If you’re anything like me, you love a good murder mystery. Well, I suppose you don’t have to truly be anything like me, but it stands that murder mysteries are interesting, and have the tendency to suck the viewer, or reader, right in. Why do you think there are so many CSIs? It also stands that without being experts, we are driven to guess who the perpetrator is before the end of the episode, movie, or story. The Vidocq society is a members only crime solving club that does just that, but with real life unsolved mysteries. Oh, and membership is exclusive to forensic professionals, so they’re generally correct.
Based in Philadelphia, the Vidocq Society was formed in 1990 by Frank Bender, Richard Walter and William Fleisher, a forensic sculptor, prison psychologist, and customs service special agent, respectively. Their intention was to create a club where like -minded professionals could meet to discuss and debate crimes and mysteries. Eventually, the club’s focus narrowed to unsolved deaths and disappearances, and in 1991, the society solved their first case, clearing Huey Cox of murder charges brought against his name.
Membership into this club is by invitation only and includes current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners. These professionals will only accept cases that are brought forth to them by a law enforcement agency, are at least two years old (or cold cases), and in which the victim wasn’t involved in any illegal activity, like prostitution or drug dealing. The members of the Vidocq society meet once a month, to eat lunch and solve crimes that have been stumping investigators in traditional agencies for decades.
Something else I found interesting: Before the Vidocq Society, Frank Bender solved a case with the help of America’s most wanted, bringing to justice a man who had murdered his family. Bender created a bust of the fugitive, using watercolors to display age progression. The details of this story are pretty wild, and you can read all about it here. (That article doesn’t mention that his parents were first cousins!)