Bluebeards Serial killer
Reputedly modeled on the fifteenth-century monster Gilles de Rais, the folktale character Bluebeard is a sinister nobleman who murders a succession of wives and stores their corpses in a locked room in his castle. In real life, the term is used to describe a specific type of serial killer who, like his fictional couterpart, knocks off one wife after another.
There are two major differences between a Bluebeard killer and a psycho like Ted Bundy. The latter preys on strangers, whereas the Bluebeard type restricts himself to the women who are unlucky (or foolish) enough to wed him. Their motivations differ, too. Bundy and his ilk are driven by sexual sadism; they are lust murderers. By contrast, the cardinal sin that motivates the Bluebeard isn’t lust but greed. For the most part, this kind of serial killer dispatches his victims for profit.
The most infamous Bluebeard of the twentieth century was a short, balding, red-bearded Frenchman named Henri Landru (the real-life inspiration for Charlie Chaplin’s black comedy Monsieur Verdoux). In spite of his unsightly appearance, Landru possessed an urbane charm that made him appealing to women. It didn’t hurt, of course, that there were so many vulnerable women around—lonely widows of the millions of young soldiers who had perished on the battlefields of World War I.
An accomplished swindler who had already been convicted seven times for fraud, Landru found his victims by running matrimonial Ads in the newspapers. When a suitable (i.e., wealthy, gullible) prospect responded, Landru would woo her, wed her, assume control of her assets, then kill her and incinerate the corpse in a small outdoor oven on his country estate outside Paris. He was guillotined in 1922, convicted of eleven murders—ten women, plus one victim’s teenaged son.
Even more prolific was a German named Johann Hoch, who emigrated to America in the late 1800s. In sheer numerical terms, Hoch holds some sort of connubial record among Bluebeards, having married no fewer than fifty-five women, at least fifteen of whom he dispatched. Like Landru, he never confessed, insisting on his innocence even as the hangman’s noose tightened around his neck.