When it comes to naming members of the lgbt community who will go down in history as villains perhaps those highest on the list would be murderers and serial killers. Some of the most infamous serial killers have been gay. The names of Jeffrey Dahmer, Denis Nielsen and John Wayne Gacy send shivers down my spine when I recall their horrific treatment of their victims.
The conviction last month
of the serial killer Stephen Port reminds us that we cannot claim to be perfect
(not that anyone ever has claimed that).
Because of the horrific
nature of some murders we have a morbid desire to learn about them. This desire
has produced hundreds of television series devoted to murder. Many of these
programmes have featured lgbt murderers and serial killers. For me a serial
killer is any person (with or without an accomplice) who deliberately murders
more than two victims at different times. The motives and methods need not
necessarily be the same.
The first two of the three
serial killers I want to mention today have gone down in history as legendary
figures and subjects of popular fiction – Bluebeard and “Countess Dracula”.
Both are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being among the most
prolific murderers in, and of, their respective gender. The total combined
number of their victims may never be known but both are known to have killed
several hundred people each.
The name of Bluebeard has
become synonymous with serial wife-killers. He even became the main character
in a fairy tale by the man who brought us the likes of Cinderella. One of the
real serial killers onto which some people say Bluebeard was based was somewhat
different. Gilles de Montmorency-Laval, Sire de Rais (1407-1440) was a French
aristocrat who was a companion of St. Joan of Arc, and like her became a
national hero of the French resistance to English rule.
Most often referred to as
simply Gilles de Rais this “hero” retired to his family estate and substituted
killing Englishmen with killing French boys. During the 1430s he is said to
have lured hundreds of peasant boys to their deaths at his hand. His usual
method was to sexually assault them then slit their throats. Sometimes he would
decapitate them and fondle the severed head. Even though he was personally
responsible for their deaths Gilles was not alone in procuring the boys. His
steward and two of his cousins scouted the countryside for his victims and also
sexually abused the boys.
Fortunately, Gilles de
Rais was arrested for hitting a priest. His trial revealed the fate of many of
his young victims. He confessed to 400 murders though the actual number is
probably less, albeit still over 300.
Topping that number by
over a hundred is the “Blood Countess” who inspired the famous Hammer horror
film “Countess Dracula”. Her real name was Countess Erzsébet Bathori
(1560-1614), and she was number 79 in my 2015 series “Around the World in 80Gays”. As with Gilles de Rais the Countess’s victims were from the lower
classes in society and were lured to their place of torture and death with
promises of work. Also, like Gilles de Rais, the victims of the Countess were
of the same gender, in her case all female.
There’s no evidence that
Countess Erzsébet ever has sex with her victims, unlike Gilles, but both serial
killers are recorded as displaying erotic behaviour towards severed heads. It
is this sexual aspect which was developed overtly in the Hammer film.
The usual number of the
Countess’s victims is given as around 650. This is based on the evidence given
by a witness at her trial of a now long-long written account of the murders by
the countess herself. The Guinness Book of World Records accepts this figure.
A more recent lgbt serial
killer also preyed on the vulnerable classes. Unlike Gilles de Rais and
Erzsébet Bathori Luis Alfredo Garavito (b.1957) was not a rich aristocrat. He came
from a working-class family in Colombia. He, too, lured his victims to their
deaths with promises, in Garavito’s case with gifts of money. The poor street
children he entrapped were tortured and raped before being murdered.
For four years Garavito continued
his horrific crimes until he was arrested for the rape of a 12-year-old. He
admitted to killing over 140 boys. However, in prison he made maps which showed
the locations where he killed a possible total of over 300 victims.
The recent conviction of
Stephen Port and the stories of dozens of other serial killers throughout
history just goes to show that no matter how vigilant we are against homophobic
murders there is always the presence of danger lurking within our community.