Mindhunter Season 2: Every Real Life Serial Killer In The Show
Spoilers for Season 2!
Netflix's critically acclaimed true-ish crime drama, Mindhunter, has finally returned for a second season and brought with it a whole slew of new serial killers to be interviewed and profiled by fictional Behavioral Science agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench. These agents may be characters created for the show, but the killers themselves are very, very real.
All told, Mindhunter Season 2 featured eleven killers, with only two repeats from Season 1--fan-favorite Ed Kemper and the gruesome BTK Killer, who, so far, has only been glimpsed as a seemingly unrelated subplot (and briefly discussed by the protagonists). The rest of the show was devoted to an entirely new roster of the worst people humanity has to offer. There's a good chance you'll recognize some of the names--this season didn't skimp on the infamous--but others were a little less notorious.
We rounded up every serial killer profiled and examined for Mindhunter Season 2 and stacked them up next to their real-life case files to find if the drama of the show had gotten it right--and to learn if the truth is even worse than the fiction. Spoilers: more often than not, it actually is.
1. William Henry Hance
When Ford and Barney interview William Henry Hance, it's hard not to find the situation a little funny, despite the dire circumstances. Hance seems largely oblivious to the absurdity of his schemes even as Holden presses him on specifics--writing letters to police, inventing a fictional organization known as "The Forces Of Evil," demanding ransom for a murdered woman, telling police where to find her body, and so on.
It's difficult to determine just how realistic this particular incarnation is, given that the real Hance was executed back in 1994 via the electric chair. However, the real Hance was profiled by Robert K. Ressler, who served as the inspiration for Bill Tench, and the details of his crimes--yes, even the invention of The Forces Of Evil--are based on fact.
2. David "Son Of Sam" Berkowitz
Mindhunter's take on David Berkowitz took a handful of small liberties, but not many. Berkowitz did initially try and explain his crimes away by blaming them on demonic possession, he did give himself a logo, and he did write letters to the police. He also enjoyed massive celebrity status after his arrest--Mindhunter nods to this by talking about Berkowitz signing away his life rights--that eventually prompted New York to draft new laws about criminals profiting off of their own crimes, which are still known today popularly as the "Son of Sam law."
However, Berkowitz didn't first admit that his demon hoax was a big fat lie to a pair of BSU profilers, but in a press conference in 1979.
3. William Pierce Jr.
Another one of the slightly-less-than-articulate serial killers of the season, William Pierce Jr. only opens up during Barney and Ford's interview when Barney begins talking to him about his old job, and about how rude people can be on the road. That's when they learn that he potentially suffered a traumatic brain injury--something that may or may not be based in fact. The reality is that Pierce himself, like his crimes, was less documented or sensationalized by sources at the time of his arrest, so there's considerably more room to develop a "character" from the real life person than there would be someone of more notoriety.
Mindhunter did not, however, fabricate Pierce's apparent sweet tooth, which came from a photo of Pierce in his cell surrounded by junk food--the same photo that is shown in the episode to corroborate Barney's tactics.
4. Ed Kemper
One of two returning killers from Season 1, fan favorite Ed Kemper is about as spot-on as these adaptations can go. Whether or not Kemper did provide any insight--or whether he had any "professional" jealousy surrounding Charles Manson's infamy--are a bit harder to confirm than the little idiosyncrasies actor Cameron Britton used to bolster his performance, which come across as genuine to the real monster.
5. The BTK Killer
The BTK Killer is just as mysterious in Season 2 as he was in Season 1, but this time he's actually accomplishing the murders that he was building to the first time around. The details of BTK's crimes are largely pulled directly from reality, including the fact that he was never actually caught until the early 2000s--so, if you were wondering why the case didn't go anywhere in the show this season, despite the heightened interest of Agent Tench, that would be why.
6. Dean "The Candy Man" Corll
One of the more unusual cases discussed this year is that of a deceased serial killer named Dean Corll, who was actually murdered by one of his own accomplices. Corll was known as "The Candy Man." He would lure young men away to murder with the help of two young accomplices. Corll racked up 28 confirmed victims, with more likely, by the time of his own murder.
7. Elmer Wayne Henley Jr.
The man responsible for killing Dean Corll is one of the most intense interviews of the show, and many of the details can be corroborated by accounts of Corll's life and murders, verified by another of their accomplices, David Brooks. Brooks called Henley "especially sadistic" in his killings, and verified that he did far more than just lure Corll's victims to him, often participating--and apparently enjoying--the act of killing as well.
Henley's personality as portrayed in the show is a bit harder to verify, as well as the circumstances that led to Corll's death. The show implies that Henley defended himself when Corll turned on him, but accounts from the actual case seem to indicate that Henley was reacting to Corll's rage over Henley's invitation of a girl named Rhonda Williams into the house.
8. Tex Watson
The only member of the Manson family to appear in Season 2 aside from Charles himself, Tex Watson was one of the people who actually participated in the Tate-LaBianca murders. The show accurately portrays Watson as having converted to Christianity, which Wendy Carr notes is really just trading in one belief system (Manson's "Helter Skelter") for another.
9. Paul Bateson
Bateson is a little unique in the scope of Mindhunter's usual subjects, as a killer who was only suspected to be a serial killer rather than an actually convicted one. He was jailed for the murder of one person, but his connection to the leather subculture in New York made him a suspect for the infamous "bag murders" that were discovered when dismembered bodies contained in plastic bags washed up in the Hudson river. Bateson's involvement in the bag murders was never confirmed and, in 1997, he was released after serving a little over 24 years in prison.
10. Wayne Williams
The Atlanta Child Murders that dominated the back half of the season culminated in the arrest of Wayne Williams, an odd 20-something "music producer" who, in the show's eyes, had just about every possible marker a guilty man could have. Williams was eventually convicted of two murders--of adults--while the 20+ murdered children were never formally pinned to him. To this day, those cases remain unsolved, with new evidence and investigative methods being employed as recently as 2019. Williams, despite his years spent in prison, maintains his own innocence on all counts.
11. Charles Manson
The only person on the list to never actually directly kill someone also happens to be the most famous--Charles Manson, the notorious cult leader and the mastermind behind the brutal murders committed by the "Manson family" made his Mindhunter debut this season, despite the reservations of some members of the BSU team. Manson's interview on the show was largely inspired by the real man--and he definitely did record music that can be heard in the episode.