Date with a Devil
April 13, 2009 4:19 PM   Subscribe

My date with Willy Pickton. Robert Pickton that is, Canada's most prolific serial killer.
posted by GuyZero (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. Though for a reporter to make such a hyperbolic statement like "It’s [life expectancy] now in the mid-forties, which is still less than any nation on Earth" kind of strains her credibility.
posted by Mitheral at 4:58 PM on April 13, 2009

I think she was specifically referring the Vancouver's downtown east side where there's a massive drug problem, there are huge numbers of homeless people and there's a lot of people dying on the streets from alcoholism or heroin. I dunno if it's 33 or 40 or whatever, but I don't think it takes a Stats Can survey to conclude that the area she's describing is pretty rough - certainly any Vancouverite can attest to that.
posted by GuyZero at 5:04 PM on April 13, 2009

Disturbing, but neither interesting nor well-written.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:06 PM on April 13, 2009

This is a lousy FPP.

Vancouver seems to have been stricken by a collective amnesia about the misdeeds of Pickton and others. The details of the case are so morbid that even the rapacious American and international media fled town after the first day of the trial. Patrica Graham, the editor of the Vancouver Sun wrote a column the day before the trial started, promising respectful and dignified coverage but succumbed to ghoulish headlines the next day. The American media repeatedly disrespected Canadian jurisprudence by violating publication bans.

And how is it that a serial killer is guilty of multiple charges of second-degree murder?! There is no way that the Pickton acted alone, and I don't mean Dinah Taylor. There are many people who have culpability in this case, yet the Crown has fixated on Pickton alone and set him up to be the fall guy.

And again and again the victims, mostly if not all aboriginal women, continue to be forgotten.

The victims

Citizen journalism during the trial
posted by angrybeaver at 5:31 PM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]

What a creepy encounter. Interesting. (I don't see how it's badly written. It's just an ordinary blog post in a conversational style.)
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:50 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Though for a reporter to make such a hyperbolic statement like "It’s [life expectancy] now in the mid-forties, which is still less than any nation on Earth"

From here:
The average life expectancy for a man living in the downtown eastside is approximately 20 years less than in most other neighbourhoods in the city.
Vancouver surely faces one of its most pressing health and public order challenges in its history. Today the DTES maintains the highest HIV infection rate in North America, affecting as many as 30 per cent of the local population, mainly women; many of them also suffer from Hepatitis C. Public drug use, in particular of cocaine - long recognized as an important driver of the HIV epidemic - is rampant.
Sounds like a pretty fucked up place. 20 years less would put the life expectancy at about 50 or so today.

This article puts the life expectancy at 44. And that's now.
posted by delmoi at 5:52 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Strange article, but an important topic nonetheless. Here's more info on the broader tragedy of Canada's Stolen Sisters and the neglect of police and the media to give it much thought.
posted by ageispolis at 5:53 PM on April 13, 2009

The DTES does dysfunction like only Vancouver can; The cities hippest restaurants intermingled with the worst social problem in North America. To put it into perspective for non-Vancouverites, it's surreal. Entire blocks that appear to be dominated by zombies, yet you (and by you I mean me, a middle class average citizen) are never in danger, you park your car and walk almost anywhere in the area. Anywhere you look your heart will break, but it's okay, because I'm off to the cities newest in spot, where I'll drop a couple hundred bucks for diner. If you stopped and thought about your surroundings, you'd go fetal with despair. The city fathers kind of paint it as progressive progress, the way we (and again by we I mean me) intermingle with all strata of society effortlessly.

It's gentrification without the benefits to the locals of the area.
posted by Keith Talent at 6:02 PM on April 13, 2009 [14 favorites]

[note: on Metafilter someone corrected me. According to the latest stats, Swaziland has a lower average life expectancy, and I wish them luck resolving their civil war and the highest rate of AIDS in the world]


Helloooo Canada!
posted by mwhybark at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

note: on Metafilter someone corrected me.

Well that part's hardly worth noting.
posted by applemeat at 6:17 PM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

I used to be a regular at the Classical Joint when I was 18. You could ask for "dark coffee" and they'd put a slug of whisky in it for you. I spent a lot of time hanging around reading carefully chosen books and hoping that the many handsome older men (i.e. in their early 20s) noticed how intellectual I was. Sadly, it seemed none of them wanted to discuss literature at all; they only wanted to give me back massages. At their place.

About the DTES: It fills me with grief, and I don't know what to say, really. Keith Talent describes it pretty well; it's like Bedlam without walls, but it's also home to a thriving art scene, serious community activism, housing co-ops, community radio, the Carnegie Centre, and Chinatown, as well as the slow but steady pulse of gentrification. On one hand it's a disgrace, on the other it's filled with courage and hard work. It's an object lesson in what happens when you close the asylums and throw the mentally ill on the street, and the dealers and the predators follow. It's a terrible society-wide abandonment; it's also a potent economic event, with millions of dollars a month in aid and welfare streaming into the area and straight into the hands of hotel owners and drug cartels. Much of the city turns a blind eye, and there must be powerful interests that are served by the concentration of so much suffering into one place.
posted by jokeefe at 6:23 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

As soon as he was in the back room, and I mean INSTANTLY, two guys came out of nowhere and asked to talk to me. One, a lanky Old Hippie type, asked, “Willy’s not taking you home, is he?”

I said no, and he replied, “Well, that’s good. Because … not everyone’s nice, you know,” and he walked away. I’ve never seen him since.

Creepy indeed. Makes you wonder how much Old Hippie type knew.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:30 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

"I also know, from my other researches, that serial killers are associated with a particular smell."

Has anyone else ever heard of this?
posted by HopperFan at 6:48 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I often wonder what I’d have done if those men hadn’t warned me; after all, my mother HAD just lectured me about taking more chances with men. If only one girl goes with her instincts next time because she read this or heard about it, the whole thing would have been worth it.

The only difference between this and the endless livejournal genre of women boasting about how they dodged becoming the victim of a serial killer by blowing off the advances of some ugly, awkward guy, is that this one particular, one-in-50-million, ugly, awkward guy just so happened to be a serial killer.

I wouldn't be surprised if lady killers were uglier and more awkward, on average, but I also wouldn't be surprised if the overlap was considerable. Off the top of my head, I can think of more charming examples than not, but that's probably just a media bias towards more charismatic figures.

On the other end, for every weirdo killer there are millions of awkward, balding engineer and computer types just trying to make a connection in the world, who have to face the stigma that men with low charisma are dubious predators.

Do they really have a mythical "serial killer smell," or do they maybe just need to wear more deodorant like people with better social skills?
posted by dgaicun at 7:55 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whoa great post. I've never heard of Robert Pickton, but apparently if you want to kill a bunch of women and keep yourself out of the news make sure you attach a dildo to your killing devices, they won't print that in the paper.

The description is almost dead on the techniques illustrated by "the game" and other pick up artist techniques. He knew everyone, dressed well and had sort of a thing that made him stand out (camera equipment, taking pictures). He was also very, very persistent on closing the deal. I really find this kind of independent social discovery interesting. He's obviously smart, knows what he want and figured out a highly effective way to get girls to "come back to his place in the country." It is really not unlike a good used car salesman. You're not trying to move a Ferrari onto someone who truly appreciates the engineering behind it, you're in it for the numbers and you're constantly trying to bring it back to seal the deal. Furthermore, even though she seems very level headed, if someone came up to me and told me stories about duct taped door handles and a wise old hippie saying "not everyone's nice," I don't think I'd meet them up again, even if it was for professionalism. Obviously something in this charade hooked her enough to continue with the meeting even with the warning signs, and that's what is so fascinating to me.

Oh, and you know what really sends shivers down my spine? She was obviously dressed not like a hooker, drug addicted, mentally disturbed young woman. Old Willie was interested, but it seems that Old Hippie and other creepy guy caught onto the fact that she wasn't one of Willy's easy to forget targets and she'd bring a lot of negative attention to whatever they had going on. Or at least that's what I got from it.
posted by geoff. at 8:17 PM on April 13, 2009 [9 favorites]

There is no serial killer smell. I mean, come on.
posted by Xoebe at 9:11 PM on April 13, 2009

There is no serial killer smell. I mean, come on.
You've obviously never smelled Hai Karate.
posted by isopraxis at 9:17 PM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

certainly any Vancouverite can attest to that.

Agreed. If you haven't walked down Hastings Street between Main and, let's say, Cambie, you probably cannot comprehend the depths of human misery and drug addiction that is present there. I did, frequently, because I worked in a marginally less miserable neighborhood to the east of there when I was starting up my software company, and that was on the way to the bus. Do you want a blowjob for two bucks? No problem. Rock? How much do you want? Relatively healthy hustlers and humans on their last legs, and the whole range in between. It's not a scary place to walk through, even at night, because the denizens are mostly focused on their own reality. But it's the last place you'd want to end up, and it's the place you will end up if everything goes wrong for you.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:23 PM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

There is no serial killer smell. I mean, come on.

Or are you just trying to distract us from that rusty-blood musk that hangs in the air whenever you post?

*clicks furiously at a duct taped back button*
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:54 PM on April 13, 2009 [19 favorites]

If there is some sort of chemical imblance, then it's possible there's a smell. I wouldn't dismiss out of hand someone who said that untreated diabetes had a distinctive smell (I don't know whether it does).

And it might not be an imbalance which causes the killing. It may be that your biochemistry is altered by being involved in these very extreme situations, repeatedly. I could imagine a person's adrenal system being permanently messed up by being in a war zone for instance. After the first world war for instance.

I don't know any of this I'm just intrigued as to whether it might be true.
posted by communicator at 1:23 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

A year or so ago I did a bit of reading about him on and various links, and like a lot of these cases I was just amazed how he didn't get caught earlier. Police are just useless do-nothing morans the world over.

And as for The Sisterhood...

Sorry, I'm not going to go searching for a link, but I'm not making this up. He bought two hookers back to his farm and was starting to act a bit strange and one of them legged it out of there and the other one was stuck and she's like "as I was leaving I could hear her screaming I never saw her again maybe I should have reported it."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:26 AM on April 14, 2009

Re the smell, I read that people who work in morgues develop a certain body odour that is very hard to get rid of. Something about particles of rotting flesh that get inhaled and change the way you smell. I have no idea if it's an urban legend though.
posted by NekulturnY at 2:26 AM on April 14, 2009

"Sounds like a pretty fucked up place. 20 years less would put the life expectancy at about 50 or so today.

"This article puts the life expectancy at 44. And that's now."

My bitch wasn't with the implausibility of of the mid 40s figure. It was the "worst than any nation on earth" part. There are around a dozen nations with lower life expectancies depending on where you want to put the cut off for mid 40s.

Besides it's cherry picking anthe extreme and comparing it against national averages. So not only sloppily inaccurate but sensationalist. Her correction makes the point. She was trying to say the DTES is worse than a civil war torn country experiencing an AIDS epidemic. There are no shortage of those around the globe.

I'm surprised it's so high, must be the old folks home effect. I have a much more mercenary interpretation for that than a conspiracy to raise life expectancies; assuming she has the details of greying of that neighbourhood correct. Senior's housing tends to be in cheap neighbourhoods. As a conspiracy it shows a lot of inter-ministry cooperation to effect a statistic that few are paying attention to (Housing and Social Development is it's own Ministry separate from Health, Social Services and Justice).

I'd be interested to see actual comparative data on neighbourhoods in North America. Does anyone distribute statistics at that level for even Canada and the US?
posted by Mitheral at 4:36 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Between her juvenile, narcissistic writing and her reliance upon anecdote when, if she is to believed, she has physical evidence and journals from that time period I am inclined to interpret this as yet another incidence of internet creative writing. She needs a book deal and an advance so she can rewrite her book about serial killers, too. Yawn.
posted by polyhedron at 5:17 AM on April 14, 2009

I’m also, as any of my readers could tell anyone, an attention whore. This is me; this is a given. I’m going to pimp out my blog posts, whether they’re dead fairies, ridiculous “which STD goes with your complexion” quizzes, or this. I have long since transcended the concept of personal dignity, and for that I will accept the label of tasteless. I earned that, too. But that label will never stop me from promoting this story or any other, just because that’s who I am.

That is to say, this person is capable of many things. Considering she holds this story on the same level as blog posts about STD quizzes and dead fairies I'd say her lack of dignity will embarrass everyone but herself.
posted by polyhedron at 5:35 AM on April 14, 2009

That is to say, this person is capable of many things.

I can't help hearing this in David Caruso's voice.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:09 AM on April 14, 2009

Not as good as Backderf's My Friend Dahmer, even as written by Chuck Klosterman.
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2009

This is a fascinating story. Especially the parts about the distinctive serial killer smell and how much the old hippies may have known. Stories about serial killers always seem so bizarre and otherworldly. It's really interesting to see this creepiest of all dudes portrayed as having once been part of somebody's ordinary reality.

Between her juvenile, narcissistic writing and her reliance upon anecdote when, if she is to believed, she has physical evidence and journals from that time period I am inclined to interpret this as yet another incidence of internet creative writing.

I don't get it. Must everything be a completely objective, third-person academic journal article with footnotes and a bibliography to be worthy?
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:14 PM on April 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

My friend Cyndi Felix was murdered and rendered into pig-food by Robert Pickton, and the disgust I feel on reading this article can't be expressed. I will walk away from this machine before I say something I might regret.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:27 PM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Basically yeah. She's either exploiting a tragedy that she came shockingly close to being involved with, or exploiting one with which she had no involvement. I'd prefer some sort of indicator that she's at least got a somewhat honest motivation for trying to profit off a tragedy that deeply affected many. She's the one literally trying to sell the story.
posted by polyhedron at 6:33 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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