Psychopaths and sociopaths might be freaky but there is no denying the fact that they can be quite intriguing. There are so many films and television series made on serial killers and cold-blooded murders and it’s alway intriguing to know what goes in the minds of these people who exhibit a callous disregard for another human’s sufferings. So, what exactly makes one a predator who finds pleasure in other’s misfortunes?  

A recent documentary by BBC Horizon seeks to explore the effect of biological, psychological and environmental factors on a person’s mind that make him or her a psychopath. 

Shooting the film required the BBC team to interact with some of the most notorious criminals. And while they were at it, one particular interview with a man, barely 17, will send shivers down your spine.

Film maker and BBC director Rebecca Harrison recalls some chilling details when the film crew went to The Indiana State Prison in the United States, that houses some of the most terrifying murderers, paedophiles and rapists.

The Mirror quotes her saying:

It was at this point that we learnt that the inmates we would meet would not be shackled and merely sat a few feet away from us. Of course, there would be a prison guard watching from outside the room at all times. But when a murderer shakes your hand that feels like an awfully long way away.

Their subjects, chosen by the prison psychiatrist, weren’t formally diagnosed as psychopaths and included a mix of people of all ages. But the most terrifying of them all was a young man called Robert. She told The Mirror:

Sat just a few feet from this man I probably should have felt more frightened of him than I initially did. But his charming mannerisms sucked me in.

As they talked about the books he likes to read, she was amused by his knowledge. The 17 year old, who had tried to escape from a juvenile justice centre, also spoke about his love for his grandparents and his budding military career. 

Describing him, Rebecca said:

In hindsight, this grandiose sense of self-worth was a classic psychopathic trait.

During the course of the interview, Rebecca realized how dangerous this teenager really was.

In her own words:

Robert relished in telling me of his victim “The back of your neck is the weakest spot on your body, so I hit him there.”

But the most frightening part came when Robert claimed that he could analyze a person’s day just by seeing what they’re wearing and how they are sitting at the end of their day. He said he was capable of reading people.

Naturally intrigued by this, Rebecca asked if he could read her. What followed was enough for her to break out in a cold sweat.

Robert said:

You’re on edge a little bit… I’m not a threat. You’ve got dark pants on; you’ve got dark boots on. Your boots alone are laced all the way tight and your pants are darker of a colour, so you started today with a firm, determined goal.

He went to describe her outer appearance correlating it with her thoughts.

Your shirt is … more at ease. It’s not a hard colour, its see how the day takes me, I’m going to do this but we’re just going to see how it goes.

The film maker, clearly nervous and uncomfortable with this minute observation about her by a criminal, said:

“I didn’t breathe the entire time. It turns out he was paying attention. Very close attention indeed. When I finally asked Robert if he thought he was a psychopath, he answered ‘Narcissistic maybe. Not a psychopath.'”

Here’s the trailer of the documentary: