The Surgeon Copycat Killings were a series of murders in New York City in about 2002, following the publication of an article by journalist Bill Smithback about a hundred-year-old crime scene discovered on a construction site in lower Manhattan, 36 dismembered bodies were found in a bricked-up coal cellar. The killings were discovered to be the work of 19th-century scientist Enoch Leng, and the modern killer appeared to be inspired by Leng's methods. Because Leng was a medical doctor, and because of the mutilations done to the victims, the copycat killer was dubbed "The Surgeon".
The murders and the investigation formed a major part of the plot of The Cabinet of Curiosities. One (ultimately unsuccessful) branch of the investigation was led by Captain Sherwood Custer of the NYPD, but the case was ultimately cracked by Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, NYPD officer Patrick O'Shaughnessy, Journalist Bill Smithback, and New York Museum anthropologist Dr. Nora Kelly. All four were injured in the course of the investigation, Pendergast and Smithback quite badly, and O'Shaughnessy was killed.
List of Victims
- Doreen Hollander - A tourist from Oklahoma, stalked and killed in the Ramble area of Central Park
- Mandy Eklund - A fashion industry worker, killed in Tompkins Square Park while coming home from a party
- Reinhart Puck - Archivist at the New York Museum of Natural History
- Patrick Murphy O'Shaughnessy - Former NYPD officer working for Special Agent Pendergast
The victims were lured into out-of-the-way areas and subdued with chloroform, then mutilated with antique surgical instruments including amputation knives and bone saws. In all cases, the lower portion of the spinal cord, called the cauda equina, was removed and taken by the killer.
Nora Kelly and Pendergast, who both survived their encounters with the Surgeon, reported that he wore a bowler hat and an unusual old-fashioned long coat.
The section below contains spoilers for The Cabinet of Curiosities.
While investigating the Surgeon murders and Enoch Leng, Pendergast connected Leng to a long-lost family member named Antoine Leng Pendergast, who had gone north in the mid-1800s and disappeared. Pendergast and Kelly discovered a letter from Leng's colleague, Tinbury McFadden, that revealed that Leng had been seeking a formula to extend his life. Pendergast surmised that the 19th-century killings might not be the work of a copycat killer at all.
Pendergast, Kelly, Smithback, and O'Shaughnessy researched Leng's life and finally discovered his mansion at 891 Riverside Drive on the west side of Manhattan. There they discovered Leng's recently-deceased body. He had indeed lived over 160 years, only to be murdered by the person trying to learn his secrets.
That person turned out to be real estate magnate Anthony Fairhaven, owner of the Moegen-Fairhaven Group. As a boy, Fairhaven had watched his brother Arthur die from the rare condition progeria, which caused him to age prematurely. He turned to religion, then science, as a way to combat his fear of death. He found references to Leng in the museum's archives and somehow located Leng's home. He found Leng there and tried to convince him to share his secret formula, but the old man would not cooperate. Fairhaven tortured Leng, accidentally killing him, and searched the mansion but was unable to find the formula. He purchased the site of Leng's first laboratory at Catherine Street, tore down the buildings there, and found Leng's experiment notes.
Fairhaven attempted to follow Leng's process and realized that it involved killing people and extracting chemicals from the lower portion of the spine. He murdered Doreen Hollander and Mandy Ekland and removed the cauda equina from their bodies, but was unsuccessful in creating the formula. Later he began to track and kill those who knew too much about the investigation, including Reinhart Puck, an archivist at the museum who knew Fairhaven had been researching Leng. He attempted, but failed to kill Nora Kelly and Agent Pendergast.
Meanwhile, the NYPD under Sherwood Custer arrested museum vice president Roger Brisbane III after finding a bowler hat and coat similar to the ones worn by the killer in his office. Brisbane protested that the articles were left over from a museum fundraiser costume party. Shortly after a major press conference announcing the capture of the murderer, Brisbane's lawyer produced airtight alibis for the time periods of all three murders (O'Shaughnessy had not yet been found) and Brisbane was released. The incident was a major black eye for the police and Sherwood was quickly relieved of his post.
While O'Shaughnessy was conducting research for Pendergast, Fairhaven ambushed and chloroformed him. He brought O'Shaughnessy back to the Riverside Drive mansion and removed his cauda equina, leaving him to die in agony. He caught Bill Smithback prowling around the mansion, chloroformed him, and was beginning to operate when Kelly and Pendergast arrived.
Pendergast discovered that Leng had renovated the mansion to have a layout similar to the Pendergasts' ancestral townhome in New Orleans, Rochenoire. Pendergast lured Fairhaven deep into the basement, to secret labs that Fairhaven had never seen. One of these rooms was full of all manner of old-fashioned weapons and armor. Fairhaven, convinced that he had won, handled several of the weapons before selecting an executioner's axe. He did not realize that the weapons, and everything in the room, were covered in deadly neurotoxins that Leng had been experimenting with in his ultimate quest to rid the world of humankind. Fairhaven's body shut down as the poisons took effect and he died a screaming, gibbering wreck.
Pendergast later arranged to inherit the mansion from his ancestor. He bricked up Fairhaven's body in a basement niche. Despite the media's cries that "the Surgeon was still at large" no further murders occurred and the matter was forgotten. Fairhaven's disappearance coincided with an IRS raid on his company, so it was assumed that he had simply fled the country to avoid arrest.
See also: Anthony Fairhaven