I haven’t finished watching “The Jinx” yet, but I know what happens because I’m a child who can’t stay away from spoilers. The thing is, I knew from the first few minutes of the first episode that Robert Durst was a killer. I think we all knew it. “The Jinx” is so fascinating, though, because of how enigmatic Durst is as a person. He’s weird. He’s awkward, but self-assured at the same time. He’s a rich, arrogant asshole. He’s charismatic. He’s hard to describe.
Plenty of the most famous killers and cult leaders were just as enigmatic as Durst, and they all got just as much press attention as he’s currently getting.
Bundy, who killed at least 30 women in his career as a serial killer, is still considered the most charismatic killer of all time. He was classically handsome and charming. He’d pretend to be injured to ensnare his victims, then brutally murder them. His former coworker, the crime writer Ann Rule, called him “a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another’s pain.” Bundy knew how the system worked and planned his murders to the last detail so he wouldn’t be easily caught; he’d even tweak his appearance ever so slightly.
Bundy sought out attractive young girls, mostly white, and murdered them. Sometimes he’d arrange them or fix their hair and snap photos of them. “They can be anyone you want them to be,” he said of his deceased victims.
During his trials, Bundy was difficult, attempting to control everything around him and causing disruption after disruption. Later, he tried to give advice to others on the topic of serial killers. Bundy was a sadistic mastermind whose true evil will never be forgotten. He was executed in 1989.
Everyone knows of the mystical power of Manson. He so enthralled his followers that they’d do anything for him, even carry out the bloody murders he dreamt up. Manson was a wily, cunning little boy who was getting into big trouble before he hit his teens, and spent a great deal of his life behind bars. He ended up in the Haight, where drugs and the “free love” culture made it easy for him to prey on vulnerable hippie girls. By manipulating them and finding their weak spots, Manson managed to make them fall in love with him and join his “Family.” That Family expanded quickly and in August of 1969, they committed the murders that shocked the world. The Manson trials were the original OJ Simpson trial.
Manson still has a hold on the media. He makes the news constantly, and in watching old interviews with him, it’s hard not to see the intensity in his eyes and voice.
Claus von Bulow
Like Durst, von Bulow grew up with family wealth. His family had noble blood in Denmark. In 1966, von Bulow married heiress Sunny, who was worth about $100 million dollars. After a handful of years, Sunny began experiencing strange symptoms and in 1980, she fell into a coma. Because there had been rumors of marital strife between Claus and Sunny, he was investigated for foul play. A jury found him guilty of trying to murder Sunny by administering a large dose of insulin to her, but he was later acquitted. In the second trial, social figures like Truman Capote testified that Sunny von Bulow had been abusing drugs. Sunny died in 2008. The story captivated the media and it has since been written about extensively and even served as the inspiration for the movie “Reversal of Fortune.”
After spending some time in jail, Applewhite read up on theology and extraterrestrial beings. This led him to eventually found the Heaven’s Gate cult. (If you’re a ‘90s kid, this probably gave you nightmares.) He taught his followers to fear their eventual assassination, keeping them as part of his “flock” by appealing to their fears. He kept his followers secluded from their families in a small compound and told them that alien beings would save them and take them to the “Next Level.”
One of his methods of control stripping his followers of their sexuality; some were castrated. The group committed suicide in 1997 by taking sleeping pills and alcohol. They wrapped bags around their heads and wore Nikes for their trip to the next world. Applewhite’s intense gaze and creepy, almost pleading video message played worldwide. Whenever Durst looks into the camera on “The Jinx,” I’m always reminded of Applewhite.