. Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind the Thirty-Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2007. ISBN 978-0-7879-8484-7
  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. Law & Disorder. New York: Kensington 2013. ISBN 978-0-7582-7312-3
  • Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, October 24, 2017, with Mark Olshaker.


  • Douglas, John E., Mark Olshaker. Broken Wings (Mindhunters). Atria. 1999. ISBN 978-0-671-02391-1
  • Douglas, John E. Man Down: A Broken Wings Thriller. (alternate title: Man Down, Vol. 2) Atria. 2002. ISBN 978-0-671-02392-8

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Douglas, John. Ann W. Burgess, R.N., D.N Sc., Allen G. Burgess, Robert K. Ressler. "Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes, 2nd Edition" Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass. 2006. ISBN 978-0-7879-8642-1
  2. ^ a b Bio @ Library of Congress
  3. ^ a b c Bowman, David."Profiler" Archived June 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Interview @ July 8, 1999.
  4. ^ Douglas, John E., and Mark Olshaker. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. New York. Scribner. 1995. ISBN 978-0-671-01375-2
  5. ^ Mindhunter, pg 221-5
  6. ^ Warren, Beth (November 7, 2010). "Professional profiler convinced of innocence of West Memphis Three". The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, TN: Scripps Newspaper Group—Online. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  7. ^ Anthony, Kontji. "Prosecutor reveals new details in #WM3 negotiations". Archived from the original on April 15, 2017. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  8. ^ "5 CBS Sync Facts from Nelson's Sparrow Criminal Minds S10 E13". Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (December 22, 2015). "David Fincher, Charlize Theron's Mind Hunter Series Set at Netflix". Variety. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  10. ^ Cooper, Mariah (March 9, 2016). "Jonathan Groff to star in Netflix series Mindhunter". Washington Blade. Archived from the original on October 28, 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  11. ^ "Holt McCallany on Twitter". Twitter. May 22, 2016. Archived from the original on February 7, 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017.


  • Ressler, Robert K., Ann W. Burgess. John E. Douglas. Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. 1988. ISBN 978-0-669-16559-3

External links[edit]