A French writer and self-proclaimed serial killer expert who has long maintained that he was first called to the world of profiling killers after finding his partner raped and murdered has revealed he is actually just an expert at making shit up after being busted by a group of amateur YouTube sleuths.
Stéphane Bourgoin has written dozens of true-crime books focused on killers, such as Edward Kemper and Jeffrey Dahmer, and has previously claimed to have extensive experience, including interviewing 77 different killers, training with the FBI at Quantico, and personally questioning Charles Manson. But the center of Bourgoin’s story was that he understood crime from personal experience—as the partner of a victim. He has said that in 1976 he discovered the body of his wife “Eileen” in their Los Angeles apartment and attributed her death to a serial killer later found to have murdered dozens of other women. The lie led to Bourgoin becoming a founding member of “Victimes en Série,” a French association for the families and friends of those murdered by serial killers. Following a series of YouTube videos that questioned the veracity of those claims, Bourgoin has given interviews with two French news outlets claiming that he suffers from “mythomania,” which is a fancy term for pathological or compulsive lying.
The author of My Conversations With Killers has actually met a few killers, fewer than 10 but the number is unclear, and while he was never married to the victim of a serial killer, he does claim to have met a woman named Susan Bickrest, who was murdered by serial killer Gerald Stano in 1975, a few times in when she was working in a Florida bar.
Bourgoin’s murdered wife story seems to have begun with the author wanting attention for having known Bickrest without having to actually name her, since the two didn’t really know one another at all. From the Guardian:
“It was bullshit that I took on,” Bourgoin told Le Parisien. “I didn’t want people to know the real identity of someone who was not my partner, but someone who I had met five or six times in Daytona Beach, and who I liked.”
Mythomania seems to be a common affliction among a group of writers, shockingly often white male writers, who exploit invented trauma for book deals and attention. In 2019, best-selling author Daniel Mallory was exposed as having exaggerated his mother’s cancer, lied about her death, pretended to have had a brain tumor, and invented a disabled brother in order to gain sympathy that earned him career advancements—including admission to famous higher-ed institutions and promotions within the publishing world. In 2003, author James Frey used the death of a former classmate he barely knew as a plot point in A Million Little Pieces, marketed as a non-fiction account of drug abuse and later revealed to be made up.
In addition to inventing a murdered wife, Bourgoin has also claimed to have discovered human remains alongside investigators and boasted of having the cremated corpse of a killer in his home; neither of these stories turned out to be true. In interviews, Bourgoin says his lies weren’t even necessary: “All these lies are absolutely ridiculous because if we objectively take stock of my work, I think it was enough in itself,” Bourgoin said.
And while unnecessary, it’s possible that he could become even more famous because of his lies. In 2018, “A Million Little Pieces” was adapted into a film starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thorton, and Juliette Lewis. Daniel Malloy’s novel The Woman in the Window was a best-seller despite, or perhaps in part because of, the press at the time of its release unveiling Mallory’s lies. (A film version starring Amy Adams is slated for a summer release.) All this attention could mean that film versions of Bourgoin-penned true-crime titles Sex Beast could soon be imminent.