israel keyes
After being taken into police custody, interviewed and studied, FBI profilers called him the most terrifying subject they had ever encountered. With an 'efficiency' and preternatural cunning that was unusual among even the most well known serial killers, Israel Keyes brought this monstrous modus operandi to a whole new level of planning and malevolence. What did Keyes have in common with the well documented cases of psychopaths who murdered people for their own gratification and who came before him? And what set him apart? Who did he kill, and why? What was his "grand plan" - and what can the story of Israel Keyes tell us about what is perhaps a "newer breed" of serial killer that seeks to wreak havoc on the lives and souls of innocents? Join us this week on MindMatters as we come to terms with this case study in pure evil, and remind ourselves that monsters do, indeed, live among us.

Running Time: 01:13:37

Download: MP3 — 67.4 MB

For more information on Keyes, see Maureen Callahan's book American Predator, the FBI's resource page, and 6 hours of Keyes's interrogations here.

Here's the transcript of the show:

Corey: Welcome back everyone. Today we are going to be discussing the subject of serial killers, specifically a serial killer in the 21st century that goes by the name of Israel Keyes. I hadn't heard of him. I don't know if anybody had heard of him before...

Harrison: I hadn't.

Elan: Me neither.

Corey: ...reading this book by Maureen Callahan. It's called American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century. The two of you watched a documentary on this too, to supplement because it's such a fascinating and really disturbing case of what seems to be a serial killer that was so meticulous that it was only due to a few tiny mistakes that he ended up getting caught but otherwise he covered the entire United States of America, except Hawaii it seems like. But it seemed like he had travelled across most of the nation in order to commit crimes and to commit his own fetish sexual sadistic crimes.

Harrison: And the thing is that he was so meticulous, as she puts it, that to the extent that no one was even aware that there was a serial killer on the loose. The FBI's got their profiling thing and the MO (modus operandi) for most serial killers has been that they've got specific features that are identifiable that clue the investigators in that there's one person committing a bunch of murders, either using the same kind of killing method and it's usually clustered in a geographic location. If anyone's watched the NetFlix show Mind Hunters, the BTK was in one city, the Atlanta child murders were Atlanta child murders. It was one guy killing all these people in one location, in this case all these kids in one location.

So you see a pattern at first and then you come to the conclusion that there's one person doing it and it turns out that that's what is going on in most of these cases. With pretty much all of the famous serial killers that you can think of, that's been the case. No one was even aware that there were murders going on because he covered his tracks so well. There were no bodies to be found. People would just go missing and they'd just be written off as a missing person and they would be all over the country. So there's nothing to connect all of these various missing people because the only thing identifiable that they have in common is that they're missing people.

Elan: Well there are so many exceptions and quirks and things that were specific to Israel Keyes that were startling and made him such an efficient serial killer that we'll get into as we continue to talk about his story. Quite literally there were times that I would have to lift my head from the pages and say, "Holy shit!" because he took on this extremely methodical, driven, relentless, machine-like approach. His reason for living was to kill.

So it seems as though he arranged his entire life in a way that, at least from the other books that we've looked at on serial killers, has taken the story of the serial killer to another level altogether. I have to say I'd wondered if there could be anything new to be gleaned from reading another serial killer story and the answer is yes, unfortunately. Like you said at the top of the show Corey, this is a very disturbing read just because of how much he had empowered himself to get away with the crimes that he did.

I think maybe we'll just begin his story by explaining what his last crime was, which was the kidnapping of an 18-year-old young woman, Samantha Koenig from a coffee kiosk late at night in Anchorage, Alaska where she lived and worked and where he lived and worked. He kidnapped her, he drew her out of this coffee kiosk where she was serving coffee to people alone, at night. There were snow drifts. It was in the middle of winter so the kiosk was obscured by snow. He pulled a gun on her and drew her out of the kiosk and manipulated her into coming with him. Then what he did was to drive her ultimately to a shed he had near his home.

Harrison: In his front yard.

Elan: In his front yard. Very brazen, where he bound her, ultimately just saying he was kidnapping her for ransom.

Corey: So that he could give her hope that she would be safe just because, like a total psychopath. That was his modus operandi, to toy with people's emotions because he enjoyed the fear. He enjoyed letting the fear last, making the adrenalin last as long as possible.

Elan: Right. So he would say these things to her and he bound her. I think at some point did he move her to another location?

Harrison: Well no. This is all happening in a single night. It's 10 or 15 minutes before closing at this kiosk that he takes her. I can't remember if it was at 8:00 or 10:00 at night, maybe even midnight. So he gets her into his car. He takes her to his place. To drown out any sounds that she might make, he starts blaring heavy metal in his shed, so he's blaring this music so the neighbours won't hear anything. But then at some point that night he rapes and strangles her and I'm pretty sure as he's killing her he stabbed her once in the back and he said that that didn't seem to kill her and the investigators interrogating him - this is after he got caught of course - thought that he did that not to kill her but just as a little bonus. He got a kick out of it. It turned him on essentially.

So he killed her there and then wrapped up her body in that shed and put her in a plastic crate or something and that morning he was scheduled and had a ticket to leave on a cruise with his girlfriend and daughter. So he left the body in his shed in his front yard for two weeks. It was more than two weeks by the time he got back and then, as he puts it, he thawed out the body, hung her from a hook in the shed and then proceeded to again rape the corpse of this woman and then cut her up into pieces to get rid of the body.

So this is all happening in his front yard. I'm pretty sure at some point in the book they say that once the cops got the CCTV footage from the kiosk where she was working they could see what model his truck was. So they were looking for this truck which was the most common truck in Alaska, a big white truck. He had the most common vehicle. So they were looking around for these vehicles and they'd actually driven by his place and it was in a relatively well-to-do neighbourhood and they'd eliminated that vehicle because they had nothing to tie it to the crime. So they'd actually seen that truck.

I don't know the timeline. I can't remember for sure if they had seen this truck while the shed was still there with her body in it or if it was after he had gotten rid of the body. I don't know for sure. But when he got back and after he'd dismembered the body, first he scouted out a location. He went out to this lake where there was good ice fishing, set up a little hut for ice fishing, cut through the ice with his chainsaw. It was 2-3 feet deep.

Elan: Right.

Harrison: And then goes back and makes three or four trips to bring parts of the body back. He weighed them down and then put them into the lake. This was only discovered afterwards. At this point the investigators involved were still assuming that she was alive because they had no indication that she was dead but also because around several weeks afterwards they had gotten a text message that had been sent to her father, I believe, with the ransom idea saying that "She's still alive and I want $30,000 and once I get that $30,000 then six months after that, then I'll release her." Her father had already raised $60,000 or something from just putting up notices and creating a Facebook page and all this stuff.

But at this point she was already dead for weeks and even months. This was Keyes's tactics in this case. He was still going to get the money and pretend that she was alive to get ransom money when he had already killed her weeks beforehand. This was before he had dismembered the body. She had been dead for weeks. In order to make this narrative plausible, he took her long-deceased body and spent hours doing make up on it to make her look alive because, as he put it, her skin had started sagging and she didn't have the complexion of a live person. So he spent hours and hours doing make up on this girl. But he couldn't get the eyes quite right. The eyes still looked dead so he used sutures and thread to...

Elan: Shut the eyes.

Harrison: Well not to shut them but to give them a little lift in order to make her look alive.

Elan: Oh, right.

Harrison: So then he took a Polaroid picture of her holding a current day newspaper to show that this was a current photograph and then sent this via text message I guess, to the cell phone. The experts the investigators asked to look at the photo couldn't say one way or the other whether this girl was alive or dead. They just couldn't tell from the photo. That was the extent to which this guy went to prop up this narrative. After that, that's when he dismembered her body and put her in the lake.

But then the only reason they caught the guy, like you were saying Corey, was a minor thing. Well it wasn't so minor.

Corey: It seemed like a big mess up on his part.

Harrison: Yeah. He was getting more and more brazen. First of all, as far as investigators know, this was the first time that he'd killed on his own home turf. He'd usually travel to other states, like you were saying, but this was in Anchorage where he lived. So he seemed to be escalating and getting a bit more sloppy.

During the course of the kidnapping he got hold of her debit card and part of the ransom deal was to get the money put into her account or her boyfriend's account so that he could use this card. So he's down in Texas visiting family that lived down there and they're tracking the card. So Keyes has the debit card with some money in it. They didn't put the whole $30,000 in but he's in Texas and he's using this card and every time he uses it, it pops up on the system. They're able to see within five or 10 minutes that he's using this card so they're able to track his movements. They're saying, "Okay, he's used it here". Then he used it in a town just east of there the next day or a few hours later so they get an idea of the direction that he's headed in. They don't know it's him yet but they know this is where the card is being used.

Then they put out a BOLO ('be on the lookout' bulletin). I can't remember if it was a Texas ranger that found him or just a local cop, but they catch him in this town outside of El Paso because they'd figured out from a surveillance camera what kind of car he was using. Again, it was a Ford Focus or something, the most rented out car that you can get, so just totally generic.

Elan: Nondescript.

Harrison: Nondescript. But they see this guy driving. They're talking live with the FBI and the Anchorage police department and they say, "Just pull this guy over. Get him for anything, any minor infraction, just whatever excuse you can find, pull this guy over." A light turns green, he accelerates three miles per hour over the speed limit so they pull him over and start talking to him. Eventually, searching his car they find a bunch of DVDs with some really messed up pornography, wads of cash that were stained with dye and in his wallet was Samantha Koenig's ATM card and her driver's license.

At this point he's realizing why they've pulled him over but at this point he's still denying it. He says, "Oh, I found a zip lock bag in my truck. Someone had put it through my window which I keep open because I smoke cigars as you can tell from the cigars in my car. I don't know where this came from. I just thought it might been payment from one of his customers because he ran a construction and home repair type of business." They're not believing that. But they know they've got their guy, right?

So they extradite him back to Alaska based on strong circumstantial evidence and they're going to interrogate him. At this point this guy, Kevin Feldis who worked for the US Attorney's office, the lead prosecutor in the case - I don't know the US legal system too well. Was he the district attorney or something like that?

Elan: That was my impression.

Harrison: So he edges himself into the investigation and insists that he be present at all interrogations.

Corey: Right, because this became a major media event at that point.

Harrison: Well potentially.

Corey: So it was a big hullabaloo.

Harrison: Potentially, yeah.

Corey: Samantha Koenig's disappearance had.

Harrison: Yeah, but still not a lot of details were released. So I guess in his mind while the arrest and everything wasn't an event yet, the kidnapping was, and this was potentially the biggest crime news story. So for whatever reason - no one really knows - this Feldis guy just inserted himself in all of these inappropriate areas. He shouldn't have been involved in these interrogations for a number of reasons that Callaghan gets into in the book. For instance, interrogators are allowed to lie to the people they're interrogating. Prosecutors aren't. So that could potentially cause a conflict between what the cops say and what Feldis is saying and also because he's going to be the prosecutor on the case there are certain limits about what he can talk about and what he can't. It's a very hairy situation where there's all kinds of opportunities for things to go wrong that could then potentially get the case thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct or something.

So he was potentially sabotaging the entire case by being there, but he insisted and because he was this head honcho guy in Anchorage and had to work with all the police, the police couldn't and wouldn't kick him out even though he shouldn't have been there and the FBI were shaking their heads and furious. He didn't know how to interrogate anyone. He had never done this before.

So they actually had to coach him in the hour or two before the interrogation on interrogation tactics and what to say and what not to say. He went in there and made a fool of himself and Keyes was walking all over him. Keyes had no respect for him. Keyes actually had a rapport with the other guys, with the FBI and the APD people but Feldis just screwed everything up. But luckily he didn't screw it up too much in that initial interrogation because despite all of the faux pas that he committed during the interrogation, Keyes still had the impression that they knew more than they did.

This was the really stupid thing. It was fortuitous and lucky that it happened this way, but if not for just that pure chance, that pure luck, they wouldn't have had the case. They wouldn't have learned anything additional. Keyes wouldn't have cooperated.

Corey: Right. It sounds like there were just so many mess-ups and mistakes that were taking place and it's one of the reasons why Keyes chose these certain locations. He knew that in certain areas police departments aren't equipped to deal with homicide, with serial killers, even in this case, the FBI agents and the people doing all the investigations while Keyes is being brought into custody to try and figure out if he is the guy responsible for Samantha Koenig's disappearance. They search his property and they search his shed, but they searched the wrong shed.

So when they interrogate him they tell him that they searched the shed so that's when he spills the beans and says, "Well they've got me clearly." They said they had his computers and they had all this information and they knew that he had killed Samantha Koenig, so then he confesses. He doesn't so much confess as he brags. I think that's another fortuitous element, the fact that he's just so psychopathic and narcissistic that part of him just wanted to revel in that dark glory of a sadistic serial killer because he was so successful and it was really his pride and the depravity of his being that really opened the floodgates so that people could see what he was actually doing.

As he started to open up and talk about it, they didn't even have to prod. They just said, "We've seen your shed" and he's like, "Okay, this is what I did to her".

Harrison: The crazy thing about that interrogation was that they bring out the photographs. He says, "Well show me the photographs of the shed and everything." So they show him the photographs and he says, "No, no, that's the wrong shed." And they say, "Oh, they must have got the wrong shed." And then he has this moment where he says something like, "Oh well I guess I didn't have to say all that, did I?" Then he circles back and says, "Oh well you guys would have figured it out anyways so I guess it's alright."

Corey: But they wouldn't have!

Harrison: Exactly! But they wouldn't have.

Corey: And that's the scary part too because in a lot of cold cases, it sounds like the reasons a lot of cases go cold is because of that exact problem. It's just not a thorough investigation. You get people stepping on each other's toes. You get someone contaminating evidence and then you can't use that evidence or its not reliable anymore and then the case just goes cold because you can't do anything. If he hadn't confessed at that point and he had stood his ground, they would have had maybe a kidnapping charge. I can't remember what the charge was that they had. I don't think they even had that because they didn't have her body, they didn't know what had happened to her.

Harrison: All they had was that he had been using her ATM card. So they had these fraudulent charges that he was using her card. That's not a lot of evidence. That's not enough to tie him to the actual murder. It was a strong case but it was flimsy at the same time. Each individual piece of evidence wasn't very strong. It wasn't until he'd confessed that they knew what to look for and then they managed to find the body because he told them where it was. But he'd destroyed most of the original shed. They didn't even know the shed was there.

It's unclear if there were any remains of that shed left. Sometimes you get the impression that there was something there that they didn't actually see and didn't investigate. Other times you get the impression from what he said, that he'd destroyed the shed but left behind traces to indicate that there was a shed there. He was convinced that he'd left behind enough clues that they would have found the body, but they had nothing, like you said. So they eventually found the body and the only reason they actually know that he was a serial killer was because of the things he said in these interrogations after he knew that he'd been caught.

It all comes down to him sharing these bits of information, that we even know anything about this guy.

Elan: At some point he was driving around in Texas using Samantha Koenig's ATM card and due to some really good investigative work and intuition and a network of the Anchorage PD, the FBI in Anchorage and people who knew people in Texas and this really good networking, they were able to figure out that it was likely him who was driving and using the ATM card in Texas.

Now in the interrogation, something he says is he didn't know that he could be traced, that the very locations where he went to the ATMs to draw out the money could be traced, that they could even find it. But then in a later interrogation for other crimes that he began to discuss peripherally, he said, "Oh I knew that". It's very interesting because he was very careful to take out the batteries of his cell phones wherever he went because he knew that there was a GPS tracking of location.

So he had thought about all kinds of considerations in committing these crimes. He had considered DNA evidence. He considered how he was going to do things and who he would be seen by and he had practiced these things. He had stalked people. He had imagined these various scenarios in his mind. So to later admit that he was not aware that an ATM card can be pinged from where a withdrawal was, suggests that either a) he was just getting sloppy as we were saying before, in the case of this particular crime, or b) there was some part of him that wanted to be caught. We've read about other cases like Ed Kemper who was practically coming up to police officers and saying, "Look, I did it!" The reason is that there was a kind of level of satisfaction or gloating as you were saying Corey, or adulation or recognition of his criminal genius, for lack of a better descriptor, that he was looking for.

Now when investigators went through his house in Anchorage they found a whole library of books on serial killers. I think another thing that sets him apart was the fact that he was very interested in how other people had gone about the business of doing these horrible things and wanted to surpass whatever reputation people like Ted Bundy had, who he called his personal hero. It's kind of ambiguous. We don't know if a part of him was ready to get caught and ready to take his career as a serial killer and criminal to this next stage, or what.

Corey: Another thing that they found in his library which I thought was interesting, were books by FBI profilers. So he had a book by Roy Hazelwood called Dark Dreams and that is the book all about sadistic psychopaths and sex crimes. The other one was Mind Hunter which is a show on NetFlix right now, but this is a book about inside Quantico's...

Harrison: Inside the FBI's elite serial crime unit.

Corey: Yeah, the elite serial crime unit. When you look at someone like Israel Keyes, a really big lesson to take home is the fact that while the FBI or law enforcement in general is studying serial killers and psychopaths to a certain degree, you can't ignore the fact that they are also studying you. The information that you put out there is also going to be used in order to enhance their criminal techniques which is what allowed Israel Keyes to get away with who knows how many murders. We don't know how many murders he has committed. We've only discussed the one of Samantha Koenig.

But he let drop a couple of other murders, but he never confessed to all of the murders that he had committed and he refused to. It was like a cat and mouse game that he was playing with the FBI, "Here I'll give you this little tidbit. Maybe you can find it." You don't know how much he was just embellishing, if he was throwing them red herrings every now and then. But it's fairly clear they could tell by the evidence and the way he spoke, the way he conducted himself during the murder of Samantha Koenig, the kinds of things that he relayed saying to her, that he had a lot of experience in knowing how to talk to victims and elevating it into almost a science really, to get them to do exactly what he wanted them to do. Tell them the things that will keep them pacified or give them just subtle hints that they might be able to escape with their life.

But a very big takeaway is that he only got caught because it seemed like he wanted to get caught.

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: There is a whole sub-genre or sub-category of serial killers out there who, for all the missing people that are actually his victims, there are so many other missing people who are the victims of other individuals who behave in a similar sort of meticulous fashion.

Harrison: There are so many different directions to go on that. Maybe one thing, about him getting sloppy and wanting to get caught? Callaghan has this interesting passage here talking about that.

At various times in these interrogations he would make these vague allusions to his grand plan or his grand plans. He had all of these plans and they were never quite sure what these plans were, but he let drop a few details. But again, it was hard to know if these were actually his grand plans or if he had other plans or what he was really planning. But one was that he wanted to start using churches. He thought it would be a good idea to use churches as staging grounds for some of these crimes. I'll get into the details of that later. But that's the context for what she writes here. She says:

"But now he found himself conceiving of elaborate crimes, ones that would make the news, not just local, national. That was why the churches. A serial killer targeting churches would cause a nationwide panic. Keyes said his urge for infamy built over time. For years he would only ever check media coverage of what he had done at airports or at libraries, public computers only. But as his crimes became more brazen, news lasting not days or weeks, but months or years, Keyes became frustrated. He wanted the world to know. In the history of monsters he was a great. Keyes said, 'I definitely got carried away with the publicity' and a bit later on he says, 'I knew I was getting stupid I guess, but I was still planning ahead.'"

Just like in Keyes's case and in serial killers cases, the extent and the depravity of their crimes escalates because it's kind of like a drug addict. They need more and more in order to feel the same sensations so they need to get more and more extreme in order to get that rush. It's the same thing with the infamy. Whereas previously he was fine with having no publicity, he would, like other serial killers, drive by the crime scene just to see what was going on. This couple that he killed a year before Samantha, again, he was on a trip somewhere I think in Vermont. So he was traveling between states. He had killed them and then gone to do his business somewhere else and then on his way home, to the airport, drove by just to see what was going on and saw the police there and that was enough for him, just to see that the police were there and that he had duped them, essentially. They had no idea and that gave him a bit of a rush.

But by the time of Samantha, he was even going onto the Anchorage news websites and posting comments under the articles using the name Israel, his real name, but not his full name, talking about his theories and why he thinks that they'll never catch whoever did this. So he was inserting himself more and more into the public narrative. Part of him did want to get caught, did want infamy, the publicity. But even that is contradicted by his cat and mouse game with the police because he was telling the police he didn't want any publicity. His condition was that he'd only tell them things if they kept it out of the news because he didn't want his daughter and family to find out and all the people connected to him. Part of his deal was that he wanted the death penalty within a year. He wanted them to kill him and he didn't want big publicity and everyone to know about it because they'd make stupid true crime documentaries about him.

So there was this weird contradiction where he wanted to get caught and wanted the publicity but said he didn't and set everything up so that he could try to keep it out of the news, which he managed to do for a while. The FBI was giving in to his demands because they needed and wanted more information from him. So it was just this weird, confusing mess.

Then on the subject of the books that he was reading, another one that he had was a novel by...

Elan: Dean Koontz was it?

Harrison: Yeah, Dean Koontz, Intensity. "Koontz's novel crystalized Keyes' thoughts and urges, the love of pain, self-inflicted and imposed, the ultimate pointlessness of human existence, the disbelief in god or any other higher being, the power and transcendence that only taking, torturing and killing could provide. This made him feel, ironically like the god he didn't believe in. He was a self-avowed atheist, had grown up with some Mormon parents who'd go from one kind of radical religious group to the other but he had gotten off religion at some point."

Elan: Harrison, could you read the rest of that paragraph. It's a great paragraph.

Harrison: Maybe it's the next paragraph.

"Koontz described his serial killer thusly. He does not believe in reincarnation or in any of the standard practices of an afterlife that are sold by the world's great religions. But if he is to undergo an apotheosis, it will be brought about by his own bold actions, not by divine grace. If he in fact becomes a god, the transformation will occur because he has already chosen to live like a god without fear, without remorse, without limits, with all his senses fiercely sharpened."

Is that the one?

Elan: That was the one. It made quite an impression on me in the sense that it described some element of Keyes's psyche so well I thought. I was trying to think of ways to describe what Keyes is or was. A void? A black hole? A puppet of larger evil forces if they can be said to exist in the world? Psychopath is part of the description for sure and then his will to doing so much harm to causing such great suffering among so many, for destroying the lives of people and making their last moments alive as horrific and terrible an experience as anyone can have on this earth, requires something of a very close and essential connection to evil on a spiritual level. So that's why I thought that paragraph was so interesting and compelling because that has to be a part of the story as well.

I just wanted to get a little bit more into his history here because, like you were saying, his parents were first part of this...

Harrison: They were Mormons first.

Elan: Mormons and then they joined a Christian militia that was anti-Semitic that was based on white supremacy and then they joined another group called The Ark. His upbringing is very peculiar because his parents had no creature comforts. They always lived off the grid. He had no birth certificate. He had no government identification. He and his nine siblings basically lived in tents. His father would build houses for people but would keep all of the family in tents. They made use of no medicine. Israel was considered the caretaker - this is an interesting paradox here - he took care of his younger siblings. He was the oldest child and everybody loved him. He was adored by his whole family. He took care of his mother.

But during this time of upbringing where is father was largely absent and they had one version or another version of this weird religious life, Keyes was killing animals. He was robbing houses.

Harrison: He started fires.

Elan: He was starting fires. He was blowing shit up. He was making friends - this is a really weird one folks - he made friends with two brothers when he was part of this Christian community. One of the brothers later on went on to be an accomplice of Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma bombing.

Harrison: Well that was the accusation. He denied it and they never really pursued it, but that was the accusation.

Elan: Yes, but it suggests to me that he was peripherally involved with that whole thing. If you've looked closely at Oklahoma City, that bombing, not that we're going to get into that here today, everything about the story as it was presented to us in the media stinks, including just how responsible Timothy McVeigh was for what happened that day.

In any case, a very strange coincidence. So Keyes grew up with a strong independent streak. He was very self-reliant. He would build things. He would build boats, houses. He'd blow them up and then in his early 20s he joined the military, I think, in Washington where there's this 6'3" fellow with an incredible build, 230 pounds of pure muscle, as one of his fellow soldiers called him, incredibly competent, made friends with a few of them, kind of awkward.

Corey: Well he was so competent that when the FBI called his sergeant, I think it was, to ask information about him, the sergeant thought he was calling for a recommendation or a referral or something because he thought this guy was obviously going into government work now.

Harrison: Yeah.

Elan: Right. At some point it's implied, although details weren't forthcoming, that he had received some kind of special ops training. So who knows what that was all about?

Corey: But even the soldiers that he worked with distanced themselves from him after they got to know him a little bit better because, being the kind of person that he is, a psychopath, he didn't realize, for whatever reason, that you don't just talk about killing cats as though you are justified in having so much anger towards cats.

Elan: Yes.

Corey: If you say that to somebody, somebody's going to look at you and think you're absolutely nuts. So people knew that there was something seriously screwed up with this guy, that he had no problem talking about killing a cat when he was a kid because he was angry. Just murdering the dang thing.

Harrison: He had one friend, the guy that he really got close to in the military, this guy Perkins and the FBI interviewed him afterwards about Keyes and this guy was extremely forthcoming and said - I'll read a few passages. "He and Keyes had 'normal army talk about how to commit crimes and steal money, lots of it'. This would begin once Keyes got out of the military."

So Keyes was telling him all his plans and Perkins said that Keyes talked about his plans to kidnap people and hold them for ransom on a mass scale. He wasn't convinced that Keyes was kidding so he thought he was totally serious. Then at the end they ask if they were surprised that he got caught for kidnapping and murder. He said, "I'm surprised he got caught. He was smarter than that."

So he'd confided a lot in this guy because he thought that he'd told the FBI that he felt a connection with this guy. He was the guy most like him. This is what I want to get into - more of what Keyes revealed about his own psychology because there are several passages in the book that are just really eye-opening if you're interested in psychopathy and psychology and serial killers in general. He let a lot of interesting tidbits come out in these interrogations.

I'm just going to read a few of these because they're really interesting. This is him talking about kidnapping Samantha Koenig. He's describing things and then he just says:

"I wasn't scaring her at that point. I was trying, you know, to seem like a normal person."

So right there, he knows that he's not normal, that acting like a normal person is an act that he puts on. At some other point he says, "Oh, at this point I was still being nice." So being nice was a strategy for him. I can't remember which book it was in. It might have been in the FBI profiler book, Whoever Fights Monsters or whichever one it was, or it might have been Character Disturbance by George K. Simon, where he's saying never trust someone who's nice because you can meet nice people who are genuinely nice but just because a person is nice doesn't mean anything because that is what people with personality disorders, especially psychopaths, use to manipulate you. They can be nice but they're not being nice. It's just a manipulation tactic.

For Keyes, his entire life was a manipulation tactic, trying to convince people that he was something he was not. So he kind of reveals it in these things. Then a little bit more insight. This is where he contradicts himself by saying that he's not that weird. He says, "I don't consider myself that different than hundreds of thousands of people." Look at the pornography they found on his computer, bondage, S&M, gay, transgender. Did they really think he was the only person on earth attracted to that stuff? "I just take it to the next level," he said. "The sexual fantasies, the money, the adrenalin rush, once you get started there's nothing like it."

That was another weird thing about him. They got that from the list. They discovered all kinds of transgender pornography on his computers and on DVDs that he travelled around with when they caught him. He said at one point that he'd always known that he was bisexual and this showed up in his crimes too. One that we didn't talk about, one of the other ones that he admitted to was this couple in Vermont that I mentioned. He staked out their house. He had previously found an abandoned cabin that he knew he was going to use for the murder, so he randomly found this house that fit the profile. He was looking for a house with a couple in it. He didn't want any dogs because dogs are noisy and cause problems.

So he breaks into this house while they're sleeping, ties them up, takes them to this other location, separates them and has some trouble because he takes the husband and ties him up, comes back to the car, finds that the wife - they were a middle-aged couple, maybe in their 50s - she had gotten out of the ties and was running away. He chases her, tackles her, ties her up again, brings her, puts her in another room, comes back to the husband. He's up and out of his chair.

Corey: He had shattered his chair.

Harrison: Yeah, he shattered the stool that he was on and he was yelling. So this wasn't going according to plan.

Elan: Something he would say is, "Don't do that again or it'll upset me or make me very angry."

Harrison: "Or there'll be consequences," but he wouldn't say that he was going to kill them. He'd always, like you said Corey, leave the door open like skilled killers do; leave the doors of hope open by never saying they're going to kill them. They just say that something bad is going to happen so that they do what the killers want them to do. But he wasn't able to control this guy.

So as Callaghan wrote it, "Where was the abject fear in the husband Bill? How was Keyes on the verge of losing control?" So then she quotes him, "When things got physical that pissed me off". So this is the physical altercation that he had with Bill trying to restrain him. "Because there's a very specific way I want things done, very specific way I want things to happen and I have the whole thing planned out. I have everything I need to do it." What were his plans for Bill? "I'm not going to say what I was going to do with him." Investigators didn't need to hear it. They knew. Keyes had planned to rape Bill too.

So he raped Bill the husband and then before or after that he raped the wife and then killed them and they couldn't find the bodies afterwards. Chances are they were in the landfill somewhere and they never ended up finding them. When the FBI heard this stuff they were flabbergasted because this too was totally unprecedented. It was super rare, especially for a sexually motivated crime to target a middle-aged couple like this. No one does that and Keyes really got off on it.

Corey: They also canvassed the area too. They tried to find his DNA, fingerprints, all of that and they found absolutely nothing at the crime scene that linked him except the fact that he confessed and knew all the details.

Elan: The FBI profilers just came out and said at one point that Keyes was one of the most terrifying people that they had ever studied and it's for these reasons. It had also come out that what Keyes would do was create what he called these kill kits, which was just a collection of items like Drano, gloves, rope, guns, various paraphernalia, that would be useful to him when he would kill people and he had them all over the country buried in various places. There's enough information to suggest that he would go back to some of these places, make use of the kits in those locations.

So one of the things that one of the FBI agents would do was identify where they knew he was when he travelled at various times and then they would connect missing persons reports to these areas at those times to see if they could make a connection between Keyes and who else he might have killed, which is another facet to this book. There were eight or 11 murders that were discussed in interrogations but there's a suggestion that there may have probably been many, many more.

Harrison: At one point she writes that the FBI had managed to create a timeline of all his travels because, like you guys have said, he travelled all over the country all the time. He was always travelling and even though he had no digital footprint anywhere, he paid cash for everything, they managed to find his flights and find out where he was at various times but because they knew how he operated, how he'd fly into one place, drive to another and drive long distances across several state lines, commit a crime then drive back, they had to plot these all out to see what the radius of his geographical reach was. He did all this deliberately. He knew that there would be less chance of him being caught if he couldn't plausibly have been in another location when he was in some other city.

So he'd go to a city and then drive for 16 hours somewhere else to commit a crime and then drive back. You wouldn't think that anyone would do that but he did. I forgot what I was going to say after that.

Elan: This is kind of connected to it peripherally. There's a moment when he's being arraigned or being brought to court for the first time and the FBI agent in Anchorage, one of the more experienced policemen who was working the case as well, is trying to get the department of corrections who are holding Keyes, to understand just who they have there. This guy has almost a preternatural cunning that exceeds any experiences that the folks in Anchorage have ever had with a criminal before and they're telling them, "Don't give him sandwiches with plastic bags. Don't give him items that he can use."

Corey: "Don't give him pencils!"

Elan: "Don't give him pencils." I was getting to that Corey. {laughter} So Keyes is in the courtroom.

Harrison: Shackled.

Elan: Shackled.

Harrison: Ankles and wrists.

Elan: Ankles and wrists and he's looking around nervously and one of the investigators is observing him looking around nervously...

Harrison: Well it's not nervously. He was checking out a woman who was sitting next to one of the cops and the cop sees that he's eyeing this woman and then moves to get in between them and then he looks back again and gives this kind of frustrated look. So he wasn't nervous.

Elan: Well nervous is probably a bad descriptive, but in any case he was intent on something.

Harrison: Yeah.

Elan: And only a short time later Keyes manages to free himself of his shackles, pops up across the chairs and it takes five police officers to restrain him using a taser as well. Only later they find out that he used pencil shavings - as you were saying Corey - as a lock pick to free himself!

Corey: This is a guy who built his first house when he was 15 years old and he moved into it.

Elan: Yeah, you watch films, you watch crime thrillers that you know are kind of exaggerations of reality but this guy was it!

Corey: Well that's one of the craziest things too, is how the law enforcement viewed him up there in Anchorage. As you were saying, he used shavings from pencils to pick his locks. The guards in this prison would allow him and the FBI agent to be alone in a room at the same time. The one guard who's supposed to be watching - you're supposed to have guards in there because this is obviously a lethal individual - but the FBI agent said he knew that Keyes could kill him with his bare hands. He knew that and they left him alone in the room and the guard who was supposed to be watching left too!

So they left him completely alone in the room and the FBI agent had to mask the terror in his voice with authority to slam on the door and say, "Hey you idiots!! Will somebody get back here and do their job?! This is a murderer. I'm in the room with a murderer!" I don't know how big he was compared to the agent but a 230 pound murdered, that's not a small guy. You don't want to be locked in a room alone with him. But that's the kind of incompetence that you saw throughout this book...

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: ...all of these details of incompetence, lack of conscientiousness, just the lack of caring about the consequences of this guy's actions and who he really is, what he really is.

Harrison: There was one example, again in the interrogation, he told them about the Samantha Koenig case, the things that he did during that night. And then he said, "Oh and then I went back to the kiosk to pick up some zip ties that I'd dropped and to pick up her phone that there" and they're like, "What?!?" So they go back and they check the footage and there's the footage of him coming back to the place. They hadn't even watched the entire night's footage to see that he had come back to the scene of the crime!

Corey: Nor had they checked the footage from other CCTV cameras. They didn't even bother to check that, to see if they could get a better angle on what was actually happening.

Harrison: It was crazy. A few more quotes about his psychology. They're really interesting. "I don't want to hear you questioning her again." He's talking about his girlfriend Kimberly.

"You know, like I say, obviously you have no reason to trust me but I can tell you right now that there is no one who knows me or who has ever known me, who knows anything about me really. I'm two different people basically and the person who knows about what I'm telling you, the kinds of things I'm telling, is me."

"How long have you been two different people?"

"A long time. Fourteen years."

Coincidentally, 14 years before the interrogation was 1998 because he was caught in 2012. That was the year he joined the military but even before then there's all kinds of evidence that he was perhaps even killing as a teenager. There were two young girls who went missing in the region he lived when they were living out in the woods. One of the last things that his original fiancé who lived in the area at the time - it was his first almost relationship, they didn't actually have a relationship - but the last thing she asked the police after they interviewed her was, "Did he kill those two girls that went missing?" in Corville where they were from.

As he told them, again just like most serial killers, he'd been developing these fantasies over the years. So as a teenager he started fantasizing and these fantasies developed until the point where he eventually came to act them out, like most serial killers. Here's something about his childhood. Let me read this one. Maybe that was the one. So the things you mentioned Elan, he'd start fires, break into homes.

"His behaviours escalated and he began to realize how different he was from most of his peers. At 14, Keyes and a friend, the one who he broke into houses with were out in the woods and Keyes wanted to try something new. 'I shot something, a dog or a cat. He couldn't handle it and that was the last time I did stuff with him.' Keyes didn't understand the reaction at all and not long after he verbalized his first real threat. 'There was a cat of ours that was always getting into the trash. It was my sister's. I told her if that cat gets into the trash again I'm going to kill it.'

One day later Keyes grabbed the cat and set out into the woods, his sister and two of their friends trailing behind. I took a piece of parachute cord and tied it to a tree. The cord was 10 feet long and he wrapped the other end around the cat's neck. Keyes was carrying a 22 revolver. 'And I shot the cat in the stomach and it ran around and around the tree and then crashed into the tree and started vomiting. For me, I didn't really react. I actually kind of laughed a little because of the way it was running around the tree and I looked back at the kid who was my age and he was throwing up, kind of traumatized I think, and he told his dad about it and of course his dad talked to my parents about it and that was pretty much the last time anyone went to the woods with me.'"

Again, typical psychopathic behaviour.

Elan: Well just to fill in a few other details in his adult life. He had a tattoo of an upside down pentagram put on the back of his neck. He had also said to people, and I think maybe to the investigators that he had a dark heart. So the guy was intelligent enough to realize how different he was from everyone and to assign his own psyche or mindset to darkness correctly, even though that had no influence over his actions.

Something else that he had done which was kind of mind-boggling to me was that he had gone for all of these elective surgeries like gastric bypass to make his stomach smaller. The author says that he was biohacking himself. He was trying to improve his efficiency physically as a serial killer. Do you have any thoughts about that? It's so out there.

Corey: Do I have any thoughts on that? {laughter} Just sheer disgust. No.

Elan: So much of his story is beyond the pale, even for the types of information that folks are aware of.

Corey: There's one interesting thing we haven't talked about, not about Israel Keyes, but about the people that he didn't victimize. He had a lot of problems in Texas because of their "everything is bigger in Texas" attitude. He was outside of a bank waiting to rob it and sizing it up and one person just walked right up to him and said, "What the hell are you doing here?" He was an outsider. They're suspicious of outsiders. He didn't have any good reason to just be standing there staring at the bank and somebody just came up and didn't split any hairs, just said, "What are you doing here?! There's no reason for you to be here." That makes things more difficult if you're a serial killer, bank robber, arsonist.

Another thing was that so many people had guns. You combine that attitude with guns and you make it very dangerous for someone like Israel Keyes, even someone as strong and lethal and cunning as him. He doesn't want to take those kinds of chances necessarily.

Elan: Right.

Corey: He pictured himself as being some superman, demi-god, worthy of being in the ranks of the greatest serial killers of all time, but just like every other, they're just predators. They're just predators and you have to protect yourself and you have to have the mentality of wanting to protect yourself. When you have that and combine that with awareness and some modicum of ballsiness like there is in Texas, you make it more difficult for someone like him to prey on you.

Elan: I'm glad you said that Corey because that really is, for me anyway, one of the big takeaways of the book. Allow the story of Israel Keyes and everything you've ever heard about these types of people to scare the shit out of you enough to face the reality that there are people out there who are quite ready and prepared to hurt you for no reason other than that it gratifies them. Like you said, a great level of awareness and ballsiness and hopefully no one who hears this or very many other people get put to the test of being put into this type of situation, but have some strong awareness and...

Corey: And don't be a victim.

Elan: And don't be a victim!

Corey: Don't let that mentality be in your head. Be like Texas. {laughter}

Harrison: Before we wrap up, I want to read one more thing. This was about his thoughts on religion. Like we said, he grew up in this super religious environment and how does that work with a psychopath like this growing up? Well this is what he had to say about it. He's talking about his brandings. He had an upside down cross on his chest and an upside down pentagram on the back of his neck and he said,

"At first these represented his rejection of god and his interest in Satanism. Initially Keyes thought there had to be a higher reason he was like this, why it was he liked hurting animals and people and never felt guilt or even shame. Ultimately that logic didn't hold because Keyes realized he couldn't believe in the devil without believing in god. Evil was something else entirely. He said, 'At first I was pretty conflicted about it but that was all because of the way I had been raised and stuff and I grew up with good people. I was never - everybody's nice to each other and everything's all sunshine and roses so that's why it was disturbing to me because it seemed like for a long time I thought everybody else was faking it and everybody was like me and they just didn't act like it or I figured I was a demon child or whatever. I don't know.'"

So he has these kind of weird thoughts. He's trying to make sense of himself at a young age. He knows that he's different. He's realized that he's different. This is very common, the psychopathic projection, thinking that everyone's like that and they just act in these strange ways, but then realizing later on that no, there's actually something different about these normal people, 'I'm different', and often because psychopaths are so egocentric that means "Oh, well that must mean I'm great, I'm better than them, there's something about me that's superior".

Then it was later on when he read these serial killer books that he finally realized that he wasn't alone. "Oh, that's what I am! I'm like that." So this self-awareness, this strange pathological journey of self-awareness that he had, combined with reading these books - this gets back to what you were saying Corey, how he utilized the entire history of FBI profiling and the history of serial killing - to forge himself into the ultimate serial killer. So he learned all of the techniques. He stole a bunch of tactics from previous serial killers, his heroes like Ted Bundy, BTK and some other ones and found all of the flaws and then found a solution for all of them in order to be this super killer, this super predator. Like we said, he managed to get away with it.

That's something about most of these serial killers. Some of them only get caught because they want to get caught but if you think about it, the only way you can be a serial killer is if you are pretty good at what you do in order to be able to do this multiple times. The Golden State killer only got caught last year. So a lot of these guys will be able to kill dozens of people and who knows how many? Just on the numbers, because you mentioned a few things Elan, Keyes is definitively tied to something like four people. The lead FBI investigator Payne, thinks that there was 11 for two reasons. During an interrogation he told them a number. He said, "Less than a dozen". Payne said that was weird. If it was less than 10 he would have said "Less than 10" so it must be 11. Then when Keyes committed suicide in prison, again using the razor from just a disposable razor, he put that into a pencil and used that to slash his wrists and then as he was bleeding out he hanged himself from his bed, but he'd drained some of the blood into cups and then used the blood to write a message on the wall which included 12 skulls drawn in blood.

So some of the investigators thought that was a representation of the number of people that he'd killed including himself, so 11 plus one. But who knows? Like you mentioned Elan, others thought more because they'd traced him using this timeline to 30 different locations and had found at least 30 missing people that coincided with the locations and times when Keyes was there.

In the book Callaghan mentions some of these and shows, "Okay, this is where Keyes was at this time. Here's this case of this person disappearing" and then shows how it seemed to match up with Keyes's MO essentially. So he could have killed dozens of people. Who knows? And that's just in the United States! There are hints that he was killing people in Canada, in Mexico, in Egypt when he was stationed there and Israel because he'd make trips across the border into Israel when he was stationed there sometime in 1999 or 2000. So potentially he was killing in at least four different countries.

Elan: Well it's interesting to me that he killed himself at all. He was very serious with the investigators about getting the death penalty within a year's time of confessing certain things. But he absolutely meant what he said. He wanted to die. In a way, he wanted to continue even beyond his death, to control the narrative and to keep the investigators who might have discovered many more deaths, in the dark as to what he was actually responsible for and perhaps even what other parts of his grand plan were.

This guy was a one-man wrecking crew. He said that there were stories on the news that had gone on for days, national news, that he had in fact been responsible for. Now we never find out what those were, but it suggests that this was evil and crazy on quite a high level.

Harrison: One final point before we end the show. This will be a teaser to actually read the book. His case got upgraded from just kidnapping and serial murder to terrorism. For some reason - and no one actually knows why because the FBI and the DOJ are being tight-lipped. They're holding all kinds of documents, tens of thousands of pages of documents on this case. So that's a mystery as to why it got upgraded. The files are being held for reasons of national security.

Elan: Didn't they find 9,000 pounds of explosive or gun powder of some kind?

Harrison: No, no. No one knows what they found. All they know is that that changed after he told them that he liked making bombs and had been making them for years. Then they researched his properties, because he had two properties, one in New York state and one in Anchorage. After they searched them, no one knows what happened. His case got changed, adds a terrorism charge to it and no more publicity. Nothing else is relayed to the news or the public. If you want to get the full story - well I pretty much told all the details but if you want to see how they get there and just a bit more of the circumstances around that, you've got to read the book.

Corey: Yeah, there are a lot more details in the book. The book also has references to other really interesting books. I mentioned Dark Dreams by Roy Hazelwood and Mind Hunters is another one, but a lot of really interesting material in order to wrap your head around what evil really looks like. And with that said, go look at something beautiful. {laughter} Go look at something beautiful after this show. I think that's what I'm going to do. We appreciate you listening in. Hit like and subscribe and we will go ahead and talk to you again next week.

Harrison: Alright, thanks for tuning in.

Elan: Have a good one folks. Be safe.