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Is The Serpent Based On A True Story?

For many, stories about serial killers are strangely enticing. That's true whether they tell the story of real murderers like Richard Ramirez, or whether they're more loosely based on real-life like The Silence of the Lambs.

Because serial killer stories are such a pervasive part of pop culture, sometimes it can be hard to tell whether a new one is based in reality or not. The Serpent is the latest entry into the serial killer story pantheon. It tells the sinister tale of the hunt for a con man living it up in Thailand, whose criminal activities took a deadly turn. It also offers an unflinching look at the chilling way he lured several of his victims by posing as a drug dealer or gem salesman, and offering them a place to kick back and hang out during their journey. 

Running eight episodes in total, The Serpent is perfectly designed for fans of the serial killer genre who are looking for a new series to binge. But before delving in, some may want to know — is it based on a true story? Let's find out — though beware, there are minor spoilers for the series ahead.

The Serpent is based on one of Asia's most notorious killers

After first airing on BBC One, The Serpent is destined for Netflix in April 2021. It is the latest in a series of films and series to tell the story of real-life murderer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim). In the 1970s, he murdered at least 12 people, many of whom were tourists traveling along the Southeast Asian portion of the Hippie Trail. As The Serpent's trailer shows, he would often poison his victims, only to nurse them back to health to gain their loyalty, before ultimately killing them if they became suspicious of him.

Charles Sobhraj was able to evade authorities by using his victims' passports to move from country to country. He did not commit these heinous acts alone, as he was prone to attracting other criminals into his orbit. The Serpent nods to this proclivity by highlighting his relationship with two main accomplices — girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) and second-in-command Ajay Chowdhury (Amesh Edireweera).

As he evaded police for years, Charles Sobhraj earned a few different nicknames: the Bikini Killer, because some of his victims were found in their bathing suits, the Splitting Killer and, of course, The Serpent, because of his ability to skillfully dodge authorities (via Express U.K.). So, while the series may not perfectly detail every aspect of his murderous activities, The Serpent is most certainly based on a true — and terrifying — story.