On May 25th, Luka Rocca Magnotta, real name Erik Newman, dispatched a video called “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick” into the deep web. It was initially hosted on shock site Best Gore.com before spreading into the popular consciousness and being viewed by thousands upon thousands of eyes. The 10-minute video displays the Canadian ex-Gay porn star and hustler Magnotta’s dismemberment of the body of Lin Jun, a Chinese foreign exchange student. “True Faith,” a single by the band New Order, plays throughout. After the video was made, Luka mailed parts of Jun’s body to Canadian political officials and public schools.
Magnotta was apprehended shortly thereafter in Germany, while searching for news about himself at an Internet café.
Probes into sites like Best Gore and Encyclopedia Dramatica reveal a man with a history in social media self-promotion. On May 15th, a Youtube account called “alexisvaloranreich” uploaded a short video called “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick Video (Non-Graphic) Discussion Only.” The video is simply one still of a figure posing before the Casablanca poster later seen in 1 Lunatic, his face concealed by a hoodie. Magnotta holds the aforementioned weapon in a typical Killer’s pose. The uploader’s comment is “There is apparently a video circulating around the deep web called “One Lunatic One Ice Pick” Video. Does anyone have a copy of it? The first comments are from “alexis,” asking if anyone has any info because “im curious to see it.” There is another video posted with essentially the same gist, except the picture is a slightly different angle from the first (Luka is facing farther away from the camera). Because of the date of the uploads, it’s likely they were posted by Luka before he committed the actual crime. There’s a comment by “Genisismaster,” obviously another Luka account, reading “Apparently there is another video…of the same guy performing oral sex on a dead woman laying on a sofa?” Another upload is titled “Cannibal Serial Killer-Luka Magnotta,” with the account name “Rita VanVolkenberg.” The 3-minute video is a slideshow of Luka glamour shots. The song playing is “True Faith.” It was posted on April 22, 2012. There are dozens of “reaction” videos, people playing I Lunatic and taping their dazzled first impressions. Click on enough of them and you’ll hear the third generation fuzz of “True Faith” on a loop.
I’ve seen it. I wish I hadn’t, and I knew when I found it that I shouldn’t have watched it but I watched it anyway. As I was reading, as I was searching, my sister invited me upstairs to watch Food Network Stars with her. By the time the show was airing I had played “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick” and later, when I decided to write this piece instead of soldering on with an essay that I’ve been planning for a while, an essay that means a lot to me and would be what you’re reading now if I wasn’t self-blocking myself on its progress, later I thought about structuring this viewing of Food Network Stars in the context of an article on Magnotta, maybe putting it at the end as the light in my night’s darkness, my redemption, washed up on the shores of the warm innocuous mainstream.
I could have used my sister in the way I used a dancing girl encountered in a Bagel shop last month, but that’s not how this is going to go. My sister’s room is sunnily illuminated and mural’d with posters for Say Anything and The Breakfast Club. The air-conditioning is breezy and members of the house’s plethora of animals usually slink inside and rest on her bed. I couldn’t concentrate. I found my gaze repeatedly pitched to the floor. A floor that was closer to the basement and screen where I had watched Magnotta stabbing Jun Lin even after he was dead.
I don’t want to describe this thing in detail, less out of consideration for any hypothetical reader than out of a desire not to give Magnotta any more free publicity, which I’m probably doing already just by writing his name. The only factor I can say in the positive is that he kills Lin early before desecrating his body. Watching “the real thing,” those few times I have, is always a deadening rather than truly horrific experience. “The Real Thing” leaves no place lower to go. The senses are dulled. The worst is happening, and it’s almost anticlimactic. His fixation on the New Order composition drags future listenings into what the gorgeous song could mean in the brainpan of a deviant:
I feel so extraordinary
Something's got a hold on me
I get this feeling I'm in motion
A sudden sense of liberty
This pop euphoria was absorbed by Magnotta as something mutant and contrasted from what most would take from the song. Then the chorus, which plays during the video’s most disgusting passages (I used to think that the day would never come/I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun/My morning sun is the drug that brings me near/To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear) is stolen from complexity and joy, perverted forever by what transpires in this little room and the thoughts of narcissistic empowerment no doubt trolling through Luka’s mind-I feel so extraordinary…A sudden sense of liberty.
The Food Network show ended and brought no liberty from Magnotta’s self-smear across the internet. Before 1 Lunatic he tried to gain viral notoriety from torturing and killing kittens. There are interviews on Canadian tabloid news shows where he talks about his experiences hustling under the name “Jimmy.” Magnotta is also interviewed as a potential contestant on a plastic surgery program where, in an unexpectedly deep and authoritative voice, he discusses the work that’s been done on his too-smooth visage. After he fled Canada he posted update videos where he alluringly smokes and addresses “all my fans.” 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick has been removed from pretty much every site that once hosted it, but I knew where to look. He probably put it there, the viral spot where I dug it up.
Drive thirty minutes north and there’s a deluxe Price Chopper that stays open through the night. Enter at 3 or 4 in the morning and it’s just you unless you’re with friends, but tonight they couldn’t come, and you needed some product, some necessity they wouldn’t have at any of the 24/7 convenience stores back in town. The night owl is you, flying over stock boys and the store’s lone A.M. cashier. Walk to the final frozen isle where the lighting is operated by motion sensors. Walk through and florescent lights crackle at the whim of your passage.
Those lights, those living organisms, remind me of the sensation I get midway through night’s progress when something like Luka Magnotta or Ricardo Lopez triggers my Shock Site investigations. I get into a taut, uncomfortable space. I open links that fall to deeper links, some without a net. 1 Lunatic leads me to watch a prolonged murder video by Ukrainian mass killers dubbed “3 Guys 1 Hammer.” Yes, both videos are named, one colloquially and one intentionally, after “2 Girls 1 Cup” the old guard of reactionary sick, along with pictures and videos named so cryptically-“Goatse,” “Swap.avi”-they could be zines you find stuck under your foot as you walk across wet gravel after visiting an urban mallscape. When I’m in my unfortunate Shock Site roving mode, former darkness brightens to lives so cavalierly sharing death and snapshot anguish. I’m angry, at what our world can vomit forth, at the fact the site is called “Best Gore,” but I can’t do a thing about it (whatever “it” is) because I’m actively seeking out this content, I’m scouring Best Gore, I’m one of those tiny cars bumping against more cars in the metaphorical nexus of Web traffic. The agitation a monster like Magnotta inspires is grounded primarily in sandpit desperation. He wants all of this-our collective attention and disapproval and fear. And for the moment, he’s got it.
It’s easy to cynically place the Magnotta crimes within the same apocalyptic prism of the recent Miami cannibalism incident, where Rudy Eugene attacked derelict Ronald Poppo and consumed the majority of the skin on his face. These are two separate atrocities, but the allure of poetic maneuvering is eerily succumb-able. At first people were making jokes about the Eugene attack being the first salvo of a zombie invasion. I would probably enjoy both of these crimes in a movie or work of fiction, the Magnotta slaying even recalls the gruesome fantasies of a gay chat room in Dennis Cooper’s 2005 novel The Sluts. I don’t know if these digressions to art and media serve as a palliative or not. Does making zombie jokes or comparisons to fiction render these somehow less raw? Why did Rudy Eugene and Luka Magnotta’s actions happen weeks apart? Because they did, that’s all, and that conclusion feels both final and weightlessly inadequate.
Eugene’s mauling of Ronald Poppo could have been any year and lost none of it's visceral impact; Magnotta’s entire personality has an aura of calculated Nowness. Like “Psycho” Sam McCrosky, Luka knew his way around a computer. Unlike Sam, he indulged in a heavy degree of networking to cultivate and promote his infamy. This signals the dawning of a new age of viral true crime, the BTK Killer’s letters shifted by technological advances into E-mails, status messages, parasites wriggling into the stream.
The image that stays with me above all others: the posed “promo” shot of Magnotta, the ice pick, the Casablanca poster, harsh light riding over it all. This bookends 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick, in fact it’s the last thing we see if we’ve managed to make it through the 11 minutes at all, right after still frames of Jun Lin’s severed body parts, including his decapitated head, which has yet to be recovered. Did Magnotta arrange and edit this footage? If he did, why does the Toronto PD claim to have a longer version locked tight in evidence? Did he send it to the police, a more graphically extensive version, just as he’d mailed Lin’s body parts around the country?
What if that protuberance of a face-red lips, jutting nose, stabs of hair- doesn’t actually belong to Magnotta?
Of course, it most certainly does, though in that terrible frame, just as, arguably, in that terrible crime, and the terrible video that emerged from it, Magnotta astral projected outside of himself and became “1 Lunatic,” an abstract being of blood watercolor and a keyboard. Matter changes to gigabits. Women with lives thousands of miles long are nothing more than “2 Girls,” now till the end of time. Sergei Yatzenko, the man bludgeoned and butchered by Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuck, has been subsumed into the pixilated chain-letter havoc of “3 Guys 1 Hammer.”
RIP Jun Lin, who lost his life. What Magnotta took from the rest of us in comparison is microscopic. Our time, our comfort, our enjoyment of an old pop song-that’s meaningless compared to Lin’s fate and the suffering his family is enduring right now. Fuck Luka Magnotta, may he rot in a dank cell for all time. I could say that and try to walk away, pushing away the counterthought that you, I and Luka himself all know that because of Now he has triumphed. I want to reprimand something or someone. I want to go back to the human I was before.
That day will never come.
“I sit down and cut. And cut and cut. I lose sight of time, but that doesn’t matter, because I only do “it” at night. And nights are long…”
Glance back and there isn’t a soul with you, nobody manning the checkout lanes and not one customer in sight. You go forward. Around the corner the frozen isle doesn’t end but blooms out towards infinity. There’s darkness where the ice cream hides until you activate precoded light with yourself. Who are you? What happened to others? Suddenly the way to another person, the path to a connection, the potential for nectar and conquered time, holding and being held, smiling with rare holy joyous tears, the knowing, the great relief, dismay receding-all that is now as distant from you as the moon is distant from planet Earth. The intercom sounds like roughly thumping vinyl. A scary voice hawks gibberish and phlegm. You reverse direction and yet the way back isn’t what it used to be, merely one long chilly row. And when you continue on, you realize the freezers aren’t stocking the same products as before. There are different, unwelcome objects and entities through the glass now, slightly obscured by trails of frost that remind you while still darkened of static X-rayed bones.
Her name is possibly Joan. Encyclopedia Dramatica refers to her as the “Emo Cutter Girl.” The Girl surfaced on various websites and message boards around November 2008 with dozens of photographs chronicling her intense, detailed cutting and self-mutilation. She cuts so deep into her legs and arms the pictures vividly showcase The Girl’s cartilage and bone marrow. She markers a sentence into her arm that reads:
RIDER ON A DOWNBOUND TRAIN
The Girl collects her blood, letting it soak into napkins or drip on the floor tiles. Her results evidence the passage of hours. The skin around a long gash beneath her knee is yellowed. There are stitched ripples near new cuts. She goes to the hospital and they sew her up but since she doesn’t commit herself The Girl can’t be put on suicide watch. So she goes back into the night after the healing efforts are complete.
The flesh on her wrist has been opened, a crimson portal stares back at us. Parts of the story become unveiled, against their own will or not, on the margins of her cuts. She wears a ring on her thumb. She has a tattoo of a rat in clear motion. The Girl doesn’t cut into her tattoos at all, as if she got them for the express purpose of having reprieves on her body, areas that will always be safe.
Dramatica is the only place to see all of The Girl’s photographs in one place. The first few have cheeky captions (“Frankensteinesque,” “worst period day ever”) but expand the gallery and soon there’s no more snark, only one thumbnail still after the other, silently speaking. There’s only one proper image of The Girl and it’s blurry, her emaciated, androgynous face achieving a nonchalant desperation through technical fog.
She wears a T-shirt with the logo of a band or club called “Lucky 13." Every wound is presented to us in deep, still focus. The atmosphere gleaned in the world outside the boarders of the frame is one of silence punctured by tap water drips, a ringing telephone overheard in the next apartment. She doesn’t hear any of this noise.
When she shared herself The Girl didn’t know, or care, who saw. They first landed on some obscure website whose admin also, allegedly, posted child pornography in his gallery. He wouldn’t give inquirers any pertinent details about who she was or how the photos were obtained. Armchair “Goon” detectives searched far and uncomfortably wide, discovering finally that she was 23 and lived in Regensburg, Germany. They supposedly got her some help. I don’t know if any of this is true, or if the text was something improvised around photographs that so disturbed the Dramatica writers they had to weave some remedial fictions to give them a story. A reason.
In writing about bluesmen like Skip James, Robert Pete Williams, Mississippi John Hurt, and rough-hewn musicians like Dock Boggs, rediscovered in the 1960s after a period too long in obscurity, Greil Marcus sums their passage back into the same vault as traveling “from nowhere to nowhere.”
To paraphrase a line he writes about Boggs’ singing, to bring it to The Girl's silent apartment, we could say, “She cut herself as if she could see her life as something that had already passed.”
Rider On A Downbound Train paints the word “ZOMBIE” in her own blood on the floor, decides to snap a photo of the lonely word even though, at that probable instant, she’s torn open enough major portions of herself, careful to avoid rupturing arteries so that she’ll stay alive and still be a victim of her surrender to the long, long night. The pictures I find hardest to closely observe are simply the ones without her in them. The Girl focuses on the silence and blood around her. She's exhausted herself.
These are dispatches from another place, a different dimension or planet. When The Girl is cutting and recording she is far away from the human race, in a different atmosphere of spotted cleanliness. Look around the room and it’s another normal room. But you haven’t seen the whole thing. Breath from somewhere. You’ve never heard a blink before now.
When she was tracked down, her words, or the words of someone claiming to be her, were translated by the Goons. “…it seems like my judgment tends to slip during the ‘action.’ I can see that I am cutting on muscles, bones, nerves, tendons, that the muscles and blood vessels are tearing, but that’s exactly the point: my concentration is focused on the details.” Can she feel the pain, or is the pain silenced by the awe? And what are "the details" to her?
The Girl goes deeper into the zone where only committed artists and the hypnotized reach. This zone isn’t safe when accessed by the wrong person. The silence and the eroded limits augment into a searing majesty for The Girl. “…but it is really strange, to stand up when you’re done and see (sometimes shockingly) a wound or a ‘massacre.’ Was that really me…? Clearly. I know it was.”
She sits down and cuts. And cuts and cuts. She looses sight of time, but that doesn’t matter, because she only does “it” at night. And nights are long.
She claims to have Borderline Personality Disorder. She keeps her legs and arms mutely still when taking stills of “it.”
Joan holds a blood clot in her hand. It could be mistaken for a small rodent, like the tattoo on her arm that's forever safe.
She touches a red wet pool on the floor. The rings and bracelets on her gaunt hand are close to slipping off the minute she lifts her bloodstained fingers from the mess that used to be inside her.
Another scrawl: “I WANNA DIE, ASAP. RIP JOAN.”
There are so many pictures.
If she gets help, what happens after she comes home and she’s alone and it’s night again?
A user named “kamikaZi_blitz” on the Flamehaus forum says, “Id slip it in her arm.”
The Girl cuts until she’s gone beyond blood. She’s found masked whiteness and veiny pink anatomy.
She uses needles and syringes to extract more blood. The Girl jams a needle through her nostril and stares down the lens of a camera that is a vessel bringing her back here.
A toilet bowl reflects the massacre.
Trail of red napkins.