From Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer, a collection of interviews he conducted with convicted murderer Ricardo Melogno, which will be published in June by Catapult. In 1982, at the age of nineteen, Melogno killed four taxi drivers in Buenos Aires over the course of a week. He is currently imprisoned indefinitely.
ricardo melogno: Whenever I imagine a group of people meeting together, I imagine myself in the darkest possible corner, happy to watch everything from the outside. In my own world, I was always the protagonist, and even if I was stuck in that dark corner, everyone else was beholden to what I was doing there. In real life, I was still in the dark corner, but nobody paid me any attention.
There was one psychiatrist who said it wasn’t a case of my having no emotions. I had emotions, but my emotional education as an individual had been so insignificant that I didn’t think emotions had anything to do with me. Maybe that’s where my alternative world came from. In that other world I had everything I needed, and here I had nothing. Here I felt no desire, no sense of the future, nothing.
carlos busqued: What did you do in that other world?
melogno: I made my own films: I imagined the scenes, putting together bits and pieces of the same stories. Which is to say, I’d relive the TV shows and films I had seen in my head, with myself as the main character. I’d spend the whole day doing this. For example, I was obsessed with Shogun for about a year. I spent the whole year reliving the story, reconstructing it scene by scene, changing little things like the dialogue or the ending. I can still remember the characters: there was Mariko, and Toranaga, who was the leader. I would take on the role of the main character and tweak it as I wanted. Some scenes would get me so worked up I would cry. That’s how deeply re-creating these stories affected me. I’d take a secondary character and live out their story too.
busqued: What sort of changes would you make?
melogno: It would depend on how I felt that day. I would take a problem from this world and resolve it in the fantasy world. I also used comics this way, I was obsessed with El Tony, Fantasía, D’Artagnan . . .
busqued: These were all comic books from Editorial Columba. They had a whole universe of stories.
melogno: These were the most important things in my life—I’d wait for the kiosk to open so I could get the latest issues. One of the most important characters for building stories in my head was Dax, because I was obsessed with the Far East. Dax was blind and had supernatural powers. It was set in the time of the Widower Empress in China, the Boxer Rebellion, a time of revolution and upheavals. Dax had French parents but he had been raised in China. He was blind but he could hypnotize people, and he had telekinetic powers.
busqued: There was a time when I used to fantasize about being Darth Vader at work. I’d be chatting with my colleagues but in my head I’d be watching them fall down dead right in front of me.
melogno: For me, my whole life was more or less like that, except for one big difference. You talk about imagining those things to escape being in the moment. I was already out of the moment. That state of mind came naturally to me.
Between these two worlds there was a huge level of dissociation. I crossed over because I was much happier on the other side. If I could have found food and shelter there I would have stayed. I would never have come back.
In some ways, everyone lives in a fantasy world. Buying a lottery ticket is living a fantasy. But it’s a normal fantasy. Normal fantasies always have a wall around them, something that stops you from crossing over to the other side. I didn’t have that; there was nothing to stop me. If I hadn’t been arrested . . . I believe that because of the way I was living my life, unmoored from the real world, I believe that by the age of twenty-five I would have killed myself.
melogno: Because I couldn’t cope. The real world demands attention. If you don’t pay attention to the real world, you lose it. And the other world doesn’t provide a way of living—you can’t live there. Because it’s one thing to live in a fantasy world when you’re a teenager, but it’s something else entirely when you’re an adult and you have to perform a job or live with a family, pay attention to this and that. If you spend your whole day in this parallel world, you’ll end up ruined, as lonely as a paving stone, or living on the street.
busqued: At any time in these fantasies you’ve told me about, was there anything related to killing?
melogno: No. I want to emphasize this point very clearly: I never fantasized about killing. In my little films I was the good guy, the hero—I was never the bad guy, the murderer. No matter what the fantasy was, I was the protagonist. In the real world, I was never the protagonist. In my fantasy world, I didn’t imagine killing people or torturing them. I fantasized about being a person, which I never was in real life.