Killer-artist’s portraits span macabre calendar

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AUGUSTA (AP) – Buff firefighters pose on the pages of some calendars, while scantily clad colon cancer survivors, burly lobstermen, Irish barmen and morticians mug it up on others. The latest posers come from the world of the macabre: serial killers.

Spine-chilling images of some of the world’s most notorious serial murderers – Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy to name a few – peer menacingly from the pages of the 2007 calendars produced by a Bangor businessman.

What’s more, the murderers’ likenesses were painted by a killer himself – Frenchman Nico Claux, who was known as “the Vampire of Paris” and was sentenced to 12 years for murder.

“The first time I saw the images it stopped me dead in my tracks,” said Kristopher Saunders, who heads a company called ThePurple Inc. “It gave me the chills.”

Saunders, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Maine, came up with the idea of serial killer calendars, but decided to proceed with the venture only after carefully considering its potential to repel or offend people.

“My feeling was that morally, there’s nothing wrong with this. You don’t see a victim, you don’t see anything that’s unusually offensive,” said Saunders. “There’s nothing here that re-relates to a terrible occurrence.”

Not that the images aren’t creepy.

Claux’s paintings, acrylics in their original form, show head-and-shoulder images that were copied from police mugshots. Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 28 young women and was suspected of slaying dozens more, stares frighteningly from February’s leaf.

The eyes of Richard Ramirez, the Los Angeles “Night Stalker” convicted of 13 murders, are mere slits above his smirking smile. Gacy, who tortured and killed dozens of young men, appears hauntingly in a bright red clown’s outfit.

Quotes from the killers on each entry are equally eerie.

“I feel like an outsider,” says “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz, who killed six and wounded seven in New York City in 1976-77. “I am on a different wavelength than everybody else -programmed to kill.”

“I always seemed to enjoy everything that hurt. The desire to inflict pain, that is all that is uppermost,” says Albert Fish, who’s been called a model for the fictional Hannibal Lector in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs.”

December’s entry features a self-portrait depicting Claux himself around the time of his crime, with shoulder-length black hair and a steely gaze. After serving time, “he soon discovered that he could channel his dark fantasies into his paintings, finding a new way to express his inner torments,” the page says.

“We are offering a person who’s paid his debt to society an opportunity to be recognized for his artistic abilities,” said Saunders. “He wants to be known as an artist now.”

Saunders said he found Claux through ThePurple’s graphic designer, who has an interest in “murdermebalia” and connected with the artist through the Web in Paris. Contacting Claux himself, Saunders found the artist to be extremely intelligent and engaging, dedicated to his art and living quietly in France with his girlfriend.

Claux agreed to allow the use of his images in return for 5 percent of net sales from the calendars, said Saunders. The first run of 3,000 calendars, which Saunders sees as a limited edition, has drawn sales from as far as Europe, Russia and Australia in the two months they’ve been on the market. They sell for $25 retail in the United States and $30 overseas.

Saunders said the calendars have been a hit with members of heavy metal bands whose music makes reference to serial killings. It’s a market niche of others who are inclined to attend horror shows or visit Web sites that deal with the gruesome subject. His serialkillercalendar.com Web site drew 60,000 viewers since February.

The calendar is one of a series of ventures undertaken by ThePurple Inc., which has also developed an electronic business directory and is promoting a book, still in production, about Saunders’ lawsuit against the government.

The serial killer calendar is the latest in a series specialty and fundraising calendars that have appeared. A “Colondar” designed to show that colon cancer isn’t just a disease that hits old people features men and women baring their scars and stories of their diagnoses.

In Augusta, Ga., women have posed naked in a calendar to raise money for a local theater. A “Men of Mortuaries” calendar was launched by a Long Beach, Calif., funeral home owner to raise money for breast cancer patients.

Firefighter calendars have appeared, and a Maine business produced series of lobstermen and lobsterwomen calendars in addition to one featuring barmen in Irish pubs.



On the Net:

The Purple Inc.: www.thepurple.org

AP-ES-05-14-06 1211EDT

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