Errol Childress was born in Louisiana into a cult that worshipped a demonic entity called "The Yellow King", and whose rituals included child sexual abuse and human sacrifice. His father, Sheriff Ted Childress, trained him to rape, torture and murder women as "tribute" to the Yellow King, and made sure he was never arrested. When the elder Childress died, Errol preserved his body and talked to it as if Ted was still alive.
He commits his first known murder in 1995, killing a prostitute named Dora Lange and attaching antlers to her head post-mortem as part of his ritual. He then commits a long series of murders from 1995 to 2012, all the while pursued by Louisiana Police Department detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart.
Childress works a menial job as a groundskeeper, but is nevertheless extremely intelligent and self-educated, with a vast knowledge of such diverse subjects as literature, science and religion. He is involved in an incestuous relationship with his mentally handicapped half-sister, Alice.