The Landru case exploded in 1919. Henri-Désiré Landru, then age 50, was accused of murdering 10 women and one young man, whose bodies he disposed of by burning them in his stove. The case brought to light the scams and murders of the one the press came to name, in turn, ‘the Bluebeard of Gambais’, ‘the Sire of Gambais’ and ‘the Lady Vanisher’. The crimes, which started with a century full of the promises of its second industrial revolution, ended in the wake of the most deadly war France had ever known. Was it madness or perversion? The Landru enigma intrigued all levels of society and all were aware that the case would leave an indelible mark upon history. To attend this resounding trial journalists, writers, artists, comedians, songwriters and sketch artists jostled in the ‘Landru train’, described in great detail in L’illustration:

The ‘Landru train’ leaves the Invalides station at 11h40 … It carries the stream of magistrates, lawyers, witnesses, court journalists, photographers … and people moved by mere curiosity who, every day, go to the palace of justice at Versailles. People talk of the case. They debate the articles published in the morning. 1

Everyone speculated about the personality of the ‘mystery man’. Was he a sadistic killer or a madman? The question was on everyone’s lips. Landru’s wife and children, in shock, also tried to understand and remember the husband and father they had always known. Shortly after his arrest, they independently recounted an identical and moving tale. These stories were hastily told, with emotion and pain. They are precious, because they interweave biographic details with subjective elements that never surfaced in Landru’s own accounts.