Netflix true crime doc The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker a fascinating look at internet fame

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker
The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker /

Have you heard of The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker? Netflix has plenty of chill-inducing content to keep you shivering this winter, including plenty of true crime docs. So, get comfy on your couch, bundle up in a blanket, turn out the lights and make yourself some hot tea just to set the stage.

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker is a fascinating documentary that really makes you think about the perils of internet fame. In February of 2013, Kai (whose real name is Caleb Lawrence McGillvary) was a 24-year-old homeless man hitchhiking in California. When he was picked up by Jett McBride, things probably did not go at all as Kai thought they would.

McBride began raving about being Jesus Christ, and ended up deliberately hitting a pedestrian, pinning her against a parked truck. As Kai jumped out of the car to assist the woman, another bystander approached to be sure McBride wasn’t injured, and he got out of the car and grabbed her in a bear hug. Kai then took a hatchet from his backpack and hit McBride in the head three times with it, finally causing the larger man to let go of the woman, possibly saving her life.

Local television reporter Jessob Reisbeck arrived at the scene quickly, and it was his brief interview with Kai that became an internet sensation. Kai, with his stereotypical California surfer cadence of speech, enthusiastically described how he used the hatchet: “Smash, smash, SUH-MASH!” Almost immediately, the YouTube video began getting hits, and Kai was highly sought after. But, he refused to speak with any other reporters at the time, and since he was a homeless nomad (he described himself as “home-free”), he was nearly impossible to find.

Jessob knew how to find him however, and that connection resulted in another longer interview, and an offer for Kai to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live, as well as a potential opportunity for his own reality show.

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker
The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker – Courtesy Netflix /

The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker takes a look at the good and bad

Kai’s hyper, hippie persona was very appealing to the general public, but he was definitely a loose cannon, prone to urinating in public and breaking out his skateboard in fancy hotels. It was ultimately decided that a reality show would not work out so well. Still, Kai maintained his internet fame, and even began to revel in it.

Watching the footage of Kai, you can tell that something is not quite right with him. He seems genuine (even giving his backpack to another homeless person), but there is a weird energy to him, and some of the things he says are pretty off the wall. His claims of childhood abuse could be the source of the weirdness.

Three months after becoming a hero, Kai was wanted on suspicion of murder. The victim was 74-year-old New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy, and a brief manhunt finally netted Kai. I won’t go into the details of the murder and apprehension, watch the Netflix doc The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker to find out how all of that went down. Trust me, there is a lot more to this truly fascinating story.

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Have you watched The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker? What did you think of it? Tell us all about it in the comments section.