Have you ever wondered whether your favorite crime TV show, Criminal Minds, is based on real-life serial killers? Well, you’re certainly not the only one.
Every Criminal Minds fan has asked themselves this question at least once. And although several episodes were inspired by true stories, we’re going to have to burst your bubble on this one because most of the show’s episodes are fictional. Nonetheless, there are a few spine-chilling episodes where the cases and serial killers were based on real cases.
So, what episodes were inspired by real serial killers? Here are seven of them.
“Blood Hungry” 1.11
“Blood Hungry” is about a killer who eats the remains of his victims while the BAU team tries to hunt him down. The show’s writers took inspiration for it from the real case of Richard Chase, who brutally murdered people in the 1970s in California and then ate their organs.
In the 11th season of Criminal Minds, we watch the BAU team solve a horrifying case about the kidnapping of several women who were imprisoned, abused, and sexually assaulted for years by their abductor.
This case reminds us of the Ariel Castro case, who held multiple women prisoner for years while beating and sexually assaulting them. Just like in the Criminal Minds episode, he even got them pregnant, and some suffered miscarriages. The episode is just as disturbing as it sounds.
“Alpha Male” 12.15
In this episode, we watch Dr. Spencer Reid end up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, so the BAU then has to continue its work without the brain of the team. They work on a case of seemingly random acid attacks in Philadelphia, but they quickly realize that UnSub wants to hurt happy couples and attractive people.
This case is inspired by Elliot Rodger, who murdered six people in 2014 in California. Both Rodger and the Criminal Minds UnSub committed these murders out of misogyny and hatred.
“Riding The Lightning” 1.14
“Riding The Lightning” is one of the best episodes of season one. It follows the BAU team heading to a prison to talk to a serial killer couple preparing for their execution. When it turns out the woman UnSub was not guilty of the murders, the team tries to solve the case and liberate her.
However, she refused to admit her innocence to protect her son, making this episode a real jewel of the first season. This case was loosely inspired by an English couple, Fred and Rose West, who killed young girls together and then died in prison.
“Natural Born Killer” 1.8
This episode follows the BAU team as they investigate a case of a mob hit on an Organized Crime Unit and then realize that the UnSub is also connected to dozens of other murders targeted at the OCU. “Natural Born Killer” took inspiration from the real-life murderer, Richard Kuklinski, also known as The Iceman. He even had a scary signature of putting his victim’s bodies into freezers.
“Unfinished Business” 1.15
In season one, the BAU team gets presented with the Keystone Killer, a serial killer in Philadelphia who disappeared for 18 years but then came back to torture the retired FBI agent who worked on this case.
Some people believe the Zodiac Killer inspired this episode. However, there are more similarities between the Keystone Killer and the real-life BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, who also killed people in the 1980s and resurfaced many years later.
“The Tribe” 1.16
In this episode, the profilers head out to New Mexico to investigate a murder of a group of college students found dead and brutally tortured. They conclude that a cult committed these awful crimes to turn people against the Native Americans in the area.
Jackson Cally was the leader of this cult, and he wanted to start a race war. This episode was based on the Manson Family and their Helter Skelter scheme, where they tried to start a race war in the late 1960s.