The Convoluted Inner World & Secret Codes of Dennis 'BTK' Rader

October 18, 2017
By: Christine Colby

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Photo by: Kansas Department of Corrections

Kansas Department of Corrections

Forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland’s book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, is very different from most books written about serial killers. Probably 80 percent of the words within its covers are Rader’s own; Ramsland allows him to tell his story in his own words, sharing his memories, journal entries, drawings, and his six years of correspondence with her. Ramsland provides the structure for the book, and occasionally interjects useful information or information on criminal psychology, but mostly it’s Rader given free rein to go into detail about the murders he committed, the dichotomy of his two lives, his stalking habits, and, in great length, his sexual fantasies.

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2005, file photo, convicted BTK killer Dennis Rader listens during a court proceeding in El Dorado, Kan. A 
new book says the BTK serial killer planned to kill an 11th victim by hanging her upside down in her Wichita, Kansas, home. Itâ  s a story police heard from Dennis Rader himself in 2005, but decided at the time to suppress to protect the woman. The story was made public in â  Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer,â   which has a scheduled release date of Sept. 6. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP, Pool)

BTK Killer

FILE – In this October 12, 2005, file photo, convicted BTK killer Dennis Rader listens during a court proceeding in El Dorado, Kansas. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP, Pool)

FILE – In this October 12, 2005, file photo, convicted BTK killer Dennis Rader listens during a court proceeding in El Dorado, Kansas. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP, Pool)

The stated goal of the book is to allow access into the mind of the serial predator to broaden understanding of the psychology and motivations of the lust murderer and others like him, and perhaps to someday lead to treatment or prevention for people with these types of fantasies and interests. But it also serves to give Rader the spotlight, and allow him to revisit his memories and revel in them, and expand upon every detail that excited him, under the guise of educating or being helpful. He also spends some time reflecting on why he turned out the way he did, and wondering if there is an identifiable cause for it, such as being made to watch chickens be killed when he was young, or that time his mother dropped him on his head when he was a baby.

We know that codes and acronyms are important to Rader; after all, he came up with his nickname “BTK” to stand for the three things that stimulated him the most — Bind, Torture, and Kill. But the full scope of his idiosyncratic system of monikers and abbreviations, which gave him a feeling of being a powerful spy, undertaking missions — his “Codex” — has now been revealed, and is, frankly, mesmerizing.

Learn more about Dennis Rader in Investigation Discovery’s “The BTK Killer” episode of Who the (BLEEP)… on ID GO now!

A minotaur on the cover of Weird Tales [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A minotaur on the cover of Weird Tales [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


A “minotaur” is a creature from Greek mythology with the head of a bull and the body of a man. It could be found lurking in a labyrinth. Rader consistently refers to himself and other serial killers he mentions as minotaurs, meaning the inner beasts. Rader feels an affinity to monsters in general, and also compares himself to a werewolf or mummy.


The idea that people who commit despicable acts compartmentalize is nothing new. But Rader uses the term “cubing,” and says he could easily “cube” from good to bad, light to dark, or “white hat” to “black hat.” This is an essential skill for him in order to maintain his life as family man, security officer, Boy Scout leader, and president of his church council, all while coldly murdering ten people.


Rader read everything he could about serial killer H. H. Holmes, whom he refers to as “Bluebeard,” and his “murder castle.” He was impressed by Holmes’s lair, specially built to imprison, torture, and kill, and even dispose of his victims' bodies. He had dreams of constructing his own “murder castle,” but his would exist in the silo of a barn, because Rader has a sexual attachment to barns and silos. At the bottom of the silo would be his DTPG room — Death To Pretty Girls.

Photo by: Pixabay


Sparky Big Time

Given such access to Rader’s inner world, we learn that his penis is named “Sparky.”When Sparky is excited to the point of erection, usually due to the idea of or images of women in bondage, asphyxiating, hanging in a barn, or drowning —and sometimes the real thing — then the predator invokes the disturbingly cute term “Sparky Big Time” or SBK.


“PJs” is short for “projects,” meaning a potential victim. At any given time, Rader had dozens of PJs he was keeping track of — mostly women he was stalking, observing, peering in their windows, following, learning their routines, breaking into their homes, stealing their lingerie, and otherwise making notes in a journal in preparation for a “hit,”his word for a murder. It’s often been remarked upon that during Rader’s 30-year “career”as a killer, he’d take long breaks when he wouldn’t take a life for years. He emphasizes that he was never on break; he was always trolling and stalking, but sometimes was too busy to pull off a hit or didn’t have the opportunity. He also had a few failed attempts over the years, when he’d try to kidnap someone or break into their homes and they’d get away or he’d be interrupted by an unexpected boyfriend or a dog on the property. Confession goes into great detail about all of his PJs and his naming system for them (PJ Iron Mountain, PJ Cookie, PJ Boardwater, PJ Little Mex, etc.). “I named my PJs with symbolic names, like people name oil wells, so I remember it quickly,” Rader says. The most unsettling thing about this is that so much detail is given about what street the women lived on, their appearances, their routines, or their families, that it seems as if a reader might be able to recognize herself as a Rader PJ.

Slick Ads

Somewhat surprisingly, Rader isn’t interested in pornography and claims he never used it. He would make his own arousing photos, which he called “slick ads.” He’d cut out images of women from things like JC Penny catalogs and draw gags and bindings onto them. He’d attach them to 3 x 5 cards and carry them around with him, give them names, and come up with fantasies about them.

Dennis Rader during his court confession [YouTube screenshot]

Dennis Rader during his court confession [YouTube screenshot]

Motel Parties

Rader has a whole side to his sexual desires that his wife knew nothing about. Raders swears that his marital sex life was “normal,” and that he’d always been faithful to his wife. However, when he’d go on business trips, he’d indulge in “motel parties.” He would dress in women’s lingerie, usually stolen from his victims, bind himself, self-asphyxiate with plastic bags, and look at his slick ads and souvenirs he’d taken from victims' homes. He said that he’d prefer to be binding and suffocating a partner, but as he didn’t want to involve his wife in these fantasies, he’d do it to himself and pretend he was his own female victim. Sparky Big Time.

Hidey Holes

In his 30 years of being a serial predator, Rader amassed a lot of material. His slick ads, of course, and victim trophies, but he also journaled extensively, drew pictures, wrote poetry, and collected images from detective magazines and serial-killer books. He had pages of notes on his PJs and copies of the taunting “cat and mouse” missives he’d send to the police or TV stations. He would store all of this in carefully constructed “hidey holes,” some in his house inside walls or beneath floorboards. He’d also sometimes secrete items in abandoned barns, but kept most of it in his office files and the office of the church where he was president. He claims that there were so many locations over the decades that he’s forgotten some of them. In addition, he believes that even some that he told police about, they didn’t actually find — which means someone, somewhere, may yet stumble upon these creepy caches of insight into the mind of a minotaur.

Learn more about Dennis Rader in Investigation Discovery’s “The BTK Killer” episode of Who the (BLEEP)… on ID GO now!

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