The Parisian Charles Perrault helped to establish the modern day fairy tale. His novel “Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals,” was written in 1697. Rather than the clean aseptic fairy-tales we have today, his stories read like a horror novel.
In his story “Bluebeard,” a girl is married to a nobleman. She is given freedom of the castle, however she is told by Bluebeard there is one room she must not visit. In typical Pandorian fashion, she breaks the rules and enters the room. To her horror the room is filled with the dead wives that have predeceased her. Needless to say she shuts the door quite quickly; aware of the monster she has married. Bluebeard finds her transgression out and attempts to kill her, but she is saved by her brothers who dispose of Bluebeard in typical triumphant fashion.
There is speculation that this fairy-tale was fashioned out of the life of a real man. Baron Gilles de Rais, who accompanied Joan of Arc in her battle with the British, was hanged and burned in 1440 after a lengthy trial in which he admitted to killing between 8-200 children. Not your typical prototype for a character in a fairy story.
The title of “Bluebeard” was given to another French killer. This time the man fits the profile of his namesake; he even had the uncanny look of the fairy-book character. Henri Desire Landru was in his forties by the time that World War One broke out. An intermittent criminal who earlier married his first cousin, only to leave her and the children to follow a more fulfilling career as a gigolo.
Landru prayed on lonely women through advertisements in the newspaper. He claimed to be a lonely widower with means that was looking for same. In a time in which the country was at war, the widows were ripe for the plucking. Landru, systematically wooed them, hooked them and then killed them. A strangely meticulous note-taker, his journal of the women he had followed in the newspaper and their financial wealth helped to convict him. He killed 11 people; one was the teenage son of his first victim. He is said to have written a letter to his lawyer after he was charged that admitted that he disposed of the bodies in his oven.
Justice was served for this Bluebeard; Landru was guillotined on February 25, 1922. His head is claimed to reside at the Museum of Death in Hollywood.