Columbine Teacher's Guide

Criminal Psychology Case Study: Fantasy to Action

Core Topics

  1. Eric’s progression:
    • Petty thief to felony theft to murder
    • Human extinction fantasies to blowing up a high school
    • Fantasy to reality
  2. Dylan’s progression:
    • Suicide to murder
    • Actions that made it real
    • The “preps” story
    • The April 20th attack plan: how it eased Dylan in gradually: set diversion bomb, set cafeteria bombs, open fire. Was this by design?
  3. Final progression:
    • Making bombs
    • Buying guns
    • Finalizing plans
    • Shooting practice
    • Gear-up practice
    • Filming The Basement Tapes
    • Expanding the plan / attempts to recruit others
    • Scaling back the plan to make it work
    • Final preparations

Reading Assignments

Columbine passages, pages:

Discussion Questions

  1. At what point do you believe Eric fully intended to kill people—as opposed to talking smack and/or fantasizing?

  2. When was the same true for Dylan? If it was earlier or later, explain why? Did one of them help the other make that transition from idea/fantasy to intention? How? How long did it take  .

  3. Name five concrete steps the killers took over the final year to make the plan feel real. Describe the impact you feel each step might have had on Eric or Dylan’s mindset. What was the turning point(s) for each? When did each reach the point of No Turning Back (if ever)?

  4. Did Dylan wake up expecting to kill people April 20? Did Eric? Do you think either of them still doubted the other, or worried that he might back out? What hard data exists in their actions that day to support your position?