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The Chessboard Killer
July 29, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Russia had never seen anything quite like the prolific serial killer Alexander Pichushkin, for whom “life without killing is like life without food.” In the end, the Maniac was what his mother and Suprunenko say he was: ordinary. He didn’t have strong opinions. He lacked preferences or ideas about other people, God, art, beauty. He could talk about these things, and did, but these were simply words in the service of killing; they were bits of theater; they were nothing.

Previously.
posted by WalterMitty (38 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
posted by WalterMitty

Er, eponyhorrifical.
posted by chavenet at 8:58 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


All along, or at least since he began killing in earnest in 2001, Pichushkin had been torn by an irreconcilable conflict. He wanted to kill, but he also wanted everyone to know he was the killer. He wanted recognition and respect. One night he was watching TV with his mother and sister, and there was a report about the Bitsevsky Park killer. His sister exclaimed: “This madman, he’s so fascinating. Who is he?” And Pichushkin had to fight very hard—he was practically bursting—not to tell her she was sitting right next to him.

This is positively chilling stuff. Also found it considerably interesting that some thought the Soviet system would have done a better job of finding him than "democratic" Russia. I mean the guy ended up turning himself in. It both fascinates and horrifies me that monsters like this can pretty much walk the planet, hiding in plain sight.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:18 AM on July 29, 2011


Yeah, this was much worse than it needed to be because of poverty and police corruption/incompetence. I've heard from quite a few people since about the mid-nineties that they miss the Soviet Union, because while it was awful and repressive and people disappeared, at least you got medical care and decent schooling, and the repressive forces of the state were actually at least capable of a little bit of regular policing. This way, it's like subtracting the benefits while also keeping the drawbacks. Which is incredibly depressing.

And I think this is the way the US is going - with the service cuts and the financial collapse and the fact that we're headed (whichever way things go on the debt ceiling) for at the very least a double dip recession, and the rise of the right and the lack of restraints on corporate lobbying and media access. How long is it going to be before we look like Russia? If you're poor and black, things probably are a lot like Ri

Basically, when we had the Cold War, both countries had to pull up their socks a little bit to try to show that they were better than each other; now there's just a crumbling ruin on each side.
posted by Frowner at 9:35 AM on July 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


the Soviet system would have done a better job of finding him than "democratic" Russia

Sure, it's possible. The Soviet system did a great job murdering millions as well. Efficiency was not discriminate.
posted by juiceCake at 9:44 AM on July 29, 2011


In Soviet Russia, killer find you!
posted by bpm140 at 9:54 AM on July 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


In pictures, most serial killers don't look all that menacing or evil. Many look innocuous. Some, like Bundy, look charming.

The picture at the top of this GQ article, however, I'm finding very uncomfortable to look at. Fifteen years in solitary to kick off his sentence seems appropriate.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:54 AM on July 29, 2011


On October 24, 2007, Alexander Pichushkin was found guilty of murdering forty-eight people. Throughout the trial, he insisted that he’d actually taken sixty-three lives, but authorities could muster evidence to prosecute him for only four dozen. He was sentenced to life in prison. (Russia doesn’t have the death penalty.) A week after his conviction, Pichushkin’s attorneys filed an appeal, requesting a more lenient sentence. The judges will hand down their final decision today.

I wonder how they justified that appeal?
posted by ian1977 at 10:06 AM on July 29, 2011


also,

What a dick.
posted by ian1977 at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2011


In BC, Robert Pickton confessed to killing 49 women over several years. As in this Russian case, several people told police about his crimes but were ignored. Police indifference was put down to the fact that most victims were poor and socially marginalized. Pickton also seemed to enjoy murdering for its own sake. He was initially only prosecuted for the second-degree murders of six women.
posted by binturong at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Was this posted before? It looks like it was, but the link goes somewhere else.
posted by peacheater at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2011


Here's a chilling thought: Assume that murder-lust isn't a new thing. There have likely been serial killers throughout human history. We're pretty good at catching them now, with modern forensic methods and people willing to trawl rivers for corpses, but we still don't find all the bodies these modern serial killers leave behind, and it takes us a while to nab these guys (and they are almost always guys).

So imagine how prolific a serial killer could be in a situation with high population density and a much more crude policing system, such as any city a thousand years ago. Makes sense that we have all these outdated cautionary fairly tales about nameless terrors in 'the woods' that prey on children.

An even wilder idea is that one reason human children are so afraid of sleeping alone, or being alone, or afraid of the dark, or afraid of 'monsters' and 'bogeymen' is that in human history those have been totally real and lethal things and only the kids with healthy terror survived. /evopsychconspiracytheory
posted by serif at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


Great timing with my Friday the 13th marathon. :S
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:30 AM on July 29, 2011


Citizen X is an above average docudrama about real life Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo (as well as the investigation of his crimes by Soviet officials) if that sort of thing interests you.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:32 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Having just yesterday finished reading Erik Larsens The Devil in the White City (previously), I was surprised H. H. Holmes gets no mention in the roster of prolific killers in the beginnng of this article. His situation--large, growing, undocumented population--and apparent goal--kill because it is his greatest pleasure--match this Russian person's almost exactly. And the lack of resources and coordination of law enforcement in late century Chicago sounds a whole lot like modern day Russia.
posted by emhutchinson at 10:35 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


So imagine how prolific a serial killer could be in a situation with high population density and a much more crude policing system, such as any city a thousand years ago. Makes sense that we have all these outdated cautionary fairly tales about nameless terrors in 'the woods' that prey on children.

How about modern slums in places like Mumbai and Nairobi? Rule of law isn't much there, and the people are generally "nobodies" to their governments.
posted by melissam at 10:43 AM on July 29, 2011


one reason human children are so afraid of sleeping alone, or being alone, or afraid of the dark ...

I suspect this is why, when you are alone, coming across an animal suddenly can be extremely frightening, but seeing an unfamiliar human face close up in a place you don't expect, such as the dark depths of a closet or shadowy bushes in the moonlight, strikes a whole new level of terror. Humans instinctively reserve their greatest fear for their most prolific predator.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


Was this posted before? It looks like it was, but the link goes somewhere else.

Ah. It would appear so. Didn't think to search for the title - searched for the name, places, etc. but not "Chessboard Killer". Pichushkin has only been mentioned once ever on MeFi, to bring his habit of smashing vodka bottles into his victims' heads into a broader discussion of serial killers' preferred methods.

Regardless, the article didn't get any attention at all the last time, it's worth a quick read, and people seem interested.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:58 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Naw, it's cool, CynicalKnight, I wasn't planning on sleeping tonight.


*double-checks her doors and windows*
posted by sophistrie at 10:59 AM on July 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't know. I think a giant squid face coming out of the darkness would be more a lot more scary than a human face.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:59 AM on July 29, 2011


Aww, now you've hurt Cthulhu's feelings.
posted by kmz at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think a giant squid face coming out of the darkness would be more a lot more scary than a human face.

True. I was a fool to buy that nameless kelp-stained tome from a gibbering malay madman by the docks. I was a fool to spend long hours in the Forbidden Wing of the university library, uncovering too much as my health and sanity flickered like candlelight in the promise of a gale. I was a fool to read aloud those words, those words which now lay on my flesh like hot embers or a tyrant's lash...Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
posted by serif at 11:08 AM on July 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


coming across an animal suddenly can be extremely frightening, but seeing an unfamiliar human face close up in a place you don't expect, such as the dark depths of a closet

I'm unsettled by the fact that you come across animals and unfamiliar human faces in your closet often enough to make this kind of comparison.
posted by Shepherd at 11:14 AM on July 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm unsettled by the fact that you come across animals and unfamiliar human faces in your closet often enough to make this kind of comparison.

It's like Narnia in there.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:17 AM on July 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


...now there's just a crumbling ruin on each side.

I emigrated here from Perestroika-era Russia and holy shit not even close. Maybe when Americans are waiting on a line because there's a shortage of bread and not a sale on 42" HDTVs you'll be able to start making something of an approximation.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on July 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


Fifteen years in solitary to kick off his sentence seems appropriate.

Nah, it's inhumane. There's no real reason to do that.
posted by ryanrs at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2011


> Nah, it's inhumane. There's no real reason to do that.

Why not? How do you know he won't just start killing fellow inmates if he's allowed to circulate?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:45 PM on July 29, 2011


It's like Narnia in there.

Yeah, you think an unexpected face in your closet is scary -- try an unexpected face and it's never Christmas.
posted by No-sword at 1:28 PM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


"...now there's just a crumbling ruin on each side."

Cool. As time goes by, the world resembles Lem's version more and more.
posted by sneebler at 2:20 PM on July 29, 2011


In solitary confinement, with no one else around to even fantasize about, Pichushkin will begin to stalk the only available victim: Pichushkin.

This murder may not be done wholesale, but probably retail, piece by piece.

I think Pichushkin's victim's families will have their revenge, accomplished by Pichushkin himself.
posted by jamjam at 2:26 PM on July 29, 2011


high population density and a much more crude policing system, such as any city a thousand years ago.

I think there's moderate protection granted in the past by smaller populations and our generally obsessive attitude to kinship networks, but I also imagine that killers like this in the past have been helped along by a laxer attitude to doing absolutely dreadful things to your neighbours in the name of war and raiding.

I agree it was a lot easier to say, pick of travellers going between A and B, but surviving in the point between A and B was also a lot harder. So I imagine the difference is made up by death tolls on the part of warriors and petty kings.
posted by Phalene at 2:31 PM on July 29, 2011


serif, I favourited your interesting comment about fear of the nameless killer in populated areas, but I'm not sure it's a real issue. It IS a real fear, but at least according to this book, your chances of being killed by ANY murderer let alone a serial psycho whatchamacallit are vanishingly small.
posted by sneebler at 2:36 PM on July 29, 2011


So imagine how prolific a serial killer could be in a situation with high population density and a much more crude policing system, such as any city a thousand years ago.

There's a pretty good example in the historical record. A more recent instance is the killings in Juarez. There are a number of murderers preying on those women no one knows how many, but almost certainly the more active are responsible for a nauseatingly high number of victims.
posted by BigSky at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was another Russian serial killer with 50 plus victims, (1960s?) sorry don't have that reference handy. It was basically a story of gross incompetence, or indifference, in the investigation.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:04 PM on July 29, 2011


Just a note - most murders are, statistically speaking, committed by people whom the victims know personally.
posted by WalterMitty at 5:07 PM on July 29, 2011


StickyCarpet: I suspect you are referring to Andrei Chikatilo. The movie I mentioned unthread goes into a lot of detail about how reluctant the authorities were to even recognize there might be a serial killer operating in the USSR, considering such crimes a 'Western phenomena'.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:34 PM on July 29, 2011


For those remarking on choice of victims, an interesting case is that of Luis Garvito, who may have killed over 300 people. Who was he killing? Street kids.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:41 PM on July 29, 2011


Then, on February 23, 2002, Pichushkin tried to kill Maria Viricheva, a pregnant woman. He pushed her down the well, but she somehow managed to climb out and get to a hospital, where she reportedly told the police about the attack. The cops asked for Viricheva’s registration papers. (Millions of Russian citizens live in Moscow quasi-illegally; jobs outside the capital are scarce.) Viricheva said she didn’t have any papers. The cops told her that if she stayed quiet about her attack, they’d overlook her “illegal habitation.” Viricheva stayed quiet.
Hardly a uniquely Russian problem.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 10:41 PM on July 29, 2011


Jesus, CynicalKnight, I can read articles about serial killers all day long and just be sad or revolted, not scared. But your comment above gave me serious chills. Because I can imagine that. And oh, I do not like imagining it!

Good thing I sleep during the day.

...Or is it?
posted by Because at 2:28 AM on July 30, 2011


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