The idea that a vicious serial killer could work with his followers to commit even more serial killings, as presented in the new FOX show "The Following," might be unusual but it's not out of the question.
"It's very unusual to have a large group of individuals come together to become serial killers, but it does happen," said Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin, who studies serial killers and written extensively about them.
"I think we tend to think of serial killers always work alone," he added. "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 their fans, with their loyal advocates and together they commit murders that 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," Levin said. The sad thing is that was only a slight exaggeration. He was certainly one of the most famous individuals. Ever."
Over the years, for some, Manson's fame has overshadowed his notoriety.
"Charles Manson still has a following," Levin said. "There are hundreds of people who still do anything he says. They call him Mr. Manson. I call him Charlie. But you can see the respect they have for him."
At the center of "The Following" is a serial killer named Joe Carroll. By appearance, he could be just anyone.
In his study of serial killers, Levin said that is a chilling detail that is accurate on TV and in real life.
"They cover the whole range of human characteristics so it becomes impossible to identify them beforehand they look more innocent than an innocent man and that is part of the secret of their success," Levin said.
Levin also said that many of Manson's followers are still alive and free. He said that at this point they are not dangerous, but if Manson ever called on them to do something nasty to society they could turn violent -- like we see each week on "The Following."