Date with a Devil

Willy Pickton trial cast of characters

Hello again, Metafilter! You might be interested in the somewhat shorter version of this I wrote for The Guardian. And please support my (doomed) campaign to become Canada’s Governor-General.

And hello again, haters! Hate clicks are clicks, remember! Thanks for the boost!

Willy Pickton is Canada’s most horrific serial killer. He’s been convicted of 6 counts of murder, and could face quite a few more [although a concerned friend notes that technically, Clifford Robert Olsen has been convicted of more, so I changed “prolific” to “horrific”; I am not sure the distinction between 6 murders and 11 is a matter of libelous character assasination, but whatevs, here’s your correction]. But the DNA (and by DNA I mean chunks, basically) of over 80 different women have been found on his farm. This month, he’s appealing his sentence (surely the only time in his adult life Willy Pickton has been appealing) and thus I am reminded of the following, the time he tried to make me a notch in his wood chipper.

My story is relatively simple, and happened long before anyone said the words ‘serial killer’ in the neighborhood. By the way, I live on the Downtown Eastside, about two blocks from one of the corners on which he picked up his victims. According to Statistics Canada, in the 90’s the average life expectancy here was 33, because of drugs, disease, and violence (mostly the first two). The government’s response was to give massive breaks to old folks’ homes, so they’d move in and raise the average. There are three on my block, each an apartment building of several stories. A statistical game, to make the neighborhood look better. It’s now in the mid-forties, which is still less than any nation on Earth [note: on Metafilter someone corrected me. According to the latest stats, Swaziland has a lower average life expectancy, and I wish them luck resolving their civil war and the highest rate of AIDS in the world; depending which site you pick, there are a varying selection of other national suspects as well, few of whom are on major tourist routes], and testament to the fact that even stuffing the bell curve with little old ladies can’t hide a real problem.

Anyway, one night back in the 80’s I was a struggling freelancer looking for a story. The Classical Joint was closing; it was an old jazz club that everyone had played in, from Bessie Smith on up, and I figured, what with editors all being middle-aged, a story about the last night of the Classical Joint would be saleable, so I grabbed my notebook, put on a black turtleneck and jeans, and went. It was packed with regulars all getting weepy on whiskey in teapots (no liquor license, very speakeasyish), and as I was taking notes I saw an ugly dude who seemed to know everyone running around taking pictures with a very expensive bunch of camera equipment. Figured pictures would make the article more tempting to an editor, I flagged him down and asked him if he’d be interested in collaborating, provided the pix turned out well.

Guess who it was!

Well, he was delighted, and boasted that he’d been published several times (got the feeling he hadn’t been paid for it) and would be happy to call me when the pix were developed. I suddenly didn’t feel like it was such a good idea to give him my number, and asked for his instead. He didn’t like that, and kept hammering me for my phone number, turning on as much charm as he could muster and nattering on about his “place in the country”.

That’s what he called it. I must have looked preppy that night, I guess.

That morning, my mother had been telling me to get out more, meet more men, say yes more, take more chances. I looked at Willy and thought “you are not the chance my mother would want me to take.”

Anyway, eventually he realized he wasn’t getting my number, gave me his, said they’d be done by Wednesday, and invited me to the back room, where he implied weed was to be had, among other things. I declined, and off he went. Thank god, because while he was at my table the waitresses gave us both the fish eye and wouldn’t come over.

As soon as he was in the back room, and I mean INSTANTLY, two guys came out of nowhere and asked to talk to me. One, a lanky Old Hippie type, asked, “Willy’s not taking you home, is he?”

I said no, and he replied, “Well, that’s good. Because … not everyone’s nice, you know,” and he walked away. I’ve never seen him since.

The second fellow, a black-haired, bearded guy, sat down and told me several horror stories, the only one of which I can remember is that the passenger door on Willie’s car had no handle on the inside, it was duct taped over. The other two stories were so outrageous I put them out of my head immediately; of course, I’d kill to – okay, bad choice of words. I’d love to remember them now.

Cut to Wednesday. I phoned Willy; he was hard to get ahold of, but we did set a meeting at Tiger’s Cafe for 2pm. I was no fool, so I asked my friend D to swing by at four so there’d be a definite endpoint to the occasion. I don’t know if Willy was hoping it was going to be a date or not, but I was determined to head that off at the pass, although not before I’d gotten the pictures. So head it off at the underpass?

He was late, and when he did show up, in the empty cafe many things became apparent that hadn’t been before. One: he was a snappy dresser. Honestly, he had a Tattersall shirt, patterned Fair Isle vest, and some very good wide-wale corduroy pants with pleats, all in shades of rust, green and taupe. Expensive shoes. He’d put some thought into it, and it worked well with his rusty hair and fair skin. He was not the tanned kind of farmer.

Two: he stank to high heaven. My family has farms, I know what pigs and pig farming smell like, and I know what a shower can do for that. I also know, from my other researches, that serial killers are associated with a particular smell. Willie didn’t smell like pigs, he smelt like something that is nearly impossible to describe. If metal could rot, that would be the smell of it; it was tangy, it seemed charged with negative ions, it nearly made my eyes water, and it was physically repulsive in the extreme.

Three: he thought a bit of hash was all it took to impress me, because he brought out a hash doobie and waved it around for the entire two-hour period. Two hours which he spent blocking my attempts to get information, and trying to talk me into coming out to his “place in the country.” He told me he knew everyone on the DTES, had the most wonderful stories, thousands and thousands of wonderful neighborhood stories, really saleable magazine-style stories, but alas! Without his mementos (his word!) which were all out at the Place in the Country, he couldn’t remember them. No, he couldn’t begin to tell me those stories, not even one. I should come out to the Place in the Country. We could have a barbeque.

It went on and on. The pictures were good, not great; you can see better party pix on Flickr any day now, but at the time eyes were not so sophisticated, nor did cameras compensate for stupidity the way they do now, so his photos were perfectly acceptable in terms of quality. In terms of subject matter, they weren’t: I wanted a crowd shot, a band shot, dancers, something. Nada. All the pictures, and there were many, were of women. Nothing but women. I chose a picture of the blonde waitress and a pic of the redheaded waitress, and said I’d get back to him with what the editor said. He seemed quite pleased at that, but immediately launched back into the Place in the Country rant.

By the way, I’m an egotist, especially when it comes to brains, but I can tell you Willy Pickton struck me as a man who was at least as smart as I was. He is a very, very intelligent man, and don’t let anyone tell you different. If I hadn’t been constitutionally aloof and put on my guard (however skeptically) by those two guys at the nightclub, I could have ended up as a victim. It was only that I was watching for him to pull something that protected me. When I saw him doing it, I felt superior. But I can’t claim it’s because I was some genius.

Eventually my friend D showed up, took one look, and said “We’ve got to go right now. Everyone is waiting.” Of course, there was no “everyone” but Willy didn’t know that. Dolores is just a very, very smart girl.

So we shook hands and D and I left, walking up the street six blocks to a diner. We were there about a half hour when she said, “Don’t look up now, but he’s circling the building.”

He was. He circled that building for two hours, trying to hide in the crowd on the sidewalk, then cutting through the parking lot to go around again and again. We spent quite some time figuring out what to do (we were all on a Nancy Drew kick; the idea of calling the cops and complaining was not an option we considered) and eventually we made our move. I went to the washroom, grabbing our coats on the way. When I came out, D met me at the door after Willie turned into the parking lot, and we both ran for it. Grabbed the first bus we saw and ended up at the opposite end of the city, where we hung out for a couple of hours and then went home by indirect routes, changing buses twice. Oh, we thought we were super spies.

Hella long post, eh? Hope it’s entertaining. Cuz there’s more.

A few years ago I was sitting at my father’s and some dude appeared on the news. “I know that man,” I said, just as the announcer said, “has just been arrested on fifteen counts of murder.”

My father looked at me. “And how do you know this man?” he asked, in his I-am-trying-to-keep-my-shit-together voice.

“He was that weirdo I told you about, at the old Classical Joint when I tried to sell the story. He tried to talk me into going with him to his Place in the Country, and a couple of guys warned me he was a real freak.” The story, by the way, never sold.

As far as my father was concerned, that was it. He was calling the cops. I told him it was fourteen years ago and no laws were broken, but he called anyway. The RCMP did interview me, and I picked him out of a photo lineup (it’s amazing to me where they found that many men who looked like Willy Pickton. Eight other balding gingers with alcoholic faces). At one point one of the officers said, “It’s too bad you don’t still have that notebook,” and of course being me I handed it to her, along with the two pictures. I got the notebook back, but they still have the photo of one of the waitresses.

So that’s the story of how I met Willy. Ironically, when he was arrested I was working on assignment for a website, covering the Missing Women case. I have a book manuscript, Terminal City: Vancouver’s Missing Women, that has to be completely re-written, but frankly it freaked me out so much that I’ve been holding off on updating it. I should, though. Sent it to some agents and while they liked it, they were all looking for something more like “The White City”. They are looking for a Willy Pickton bio, which this isn’t: it focuses on the women and the victimization inherent in the city, an Nietzschean idea. To Vancouver’s credit, it’s since changed. Charges brought by prostitutes are no longer thrown out as “coming with the territory.”

So that’s something.

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126 thoughts on “Date with a Devil

  1. My heart jumped in my chest as I read that. Your description of him is incredible and frightening. It should be common sense, but that man’s advice ““… not everyone’s nice, you know,”” is advice that a lot of people should take to heart. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. You’re very welcome. I often wonder what I’d have done if those men hadn’t warned me; after all, my mother HAD just lectured me about taking more chances with men. If only one girl goes with her instincts next time because she read this or heard about it, the whole thing would have been worth it.

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  4. Yes, they really were angels. And you know something; if my mother were still alive, I probably wouldn’t have posted this, because she’d feel terrible for having said what she did. Which was just what a mother with a bookish daughter would have said, but it’s the context that is the crux here.

  5. Ripping story, Rain. I hope you come out with that book, though it sounds like you have another one related to it in you.

    Do they really all smell bad, or just those that live with pigs? In The Stranger Beside Me, the book telling of how the author came to be friends with Ted Bundy without being one of his victims, a smell was never mentioned.

    What strikes me in the difference between Bundy and Pickton. Bundy was actually good-looking and not outwardly repellant at all. I bet Pickton was very jealous of him.

  6. Thanks, I am working up the courage to tackle a rewrite, but it’d have to be a total rewrite, and poof, there goes my lovely, extensively researched chapter on Possible Suspects. That took me months!

    A rewrite would, admittedly, be a lot easier to face if I had an advance. I’m cheap!

    You’re probably right about Pickton being jealous of Bundy. I have a theory about Pickton that I haven’t typed out, may never type out. I think the people who should know already do and have made their deals and their peace with god. But there’s so much that isn’t said about this case, so much more to it. How far do you go? We’ve got him for life. He’ll never get out. Is that enough? Do we need to know exactly what happened?

    And yes, in the sorority attack that Bundy made, a survivor mentioned his smell. Not all of them have it, but some do. Maybe it doesn’t manifest except when they’re hunting?

    This is an interesting post:

  7. I’ve always associated that tangy metallic sweat smell (and it really is vile) with fear. Though perhaps it’s something to do with too much adrenaline, which could come from either fear or excitement. The thrill of the hunt? Risk of getting caught?

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  9. Holy shit! What an intensely creepy story, Rain! I got the willies reading it. Thank God those two guys came over and gave you a heads up.

    But a couple of things…

    1. They put an old folks home in the DTES to raise life expectancy stats? Seriously? What twat came up with that idea? It sounds so typical of the BC government!

    2. So, this defense argument of Pickton’s lawyer that he has limited intelligence (or however they word it) is basically a load of cow tripe? HMPH!

    The whole Pickton trial thing is a total tick off, IMO. This has been going for years, costing tax payers millions, and now he’s appealing? It’s ridiculous. And don’t get me started on Kelly Ellard. Both of these cases really challenge my confidence in our justice system (as did the Air India debacle).

  10. Incredible story. I watch a lot of cold case files, and police shows on TV, and this sounded just like one of them. Those two men in the bar did you an amazing favor.

  11. 1) there are four (nope, six!) old folk’s homes in a one-block radius of my house, and they’re all high rises.

    2) complete tripe. It’s the brother that’s the dope.

    And yes, I wish I could thank those two guys. If not for them, who knows? At the time I thought they were blowing smoke.

  12. In my case, it was my scout leader back when I was 13. We’d nicknamed him Centipede, partly because it rhymed with his last name, partly because he had an extreme phobia about bugs, and partly because he seemed to have as many fingers as a centipede has legs.

    We were always careful never to be alone around him as he was downright creepy and had the same tangy, metallic, sweaty smell you describe. He enjoyed camping, although in his case it was more like lurking in the woods, but took obsessive precautions to prevent bugs getting on his skin.

    My family moved house, which meant a change of Scout packs, and I thought that was it, Centipede was just a lingering bad smell in my memory.

    Until the day some years later when I read in a newspaper that he’d been arrested for the particularly vile murder of two teenage boys whose bodies had been dumped by a roadside.

    I also discovered that other scout leaders had had concerns about him, but he’d always been too wily and too careful to be caught out—until it was too late.

    I followed the trial with interest and was relieved when he was convicted, but I’ve often wondered if he had other victims.

    As a journalist, I’ve interviewed some distasteful, vile and violent people but Centipede had that something extra that sends shudders down your spine even years later.

  13. Oh my god, that sounds textbook. The Scouts have a lot to answer for, as the Catholic Church does. Murder doesn’t spring from thin air: there is almost invariably a history of abuse leading up to that, an escalation of the violence. In Willy’s case, it was for sexual thrills.

  14. In Centipede’s case, he gave the impression that he got his kicks out of terrifying people, inflicting pain on them and seeing them suffer. He delighted in the “accidental” poke in the ribs, the twist of an arm, the sly pinch, the dropped hammer on your foot, the brush against your hand with a hot frying pan, etc.

    He liked the victim to know it was deliberate, while making it look accidental to everyone else or concealing it from them altogether. If sex was involved, it would not have been as lust but as just another means of dominating and terrifying the victim.

    Centipede was a singularly vile, creepy and disturbing human being.

  15. When I first read this, I really thought it was a late April Fool’s joke. But then I thought I had better come and see for myself. It’s true! And no book deal?
    WTF? That is just not right.

    Create a need to know frenzy? Something that won’t be ignored and stir interest up.

    A youtube video (plea)search for the men who might have saved your life. That you would like to thank them.

    Maybe they would want to be in the book you are writing. Or if they aren’t interested in publicity (which they will get) you still just want to thank them.

    Get other bloggers you know to write how they know someone who coud have been a victim.

    Holy crap! Just because I know you from WordPress, I would buy it.

    If you want me do do a post on my blog, say the word.

    Get people talking, this is too good not to be a book.

  16. Sorry, I forgot to say…

    I mean they can either make a dime off your story or you might just tell all for free! What a shame they would lose out! ;)

  17. A very disturbing story indeed. Serial killers just don’t prey on prostitutes but also real estate agents. A buddy of mine who worked in the Ministry of Agricultre, Fisheries and Food once inspected Pickton Farm. He got a very creepy feeling especially when Pickton made jokes about feeding the pigs, the full horrific ramifications of which only became clearer later.

  18. Yes, one of the reasons killers attack so many prostitutes and realtors is that they can get them into their cars and into private places. Brothels are a safety feature, from the workers’ perspective.

  19. Ironically, when he was arrested I was working on assignment for a website, covering the Missing Women case.

    actually you mean ‘coincidentally’ not ‘ironically’

  20. Wow, another woman to survive meeting Pickton. One day I will tell my story, just not now. I am still dealing with some cyber stalking and attacks. I would love to talk with you through email thouhg.

    Crafty Gal

  21. Wow.

    I’m so thankful that you escaped, and that you were warned. The question that comes to mind is, if there were people that knew that Pickton was an evil man doing evil things … how did that not come out to someone who could have done something about it?

  22. I agree with John, just what did those guys know? Thank God they warned you but still…if they felt a need to warn someone, it makes you wonder.

    I am not blaming them, I just wonder how many people knew things about him. Maybe not the killings but other things.

    I guess you can count your blessings and a few guardian angels for the warning.

  23. The Scouts have a lot to answer for . . .

    Particularly under the newer procedures, with two-deep leadership at all times, I think the Scouts have answered well. I’ve been involved in Scouting for more than 40 years. I’ve known a few leaders, and more than a few Scouts, who were rather creepy. Now we have solid procedures to protect children and other leaders.

    Your story is a powerful one. There are a lot of morals to take away, I think, including, keep your friends close (there’s that two-deep principle in action), and be wary of people who give you the creeps.

    The smell issue makes me wonder. Bundy dumped the bodies of his victims, and did not keep them around. It sounds as if this guy kept the bodies near. Could there be a component of rotting human bodies in the smell? Is there any mention of anything similar in the stories of Jeffrey Dahmer, or Ed Gein, or John Gacy?

    Bundy had been a student at the University of Utah Law School. I know a woman who knew him there, and said he was frighteningly charming — but she was married. Lucky Severson, (who is free lance reporting now, I think) interviewed Bundy in some depth for his news agencies. I wonder if he could lend some insight.

  24. Thank you for sharing this. Every day, I think about how easily any one of us could have been his victims.

    I went to elementary school with a girl who is presumed to have been one of his victims.

    “Piggy’s Palace” was the host of an after party, for my H.S graduation class. Thankfully, no one was hurt then.

    Fortunate, is the only word that I can come up with to describe how I felt when I read your post. Fortunate, that I too was bookish – and didn’t spend anytime down in that end of town back then. And I feel fortunate that your story ended safely.

    Wishing for a different outcome for those women is pointless now – but I do hope that their families are somehow able to find some closure and some peace.

  25. So many comments to respond to. I’ll try to take them one at a time.

    ehlooooo, I think it IS ironic, because I thought I’d covered all the suspects. I really did. I knew people were making reference to an obscure “someone” who wasn’t on my list, but I thought, “if they aren’t going to come out and point me in the right direction, there’s no way to pursue it.” Now I know who they were talking about. WHY did they not just say? I don’t look like a lawyer!

    CraftyGal, we are part of an elite sorority. I only wish there were more of us, and fewer names on the DNA list. I can be reached at raincoaster at Gmail dot com.

    John, beadden, thank you. It was at the time something of a routine matter for prostitutes to be abused and to be discouraged from filing charges. Sarah de Vries, one of his eventual victims, DID attempt to file charges, and (I am going by memory here) Wayne Leng told me that she was turned away from the police station because she was a sex trade worker. She’d been beaten bloody, stripped naked, and thrown into the blackberry bushes, and had to grab a jacket and flag down a car that drove her from way out in Poco to the police station, where she was not treated well, to say the least. I think much the same would have been the case had a “civilian” tried to report violence against a sex trade worker. I was naive and didn’t know enough to keep away from Willy, and if there’s one thing serial killers are good at, it’s detecting an opening. And haven’t we all had our suspicions, or known something about someone that was freaky and evil, but not, on its own, what we thought was enough to go to the cops about? I’m sure the VPD consider me a pain in the ass sometimes, but now I’m VERY proactive about calling them when something sets off my alarm bells. They may not have enough to arrest someone, but if I don’t at least bring that person to their attention, he’ll have no priors, a clean slate, when he DOES do something irrevocable.

    The outrage when stories like this hit the public was not something either City Hall or the police expected. It is to the credit of the citizens of Vancouver and people around the world that they essentially backed those two forces up against a wall and said “Treat these people like human beings; they are the victims of crime.”

    Ed, thank you for that perspective and information. I’m very glad to hear this. Any time our children are entrusted to adults it’s critical that those adults be trustworthy and that a system be in place to make sure they are trustworthy. Looks like the Scouts have not been shy at addressing the issue.

    Monica, Laura, the world is a very small place, and Vancouver is a very small town. We all know someone who was personally involved with this case, or with Willy Pickton or his businesses. And a significant chunk of the world’s perspective on sex trade workers was changed by this case.

  26. I’ve played in a cover band, The Neurotics, for 20 years, but for a few years in the late ’90s I was away from it, and during that time they played “Piggy’s Palace” once. The guys described a heavily creepy biker vibe to the place, but I didn’t think much of it (cover bands encounter lots of seedy places) until Pickton was arrested.

    And while police and public reaction to crimes in the DTES has changed, when Wendy Ladner-Beaudry was murdered in Pacific Spirit Park a couple of weeks ago, it still seemed like a much bigger deal in the media and for the investigation than other, otherwise similar deaths in poorer parts of town. Or maybe I’m misreading that from the media coverage?

  27. Incredible story, though you should note that while Swaziland does indeed have the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS, it is not in the middle of a civil-war.

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  29. Why do people like you always celebrate yourselves using other peoples tragedies? On a human level it’s pathetic and on a moral level it’s repugnant. This event isn’t your moment or a chance to get published or experience some attention. It strikes me as disturbing how much glee you take in the attention your getting. Very sad that your trying to suck some celebrity out of the deaths of those women. Thank God you survived and it IS a good story but it isn’t a story to be so proud of or throw around like a red scarf. Very uncool.

  30. Stan, what are you talking about? I’ve been sitting on this story for twenty years. And yes, I’m throwing it around now that I have the courage and spur to post it. It took a very long time for me to put it out on a platform as public as this, because I wasn’t ready to do it. Now I am, and I’m spreading it as widely as I can. That is my right. I own this. I lived it.

  31. Stan, I’m afraid you’re the one coming over as attention seeking and uncool. Raincoaster is sighing with relief that she wasn’t one of Willy Pickton’s victims, just as I sigh with relief that I wasn’t one of Centipedes.

    When events like this are pushed to the forefront of public consciousness, as they do from time to time, people who’ve been near-missed are reminded of events in which they were involved and talk about them as a means of catharsis.

    Of course, we now have more means of communicating our stories more widely than we would have had a few years ago when such stories would have only come out over a few beers in the pub. That doesn’t mean we’re attention seeking, it just means we can reach out to more people and they can reach out to us.

    I can reach out to Raincoaster and say “I know where you’re coming from” because I’ve been near-missed myself. If you can’t see the humanity in that, then I suggest it’s you that’s disturbing.

  32. Stoney, thank you. I deeply appreciate your support. And now I’m going to surprise you.

    Stan has a point. He’s not totally off-base, and he’s having an emotional reaction to something that is new to him. A horrifying story. It IS a horrifying, emotional story, and the story of the women who did not get away is the ultimate horror.

    I’ve been living with this for years. I’ve become, as I said, dispassionate about it. Enough so that I could finally write about it, which is a good thing; I see it spurring other people to tell their stories on their blogs, in person, on email and Twitter, and spreading the word of listening to your instincts and to people warning you of danger.

    So, I’m dispassionate about it. But Stan is not. And that’s only natural.

    I’m also, as any of my readers could tell anyone, an attention whore. This is me; this is a given. I’m going to pimp out my blog posts, whether they’re dead fairies, ridiculous “which STD goes with your complexion” quizzes, or this. I have long since transcended the concept of personal dignity, and for that I will accept the label of tasteless. I earned that, too. But that label will never stop me from promoting this story or any other, just because that’s who I am.

    And, like I said, I earned this the hard way. I lived it.

  33. Just a quick note regarding the spelling: I’m not actually sure if it’s “Willie” or “Willy” but as I said to someone on Twitter, getting the spelling of his name correct is a courtesy I do not feel obligated to extend to Pickton.

  34. Rainster,

    I read a statistic that on average most people are confronted with nine “near miss” fatal situations in their lifetimes. That is, split second reflex not stepping off a curb just as a vehicle goes by or not taking a ride on a motorcyle or thousands of other possible senarios. This was obviously one of yours. I think it is very good material for a short story perhaps a lead in – as this blog is doing, to call attention to heeding to ones instincts in regards to personal safety.

  35. Thanks for that. That’s a very interesting statistic. I don’t know where you got it, or how anyone would measure such a thing, but it does bring up the question of just how often DO we face death? We all know people who’ve died completely unexpectedly. It’s corny to say, but life is more alive when there’s an awareness of mortality. Which is not to say everyone should turn goth!

    That one dude on metafilter seems to really hate me. Wonder why he’s not leaving any comments here if he’s spending all the time combing through this to find evidence about just how awful I am? He’s a slick editor, I’ll give him that. But why would the tale of a woman who got away from a serial killer bother him so much?

    Or this fellow who seems to think I was unfairly discriminating against ugly, smelly men when I refused to go home with a serial killer. I mean, dude, perhaps you’re overpersonalizing things a titch, no?

  36. I agree with you, Raincoaster, that Stan has an interesting point, though he completely blows it by scolding you in such an arrogant way. I think you certainly have a right to telling your story as long as it is respectful to others — particularly to the families and loved ones of those who died by his creepy, metallic-sweat odoured hand. You certainly were respectful to those people.

    I completely see your post as an amazing “near-miss” story and one that is worth telling the world. And I think Stan misses the point that your telling it comes from very fearful place that must have taken some courage to tell. And the story ultimately does some service to your readers by telling a story of survival which people need to hear, as well as the stories of those who don’t survive.

    Well done! Amazing! Hats off!

  37. I found it interesting that your critics clearly don’t understand the “smell” thing. It’s not the smell of a serial killer, as they try to put it, it’s the smell of aggression, stress, fear, etc. There’s a growing body of scientific research to show that humans use olfactory signals to inform others about their internal state, so they release certain pheromones when they’re aggressive, a different combination when they’re afraid, another combination when sexually aroused etc.

    In fact, I think I read something last year about the US military doing research into this area, with the aim of developing a weapon based on human alarm pheromones. In other words, they want to find a smell that makes people want to flee.

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  40. Interesting that you manipulate the supportive or not so supportive nature of responses to your loud plea for internet celebrity. A journalist you are not and granted you don’t claim to be. Please don’t write a book to aggrandize and brand yourself using the horrific pain of so many people. That would be very shameful indeed. I wonder how many dissenting and unfavorable opinions you delete in the course of a day as I’m sure you delete this just like the previous comment. Why are these pictures on YOUR website? Take them down! You have nothing useful to add or report and you do not represent these people, only your own ego.

  41. Whoever it was saying you are out for attention, well, if something you have written opens even one person’s eyes, it is worth it.

    Cases like this should be talked about. Just why was it allowed to go on for so long? Because these women for the most part were ‘working women’

    That shouldn’t have mattered, they were human beings like the rest of us and it is time we should all shed light on the subject. There are many groups and races that fall victim to crime that we never hear about because they are considered less important.

    We need people to talk and to promote this. If it takes a book, then that is what it takes.

    People who do this actually make changes in this world, they make a difference. Instead of hushing up, they put it out there. Some people may not agree, and would rather sweep it all under the carpet. Just make it go away.

    Many people avoid the news, but would read a novel. And I really do think the ‘know your enemy’ rule is one to live by.

  42. Thank you, David. I appreciate your remarks. Every time I post something this close to the heart I’m fearful, but while there are assholes in the universe as well as monsters, there are paladins and philosophers and true pals as well.

    Stony, a friend yesterday told me that smell is adrenaline, which apparently has copper in it which gives it that metallic edge. But how much adrenaline must a person produce to reek like that, and why hasn’t anyone noticed it on Olympic sprinters? I think it must be some combination of chemicals, as you suggest.

    Another friend today reminded me of the Debbie Harry/Ted Bundy story. She was walking home after clubbing or something with her shoes in her hand, late at night, and some cute guy rolled up in his car and offered her a ride. She got in, and noticed two things immediately after she’d closed the door. One, that the passenger door handle was missing on the inside, and two, that he reeked to high heaven. She kept her head, rolled down her window, and when he was stopped at a corner, she reached outside through the window and opened the door and ran for it. Smart girl.

    Stan, if you spend any time at all around this site, you’ll realize I’m not afraid of much and I’m certainly not afraid of comments left by people who prefer that I not bear witness to my own life.

    That it bothers you is beginning to please me.

    Please read for comprehension next time and you’ll realize that the book you’re talking about was already written, more than five years ago, and that it focuses on the way the city sacrifices the women it used to see as expendable. One of the reasons the book needs updating is that, to Vancouver’s credit, this has changed.

    Beadden, thank you. You are always supportive and kind, and I very much appreciate it.

  43. As an addict of true crime I note that many books which are authored by an individual who was close to the case, have an assistant author or ghost writer to bring the book to publication.

    Your story should get out there. This blog is a start, but it would be nice to see this appear in a book.

    Do you know if anyone has written (or is planning to write) a book on the crimes and trial of Pickton. That may be a place to start.

    Here is one reader who hopes you succeed.

  44. Thank you, CraftyGal. I will edit your comment to post the link. I salute your courage, give thanks for your escape, and hope that others respect your story as it deserves.

    lifemagician, thank you. Yes, there are several books on the case. The most important is Remembering Sarah, an award-winning book by Maggie deVries, the sister of Sarah deVries, one of the victims. It is a work of art as well as the story of one of what the Victorians used to call Lost Women. Then there is Stevie Cameron’s The Pickton File, which of course focuses on the murderer. Cameron is the country’s premier true crime author, and attended the trial. There is also Trevor Greene’s Bad Date: the Lost Girls of Vancouver, which focuses on the women involved and was written before Pickton’s arrest. I have the first and last of these, and STILL haven’t got the heart to read them all the way through. Who am I kidding, I’ve gotten partway through Greenes book and haven’t cracked DeVries’ book, despite having had it since not long after it came out. Still too fresh.

    And I’m a writer; it’s what I do for a living. I’m perfectly capable of editing that book, but simply writing it put me into a downward spiral it took me far too long to climb out of. I’m not sure I have the heart to undertake a task like that on spec. I don’t think it’s greed; ask anyone who knows me, I’m not about the money. I don’t quite know what it is, but maybe it’s a way of keeping score. The world is going to have to persuade me to put myself through that, they’re going to have to put up something that matters to them as much as the experience matters to me. And for lack of a better measure, that’s money right now. I’m open to suggestions.

  45. @CraftyGal: I just read your story but couldn’t comment without signing up to the network, so I hope you see this comment.

    THANK YOU for sharing your experience. I was very moved by your honesty and I felt completely horrified by your story. It just makes me wonder how many other women there are out there like you and Raincoaster who had these near-misses with Pickton. The possibilities are countless, and I am so grateful that women like you and Raincoaster lived to tell your tales, and saddened all over again that so many women weren’t so lucky.

  46. Wandering Coyote thank you. I lost two friends to this butcher, Georgina Papin and of course Brenda. Just makes me realize just how “lucky” I am.

    Crafty Gal

  47. You’re welcome, Raincoaster.
    But you know, if authority figures and the mass media had have done a better job at the time, people wouldn’t have to tell ‘all’ or bring these matters to light.

    Thank goodness for the internet and people who take the time to inform people about the truth, or we would all still be living in la la land.

  48. You’re right, of course. If the mainstream media had done a better job, we wouldn’t need blogs at all. But to their credit, they picked up on the story way before law enforcement did. The story was international news by the time the mayor said he was not willing to “run a location service for wayward girls.”

    By the way, the case is also mentioned in Kim Rossmo’s book, Criminal Investigative Failures, which I must buy. Kim Rossmo was very free with his time and extraordinarily helpful whenever I called him. And he’s a really good writer as well as a deservedly esteemed investigator who knows the DTES very well.

  49. See? I had no idea about that, Rain. To be honest. I don’t read the mainstream media much. I avoid the sanitized tv news.

    I never read more than one or two articles about the Pickton case or trial.

    I am the type to buy a book though.

    Some people say those who write books like this sensationalize things. Ha! What about the tv stations that broadcast 24/7? What do you call that?

    But thank you for letting me know the media had picked up on the story.

  50. I am amazed and shocked at how ‘Stan’ (who by the way is hiding behind an anonymous, de-linked name) thinks that he has the right to tell YOU what to do. You survived, and I am VERY glad you did. Angels were most likely looking out for you.

    A couple of points.

    (a) Your story helps bring out one of many elements to the Pickton story – it could have happened to ANY woman who lived/frequented/happened to be at the time – in the DTES. Not only sex trade workers, not only runaway youth. ANYONE. You and other people narrowly escaped him. You recounting and re-telling your story is VALUABLE.

    (b) You are NOT celebrating yourself. You are speaking out on a topic you had not spoken out. That, in and of itself takes courage. And I’m proud of you for having such courage.

  51. Thank you. I wouldn’t have been able to speak out without the support of so many people. I remember telling a woman at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference many years ago about the manuscript, and she literally took both my hands in hers and prayed over the papers for the success of my book. So many people have helped, I cannot believe that the world would let the news be forgotten.

  52. I read this story yesterday and had to click away from it. It is a horrifying tale and I had no valuable insight or comment to add. I haven’t now, other than to say how glad I am that you lived to tell the tale. And tales MUST be told.

    Oh, while I don’t ban anonymous commenters from my blog, I take their choice of an anonymous status as a sign of their credibility – or otherwise.

  53. As do we all. But the most cautious of us also record their IP. I still remember the episode of the Scientologists earlier in this blog.

    You should hear the stuff I DIDN’T put down. And you should see the stuff coming in to my email and Twitter accounts. There’s so much to say; it really does need a book. And there are so many lessons to learn, on an individual and societal basis.

    I still have that urge to play Nancy Drew. I did it with the stalker I had. I did it when a so-called friend of the family stole my dying father’s Visa card and charged $500 worth of Canadian Tire and London Drugs crap to it. I did it when Investor’s Group gave my father’s life savings to someone who was not a legal heir.

    Maybe I never learn. But I’d much rather go up against those last two than Willy Pickton.

  54. I’ve narrowed it down: as far as I can find out, the Classical Joint closed in 1989. That would mean that the earliest first-hand report we have of Willy Pickton’s activities is CraftyGal’s. It’s a year earlier than mine.

  55. She lives to tell the tale! Bone chilling, Rain! In fact, my brother had once mentioned Pickton years ago! Out of the blue, he asked, “Did you hear about that sick bastard in Canada chopping up women on a pig farm?” I didn’t think much of it until now. I don’t even remember hearing about in our media but in fairness to them we have plenty of our own sick bastards to cover!

    I do have a question. Well, many. But I’ll start with this –

    You write that you didn’t feel it was a good idea to give Pickton a way to reach you so it seems your creep radar was well on alert before the two men gave you fair warning. Surely you’re not saying you would have went off with him at some point in time if it were not for the kindness of random strangers?

    I’m wondering if you give the two men too much credit.

  56. One last thought – it’s too bad you guys don’t have a death penalty. Surely this is an example of a case where it’s well deserved.

  57. Wow, that is a crazy story. Glad you’re able to publicly post about it, must be almost therapeutic. Very entertaining and well written post. My highschool friend lived on a farm about 2 minutes down the road from his, and I thought that was creepy!

  58. Well, I’m an opponent of the death penalty because I think the taking of human life is wrong and it’s hypocritical to do it to someone for doing exactly that. Also, there’s no question to my mind that keeping them alive is crueler. These people don’t fear death; they fear a life without their particular sadistic thrill. And now he will have to endure that for the rest of his life.

    And, you do make a good point about my radar, but how many women have been talked into going against their own instincts? I think those two men were important; no, I KNOW they were important. I would love to find them and thank them, but I’m not sure I’d recognize them after all this time.

  59. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for the compliments and for stopping by.

    It’s theraputic I’d say in the way that primal scream therapy is theraputic. Last night as I was trying to get to sleep, I kept seeing all the faces of the victims and believe me, it’s hard to drift off to peaceful slumber that way. Still, I think it’s worth the pain of stirring all these memories up, to get the stories out there and to work through the process of healing.

  60. There is a vast difference between “as accurately as (you) can” and wildly inaccurate. There is nothing secret about the numbers of charges and convictions in the Pickton case. You just had the charge numbers plain wrong. You were off by 11 counts of murder. That’s an error of 42 per cent. You missed 11 peoples’ lives and allegedly horrific deaths. Add to that the exponential misery and heartache their deaths brought about. And, if you’re that inaccurate as regards such a major piece of readily available information (indictments are public documents, they are not being held secret by ‘the man’), how accurate is the rest of your tale?
    The Charter freedom of speech sections are not absolute. You do not have the right to spew garbage as you feel. You can claim you are a blogger and not a journalist. Fine. But please do not present facts and then claim no responsibility for them. You’re hurting people. You are responsible for your actions. Period.

  61. You are incorrect. And I take full responsibility for my words and my actions.

    I said he could face up to 15 more counts, because that’s the last number I remembered being tossed around. And the fact is, that’s a statement of potentiality. I did not say those charges had been laid. I just looked it up and saw that 20 charges have been laid, which is good. I’m glad to hear it. He could and should, in my opinion, face charges on all of the women whose DNA was found at the farm.

    Last night, before you made this comment, I edited it to be vaguer so that your objection did not even apply when you made it. You are correct: it is very important to be accurate in what one says. You should try to be moreso in the future.


    It serves no purpose on Earth for advocates for the victims of violence to turn on one another. Although I understand that hostility which cannot be directed towards its natural target has to escape in SOME direction.

  62. A statement of potentiality? Well, people used to believe there was the potential the Earth was flat and that the Moon was made of cheese. There was that potentiality. There’s the potential I might be hit by a bus tomorrow. I’m not going to let it rule my decision making though as it it not a fact.
    Glad to see you understand that you have potentially libeled someone. The difference between conviction on 6 counts and being convicted on others is the right to being considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. You seem to have established yourself as judge and jury. I, and presumably the rest of the people who are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are probably happy that they come before the courts and not you for judgment. At the end of the day, criminality must be decided in the cold light of fact and reason, and not the raging spectrum of emotion.
    And I’m interested to know what your source is for how many more charges could be laid on top of the current convictions and pending appealed convictions. I’m sure there are lot of mothers out there looking for closure in their babies’ deaths who would be interested to know what you know so they can have some end to their nightmares. Are you perhaps a member of the joint task force and can offer those mothers that comfort?
    The fact you say you just looked something up instead of prior to the initial screed is nothing less than scary, and argues against the viability of blogging as a source for correct information.

  63. “Could” is a relatively simple word that I believe you understand.

    And I have certainly not said that Willy Pickton was convicted of more than six counts of murder; everyone in Canada probably knows that number off the top of their heads. I have never said such a thing. I said he could face 15 more charges, then I edited that to make it vaguer. And frankly, he could face any number of other charges; that is up to the Crown, and the Crown hasn’t always given the same answer over time.

    Again I suggest that you direct your hostility towards the perpetrator rather than those of us who are supposed to be supporting one another. Unless you’re on the side of the perpetrator.

  64. He “could” face 8 million charges. He “could” face 127 charges. He DOES face the possibility of answering to the additional 20 counts of murder he has been charged with on top of the six of which he has been convicted. These are facts.
    You “could” stop playing fast and loose with the facts of what is agreeably a horrendous set of crimes, but I doubt you will.
    You say: “A few years ago I was sitting at my father’s and some dude appeared on the news. “I know that man,” I said, just as the announcer said, “has just been arrested on fifteen counts of murder.”
    Pickton was charged with the first two counts in February of 2002. His face, the one you claim you sat across a table from, was plastered on every TV station and in every newspaper in Canada. The 15th count was not laid until October of the same year. That’s eight months. You assert a knowledge and fascination with this case, but you missed his face in the media, kissed a serial killer case, missed the biggest crime scene in Canadian history for eight months. How is this possible for someone living in Vancouver?
    Again, wildly inaccurate facts.
    The people reading your blog are taking what you proclaim as truth on the faith that you are presenting them truth but the demonstrable fact remains that you are very cavalier with the truth, if indeed you know what it is other than making it up at the start and checking your facts later only after being challenged.
    At the end of the day, all I see here is a blatant attempt to cash in on alleged meetings with a person you say was Pickton. Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. If it is true, I am very happy you made the gut choice not to go to that horrible, horrible place in Port Coquitlam and that you continue to see sunrises.
    The presentation of the rest of your factoids leads me to doubt what is being presented as fact.
    If I have any hostility, it’s toward those who mislead others in an attempt to further their own purposes whatever they may be.
    To suggest I might be in league with someone who commits such despicable acts of brutality and cowardice against people incapable of making rational choices or of protecting themselves is nothing more than a coward’s away out of a debate.

  65. Oh, for god’s sake, this was a blog post that began as an email to an acquaintance on Twitter and was pasted in because I was just tired of keeping it to myself.

    It is not an encyclopedia entry, nor is it court testimony.

    For you to discourage people from speaking out unless they exhaustively fact-check every point of events which took place years ago is nothing more nor less than a clumsy attempt at repression of freedom of speech.

    I have listed the events just as I recalled them. That human memory is not 100% accurate, particularly over a stretch of years, is not news to anyone, particularly prosecutors and the police. I am sure it is not news to you, either.

    Your implication that blog posts of personal experiences be held to the same standard as court testimony is repressive, unjustified, and inappropriate. That the post is an informal personal recollection and not an encyclopedic, fact-checked account is obvious throughout.

  66. It’s appalling to me how some people will go to great lengths to attack other people. This is one of the cases. My friend is alive and I’m very happy for that.

  67. Spreading falsehoods is an attack on all of us.
    I am very glad she’s alive. I said so. I have lost friends to addiction as the victims in this case were. It is horrendous pain.
    I personally know the pain of the families of the missing women and of the families of the women Pickton is convicted of killing. I have held them as they cried. This site perpetuates that pain. I would not dream of telling them of the existence of this site.
    There is a vast difference between pleading for truth and causing pain.

  68. There certainly is. When you tell a woman who’s survived a predatory encounter with a convicted murderer that she does not have the right to tell her story, you hurt all of us.

    We will never agree, it seems clear, on whether or not I should bear witness to my own experiences, however flawed my memory may be. I cannot guess why you feel this way, but I do not require that you respond to these events the same way I do.

    The solution to speech you don’t like is not censorship: it is speech you DO like.

  69. Then please JUST tell your story. You have every right to do so. You just cast doubt on it with the inaccuracies on the parts that are not your direct experience.

  70. I’m correcting them one at a time. And trust me, the book doesn’t contain any inaccuracies; fact-checking it was exhaustive, but I haven’t had the heart to pick it up in three years. That’s partly where the inaccuracies come from; the fact that none of this is fresh for me.

    You’re right that it’s important to get the facts right. Now that it seems we’ve worked through our conflict I will go back and make sure that the two introductory paragraphs are as accurate as I can make them.

  71. These things happen. It’s one of the reasons I stick with dopey quizzes and YouTubes of ducks and kittehs most of the time. With the occasional Cthulhu thrown in.

  72. Pingback: Muskblog » Blog Archive » Overdue Blog Posting

  73. Wow, what a story. I’m just getting around to reading it (and the comments). I’m glad you lived to tell the tale, and glad you told the tale, as well. I also think it’s valuable to share such an experience.

    But ugh. The creepiness.

  74. Thanks. Yeah, and that’s just in the comments! You should see my emails!

    Took far more hell over posting this than I ever took over anything else, and I hardly think that’s congruent with justice or reality. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a lot of great support over this too; I’ll never forget the woman at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference who held my hands and literally prayed over my manuscript. It’s things like that which have given me the strength to speak out about this, however much some people don’t like it.

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  76. Pingback: Meet Pamela Masik, author of The Forgotten: Vancouver’s Missing Women « The Shebeen Club

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  79. Pingback: Questions over lunch with Lorraine Murphy – @raincoaster | MainWriter

  80. Pingback: The Pig Farm Murders « Robert Lindsay

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  82. Reading this in 2011 New Year’s makes me determined to have a more interesting experience this year. Given my personal changes, no doubt it’ll be more kickass.

  83. Raincoaster, I am a self-published author in the states. Because the subject matter that I write about is too controversial (i.e. nonfiction socio-economic class justice issues from a leftist’s structural analysis point of view), I went the self-pub route.

    I had to buy a block of ISBN’s and a publisher’s SAN code (at a cost of about $375) from the Bowker Agency (the only authorized source to purchase ISBN’s from, which are required for publishing and selling literary works).

    Anyway, I have five ISBN numbers left before I will have to buy more.

    I would be happy to publish your manuscript for you (provided you do at least some of your own editing, and provide me via email any image or photo (which I will have to convert to a JPEG via Publisher for use in Adobe for the cover template) you would prefer for the book’s cover art) if no mainstream big name trade publishing company is willing to take your manuscript.

    I go through a Print-On-Demand printer, Lightening Source, Inc., for putting manuscripts and book covers into hardcopy print. They charge me about 55% of the retail sale price of each of my books for the print charge, which would of course be taken out of any net compensation to the publisher and author.

    Since I already paid for my ISBN’s, I would not charge you for any more than the cost of that (about 5% of the retail sale price). That means you would get a royalty of about 40% on each copy of the book that sold. I think your story is far too compelling to NOT be told. However, as a struggling author and micro-publisher myself, I do not have the financial wherewithal to market and promote your book like Random House or Penguin would.

    But my publishers’ account with Lightening Source enables me to have all books that I publish (which are right now only my own that I have written) listed with the Ingram Catalog and Baker-Taylor. So they get automatic listing on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s online, and a few other book e-tailers.

    If you are OK with this, please feel free to contact me. I’m not hard to find (I get all over like horse shit).

    I also had a “near miss” many, many years ago as a very poor homeless orphaned teen growing up on the streets of Philadelphia. Not with a serial killer, but a run-in with a killer can still leave one nonetheless dead. I was lucky. And so were you. And I am grateful for you that you dodged a bullet with that Pickton character.

    Jacqueline S. Homan,
    Author: Classism For Dimwits
    Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie
    Eyes of a Monster
    Nothing You Can Possess

  84. I appreciate the offer and the support, but no thank you. I’m just not prepared to go through the work and emotional turmoil necessary to update the manuscript if there’s no advance involved.

    I’m more than capable of getting my own ISBN number, having the book printed, and getting it listed on Amazon, among others. The point is that I don’t WANT to do it when it’ll take me away from my career for about two solid months; it needs to pay for that time upfront, because I do have to be buying groceries and paying rent while I’m working on the manuscript. Not to mention the emotional cost of stirring all this up again.

    Also, before you make a similar offer to another writer, please realize that as a publisher, you’d be legally responsible for ensuring the book wasn’t libelous. The reason HarperCollins Canada turned it down was that the lawyers would have charged $70,000 just to vet the book.

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  87. I’m with Jenn on this one. Now I AM glad I tagged you, otherwise I’d never have seen this. You have an interesting life. Glad you were not a victim.

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  89. Perhaps you’ve been given a referral to the work of AbelDanger, a private network, and the connections of the Pig Farm to high-level corruption in Canada? The story brings the Pickton saga into another realm of human tragedy.

  90. After seeing further comments, i appreciate why you’ve put it aside. Life gets in the way — earning a living and so forth. Speaking of that I need to get back to work. But let me say you may find the inspiration to do something with your work, if you have some real interest in the OWS -Occupy movement producing results. The Pig Farm has significant connections to be explored. Financing for your research (5 to 6 figures) could be derived from a small speculative purchase of the Iraqi currency which is about to revalue.

  91. OMG, this story is brilliant. This has to be linked and celebrated everywhere. I’m tempted to edit his wikipedia page and add a link – but that might be a bit too much. It can be used in so many different ways in parties etc – I hope you make the most of it. Not probably something one would joke about or anything normally but I wouldn’t be able to help it if I were you.

    Also, I looked at wiki and the jury actually acquitted him of first degree murder and convicted on second. Either Canada has unusual definition of first degree murder and/or unusual people in juries.

  92. Unusual people are in juries. That is a FACT.

    There’s so much more I didn’t put into this. You really have no idea how deep this goes, and Vancouver is a very small town. Everywhere you go you meet someone with a connection to either the victims or Pickton. Or both. Hell, one cop told me an amazing story he got from a doctor in the Southern US about the pig farm; the doctor told him about things that hadn’t yet been, but were ultimately discovered there.

  93. And now I’m here because of your link on Gawker. Fascinating story; thanks for sharing it (and for putting up with the repercussions).

    I would like to find Crafty Gal’s story, mentioned in the comments; the link she gave didn’t work for me. Any advice?

  94. (Sorry if this is a duplicate reply.) Wow – this is troubling and amazing. I followed the link here from your Jezebel comment. Glad you followed your spidey-senses and heeded the warnings of strangers!

  95. Pingback: The Pig Farm Murders – Beyond Highbrow

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