Maybe I could get a word or two out of you if I lit you on fire. What would you think of that? A little gasoline on that perfect head of yours and "Whoosh!" Or maybe I should just feed you to the dogs. Huh? Would that loosen up your tongue just a little bit? Just a little bit?
~ Edgler Vess as he tortures Chyna
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Edgler Foreman Vess is the main antagonist of Dean Koontz's 1995 novel Intensity and its 1997 TV miniseries adaptation, in which he was played by John C. McGinley who also portrayed Imposter Dan in "Dan Vs.," Metallo in "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies," Doug Sisk in "The Animal," MacGruder in "On Deadly Ground," Dr. Diente in "American Dragon: Jake Long," and Whammer in "WordGirl."

A self-described "homicidal adventurer", Vess rapes, tortures and murders people at random in order to experience the full emotional and physical intensity of the sensation; he kills to feel alive. Physically powerful, charming and highly intelligent, he is a formidable predator who has killed dozens of people, beginning in childhood.


Edgler Vess was born 33 years prior to the events of Intensity.  As a young boy, he developed sociopathic and sadistic tendencies and began torturing and killing animals.  When he was nine, Vess' parents caught on to his violence and attempted to seek help for him.  In response, he set fire to their home, killing them both.  The fire was ruled an accident and Vess was assumed to be a traumatized survivor.

Vess was then placed in the custody of his grandmother, where he stayed for two years before stabbing her to death in a fit of anger.  After this, he was placed in a youth home for just over a year before his record was expunged and he was adopted out to another family, who had no knowledge of his crimes.  Vess lived with this family until he was twenty, at which point he killed them in another arson fire for their inheritance.

Vess would later become the sheriff of a remote county in Oregon, a job which he used as a cover for serial murder.  He raped, tortured, and killed at least six women during this time, holding some of them captive in his cabin.  About a year before Intensity, he broke into the home of a girl named Ariel, killing her parents outright and torturing her brother to death.  He then abducted Ariel, taking her to his cabin in order to groom her for her eventual rape and murder.

In the novel

Vess breaks into Templeton family's home and kills everyone inside except for the family's houseguest, Chyna Shepard, whom he unknowingly kidnaps when he drives off in his van, unaware that she is hiding in the back. She learns that he has kidnapped a young girl named Ariel, and pursues Vess in order to save her.

Eventually, Vess finds out that she is following him, but decides not to kill her right away, as he is fascinated by her. He allows her to follow him into his remote log cabin, where is holding Ariel prisoner, and takes Chyna hostage as well. He offers to let Chyna live if she helps him torture Ariel, but she refuses. When Vess is briefly called away, Chyna escapes her bindings and sets Ariel free, as well. They escape Vess' attack dogs and flee in his van. They flag down a police car - only to find out that it is driven by Vess, the local sheriff. 

Chyna rams his police car, but he rolls clear and uses a shotgun to disable the motor home, causing it to tip over. Chyna and Ariel escape the wreck, but Vess catches up to them and knocks Chyna to the ground while Ariel continues on, distracting Vess long enough for Chyna to pull a lighter from her pocket. She uses it to ignite Vess' gasoline-soaked boot. She rolls away to safety just before the pool of gas surrounding Vess ignites. After catching up to Ariel, she turns and watches as Vess burns to death. 


Edgler Vess is based off of real-life serial killer Edmund Kemper, who murdered his grandparents at a young age. Kemper is also the inspiration for Buffalo Bill

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