Did You Know?
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 Finally, in July 2014, it was released as a 'video on demand' edition on DirecTV briefly, before being withdrawn again.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.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes Plot
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.
Are the Poughkeepsie Tapes Real?
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.
Kendall Francois was a serial killer responsible for the deaths of eight women in Poughkeepsie, New York. Over a period of 22 months, in 1997 and '98, these women, several of whom were prostitutes, disappeared from the city. All the victims were of a small build, and had brown hair, except one who was an African-American. They had all been strangled to death, and their bodies had been dismembered.
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.
Edmund Kemper is an infamous serial killer who started his career by killing his own grandparents, at the raw age of 15. After being released from prison, he began killing women hitchhikers, after giving them a lift in his car, an act which would earn him the name 'The Hitchhiker Butcher'. His final crimes, before his arrest, were the murders of his mother and her friend.
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.
The Green River Killer
Gary Ridgeway is an ex-US army veteran and truck painter, who is considered one of the most notorious serial killers in US history. He is convicted of murdering 49 women, mostly prostitutes, beginning in 1982, until as recently as 2001. He would strangle his victims and dispose their bodies in remote locations, before returning to them for sex. Several of his victims' bodies have been found in the Green River, earning him the infamous title of the 'Green River Killer'.
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 was one of America's most prolific serial killers, who murdered more than 50 young women after kidnapping them in the 1970s, though his acquaintances assert that he may have killed up to 100. He was good-looking and charismatic, which reassured his victims of his good intentions. He mostly approached young women with a fake sling around his arm feigning trouble, and then clubbed them to death in a secluded area, followed by dismemberment. Compared to other serial killers, he was a good student, and even served as his own lawyer when he was prosecuted for his crimes.
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 Moors Murders were a series of killings carried out by murderer couple Ian Bradley and Myra Hindley, in Greater Manchester, England. The murders, carried out in the 1960s, involved children younger than ten and some teenagers. Ian Bradley would ride around on his motorbike following Hindley in her van. When he saw a victim of his choice, he would flash the headlights to signal Myra to take them home in her van. Once home, he would rape or sodomize the victims, before strangulating or hacking them to death.
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'.
David Parker Ray
David Parker Ray was a serial killer who tortured and murdered, presumably more than 60 women in the region of Arizona and New Mexico in the '90s. He kidnapped these women, tortured them in his makeshift trailer which he called the 'Toy Box', and then murdered them. For this reason, he is known as the 'Toy Box Killer'. He was often helped in these acts by various accomplices, such as girlfriend Cindy Hendy, and even his own daughter Jesse.
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.
Colleen Stan Kidnapping Case
Colleen Stan was a teenage hitchhiker who was kidnapped by a sadistic couple, Cameron and Janice Hooker. They kept her as a sex slave for a period of 7 years, from '77 to '84. She was kept in a small box for 23 hours, and several days at a stretch. Cameron tormented her in all ways, including rape and sodomy. He even devised a wooden box which Colleen was forced to wear on her head. In later years, the couple gave her more freedom, warning her that if she escaped, an organization called 'The Company' would kill her parents.
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.
Dennis Rader was the employee of a security firm in Kansas, and an ex-US Air Force veteran, who was to later achieve infamy as the BTK (Bind-Torture-Kill) killer. He would kill several people right in their homes, by strangulating them. Prior to the killing, he always tortured the victims after tying them up.
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.
Jerry Brudos was one of Salem's worst serial killers, and also one of the most bizarre. As a child, he liked to steal women's footwear, and on growing up, he graduated to something far more disturbing―killing them. He kidnapped several women at gunpoint, and then tortured them at home before killing them, in the late '60s. He also severed the foot of many-a-corpse for his fetishes, before disposing the corpses in water bodies.
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'.
Fred West was a deadly serial killer, who is believed to have killed more than 13 young women, teenagers, and even children, in Gloucester, England, aided by his second wife Rosemary Castello. He himself, however, claimed to have killed over 30 people, and these even included members of his family, such as his first wife and his infant daughter. Most of the crimes occurred between the years 1968 to 1994, when the killer couple was finally arrested. They had kidnapped and inflicted all kinds of torture on their victims, including rape and dismemberment, before finishing them off.
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.