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Frank Bender and the "team of experts whose consultative skills and talents are always free"
July 31, 2011 7:13 AM   Subscribe

When forensic sculptor Frank Bender, Esquire's Man of the Month in April 2004, died this week the world mourned one of the foremost skull-to-face recreationists. What fewer people knew was that his passing created an opening in The Vidocq Society a members-only crime-solving organization he co-founded in 1990, dedicated to working on long-unsolved murders. Membership is limited to 82 members, one for each year of Inspector Vidocq's life. The organization does have a newsletter available online and guests and associates sometimes tag along to their monthly luncheons, Cuisine & Crime Solving.
posted by jessamyn (18 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
... and sometimes, when the problem presented seems unsolvable, there is a quiet cough from Henry, the waiter who is an honorary member of the society ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:27 AM on July 31, 2011 [16 favorites]


That's so cool. I wonder if they have special rings or something.
posted by kbanas at 7:28 AM on July 31, 2011


For further reading on Bender & the Vidocq society, check out "The Murder Room" The narrative is annoyingly all over the place at times, but it's still an utterly fascinating book.
posted by dersins at 7:32 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


And no one has made a TV show based on this? Lordy, how remiss the crime procedural producers have been.
posted by jadepearl at 8:14 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Incredibly cool. It looks as if they have around 150 members now, according to the site.
posted by carlodio at 8:24 AM on July 31, 2011


I am so happy this exists.
posted by jsturgill at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2011


That's so cool. I wonder if they have special rings or something.

Several use the theme to Murder, She Wrote when calling each other.
posted by hal9k at 8:36 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


And no one has made a TV show based on this? Lordy, how remiss the crime procedural producers have been.

The TV series The Forgotten was based on a broadly similar premise.
posted by jedicus at 8:36 AM on July 31, 2011


As a bike messenger in the 80's, I used to make deliveries to Frank every once in a while. It was always a treat walking into his studio.
posted by SPUTNIK at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


You never know exactly what's under the skin. From the Society's brief bio of Eugène François Vidocq:
Vidocq's life story is amazing. As a fugitive from French justice, he first offered his services as a police spy and informer. Later, he became so successful at catching criminals that he was named the first chief of the Sûreté, in 1811. Vidocq eventually directed a force of 28 detectives, all of whom were also former criminals.
It takes one to know one, and a little embellishment never hurts a legend, either. Wikipedia has a nicely extended account of Vidocq's life, and his Memoires (1828) are online en français (with an English version at Google Books.)
posted by cenoxo at 9:07 AM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Netflix keeps telling me I need to see:

Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq

IMDB link incase the above doesn't work:

Vidocq.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2011


Very pleased to see the Mutter Museum is represented in the membership!
posted by wowbobwow at 3:36 PM on July 31, 2011


Super neat. :)
posted by Glinn at 3:48 PM on July 31, 2011


The TV series The Forgotten was based on a broadly similar premise.

As was Jonathan Kellerman's book The Conspiracy Club.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:31 AM on August 1, 2011


From the Wikipedia article about the society:

"Vidocq will only consider cases that meet certain requirements: they must be unsolved deaths more than two years old, the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity such as prostitution or drug dealing, and the case must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency." (emphasis mine.)

If true then that seems a little limiting. There seems to be some sort of serial killer in Long Island, New York who is killing prostitutes. It's weird how their rules exclude them from these types of cases. Not that what they're doing isn't good but this part just surprised me.
posted by I-baLL at 5:45 AM on August 1, 2011


I-baLL, as an historian of true crime, I'd guess that this policy comes not out of disdain for criminal victims as much as it does out of a desire to put their postprandial energies into solving unique and interesting cases. While of course friends and families are no less devastated, there are not a lot of shades of gray in the kidnapping and murder of sex workers, or the violent deaths of drug dealers.

And outside of his work with the Society, co-founder Frank Bender did devote significant effort to identifying female victims of the Ciudad Juárez serial murder spree, with no way of knowing if the skulls he was working on were those of prostitutes.
posted by Scram at 6:28 AM on August 1, 2011


So I started reading "The Murder Room" that dersins recommended above, and yes, it's definitely fascinating.
posted by taz at 10:44 AM on August 1, 2011


"Jim DiGriz to the Special Corps meeting room please..."
posted by stenseng at 4:29 PM on August 1, 2011


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