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These Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers are sure to send chills down your spine. There is nothing quite like hearing the story of a serial killer, and Criminal Minds always does an excellent job of retelling the story of criminals. What better concept for a show than reality?
As a way to remind us of the reality of the evils of our world, each episode follows a new concept of a murderer who has left their mark on history forever.
"The Big Wheel" – The Lipstick Killer
First on our list of the Criminal Minds episodes based on real-life serial killers is "The Big Wheel." The episode follows the team as they track down a killer who has obsessive-compulsive tendencies in his acts of murder. The killer targets blonde women and when the police take on the case, he leaves them messages, asking them to stop him. They even receive a video from the serial killer going about his day and murdering a victim.
This is similar to the Lipstick Killer, or William Heirens, because he too wrote the police a message, but his being in lipstick. The message said "For heaven's sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself," on the wall of the victim's apartment.
"The Tribe" – Manson Family
Based on the Manson family, Episode 16 of season one was one of the best Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers. Named "The Tribe," the episode follows a pack of killers who use Native American rituals to change the public opinion of Native Americans by framing their murders.
This is a similar concept to the Manson Family cult because the cult believed in creating a race war between white and black people. As a way to start the war, they committed several murders.
"Omnivore" – The Zodiac Killer
The Criminal Minds episode, "Omnivore" is based on the Zodiac Killer, more specifically the Zodiac Killer's notes that included codes. As an attempt to bargain with the police, the killer in the episode is referred to as The Reaper, a murderer who has resumed his killing spree after 10 years of being inactive.
In his notes to the police, he asks the police to stop hunting him, and in return, he would stop murdering. In code, the two killers are very similar and portrayed similar messages in each of their communications with the authorities.
"Riding the Lightning" – Fred and Rose West
Next on our list of the Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers is "Riding the Lightning," which is based on Fred and Rose West. The episode follows the team of investigators as they have already captured the serial killer husband and wife. Their execution date is set in two days, and the investigators interview the two.
The two are responsible for 13 murders of teenage girls as well as their young son. Similar to Fred and Rose West, the Wests were known for abusing and killing 10 women in their home, as well as murdering their two children.
"25 to Life" – Jeffrey MacDonald
Episode 11 of season six of Criminal Minds is "25 to Life," an episode that follows Don Sanderson, a man who has served 25 years in prison for murdering his daughter and wife. Agent Morgan interviews the man as he sticks to his story of being innocent, and that he was sleeping when intruders broke into his home and murdered his family.
This is very similar to the real life case of Jeffrey MacDonald. MacDonald was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters, however, he still to this day insists that he is innocent and that intruders broke into his home while he was sleeping on the couch. However, the episode has a much happier ending for Sanderson than for our real life suspected killer, as Sanderson is found innocent, while MacDonald still remains in prison.
"Natural Born Killer" – Richard Kuklinski
"Natural Born Killer" is based on Richard Kuklinski, a member of the mafia as well as a contract killer. Claimed to have murdered over 100 people, he was only convicted of five.
As one of the most interesting Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers, "Natural Born Killer" follows an investigation of a murder of a couple and their nephew, which was soon discovered to be a mob hit. The serial killer is the leader of the mafia and has killed close to 100 people.
"To Hell... And Back" – Robert Pickton
As a very disturbing episode of Criminal Minds, "To Hell... And Back" follows the investigation of a serial killer who targets prostitutes, the homeless, and junkies. However, this isn't all. The killer is also discovered to decapitate the victims and feed their bodies to the pigs on the farm.
Based on the serial killer, Robert Pickton, the killer was known for murdering drug addicts and prostitutes. And being a wealthy pig farmer, he also did feed a few of the bodies to the pigs on his property.
"Blood Hungry" – Richard Trenton Chase
Next on our list of the top Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers is based on a killer who preserved the bodies of his victims and ate the organs, parts of their bodies, and drank their blood. This happened in 1978 within one month.
The killer in the episode "Blood Hungry" is known solely to preserve and eat the victim's organs, but it is based on Richard Trenton Chase, who did some of the most disgusting acts in the history of serial killers.
"Unfinished Business" – BTK
BTK, (Blind, Torture, Kil,) or Dannis Rader is the serial killer that Criminal Minds episode "Unfinished Business" is about. In the episode, a killer that has been inactive for years suddenly sends a news station a letter, which encloses information about an old crime he committed, as well as a new one.
He also includes the driver's license of the old victim as well as a photo. This is based on Dennis Rader because he too sent a news station a driver's license after a long hiatus from killing.
"Minimal Loss" – David Koresh
Last, but not least, on our list of the Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers is "Minimal Loss." The episode follows both Reid and Prentiss as they go undercover to investigate an underground cult. They first were tipped off by a 911 call from a young girl who was being sexually abused in a church. The cult is based on David Koresh's cult.
Though he wasn't necessarily a serial killer, the criminal was found to have locked his cult members in their compound as the police attempted to raid the building, much like the episode. Under investigation for rape and child abuse, the FBI entered the compound and 80 members of the cult were killed after a fire broke out.