There are many iconic killers in the history of horror. From Freddy to Michael to Norman Bates, icons abound. Many of these infamous killers are based on true killers in the real world. Whether it is a straight up adaptation of their story, like in Gacy, or one’s that are a re-imagining the true story, as in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They make great adaptation material because, well, they’re creepy as hell.
But there are tons of creeps that have not received the big screen treatment that seem ripe for an adaptation. In this series we explore some of the spooky kooks out there whose story would make for one hell of a horror adaptation. Help us cast our dream (or nightmare) hypotheticals.
Today we get down and dirty with Robert “Willy” Pickton. Despite being a horrifying and prolific serial killers of all time, nearly no one outside of true crime fandom and the Vancouver metro area seems to have heard of him. There are many serial killers who fly under the radar, but none do so with the body count and pure cruelty of Willy Pickton. With only two books written about his crimes and one Canadian made for TV movie, I think it’s high time we give the piggy palace the spotlight it deserves.
The reason, in my humble opinion, Willy does not get much attention is sexism. All of Pickton’s victims were women and not just women, but women in the sex trade. Male dominated western society treats these women as subhuman and expendable. If people like Gary Ridgway and Willy Pickton are killing them off, well, that’s bad and all, but hardly that big of a deal, right? It’s a disgusting view, but one you will see throughout the Pickton case.
For example, at the peak of his spree all the missing persons reports for all the provinces of Canada did not amount to a tenth of the missing person reports coming out of just the Vancouver area. Did this prompt massive attention and police investigation? Nope. Why? Because most of the missing people were female sex workers and the police took the misogynistic view that they probably just ran off or fell victim to their lifestyle. Even when Pickton confessed to murdering 49 people, the judge tossed all but six of the cases, saying so many murders would confuse a jury and clog up the system for too long. That means over 40 murders have no accountability because the male dominated justice system did not deem them worth the time.
While this is truly horrible, it also would make for a great film that could highlight some of the sexism inherent in the system. A director with an eye for female empowerment and tackling some of these themes would be best. I’m thinking someone like David Fincher, Sean Byrne or Jovanka Vuckovic. Here are the basics of the Willy Pickton story:
Willy grew up on a pig farm outside Vancouver, BC that was run by his family. The Picktons were known in the area as purveyors of one of the largest pig farms and slaughterhouses in the area and as some of the most disgusting people on earth. They lived mired in filth. They never bathed, never took off their boots and let animals roam free inside, no matter the size or species. When police later entered the home, they found feces and mud smeared on nearly every surface, including things like tables, walls and even the ceiling. Can you even imagine the smell? Can you imagine the bugs and critters crawling everywhere?
The property attracted the worst sort of crowd too, being a spot for Hell’s Angels bikers, drug traffickers and all the other criminal element in town. They called it the Piggy Palace and it was a place to get down and dirty. They threw parties, cockfights and fed everyone. More on that last bit later. Little did everyone know that while the slaughterhouse was a rockin’, murder was afoot.
No one seemed to have any idea this level of evil was going down, despite the place looking like a production designer had created it for some horror film’s killer’s lair. Willy Pickton was seen by all as a very strange, disgusting smelling man, but a harmless halfwit, not a criminal mastermind. This changed a bit in 1997 when he brought home a woman named Wendy Eistette. He pumped her full of drugs and paid her for sex. After the sex, she noticed weird restraints and weapons in the kitchen. Suddenly Willy was behind her and trying to force her into handcuffs. She grabbed one of the nearby knives and stabbed him in the face hard enough to cut off part of his jaw and some of his teeth. He pulled the knife out of his face and cut her stomach open.
Being the strong woman she was, she ran for it and made it to a neighbor’s house, who described that she was running with some of her intestines hanging out of her abdomen. Despite all this, Pickton was never charged with anything. Why? Because he said she was a doped up prostitute who attacked him when he tried to stop her from robbing him. They believed the man and dismissed the woman’s claims.
It wasn’t until 2002 that they discovered he was the monster she described. Five years and dozens of murders later, the police executed a search warrant of the property on weapons allegations. When they did, they discovered bodies hanging from hooks, a pile of scalps in a slaughter room that also included buckets of guts and piles of women’s clothes, bags and jewelry.
As it turns out, for decades Willy Pickton had picked up sex workers, brought them home, drugged and fucked them and then slaughtered them. He slaughtered them exactly as he would a pig. He strung them up, gutted them and then put their bodies on a butchering table. He would then remove the hair, as it gets caught in the saw blade, and saws them in half from top to tail. From there he would butcher them and serve the parts largely to his pigs. As there were hundreds of pigs on the property, this meant all that would remain of them would be tiny bits mixed into the pig feces. It took the Canadian government just under two years and nearly $70 million to sift through all the soil and feces on the property for bone fragments. This is one of the times in which Willy’s disgustingness actually paid off. He had never drained or cleaned the waste system on the property and, as such, decades worth of the pig shit of hundreds of pigs was all still there. God bless the Canadian law enforcement with that sifting job, Jesus.
The slaughter of these women was only the beginning. Remember when I said he butchered them the same way he did the pigs? Well, that involves more than the slaughter. He fed things like guts and meat to the pigs. The hair and bones he brought to a rendering plan nearby. A rendering plant takes things like bones and hair of animals and converts it into gelatin, which is used in a ton of products from candy to make up to any number of cosmetic items. This means it is very likely the remains of these victims ended up in things like lipstick and gummy bears that people actually used and consumed.
Think that’s the worst of it? Oh no. The more ‘usable’ meat was ground into things like sausage and ‘ground pork’ and given away. They actually had a charity they ran that gave food to orphanages. They served human remains mixed with pork to guests of the piggy palace, neighbors, sold it to stores and gifted it to foster kids. How fucked up can you get?
In the end we have a story of a filthy, smelly wretch who runs a pig farm and slaughterhouse covered floor to ceiling in feces. This same wretch for decades would bring women to the property that would never leave. At least, they wouldn’t leave the way they came. If they left it was in the belly of a pig or wrapped in sausage casing.
This story has all the ingredients for a truly horrific, terrifying tale with some commentary that is very relevant and topical. I think it could make for a truly great horror story. Maybe the story is told largely from one of the women who helped take him down or one of the officers from the RCMP who actually worked to crack the case. Both options would have to stray from the original story, as neither occurred and the case was solved more through luck than anything.
Who would play our leads? Who would be the women? Pickton’s mother was so foul smelling and looking that people in town were afraid of her. Who could pull off this figure? Maybe Helena Bonham Carter? Who is our cop? Most importantly, who is Pickton? He was a skinny, dimwitted man who was clearly a disgusting monster. For whatever reason, Doug Jones comes to mind for me here. He is so good and could easily adapt to a character like this. Who do you think is best for these roles and to direct?
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