Meet some of the scariest serial killers of all time, and the F.B.I. profilers who ventured inside their twisted minds. These are the real stories behind Mindhunter.
Netflix’s Mindhunter takes viewers on a fictional journey inside the formation of the F.B.I.’s special investigative unit created specifically to track down serial killers and serial rapists in the late 1970s.
While the creators have invented many of the show’s elements for dramatic effect, Mindhunter is based on the true stories contained within Mind Hunter: Inside the F.B.I.’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas.
Douglas himself is the mind hunter of the Netflix series, wherein he is portrayed as Holden Ford. Johnathan Groff portrays Ford as he tries to get inside the heads of America’s most notorious serial killers before they kill their next victims.
Below, take a look at the real-life stories of some of those killers as well as the investigators who pursued them as shown in Mindhunter.
Mindhunter: Holden Ford/John E. Douglas
Douglas joined the F.B.I.’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in 1979 following a stint as an instructor on hostage negotiations. True to the agent’s career, viewers’ first glimpse of Ford is during a hostage situation.
Douglas, alongside fellow agent Robert Ressler, helped the F.B.I. track several cases that turned up dry leads. The pair traveled throughout the United States to speak to serial killers as a way to get inside the minds of these people.
Douglas interviewed some of the most notorious serial killers in American history, such as Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and John Wayne Gacy. Their interviews set out to determine any patterns, clues, and hints that may help them to solve similar crimes in the future.
The agent realized that the best way to get information on fellow serial killers was to delve into the minds of these violent offenders.
Douglas’ hard work led to a full-fledged operational unit of the F.B.I. by the mid-1980s with agents specially trained in the psychology of serial violent crimes. He led the unit for 25 years, and he started in his early 30s. In 1979, Douglas helped the F.B.I. with 59 cases. By 1995, that number grew to more than 1,000.
Perhaps his most famous case was that of Wayne Williams, a serial killer in Atlanta who was murdering young black men in the early 1980s.
After the F.B.I. announced that fibers matching clothes worn by the killer were found at the scene of the crime, Douglas predicted correctly that bodies would start showing up in rivers. Fellow agents initially called Douglas crazy for his assertions based on a criminal’s behavior. His consultation on the case was crucial to the capture, arrest, and conviction of Williams.