Mindhunter: The Truth Behind the Series


Haley Daugherty

Mindhunter is a drama series released on netflix in 2017. The first season was very popular amongst Netflix viewers, which promoted the release of the second season and the upcoming third season. 

Based on a series of real events which inspired the use of criminal psychology in law enforcement. The main characters of the show, Holden Ford, an FBI agent who specializes in hostage situations, and Bill Tench whom is an educator on the then new and upcoming science that was criminal psychology. These characters are based on real FBI agents of the 1960s to 1970s which are named John E. Douglas, and Robert K. Ressler. 

Mindhunter covers a series of darker topics, including serial killers, murderers of the time, and particularly graphic images that involve children. This show doesn’t shy away from any sensitive topics. One of the most noteable controverisal scenes was the series of episodes covering the murder and crucifixtion of a three year old boy.

The opening scenes of Mindhunter are particularly disturbing. It introduces the idea of psychology being used with criminal significance. The idea was never thought of before, and once brought up in conversation to police leaders of the time, it was thought to be ridiculous and a waste of time and funds. It wasn’t until after the very small psychology department received public attention and donations that recognition was finally awarded. 

Tench (Ressler) and Ford (Douglas) first decided to meet with a serial killer to conduct research when they visited california on a mission to educate others. The first serial killer they met with was known as The Co-Ed Killer, real name being Edmund Kemper. This idea sparked the entire criminal psychology department.

Besides Kemper, famous serial killers such as Dennis Rader, Richard Speck, Jerry Brudos, Monte Rissell, and even Charles Manson (despite him never actually committing the murders) were featured in the show. Them being introduced gave some insight into why and how they committed their crimes, specifically childhood trauma, as well as showing real crime photos.

When asked about his feelings toward the show, Andrew Heslin showed his admiration. He stressed that the genre of the show wasn’t particularly that of his usual taste, but he still found the show oddly addicting and interesting. He said his main interests in the show were the interactions of the serial killers and their responses to some of the questions they were asked (translated from real life into the show). He also added that his favorite character was Edmund Kemper (played by Cameron Britton).

Before criminal psychology was excepted, serial killers and hostage situations werent looked at logically. The situations were regaurded with the option of the death penalty, or the lens of “as long as no hostages die, who cares?”, but with the introduction of this specific section of psycology, we can begin to understand those committing crimes, predict their next moves, and possibly even stop them from making their next moves.