GILLES DE RAIS [also spelled Retz] was born on this date (d: 1440); A French noble, soldier and one-time brother-in-arms of Joan of Arc accused and ultimately convicted of torturing, raping and murdering dozens, if not hundreds, of young children, mainly boys. Along with Erzsébet Báthory, another sadistic aristocrat acting more than a century later, he is considered by some historians to be a precursor of the modern serial killer.

If one is to believe his confession, and there is good reason not to, de Rais had run through his fortune and was convinced that sacrificing young boys to Satan would restore his riches. Somewhere along the way he decided that sodomizing his victims before killing them would satisfy his needs along with the Devil’s, and so more and more boys disappeared in his castle, never to be seen again. When Gilles was arrested on charges of blasphemy, the grisly murders were uncovered. He confessed to having killed some 150 boys, “for the pleasure and gratification of my senses.” Having been an ally of Joan of Arc, there is good reason to suspect that the murders were the invention of the Catholic Church, which seems to have its own obsession with boys