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 have one of the most terrifying stories you’ve likely never heard of. Today, we talk about Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. Names ring a bell? Didn’t think so. What if I told you they kidnapped people and brought them to the torture bunker that they themselves built and tortured and killed just shy of 30 people? What if I told you they kept detailed written and video logs of it all? Would that be something you’ve never heard of? Not normally, but, for some reason, the story of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng has gone unnoticed by most people outside of true crime fandom.
Leonard Lake and Charles Ng met because they were two ex-marines who shared similar extreme right-wing views of the government. They also were both survivalists who wanted to ‘live off the grid.’ They also happened to both be total sociopaths and likely psychopaths.
The two became fast friends and Lake told Ng about his plan to create the perfect woman. His misogynistic idea was that the perfect woman was 100% compliant with her man. He called her an ‘off the shelf lover,’ meaning he could take her off the shelf, do whatever he wanted to her and then put her back or throw her away when he was done with her. If someone said that to me, I’d call them a monster and tell them just how fucked up that is. When Lake told this to Ng, however, he was all in.
They devised a way to buy a piece of remote property, build an underground bunker that was made for torture, isolation and captivity. It also, of course, had a bed for all the sex. They found the perfect spot, deep in the Sierra Nevadas, about 150 miles outside San Francisco. Two dipshits with criminal records and no resume aren’t exactly rolling in the dough. A plan like this requires a good deal of scratch. So, Ng and Lake made their way to the property slowly, stealing cars, identities and property all along the way to scam others out of money and loans.
Part of how they stole identities was to find people who looked like them, kill them, take their ID’s and info and bury the body. They did this numerous times and, in fact, shoplifting supplies would be their ultimate undoing. They got so used to the whole killing and swapping identities thing, that Lake even killed his best friend (who was best man at his wedding) and his own brother.
Once they had the money, supplies and property, they constructed their murder bunker down to the last detail. And so, what they called Project Miranda (Miranda is the name they gave all women, which ought to be sign number one of their value in Ng and Lake’s eyes) began. They would select a ‘Miranda’ and then take her. Lake would pose as a photographer and suggest they use the remote setting, as it is beautiful in the Sierra Nevadas. Then, when they arrived, they would kill everyone with Miranda, other than her.
Let me unpack that a bit. If a woman is going to hire a photographer for a formal shoot in a mountain location, it isn’t likely going to be for just her. She is going to arrive and want pictures of her and her friend, or boyfriend, or husband, fiancée, family, you name it. It was incredibly rare that one of the women would arrive alone. This means, Ng and Lake killed men, women, children, it didn’t matter. Nothing stood in the way of their twisted fantasies. Remember, the whole point was to completely break a woman until she essentially became a sex robot.
How better to do that than to first kill the people they love? Court documents indicate that Lake once took the infant of a woman, put its head in between his legs and twisted the baby’s body until the neck broke and the baby was all but decapitated. He did this right in front of the child’s mother. Other documents show that Ng also cooked an infant in a wok in front of the family.
Once they were done with the friends or family who came with the woman, Ng and Lake would then torture and rape the ‘Miranda’s for days before ultimately killing them for some slight. They took copious notes and videoed everything. They did so as psychotic pseudo-scientists who believed they were perfecting their craft. In reality, they were just fucking monsters who reveled in their evil. This went on for about a year with police catching not even a whiff of anything going on. Lake and his wife would even film pornos of themselves role playing his work with the Miranda’s and would give people in their swinger groups these porns. How fucked up is that?
No one suspected a thing. Ng was stealing supplies at a hardware store when he was caught. That’s one thing, but his reaction, beating the loss prevention officer half to death, caused the little shoplifting case to become much more serious. Ng immediately snitched on Lake in an attempt to preemptively avoid culpability, claiming Lake did all of it alone. Too bad about all those journals and videos, eh?
Ng and Lake were quickly arrested. On the property they found barrels buried with all the journals and videos, but had no signs any actual murders had taken place, especially considering this was the early 80’s, so they had no way of watching the videos before getting back to the station. They had no real evidence until one of the K9’s walked up with a human spine in its mouth. They found 11 bodies and 40 pounds worth of ash and bone dust. Using the journals and videos they discovered 25 people died at the bunker.
Here’s where the movie version will have to stray from the outcome of the true story. In the true story, Lake hid a cyanide capsule on his person. At the station, before he was even interviewed, he took the pill and killed himself. Ng has never admitted to anything or given a single interview and sits imprisoned in California to this day. Lake’s wife, who was frequently at the dungeon and made those parody porns, faced absolutely no charges of any kind. Not only that, they allowed her to go ‘clean up’ before the police executed the warrant. We have no idea how much evidence she destroyed. Considering the hideousness of their crimes, this is a very unsatisfying ending.
I propose Mark Ruffalo play Lake. It would fit perfectly, as Lake speaks disturbingly calm and casually at all times, even during the horrific torture and murder. He also looked just like Ruffalo did in Foxcatcher. I think a number of people could pull off Ng well, but the person who comes to mind for me is Randall Park. I also think John Cho would kill the role (no pun intended).
This story needs a storyline closer to something Revenge or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. These motherfuckers need a reckoning. While no one escaped, ever, in the true story, I propose we have someone who does. This would be victim doesn’t just run for the hills. Oh no, she recoups and returns to take these bastards down. Maybe the authorities never even learn of it all. The movie just ends with her watching the dungeon burn.
This story has all the elements of an ultimate horror movie: torture, abduction, imprisonment, murder and a murder cabin in the woods. How should we bring these ingredients together? Who should be our victorious Miranda? Who is the right director or screenwriter for it?
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