Bourgoin’s tale was more of a complete deconstruction than a house of cards. Some of his lies hardly made sense unless they satisfied his ostensibly irrepressible urge to play a part in dramas unrelated to him.
In 2015, he spoke to high school students and screened a film of his conversation with the murderer Donald Harvey, who was present with his longtime lawyer William Whalen.
Described By Bourgoin
Whalen was described by Bourgoin as “a very close friend of mine.” “Whenever he came to Europe, he stayed at my apartment in Paris,” he said to the pupils. He tragically took his own life last year and stated in his suicide note that he could never reconcile the fact that he had supported a murderer like Donald Harvey.
Whalen was a “new victim” of Harvey’s, Bourgoin decided. Whalen’s family informed me that they had never heard of Bourgoin, that Whalen had never left North America, and that Whalen was ultimately “extremely proud of defending Donald Harvey” and a great supporter of the American legal system.
Even the 4ème il created a psychological sketch that was reminiscent of the serial killer profiles Bourgoin had titillated the public with: “The typical mythomaniac is frail, vulnerable to a significant dependence on others, and his imagining faculties of are amplified tenfold. Whatever his characteristics, he frequently falls victim to his imaginative tales, which he finds difficult to distinguish from reality.
The group referred to Bourgoin as a “voleur de vie” or life thief. The group said that it was not accusing Stéphane Bourgoin of being an assassin. By a voleur de vie, we imply a person who takes bits and pieces from the lives of others.
Jailhouse Interview Served as a Master Class
The longer most cons last, the harder it is to maintain them, but Bourgoin’s was deftly self-sustaining. He was able to acquire the experience he lacked thanks to his lies, and every jailhouse interview served as a master class in deceit. By faking his way into jails and police academia, Bourgoin eventually succeeded in becoming a serial killer expert.
Bourgoin has received multiple rights of reply from the 4ème il, but he has never addressed the organisation directly. The closest he got was when he hired a lawyer who, citing copyright and privacy concerns, was able to get the group’s YouTube videos taken down.
Less Active on Social Media
Bourgoin made the decision to move to a private group and shut down his public Facebook page in February 2020. Although it has around 3,000 users, its administrators blocked me while I was reporting this story.
He announced that he would be less active on social media, but only so that he could devote all of his time and resources to “the most important project of my life,” the specifics of which he did not mention.
He mentioned that he was being pursued by “bitter and jealous” people and that he has been the focus of a “campaign of cyberbullying and abuse on social media.” He asserted that their actions were similar to those of those who snitched on their neighbours under Marshal Pétain’s collaborationist rule.
He spoke to Emilie Lanez of Paris Match three months later as pressure on Bourgoin grew in the French media. The title asked, “STÉPHANE BOURGOIN, SERIAL LIAR?” He confesses in agreement. The story was sympathetic, mentioning Bourgoin’s
“phenomenal expertise” and the respect he enjoyed within law enforcement, and portraying his lies as an unfortunate incident to an otherwise respectable career. Bourgoin appeared unpredictable, shifting between sobbing and being casual, regretting the gravity of his lies before laughing them off as “bullshit” or “jokes.”
Even as he relieved himself of his burdens, Bourgoin was creating more turmoil. For instance, the report claimed that Susan Bickrest, who was killed by a serial murderer in 1975 in Daytona Beach, was actually Eileen. Bickrest was portrayed in the paper as a bartender and aspiring cosmetologist who used sex labour to augment her income.
She and Bourgoin had “four or five” encounters before her death, and he had made her into his wife “because he didn’t want anyone to know that he’d been helping her out financially,” according to a report. Even a quick scan at photos of the two women indicated that, except from having blonde hair, they didn’t seem anything alike. The dates of Bickrest’s death and the arrest of her killer also didn’t match those in the Eileen narrative.
Amid order to separate true from untrue in the chaos of his remarks, “we meticulously untangled the strands day after day,” Lanez wrote. I discovered that confronting Bourgoin’s lies may have an oddly creative effect, encouraging the same shaky speculation in those who attempted to interpret them as they were trying to avoid it. People noted that Étienne Jallieu was almost anagrammatic of the French phrase “J’ai tué Eileen”—”I killed Eileen.”
(The town of Bourgoin-Jallieu, close to Lyon, is a more likely derivation.) In his adult-film days, Bourgoin assumed the alias John Walsh, according to a biography of him that was at the end of an old, occasionally undated interview. Although John Walsh is a fairly famous name, he also served as “America’s Most Wanted” host for a number of years. In 1981, Walsh’s six-year-old son was killed in Florida; in 2008, Ottis Toole, the vagrant with whom Bourgoin had a joke about barbecue sauce, was identified as the child’s killer.
Could Bourgoin have imitated Walsh by reinventing himself as a victim’s family member? Or was his ambition to get close to mass murder the result of his work on John Holmes’ movies? Holmes was eventually tried for and found not guilty of the alleged Wonderland murders of 1981.
Every time I felt I was making progress with Bourgoin’s plot, a tiny crack would appear and lead me into a different rabbit hole. For instance, the Paris Match piece claimed with exceptional detail that Bourgoin had resided on the eleventh floor of an apartment building on 155th Street in New York in the 1970s. In a previous Facebook post, Bourgoin had provided a similar location and stated that he had “lived in New York at the time of the Son of Sam’s crimes.” I suddenly remembered that post.
It turned out the address was a little different: 155 East Fifty-fifth Street. I keyed it into a database out of curiosity. The first result was a Times article from 1976, the year Son of Sam was released, that labelled a flat at the address as a “midtown house of prostitution.”
155 East Fifty-Fifth Street was “the renowned, or should I say infamous, apartment building where I began off as the joyful hooker,” in the early 1970s, according to Xaviera Hollander, a former sex worker who now owns a bed and breakfast in Amsterdam. However, she had no recollection of Bourgoin.
According to Hollander, the structure was formerly known as the “horizontal whorehouse,” and “every storey contained one or two hookers.” When I eventually tracked down the owner of flat 11-H, where Bourgoin was purported to have resided, he informed me that Beau Buchanan had rented the space back in 1976. Buchanan, a producer and director of pornographic films, passed away in 2020. He may have easily known Bourgoin, but did Bourgoin actually live there, or did he just adopt Buchanan’s address?
The photograph of Bourgoin and the woman he had identified as Eileen appeared to have been taken on one of the film sets he had worked on in the 1970s, based on the historical attire and the expert composition.
The 4ème il was very certain that Dominique Saint Claire, a well-known adult film star of the time, was Eileen. I separately had a suggestion from a porn expert that Eileen might be Saint Claire, but after looking at the online images of Saint Claire, I wasn’t persuaded. (I was unable to get in touch with Saint Claire.)
In search of any hints of Eileen, I watched a dizzying array of movies from the time period and called a number of former actors—one of whom was a producer of traditional and erotic chocolates. The films that Bourgoin directed are really difficult to get, but Jill C. Nelson, a John Holmes biographer, volunteered to send me a DVD of “Extreme Close-Up” from her own collection.
It’s a love triangle narrative in which an American writer “is lured into a realm of European sexual delights where fiction combines with reality,” according to the DVD’s jacket blurb. I paid close attention to the movie and once stopped a moment involving an open-mouthed orgasm to look for a snaggletooth, but none of the women resembled the one in Bourgoin’s photos.
Early in March, I made a call to Bourgoin from a street corner in a little town on the southwest coast of France, close to his current residence. He had never responded when I had previously tried to get in touch with him, so I wasn’t expecting him to. But to my amazement, he picked up and gave me his address right away.
A few miles down the road, I discovered him outside a modest home with orange tiled roof and voile curtains decorated with teapot appliqués and gingham trim. He was wearing quirky green shoes.
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I was invited inside by Bourgoin. As he prepared the coffee, I observed that his knife rack resembled a human body with blades sticking out at various areas, including the forehead, heart, and groyne. We finally took a seat at a little table in the sunroom. He didn’t seem perturbed by my unexpected presence; in fact, he appeared to be waiting for someone to arrive.