The true connection between Mindhunter and The Exorcist
With its second season, Mindhunter continues to deliver unnerving – and unnervingly accurate – portrayals of some of the world’s most well-known serial killers. Among the fresh crop of infamous killers is David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper) — a.k.a. the Son of Sam killer — who claimed that he killed six people and injured several more because he was under the influence of his neighbor’s demonically-possessed dog.
Though Berkowitz eventually confessed that his story about demons ordering the killings “was all a hoax,” his portrayal on Mindhunter implies his elaborate possession story may have been inspired by iconic horror movie The Exorcist.
“I was being controlled by a 3,000-year-old demon. People need to know demons are real. The Exorcist is based on actual s—,” he tells FBI Special Agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) during his interview.
While the “actual s—” Berkowitz alludes to is technically of the supernatural vein, there is a shocking true crime story connected to The Exorcist and its notoriously cursed set.
The Son of Sam’s Exorcist reference in Mindhunter serves as foreshadowing for the appearance of murderer Paul Bateson later in the season. Bateson (played by Morgan Kelly on the show) was a New York radiography technician convicted of the murder of Variety film reporter Addison Verrill in 1979. The real Bateson also appeared in The Exorcist, playing a radiologist’s assistant who helps perform an eerily-realistic angiogram, considered by some to be one of the most disturbing scenes in the 1973 horror classic.
Six years after The Exorcist hit the big screen, Verrill was found dead in his apartment. Shortly after, Bateson called Village Voice reporter Arthur Bell, and admitted to hitting the man over the head with a heavy frying pan before stabbing him, because Bateson believed Verrill “hadn’t been reciprocal” in the “sex act” or “soul act” of their relationship.
Bateson is also often attributed to the unsolved New York bag murders, where the dismembered remains of six men were found floating in garbage bags in Hudson River between 1975 and 1977 – which is of interest to the Mindhunter team. Despite the tenuous connection between Bateson and the bag murders, Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle) pushes for an interview because “he told a friend he was the bag murderer and likes to kill” (an argument made by prosecutor William Hoyt during Bateson’s real-life trial). Bateson maintains his innocence for those crimes in real life and on the show, but his Mindhunter interview with Smith and Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) is just as unsettling as you’d expect it to be.