NO one who knew James Holmes realized that the brainy graduate student harbored a fes­tering hatred for humanity that would turn him from a college nerd into a raging luna­tic who shocked the world by unleashing a bloody rampage at a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

But an exhaustive ENQUIRER investiga­tion reveals that there were ominous signs from childhood in the boy who classmates say liked to draw pictures of guns in class.

And by the time he got to graduate school, Holmes had grown into a creepy individual who frightened others just by his presence.

“I’d seen him many times, always walking alone,” a fellow student at the University of Colorado Denver told The ENQUIRER. “He was very odd, walking around with a blank stare on his face like he didn’t see anyone else. Sometimes he was talking to himself, in an angry tone. I would cross the street when I saw him coming.

“He may have been a nerd, but he was tall and muscular which can be very intimidating. I felt like he was the kind of guy you didn’t want to be around if he snapped.”

Roiling with frustration over his faltering academics and nonexistent social life, the hulking loner hit the breaking point in June, when sources say he decided to carry out his murderous rampage like a real-life enactment of his favorite video game and lifelong comic book fantasies.

“This type of person suffers from both paranoia and depression,” Gregg McCrary, former FBI profiler, told The ENQUIRER. “They see the world as evil and feel that they have suffered many injustices in their lifetime. They build up inner resentment and eventually it explodes in an act of revenge.”

Holmes was a brilliant kid growing up in Rancho Penasquitos, Calif., but so shy that no one seemed to know him well. He graduated with honors from Westview High and went on to a stellar career at the University of California, Riverside. During his col­lege years he worked as an intern for the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. He also served as a counselor for underprivileged kids at a Jewish camp in Los An­geles.

But after he graduated college, the only job he could get was flipping burgers at a McDonald’s. And sources say that’s when he developed a grudge that would lead him down the dark, twisted path of a coldblooded mass murderer.

“Here was a guy who’d always been the best of the best academically, he plays by the rules and graduates college with honors, and the only job he can get is at a McDonald’s,” says a neighbor. “Imagine the frustra­tion he felt. You could see it in his face.”

Although Holmes soon traded the fast food job for a place in the graduate program in neurophysiology at the University of Colo­rado, the psychological damage was already done.

“Something in his psyche flipped a switch and he transformed from an outwardly normal, un­assuming young man into a heartless and brutal kill­er,” Dr. Terry Lyles, psychologist and expert on stress and trauma, told The ENQUIRER.

As Holmes came more and more unhinged, his grades plummeted and he developed an obsession with mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian madman who massacred 77 people on July 22, 2011.

Breivik wrote a 1,500-page manifesto, saying that any successful mass murderer should have as much sexual intercourse as possible before the kill­ings to achieve a “perfect balance” within himself. So Holmes began searching for sex in June, signing up on websites like and the much steamier, saying he was looking for “a casual sex girl” and possibly group sex.

Eerily, in one of his girl-hunt postings, Holmes asked: “Will you visit me in prison?”

He even posted a creepy computer-generated pic­ture of himself with British model Keeley Hazell, giving the appearance that she is licking his shoulder.

“June was the month that Holmes snapped,” a source close to the investigation revealed. “His frus­tration boiled over into a murderous rage and he turned into a heartless monster.”

In emulation of Breivik, Holmes spent the days leading up to his massacre of the innocent by bingeing on Internet sex and real-world drugs. He reportedly took the prescription painkiller Vicodin just before the shootings.

Holmes shared another trait with Breivik – a fascination with the extremely violent video game World of Warcraft.

“It seemed that being online was more important to him than real life,” said a schoolmate. “He did not have much of a life apart from World of Warcraft and doing his work.”

As his life spiraled down, Holmes voluntarily dropped out of graduate school, losing a valuable grant and access to the college labs. He was also about to be evicted from his apartment because it was reserved for students only. With nothing to lose, he set his evil plan in motion.

“The man is a monster,” said Dr. Lyles. “He is a psycho­path, like Ted Bundy, who may appear to be rational on the outside, but is truly twisted within.”