01/06/2012 10:37 am ET Updated Mar 07, 2012

The Whisperers: The People Who Can Make Us Kill

All animals kill by instinct for self-preservation. But humans are the only ones who kill for sadism or pleasure.

It is a feeling that we, as human beings, experience from childhood. The kid who squashes an ant with his bare hand and then stares curiously at the effects of death is fulfilling an ancestral impulse. He knows that he killed a living being and that nobody is going to scold him.

We are all potential murderers. No human being is exempt from this desire, although we are usually capable of controlling it - we tend to say, "I would never do it."

That's what I used to think. But I was wrong.

I met Luigi Chiatti in 1997 while I was writing my dissertation about him -- one of the most ferocious serial killers in Italian history. He used to kill children.

Chiatti had an angelic face and gentle manners. But he was also a narcissist, and he made no mystery of his true nature. He was proud of his murders and enjoyed the attention the media gave him, especially the fact that they nicknamed him "The Monster of Foligno."

Chiatti loved to talk about his murders, and was aware that during our meetings I was deeply fascinated by his accounts. I was his public, his audience. He was, slowly, drawing me in his net.
After our meetings I used to feel very strange; I felt restless, nervous. Evil had started to infect me.

In order to get rid of this feeling I decided to dig, hoping that I could find out what was happening to me. I went to the library and there I remained for a long time, researching.
That's when I found out about the following weird case:

In 1975, in Hungary, Tibor Szabò killed six women. When he was arrested he told the investigators that the suggestion to kill had been made to him by a man called Benjamin Gorka. The judge and the jury thought that he was trying to falsely plead insanity, and sentenced him to death.

In 1984, in Argentina, an illiterate worker called Edoardo Costantini murdered four women and then declared that he was inspired by a man named Benjamin Gorka. The psychiatrist who was following this case remembered the episode that occurred in 1975 and found out that a colleague of Costantini (who was very likely unaware of the whole story) was, in fact, called Benjamin Gorka and that in 1975, he was living in Hungary.

"Whisperers" are serial killers with a special talent: they kill through other people, awakening in them the archaic and apparently soothing desire to kill. A desire mixed with pleasure, the same we experience when we are kids and torment an ant.

Charles Manson is the most famous Whisperer of all times, but there were and still are many of them. They are hard to track as they often stay in the shadows, and their involvement in acts of violence is usually only presumable.

A Whisperer might be the real culprit of the killings that were attributed to the so-called Monster of Florence: it is very unlikely that a farmer, a postman and an unemployed worker alone could commit so many ferocious murders that kept the investigators busy for more than twenty years.

As these cases show, it is very difficult to stop a Whisperer. Since he has not physically committed any crime it is hard to state the degree of his involvement in it and, thus, he is not condemnable by law.

Whisperers have a special talent that allows them to avoid hypnosis or instigation, yet still convince others to kill in their place. They are able to open the inner door that leads to the dark side of people. Sometimes this door is well locked, but sometimes it is not, and Whisperers have got the right key to open it.

My novel, The Whisperer (Mulholland Books, $25.99), is a way to let people know about a type of serial killer that has been ignored for a long time. In the book, I didn't give any geographical indication, as the story you are reading about takes places inside yourself -- where you could one day end up facing Evil for the first time in your life.