Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hannibal Lecter: Origin, Facts and Fiction


Hannibal in his cage
Hannibal in his cage

Rinaldo Pazzi's grand guignol exit in Hannibal can certainly be taken as an act of personation, but a more typical example is Klaus the Swedish sailor in The Silence of the Lambs whose partial remains Clarice Starling finds in the backseat of a 1938 Packard limousine locked in a warehouse.  At first she discovers a mannequin in a tuxedo sitting in the backseat.  On the seat next to the figure is an open album full of old-fashioned valentines.  The head of the mannequin is covered with a "black though it covered a parrot's cage."  When Starling removes the hood, she finds a human head partially submerged in liquid, "the eyes long burned milky by the alcohol that preserved it."  

When Starling questions Lecter about this victim, he admits to putting Klaus's head in the car, but says he didn't kill the man.  Klaus was killed by one of Dr. Lecter's patients, Benjamin Raspail, "first flutist for the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra," a whiny man whose inadequate musicianship offended Lecter.  Lecter did kill Raspail, however, serving his pancreas and thymus at a dinner party for the president and conductor of the philharmonic.  For some reason, Lecter took it upon himself to embellish Raspail's crime, creating a macabre setting for Klaus's disposal.  But why?

Hannibal in straight jacket
Hannibal in straight jacket

Professional profilers analyze the victimology of their UNSUB to find out what the victims have in common.  Lecter's victims were all men.  In most cases he spent time with them, completing his elaborate premeditated plan.  (He did kill a police officer during his escape in The Silence of the Lambs, but it's safe to say that this killing was not planned to satisfy his fantasy.  It was a brutal act of survival.)   Some victims he knew well, like Raspail and Pazzi; others, like the census taker whose liver he consumed with "some fava beans and a big Amarone," he killed impulsively, simply because what the man did for a living offended him.  In fact, that seems to be a common element among all of Lecter's murders, the victim offended his sensibilities in some way.  The census taker tried to "quantify" him as if he were just one of the masses.  Pazzi was crooked and venial.  Krendler and Dr. Chilton, who ran the hospital for the criminally insane where Lecter was incarcerated, were both vindictive petty bureaucrats.  Raspail was a bad musician as well as an annoying personality.  Miggs had no manners.

Unlike other serial killers, Lecter took no souvenirs or trophies to help him relive the act and obsess over his fantasy.  He has only his memories.  But what is this fantasy that he holds so dear and must feed like a beast locked within his soul? Why do petty, uncouth, common males drive him to kill?  And why does he eat them—and not just eat them, dine on them, turning the objects of his distaste into gourmet meals?  What exactly is Hannibal Lector's fantasy?

The answer, I believe, is in the story of Mischa.


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