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Water Street Butcher

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I'll tell you one place we will be watching. If this documentary thing you're making ever gets to the theaters, he won't be able to help himself. He will see this movie as many times as he can. We'll keep an eye on as many screenings as we can, because he'll be there.
~ FBI Agent Leonard Schway regarding the Water Street Butcher.
You know, to be perfectly honest, i don't think either of us are gonna want you alive for the things I'm going to do to you.
~ The Butcher speaking to his next victim.

The Water Street Butcher is a serial killer and the main antagonist in the 2007 horror film The Poughkeepsie Tapes.

He was portrayed by Ben Messmer.

Personality and Skills

The Water Street Butcher had great psychology skills and was a cunning psychopath. He knew how to kill and dispose of people in many different ways, and he can play a serial killer profile exactly the way he wants. He especially liked filming his bizarre crimes with an old video tape camera, and collected over 800 tapes before police raided his home in 2001. His identity is unknown, and he goes out of his way to not make people find out. The only time he shows himself to the camera is when he's in complete disguise, including a commedia dell'arte bird mask. In a police sketch from 1993, his age looked to be in his mid-to-late 20's, putting him in his late 30's/early 40's by 2007 (when the documentary was filmed).

Murder Spree

Sometime in the late 1980's/early 1990's, the Butcher began his murder spree. Around 1988, he kidnapped an 8 year old girl named Jennifer Gorman and killed her. His first murder was just based on impulse. Later on, he became better. Somewhere between Pittsburgh and Poughkeepsie, he acted like his car broke down and hitched a ride from a married couple, Frank and Jeanette Anderson. He lured them to a desolate road a few miles off the freeway, where he clubbed Frank in the head with a hammer. Before Jeanette could escape, he put her sleep with a chemical agent while filming her face up close. Later, the Butcher woke up Jeanette saying he had a surprise for her. He walks backwards with the camera to reveal that he cut Frank's head off and put it in Jeanette's stomach. It's later implied that she died when her head was cut off. Before killing the Andersons, the Butcher left a message on a local gas station security camera; while covering his face, he used sign language to say 'red house'. Jeanette's body was found buried behind the Red House Tavern just a mile away.

At one point, the Butcher killed the tenant of a house in Poughkeepsie and buried him in the backyard. The Butcher would live in this house over the next 10 years or so.

Cheryl Dempsey

In 1993, the Butcher travelled to Reading, Pennsylvania where he kidnapped a 19 year old college student named Cheryl Dempsey. He also killed and mutilated her boyfriend Tim Surrey. The Butcher, in disguise, beat Cheryl into accepting her new name as 'slave'. When Cheryl's kidnapping was announced, the Butcher went back to Reading, went up to Cheryl's mother Victoria, and acted like a sympathetic person asking to help. It dawned on Victoria that he was the man who kidnapped Cheryl, but before she could react, he ran off. After returning to Poughkeepsie, he dressed Cheryl in a medieval dress and a rubber mask.

New M.O.

Later in 1993, Poughkeepsie became aware of the Butcher's crimes, so he got himself a new M.O. He acted as a police officer and began kidnapping prostitutes. He would arrest them, take them back to his house, and kill them. He would even force Cheryl to kill some (a tape a shown where she's forced to slit one's throat).

It's implied that Cheryl was forced to strangle another prostitute, but as the Butcher tried to coax two girl scouts, he heard the prostitute in his basement, so he told the scouts to leave and took care of her himself as the camera was left filming Cheryl's face in a mirror while she was tied up in a glass box.

The Butcher still committed his original crimes. He picked up a British woman, who's car broke down, in his cop car. The Butcher pulled his car over and it's implied that he raped her right in that spot. Later, the woman is tied up in his basement when the Butcher does a slow cat-like crawl towards her while in black tights and a white mask on his head. He rises his head revealing that he's wearing his iconic bird mask. He then stabs her in the neck slowly with two prongs attached to his fingers, killing her.

James Foley

The Butcher planted evidence on his victims implicating a Poughkeepsie detective named James Foley. Foley was arrested and put on trial in Pennsylvania. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on September 9, 2001, two days before the 9/11 attacks. The Butcher sent a map saying 'missed one' to Foley's former detective partner, and another body was found. Foley was exonerated on the 12th and it's put in the newspaper, but it receives little to no attention because of 9/11.


The IP address was tracked on the printed map, and the Butcher's house is found. But he's long gone and managed to leave no fingerprints behind. The Poughkeepsie Tapes are found as well as Cheryl Dempsey, who has been kept alive for 8 years. Dempsey has been so psychologically abused that she tortures herself behind peoples' backs.

The Documentary

In 2007, the documentary was filmed about what happened. All sorts of people, ranging from victims' family members to FBI agents, gave their testimony. Cheryl Dempsey was finally interviewed as well, but now she is disturbed and whispers. At one point during her interview, she scratched her head with the stump of her left forearm, implying that she cut it off. She says that the Butcher loved her and will come back for her; she kills herself two weeks later. After Dempsey's funeral, her body is stolen by the killer, whose whereabouts are unknown.

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