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The Following: Serial killers - facts and fiction

The Following: Season 1

THE perfect combination of an action and horror TV series, The Following – created by Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Scream) and executive producer Marcos Siega (Dexter, Damages True Blood), depicts the realism of fear in our every-day life. Many of our favourite thrillers are actually inspired by the real-life actions of some of our most notorious serial killers and their stories.

These serial killers have plotted murders, succeeded, and some have even cheated death like in the first season of The Following – due for release on December 2, 2013.

This dark new series gives you an inside look into the mind of one of those notorious serial killers Joe Carroll as he forms a cult to join him on an unprecedented killing spree.

Joe Carroll – The Following

When you think about influential teachers, you probably think of the ones that inspire you to do great things with your life or directed you towards a certain field of study or work. Joe Carroll, a professor of romantic literature, uses his intellect for entirely different purposes.

After killing 14 of his students in an attempt to imitate Edgar Allan Poe’s “insanity of art,” he uses his persuasive rhetoric while imprisoned to create a cult-like following around him to carry out another killing: that of Ryan Hardy, the FBI agent who caught him.

Zodiac-Zodiac Killer


The first serial killer is infamously known as the “Zodiac Killer” because his identity has never been discovered. The Zodiac Killer’s first murder was said to be college student Cheri Jo Bates. After her attack he sent cryptic letters to the police and press with the message “Bates had to die. There will be more”.

This serial killer has claimed to kill 37 different people within Northern California, although only five have been confirmed to be killed by the Zodiac killer and two were injured but survived. When one note was finally cracked there was no identity revealed, but a motive – “the people killed will be his slaves in the afterlife”.

The twisted life of this unknown serial killer made the perfect plot for the 2007 thriller of the same name Zodiac, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey, Jr. the film brought 84$ from the box office. Director David Fincher was drawn to the film because he actually grew up in Northern California during the time of the Zodiac murders.

Helter Skelter – Charles Manson

Our next notorious serial killer is Charles Manson. He was a musician, convict, and extreme manipulator. His talents of persuasion and manipulation gained him a following of local young adults who he called his “Family”. Charles Manson was a man of many ideologies which he instilled in the group including his belief of “Helter Skelter”, or an apocalyptic war as a result of racial tensions.

The Family was loyal, obedient, and trusting of Manson therefore doing anything he requested including murder. The Family was responsible for three different murder cases: the Hinman murder, Tate murders, and the LaBianca murders. The Tate murders included actress Sharon Tate, wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski, and her famous friends giving the story a lot of press.

A couple of months later Manson and his followers were arrested for auto-theft and later found guilty of the murders. They were given the death penalty but that was later changed, after the death penalty was abolished in California, to life in prison without parole. This real-life story, that took place in Hollywood, made for the perfect Hollywood thriller, Helter Skelter.

Monster – Aileen Carol Wuornos


Scripts for movies have a way of enticing actors and actresses into playing roles they think will be the ultimate test. That was the case for Charlize Theron as she took on the life of infamous serial killer Aileen Carol Wuornos in Monster. Theron had to gain 30 pounds and be able to portray a woman with a borderline personality disorder.

Living in Florida, Wuornos was a prostitute in order to provide for her and her girlfriend Tyria Moore. After killing her first victim, which she later claimed as self-defence, her violence began to escalate. Over the time period of a year Wuornos killed seven men, shooting them all multiple times. In the end Wuornos was sentenced to death and killed by lethal injection.

Charlize Theron won many awards for the film including Academy Award for Best Actress.

The Boston Strangler – Albert DeSalvo

Our next serial killer Albert DeSalvo, or better known as “The Boston Strangler”, became notorious when he confessed to the murder of thirteen women in the Boston area. Although he confessed, the actual story behind the murders is still up for debate. When looking at the patterns of age and background investigators could not find a common thread making the possibility of one person committing the murders very slim.

In all of the cases each of the thirteen women willingly let the “Strangler” into their home. This strange aspect of the murders created the catchphrase for the movie adaptation named The Boston Strangler – “Why did 13 women open their doors to the Boston Strangler?”

In Cold Blood – Richard Hickock and Perry Smith

In Cold Blood

The phrase “two is better than one” is normally something good, but when it comes to serial killers it means double the infamy. Perry Smith and Richard Hickock were the pair responsible for the “Clutter Murders”. After meeting in prison the two decided to rob the Clutter household in search of a safe allegedly filled with money.

When they broke into the house there was no such safe and ended up killing the family of four in their own home. Both men were later captured in Las Vegas, Nevada and sentenced to death by hanging on the murder charge. The film In Cold Blood was inspired by the best-selling book of the same name written by Truman Capote.

Dahmer – Jeffrey Dahmer

One of the most lethal serial killers who reached an astonishing number of seventeen victims is the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer. As a child Dahmer was neglected by his parents, which in turn, made him a reserved individual who developed a strange interest in dead animals. As he grew older and attended high school Dahmer developed an addiction to alcohol which caused him to underperform at school. Three weeks after his graduation Dahmer committed his first murder by luring hitch hiker Simon Hicks back to his home and strangling him. Dahmer then dissected Hick’s body before eventually getting rid of the evidence with acid and a sledgehammer.

Throughout his life Dahmer continued to kill and dismember the bodies of his victims. He was later arrested when one of his potential victims, Tracy Edwards, escaped from Dahmer’s apartment and flagged down police officers. The officers found Polaroid pictures of Dahmer’s dismembered victims along with some of the actual body parts in his apartment.

These murders, which are depicted in the 2002 film Dahmer, make Jeffrey Dahmer one of the most sadistic and notorious serial killers ever. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on fifteen terms.

Gacy – John Wayne Gacy


Our next serial killer takes the “fear of clowns” to a whole new level. John Wayne Gacy, who notoriously became known as “The Killer Clown” because he used to dress as a clown for child based events, was another infamous serial killer. Like many of his other serial killer counterparts, Gacy had a tough upbringing plagued by bad health and an abusive father.

Gacy was married twice but both marriages later failed because of Gacy’s sexual orientation. Gacy’s first murder occurred in 1972 when he killed a boy in his home. He then began the trend of burying the bodies of the boys he killed in the crawlspace of his home. Twenty six bodies were buried there, three were buried at another location on his property, and four were discarded in the Des Plaines River.

The famous murders of John Wayne Gacy, which believe to include thirty three victims, inspired the movie Gacy. Gacy was found guilty of thirty three counts of murder but was given the death penalty on twelve counts. “The Killer Clown” was executed in 1994 by lethal injection.

M – Peter Kurten and Fritz Haarman

The next movie M was not only inspired by one famous serial killer but two! Fritz Haarman was on a murder spree in Germany from 1918 to 1924. Haarman, who was nicknamed the “Vampire of Hanover”, would lure men back to his home and kill them by biting them in the throat. He was later caught when human remains started showing up in the Leine River. Harmaan was an immediate suspect for the police and was immediately put under surveillance because of his previous history of molestation. Haarman tried to pick up a boy while being watched by the police and was apprehended.

When police entered his apartment they found blood-stained walls and memorabilia of missing persons. Haarman was sentenced to death by guillotine. Peter Kurten, the other inspiration for the movie M, was another German serial killer. Kurten came from an abusive home and, similar to Dahmer, had an obsession with cruelty to animals. He is known to have committed at least nine murders and attempted seven. Kurten admitted to drinking the blood of one of his victims.

This vampire trait earned him the nickname “The Vampire of Dusseldorf” similar to Haarman’s. Kurten was also sentenced to death by guillotine and killed in 1931.

Ed Gein – Psycho / The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

Not every serial killer has their exploits turned into a movie, and even fewer inspire THREE cinematic villains. But if there’s anyone whose crimes could be warped into three completely different filmic serial killers, it’s Ed Gein. In 1957, Wisconsin police thought they were merely apprehending a robber when they made their way into Gein’s house. What they found, however, shocked them. It was not the mere presence of dead bodies but what Gein had mutilated and transformed them into that made him such an infamous and notorious murderer. Gein was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The Following: The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on December 2, 2013.