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The Notorious Landru--Bluebeard of Paris (Part 1.)

Updated on May 1, 2013

He got into touch, usually through matrimonial advertisements, with women, almost invariably widows, who were  possessed of some property....

Many Bluebeards and other mass-murderers, flourished before Monsieur Landru, and not a few have appeared since—the United States has produced several characteristic specimens—but his ill-fame has exceeded that of many of his rivals and competitors, and the bibliography devoted to him has been far more copious.

He has come to be regarded as the arch-type of serial butchers in tact, as Bluebeard is in fiction. Several causes, artificial and natural, contributed to this. Landru was the first great piece of sensational news in the period, and the ears of the world were tickled to hear that all the time they had been killing for country, one sly little fellow had been killing for cash.

There is no doubt that the French authorities deliberately encouraged the Parisian press to " splash " the Landru affair as vigorously as possible, so that, by inoculating the public with what was called " Landru Fever," attention might be distracted from the Peace Conference which was maturing unfavourably for France.

Again Henri Desire was physically almost a freak, and psychically and morally a strange, enigmatic person.

A small, meagre body was topped by a disproportionately, almost completely bald, head, yet dangling from his chin was a great brown wispy beard of which he was ludicrously proud. Such growths came to be known as " Landrus," and in very many cases were hurriedly removed by their owners.

His nose was very long and oddly shaped, the skin stretched almost, it seemed, to breaking point against the bone. His eyes were deep-set, small, flickering -—" Monkey’s Eyes,” as they were well described by a witnesses at the trial.

S0 eccentric was his appearance that he would certainly have been stared after 1n the street in England and though not so strange to French eyes the sister of one of his victims said, " When one has seen that man one never forgets him, for he is like no one else in the world." As for his character, his psychic make-up, it requires some study to distinguish the Landru of deliberately concocted legend from the Landru of fact.

This much is certain, he was an utterly brutal and rapacious monster. He was, within a limited range, cunning and far-seeing, very glib and insinuating, extremely pertinacious and energetic. The French press attempted to establish that he was a brilliant wit, possessed of masterly intelligence, a Lord of Crime, irresistible to all women, who were hypnotized by his brilliant, cavernous eyes. All this is fantastically exaggerated.

He had a certain capacity for impudent repartee, the sign of a superlicially quick brain. He was only found attractive by a very undiscerning and unexacting kind of woman, the middle-aged or elderly widow, bereft and derelict,chafing at her dreary existence, and finding a last solace and hope in rnatrirnonial advertisements. Sharp-eyed and experienced persons of both sexes summed him up quickly as a " Wrong - Un," probably dangerous, and proclaimed the fact, loudly but ineffectually, to their infatuated relatives.

That which will probably secure for the Landru case a permanently prominent place in the annals of criminology is the element of mystery surrounding his crimes.

Why did he choose such victims?

How many were there ?

How did he murder them?

And greatest of all, how did he dispose ` of their bodies ?

We will return to these puzzles later.

Firstly we will sketch his career. Landru was born in 1869 of humble parentage. Whether he inherited a criminal taint from further back is uncertain, but he did not do so from his father or mother. In fact, his father was so horrified at finding he had sired a thief that he killed himself long before his son became an assassin.

Young Landru had a decent elementary education, performed his military service with credit, married, and apparently attempted for a time to earn his living honestly.

But he was eventually swindled out of a deposit which he had put down, and this both souring and inspiring him he took to crime. At first he was merely a petty pilferer, but soon turned his hand to that type of ' racket ‘ which he pursued with great energy till he was finally caught.

He got into touch, usually through matrimonial advertisements, with women, almost invariably widows, who were possessed of some property. lf they were sufficiently gulled he filched that property and disappeared. At his arrest in 1919 the names of 283 women were found amongst his papers.

His advertisements always read somewhat as follows:

" Gentleman, aged 45, unmarried, living alone, possessed of 4ooo francs, wishes to marry a lady of about his own age and circumstances" These he inserted in a big Paris daily. In other words, he was the meanest and lowest type of confidence trickster.

And he was hopelessly unsuccessful. He was first arrested and convicted in 1914 and from then till 1914. he was continually in and out of jail.: so much so that in the spring of the latter year he was condemned by default to banishment to the New Caledonia penal settlement as an habitual criminal.

When war broke out Landru was still on the run, and remained so till April 12th, 1919.

But for the dislocation and impoverishment of the Paris police force he would undoubtedly have been apprehended long before. He was a minor profiteer as he confessed in his famous saying, " The war has ended too soon for me

Landrau's consistent failure to succeed in his chosen career, the realization that that failure was invariably due to the venom of his dupes, the knowledge that the horrors of life- Iong exile would be the consequence of one more failure, turned Landru into a serial~murderer. He saw that if he was to escape life imprisonment he must eliminate the dupe who would otherwise betray him.

Landru Links


Star Trek Landru, an omniscient computer on the planet Beta III, had a near-tyrannical hold on Beta III's people until Captain Kirk put a stop to it. Kirk discovered Landru on ... Related searches for Landru

It was a perfectly logical and sound conclusion; and, having come to it, he almost at once applied it.

Some time in the spring of 1914 Landru had established in connection with a Madame Cuchet, a widow with one son who had applied at his garage for a job.

It should be said that Landru at one time or another owned or rented an amazing number of small places in and around Paris ; lodgings, small houses, " hide-outs ” and garages. And he made use of at least as many as a dozen aliases, " Cuchet," " Petit" Forest," and " Guillet " being his favorites.

He was also, according to his own account, a man of most versatile accomplishments.

He was an engineer, consul, secret agent, inventor, civil servant, manufacturer, sales manager. The garages were only such in name, being used for housing the loot from burglaries; Landru being also in a small way a receiver of stolen goods.

(To Be Continued in Part 2)


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