Serial Killer 101: Everything You Should Know About All the Killers in Netflix's 'Mindhunter'

Let's take a closer look at the real murderers behind Netflix's newest hit.

Serial Killer 101: Everything You Should Know About All the Killers in Netflix's 'Mindhunter'
Netflix

Netflix's Mindhunter may be so jammed with drama, sex, and crime it feels like fiction, but the series' characters are very real. We only have the term "serial killer" thanks to the experts the new show depicts. We only understand the complicated patterns of behavior and dark turns of psyche the story digs into because one man decided to get smart and break the mold. We're only binging Mindhunter right now because of FBI agent John E. Douglas, whose life and studies are portrayed through series protagonist Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff). Most notably, though, there wouldn't be a story in the first place without the sick murderers seen in Season 1.

Here's everything you should know about the serial killers depicted in Mindhunter's first season.

Edmund Kemper

When we saw what Edmund Kemper looks like IRL, we were floored. Of all the deranged killers who appear in the show's first season, actor Cameron Britton's depiction is the most accurate. From the crazy 'stache to the bizarrely lackadaisical demeanor to the towering 6'9 build, Britton nailed the tragic case of "Co-Ed Killer" Kemper, who began murdering at the tender age of 15.

Here's what the real Kemper looks like: 

And here's Britton's Kemper:

Kemper is FBI agent Holden's first interview, serving as the catalyst of Season 1. He's chatty, brilliant, and offers up abruptly insightful thoughts on his crimes as well as the stressor — an emotionally abusive, neglectful mother who hated him for resembling his absent father — he thinks led to them. The real Ed Kemper murdered his grandparents at 15, and was institutionalized until he was 21. Using the same social skills he used with Holden in Mindhunter, he was released after convincing authorities he'd been rehabilitated. Unfortunately, he was far from "cured" of his insanity. He went on to murder six young students in Santa Cruz, California in the early 1970s, earning the nickname "Co-Ed Killer." He also murdered his own mother before fleeing, ultimately turning himself in after a short time on the lam. Edmund Kemper is currently incarcerated at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA — the same facility we watch Holden visit several times throughout Season 1.

Check out the similarities between Britton's performance and the real Ed Kemper in the interviews below:

Richard Speck

In Mindhunter, Jack Erdie's Richard Speck is most memorable for caring gently for a wounded bird one minute and throwing it into a fan the next. It's a disturbing scene that sets the tone of the show, which is consistently tense despite a sometimes slow-going pace. You never know what gross, sad event is going to occur at any given moment, and therein lies the macabre magic.

Here's what the real Speck looks like:

And here's Erdie's Speck:

Richard Speck was convicted of raping, torturing, and killing eight young nursing students in 1960s Chicago. After he finished with them, he tried to kill himself, but the police recovered him before he died. After decades in prison, Speck died of a heart attack in the early '90s.

This video shows real footage of Speck in prison. He appears at 1:51:

Jerry Brudos

If you, like millions of global citizens, suffer from a severe shoe shopping addiction, the story of Jerry Brudos could squelch your habit... for a sec. "Lust Killer" Brudos, or "The Shoe Fetish Slayer," killed four Oregonian women in the 1960s. To add insult to grave injury, he stole their shoes afterward. The audacity.

Actor Happy Anderson portrays Brudos with a level of apathy that's palpable, almost sickening. He's a hedonist — a sexual deviant through and through, and seems to be in denial about his actions.

Here's what the real Brudos looks like:

And here's Anderson's Brudos:

Brudos succumbed to cancer while incarcerated in 2006. Here's a vintage documentary detailing his crimes:

Dennis Rader

Mindhunter Season 1 tantalized viewers with sporadic scenes depicting Rader's early days, presumably to generate buzz for Season 2. We never actually see Rader commit a murder, but actor actor Sonny Valicenti aptly introduces us to the quiet, calculating, infamous "BTK" (Blind, Torture, Kill) Strangler.

Here's what the real Rader looks like:

And here's Valicenti's Rader:

Rader tracked and killed 10 people that we know of from the '70s to the early '00s. He's now serving out ten consecutive life sentences at Kansas' El Dorado Correctional Facility.

This video shows his public confession:

Which killer has disturbed you the most? Will you be tuning in for Season 2? Share your thoughts below!

Find me on Twitter @WellHelloCecily. Instagram @CecilyTrowbridge.
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