In a Nutshell
Gilles de Rais, an aristocrat and one of the most powerful men in France, was the first serial killer in history. In the 15th century he murdered over 100 young boys raping them before and after the fact. He was inspired by the occult and tried to summon demons. In his younger years he was a close friend and companion in battle of St Joan of Arc.
The Whole Bushel
Gilles de Rais is considered to be the precursor to the modern serial killer. Before he began his killing spree, he rode as a military captain in the army lead by St Joan of Arc. He was accused and ultimately convicted of torturing, and murdering dozens, if not hundreds, of young children, mainly boys. According to surviving accounts, Rais lured children, mainly young boys who were blond haired and blue eyed (as he had been as a child), to his residences, and raped, and mutilated them. He and his accomplices would then set up the severed heads of the children in order to judge which was the most fair.
The precise number of Rais’s victims is not known, as most of the bodies were burned or buried. The number of murders is generally placed between 80 and 200; a few have conjectured numbers upwards of 600. The victims ranged in age from six to eighteen and included both sexes. Although Rais preferred boys, he would make do with young girls if circumstances required. At the transcript of the trial, one of Gilles servants Henriet (an accomplice to his crimes) described the actions of his master, which were essentially:
“Henriet soon began to collect children for his master, and was present whilst he massacred them. They were murdered invariably in one room at Machecoul. The marshal used to bathe in their blood; he was fond of making Gilles do Sillé, Pontou, or Henriet torture them, and he experienced intense pleasure in seeing them in their agonies. But his great passion was to welter in their blood. His servants would stab a child in the jugular vein, and let the blood squirt over him. The room was often steeped in blood.
When the horrible deed was done, and the child was dead, the marshal would be filled with grief for what he had done, and would toss weeping and praying on a bed, or recite fervent prayers and litanies on his knees, whilst his servants washed the floor, and burned in the huge fireplace the bodies of the dead children. With the bodies were burned the clothes and everything that had belonged to the little victims. An insupportable odor filled the room, but the Maréchal do Retz inhaled it with delight”