On Friday, 13th, Netflix released their new drama series Mindhunter, produced by David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7evn) and Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron. Set in the late 70s, Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and their early development of criminal psychology and criminal profiling.
The show is based on the true crime book Mind Hunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas. Former special agent and unit chief in the FBI, Douglas was one of the first criminal profilers and his career stretched on for more than 40 years.
Above: Mindhunter on Netflix
Douglas has interviewed some of the most sinister killers that ever lived including David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Lynette Fromme, Arthur Bremer, Theodore Kaczynski, Edmund Kemper, Dennis “BTK Killer” Rader, and Richard Speck. “Interviewing the experts” as he calls it.
He was also the lead investigator on the Green River Murders carried out by serial killer Gary Ridgway, alongside working as a consultant on a multitude of cases, including O.J. Simpson’s civil trial, the murder of Jon Benet Ramsay, the murder conviction in Italy of Amanda Knox – who was recently exonerated and freed, the case of the Peter “The Yorkshire Ripper” Sutcliffe, and the West Memphis 3 – three men convicted of the murder of three boys.
Douglas has already had a huge impact on popular culture; he was the inspiration behind the fictional character Jack Crawford who appears in the Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris. Also, creators of Criminal Minds confirmed the two of the show’s characters based FBI profilers Jason Gideon and David Rossi on Douglas.
He also advised director Peter Jackson on his big-screen adaption of The Lovely Bones, a story about the gruesome murder of a teenager.
Discovering ‘The Homicidal Triangle’
Above: Mindhunter on Netflix
The Homicidal Triangle, also known as ‘The Macdonald triad’, was first discovered by Douglas during his venture into criminal profiling. Cruelty to animals is one of three factors that can predict violent tendencies during the earlier stages of life. Douglas explained to Powell Tribune, “Not just curious, doing it once, but where they find sadistic pleasure from torturing.” Other factors include obsession with fire-setting and persistent bedwetting past a certain age.
Although many people believe the negative influence of a father, or his abandonment of the family, were factors in the makeup of a serial killer, whereas Douglas proved otherwise and it was dynamic with the mother that became a huge contributing factor toward violent behavior. “Most of the people we interviewed came from some type of a dysfunctional family,” he said.
Inside The Mind of Dennis “BTK Killer” Rader
Dennis Rader murdered 10 people in and around Wichita, Kansas, he was known as the BTK Killer as his method was “Bind, Torture, Kill” and letters were sent to the police describing his killings along with his BTK signature. Rader grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas, and as a child would torture animals.
The murders occurred from 1974 to 1977, Rader killed seven people, then he killed three more people from 1985 to 1991. Douglas was interested in why Rader stopped killing during those eight years and he was determined to get inside the killer’s mind and find out. When he interviewed Rader, he recalls, “He looked so normal but when you start talking to him, he’s not so normal.”
Douglas discovered that Rader had a fetish for cross-dressing, auto-eroticism, and bondage. His wife found him one-day wearing women’s clothes and Rader was left so scarred by her discovery that his murderous spree stopped for many years. It was this psychological insight and much more that contributed to modern criminal profiling.
Rader was sentenced to a minimum of 175 years, he stated, “The final victim is my wife. That and my family.”
“It Was Hard To Bring This Stuff Home With You”
In his autobiographical book, he writes, “It was hard to bring this stuff home with you, home to the family. I would come home, and would have to decompress.” Adding, “You come home and your child scrapes her knee, but you just left work today in a case where a young child was murdered and mutilated.”
The growth of criminal profiling meant that Douglas was constantly in demand. In 1983, he collapsed with exhaustion in a Seattle hotel room. He recalls, “I started telling the assistant director, ‘I can’t take it. I can’t keep up with it; I’m taking cases home every day.’ You know how it goes. You have to keep up until you drop and I said, ‘I’m about there.'” Douglas was rushed to the hospital where doctors found the right side of his brain had split and was bleeding due to fever.
After just five months of recovery, he returned to work and began profiling many now famous cases including the Tylenol case, the Unabomber and the case of a serial killer Robert Hansen in Anchorage, Alaska, who set his victims “free” in the woods and then hunted them down like wild animals.
Although he retired in 1995, he still offers his criminal profiling services and continues to contribute towards academic works. An unbelievable career for a man who had his heart set on becoming a veterinarian when he grew up.