The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a collection of videotapes shot by a sadistic killer as he targeted young women all over Poughkeepsie. This was made into a movie, and was nearly released in 2007. This Entertainism article will discuss whether the Poughkeepsie Tapes are real or fake.
Dennis Rader, the BTK (Bind-Torture-Kill) killer, worked for a security firm that installed alarms in homes. These alarms were booked by people who wanted safety from the notorious BTK killer, unaware that the BTK killer himself was installing them!
The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a movie directed by John Dowdle that claims to show the exploits of a serial killer in the upstate town of Poughkeepsie, New York, that is recorded by the killer himself. The movie was slated for release in 2007, and even had a grand reception at the Tribeca Film festival. But the makers decided to pull the plug on the release at the last moment. Even future release dates given by the makers went by without seeing any action, though leaked versions of the film were available all this time on the web. Finally, in July 2014, it was released as a ‘video on demand’ edition on DirecTV briefly, before being withdrawn again. Speculations are rife that this has been done to create an atmosphere of mystery for a worldwide release sometime later in 2014.
The movie consists of several tapes which have been combined, each of which has been shot by the murderer from a hand-held camera, beginning from the moment he begins stalking his victims, to kidnapping, torturing, and killing them. While the scenes do look authentic, there has been a storm in horror movie circles regarding the authenticity of the tapes, and whether such a killer really existed in Poughkeepsie. Claiming that the tapes shown in the movie have been ‘left’ behind by the killer himself, has been the USP of the movie right from the start. This strategy has reaped rich dividends, and the name of the movie has been consistently doing the rounds on blogs all over the internet, despite the canceled release 7 years ago. So are the Poughkeepsie Tapes real? Let us investigate.
In the year 2001, police officers raid a house in Poughkeepsie, New York, and find bodies of ten murdered women. Though the killer fled, he left behind nearly 800 videotapes, that not only show him torturing and killing his victims, but even how he pursues and stalks them. The videos chronicle a decade-long work of the psychopath, and each video is recorded by the killer himself.
The story begins in the year 1988, when police stations are flooded with cases of missing women and unsolved murders. As they investigate, the cops spot similarities in the victims, realizing that they are dealing with a serial killer. The psychopath begins his killing spree by murdering a little girl playing outside, before moving on to other victims. The next crimes are done with more planning, and the killer even changes his modus operandi in between, posing as a cop to lure prostitutes, whom he tortures and kills, all on videotape.
Eventually, recovered evidence such as saliva and seminal fluid pins all the blame on James Foley, a retired police officer. Though he insists that he is innocent, he is arrested and prosecuted by a court, which gives him the death penalty. After his execution, the cops receive a mail from the killer, telling them that they have missed a body, and it is soon clear that they had the wrong man. Finally, the cops track the killer down, and on storming his house, are shocked to find one of his victims, Cheryl Dempsey, who was abducted as a teen 8 years earlier, still alive. The killer had kidnapped her after killing her boyfriend, and had subjected her to such horrifying torture that she had become deranged, and enjoyed harming herself. After being rescued, she kills herself and her body disappears from its grave.
The cops change tack, and decide to keep a watch on all the places where this documentary will be screened, believing that the killer would show up. Toward the end of the movie, the killer is seen telling a victim that he will spare her life if she doesn’t blink. The movie ends with her eyes closing.
The movie is based on the ‘found footage’ concept, and the makers advertise it as being a true story. The video quality of the footage does seem like it has been shot by an amateur, and some scenes do look real. Similarly, the nature of the crimes committed, including violent sexual, physical torture, and necrophilia, do face an uncanny similarity to the cases of several serial killers.
However, a thorough research would reveal that the plot of the movie is not identical to any single criminal case. Thus, the movie is not based on a real story, but takes inspiration from several real cases of serial killers. Needless to say, the ‘tapes’ shown in the movie have been shot by the movie-makers with a focus on giving it an authentic feel. John Dowdle, the director of the movie has clearly said that it is a fictional account. This makes the movie a mockumentary.
Just as in the movie, there was only one survivor in this case, a prostitute named Christine Sala, who escaped and alerted local police. However, Francois did not make any videos of his crimes, but cut his victims into pieces, another similarity with the movie. Also, he chose women who looked similar, which resembles the plot of the movie.
Kemper was notorious for performing perverted acts with the decapitated heads of his murdered victims. He also lured many victims to his car while impersonating a cop. These are the main similarities between his case and the Poughkeepsie Tapes.
Like the killer in the Poughkeepsie Tapes, Ridgeway was a necrophiliac, and would dispose off bodies in heavily forested areas. Also, the part where the cops take the help of the infamous killer Ted Bundy, who advises them to wait at the locations of the disposed bodies for the killer to show up, was a real occurrence in this case.
Ted Bundy served as an inspiration for the Poughkeepsie Tapes, for he performed strange orgies with the corpses of his victims, and even kept the decapitated heads of some at his home as ‘mementos’. His necrophiliac activities continued until the late stages of decomposition, or until the corpse was destroyed by wild animals. One gruesome similarity shared with the movie is that, Ted enjoyed putting the severed head of one victim on the body of another.
The similarity of this case with the Poughkeepsie Tapes is that the couple killed several victims after taking their photographs. They also took audio recordings of the torture inflicted on them. All the bodies were buried in Saddleworth Moor, earning the name ‘Moors Murders’.
There are several disturbing similarities of this case with the Poughkeepsie Tapes. Ray had equipped his trailer using the most horrible devices of perverted torture, which he called his ‘friends’. He had attached a mirror to the ceiling to make the victims see what he did to them. He even made the victims hear the audio recordings of his voice when they regained consciousness, and even recorded their torture. He made the victims believe that they were his ‘slaves’, and even explained what he was going to do with them, before the torture began.
The Director of Poughkeepsie Tapes, John Dowdle, has claimed in an interview that some aspects of this case have served as an inspiration for the movie. Keeping the victim in a wooden box, treating her like a sex slave, and forcing her to address the tormentor as ‘Master’, are some of them.
The most interesting inspiration for the Poughkeepsie Tapes seems to have been drawn from this case. Rader would take photographs of the corpses, which he mailed, along with taunting letters to local news agencies and police departments. He claimed credit, not only for his own crimes, but also for others, just to satiate his ego. Rader also had strange sexual fetishes, just like the killer in the tapes.
This case shares various similarities with the movie, such as Jerry’s habit of taking photographs of his victims during torture and after death. He was also a necrophiliac, and even obtained pleasure from looking at dead bodies. Worst of all, he had even cut off certain body parts to use as a ‘paperweight’.
The cases of this killer couple have quite a few similarities with the tapes. The couple’s penchant for videotaping the torture of their victims, the dismemberment of the toes and fingers, and photographing the crimes, are some of them. West even took recordings of his wife with other men.
With the director’s admission, there’s absolutely no doubt that the Poughkeepsie Tapes are a fictional creation, though inspired from real cases of serial killers. But what is really creepy is that, there have been real people who have committed crimes like the killer from the movie, some of which are on the prowl even today.