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So why are so many people intrigued by serial killers??? For many Americans, these modern-day ogres offer a perverse thrill. But is really the threat there?? "Some experts believe the number of serial killers is rising. "Going back to 1960, you had about 10,000 homicides a year in the U.S., and most of these were solved and very few of them represented multiple or serial killers," notes Ressler, now a forensic consultant in Spotsylvania, Virginia. "Today we're running 25,000 homicides a year, and a significant number of those homicides are going unsolved. We're seeing a great increase in stranger killing and in many of these cases, the victims are falling to serial and multiple killers." Still, the notoriety these killers enjoy is out of proportion to their numbers. The FBI estimates there may only be dozens of serial killers operating in the U.S. Yet serial murder remains a peculiarly American phenomenon: 75% of the 160 or so repeat killers captured or identified in the past 20 years were in the U.S."1

In interviews for the film, McNaughton stated "We didn't try to lay in a very specific them, only that it's a crazy, dangerous world. These people, killers, are out there, and if it's your turn..." So the fear and effectiveness of this film is built upon are intrigue with these animalistic freaks and the chance that they in fact could be the "boy next door".

Let me conclude by saying, that this page is not presented in any way as a tribute to the foul deeds of Henry Lee Lucas. Rather it is provided as a source of information to help illustrate the underlying inspiration that Lucas has had on the film. Although a fictional representation of Henry's life, it does demonstrate some truths in it's examinations. There was an Ottis and Becky. Henry did in fact have a relationship with Becky which lead to her ultimate demise.



Henry Lee Lucas might be America’s most prolific serial killer. On the other hand, he might be the biggest liar since Baron von Munchhausen. After experiencing a self-described "religious conversion" in prison, he decided to bare his soul and confess to an astronomical number of murders. Later, however, he recanted most of his testimony. Among law enforcement officials, the exact number of his crimes remains a matter of debate. Still, even if Lucas’s final body counts falls far short of the five hundred victims he originally claimed, he nevertheless ranks as one if the most depraved serial killer in history.

Subjected to untold horrors by his insanely abusive mother, Lucas began indulging in sadistic depravity while still a child. By thirteen, he was engaging in sex with his older half-brother, who also introduced Henry to the joys of bestiality and animal torture. One of their favorite activities was slitting the throats of small animals, then sexually violating the corpses.

Early in his childhood, Lucas was compelled to dress as a girl by his mother. She would curl her little boy’s stringy blond hair into ringlets and sent him off to school in girl’s clothes.

One year later, he committed his first murder, strangling a seventeen year-old girl who resisted his efforts to rape her. In 1954, the eighteen year-old Lucas received a six-year prison sentence for burglary. Soon after his release in 1959, he got into a drunken argument with his seventy four-year-old mother and stabbed her to death. He also confessed to raping his corpses, though he later retracted that detail.

Receiving a forty-year sentence for second degree murder. Lucas ended up in the state psychiatric facility. In spite of his own protestations—"When they put me out on parole, I said I’m not ready to go. I told them all, the warden, the psychologist, everyone that I was going to kill"---he was release after only ten years. Eighteen months later he was back in prison for molesting two teenage girls.

Lucas was discharged from the state pen in 1975. Not long afterward, he met Ottis Toole, a vicious psychopath who became Lucas’s partner in one of the most appalling killing spree in the annals of American crime. For the next seven years, this deranged duo roamed the country, murdering and mutilating an untold number of victims. Like Lucas, the profoundly depraved Toole also had a taste for necrophilia. He also indulged in occasional cannibalism, an atrocity that Lucas tended to shun, since he found human flesh too gamy. For much of their odyssey, they  were accompanied by Toole’s preadolescent niece, Frieda "Becky" Powell, who became Lucas’s lover and common-law wife. She would later become his ultimate victim, when at age fifteen she was found dismembered, stuffed in pillowcases, and strewn over a field

Lucas was picked up on a weapon charge in 1983. A few days later, after apparently being stricken by an uncharacteristic attack of bad conscious, he summoned his jailer, "I done some pretty bad things," he muttered. With that he began spilling his guts admitting to a staggering number of murders. Some of these have been confirmed, others have proven false (like the Virginia schoolteacher he alledged killing who was later found to still be alive or his claimed to have committed murders in Spain and Japan even though he never left the country or being a hitman for the Satanic cult, the "Hand of Death), many remain open cases. Lucas even confessed to have carried the poison to Guyana as a favor to his good friend Jim Jones.  Many investigators still believe that Lucas was responsible for just a couple of murders and the real criminals were the officers who fed him information on unresolved cases and coerced confessions. Serial killer expert Robert Ressler believes Henry might be responsible for as little as five killings. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. At a 1985 trial, he was convicted of ten homocides---more than enough to get him the death sentence.

Ottis got off his death sentence as he was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. His death sentence was commuted to six consecutive life sentences. In prison Ottis confessed and later recanted killing 6-year-old Adam Walsh, whose 1981 disappearance outside a Hollywood, Florida, mall set off a nationwide manhunt and launched the TV career of his father, John Walsh, as the creator and host of the Fox television series "America's Most Wanted." In the autumn of 1996 Ottis died in prison of liver failure.

Whatever the actual total, the horrific nature of Lucas’s life of crime was summed up in one statement: "Killing someone is is just like walking outdoors. If I wanted a victim, I’d just go and get one."

After confessing to over 300 hits, Hank recanted it all only to confess again when he became born-again.

On March 31, 1998, Texas State District Judge John Carter set June 30 as the execution date for Henry Lee. Although his many confessions, he was sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of a female hitchhiker known as "Orange Socks" for the only item of clothing left on her body. During many of his detractions Lucas claimed that he was working as a roofer in Florida when the hitchhiker was killed. No execution date had been set for Lucas until now. He was granted a stay in September 1995 so his claims of false confessions could be investigated. The stay was lifted a year later.

On June 27, 1998 Governor George W. Bush spared Henry's life because of overwhelming evidence proving that Henry was not in Texas when "Orange Socks" was murdered. Although Lucas confessed to killing her, work records and a cashed paycheck indicated he was in Florida at the time of the murder. Bush issued the reprieve on the recommendation of the state parole board. "I can only thank them for believing the truth and having guts enough for standing up for what's right," Lucas said from death row.

"Henry Lee Lucas is unquestionably guilty of other despicable crimes which he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison," said Bush, in Brownsville for a conference of U.S.-Mexico border state governors. "However, I believe there is enough doubt about this particular crime that the state of Texas should not impose its ultimate penalty by executing him."

This bio is a combination of the following reference sources:
The information above on Henry Lee Lucas was taken from the excellent book "The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers" by Harold Schechter and David Everitt" and the informative website Mayhem.net.

  Back to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer


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1. Time Magazine