The fascinating true story behind your latest Netflix obsession.

Netflix’s latest offering of crime-y binge-y goodness is a fiction series with terrifying true crime roots.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to sit across from a serial killer and ask them anything you like, this is the series for you.

Mindhunter, the streaming service’s new psychological thriller, tells the story of Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), two special agents from the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) who travel around the United States interviewing the country’s worst serial killers.

The David Finch-helmed series takes us into the early days of criminal profiling, to a time before the term ‘serial killer’ was a part of our vernacular and Ted Bundy was a household name.

Ford and Tench are the first FBI agents to ever study serial killers and to look closely at why they do what they do. Throughout the series, they sit across from some of the most dangerous men in history and attempt to make sense of how their minds work.

Ford and Tench go on to coin the term ‘serial killer’ during their special investigation.

The series is based on the book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker.

Ford and Tench are loosely based on two FBI special agents named John Douglas (the co-author of the book) and Robert Ressler who both started studying serial killers in the late 1970s.

Douglas, now 72 years old, was one of the first criminal profilers in the United States. He joined the FBI in 1970 and worked as a sniper and a hostage negotiator, before transferring to the BSU in 1977, where he created the bureau’s Criminal Profiling Program.


As part of his research he traveled around the country interviewing America’s deadliest serial killers, sexual predators and assassins.

It was at the BSU where he met and began working with Robert Ressler.

mindhunter true story
Agent Holden Ford interviews serial killer Ed Kemper in Mindhunter. Image via Netflix.

Ressler, who passed away at age 76 in 2013, joined the FBI in 1970 after serving in the army. Ressler is often credited with coining the term 'serial killer', and was also instrumental in setting up the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) database.

Together they worked with Dr Ann Wolbert Burgess (played by Anna Torv in the series), a psychologist who studied trauma and the impact of abuse on the victims. Her specialty was serial killers, rapists and kidnappers.

In the first season of Mindhunter, Ford and Tench interview fictional depictions of the real-life serial killers Edmund Emil Kemper III (the Co-ed Killer) and Jerry Brudos (the Shoe Fetish Slayer). They also interview Richard Speck, a spree-killer who murdered eight student nurses in one night in 1966.

The series takes you into the mind of a serial killer, showing you how they became sadistic killing machines and how they justify senselessly murdering their innocent victims.

Mindhunter is definitely a must-watch for true crime fans or anyone interested in the inner workings of the mind of a serial killer.

All ten episodes of the first season of Mindhunter are available to stream on Netflix now. 

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