A True Story That Sounds Made Up

Prompted by someone on Twitter asking for “a true story from your life that sounds made up“, I posted this thread in response.

So: A few years back, I was chatting with my mom, and picked up the book she was reading: Butcher Baker, about Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen. The book has a section of photos in the middle, and I flipped through them.

Hansen would pick up sex workers, hold them captive in his basement, then fly them out to remote locations to hunt and kill them. The book had a photo of his basement room, with a pole in the middle where he would keep them tied up, and taxidermy heads on the walls. I commented on how creepy the room was (I’ve never been a big fan of taxidermy in the first place), and mom just looks at me, and perfectly deadpan says, “Yeah, you never did like it down there.”

Robert Hansen lived just a few doors up the street from the priest of our church. We were good friends with our priest’s family; my brother and I would often play with their kids. And all of us kids would play with other neighborhood kids…including Hansen’s.

So, yeah, we’d occasionally end up at his house, and apparently in his basement room. Decorated with his hunting trophies. And apparently (though never while we were there), a captive sex worker before being flown out to her eventual demise.

I have other friends who also grew up on that street and knew Hansen and his family during his active years before he got caught. It’s a weird little bit of bonding among us.

Hansen was arrested in 1983, when I was ten, so all of this was when I was pretty young, and I don’t have any actual conscious memories of knowing him or his kids (or being in that room). But full points to my mom for the perfect deadpan info drop that day.

If you’re not familiar with Robert Hansen, here’s his page on Wikipedia. There was also a movie about him with John Cusack and Nick Cage, which is…well, it’s a movie. But it was filmed in Anchorage, so I had fun seeing my old stomping grounds in it.

One of my favorite things about trotting out this story is how all of my Lower 48 friends are pretty uniformly 😲, while all of my Alaska friends have various one- or two-degrees-of-separation stories about knowing Hansen or his family, or shopping at his bakery, or being on the PTA with him. Like, knowing a serial killer is just part of living in Alaska in the late ’70s/early ’80s; this is an entirely normal experience.