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Publisher's Summary

Hollywood's make-believe maniacs like Jason, Freddy, and Hannibal Lecter can't hold a candle to real-life monsters like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and scores of others who have terrorized, tortured, and terminated their way across civilization throughout the ages. Now, from the much-acclaimed author of Deviant, Deranged, and Depraved, comes the ultimate resource on the serial killer phenomenon.
Rigorously researched, this innovative and highly compelling compendium covers every aspect of multiple murderers, including psychology, cinema, fetishism, fan clubs, "trophies", and trading cards.
©2003 Harold Schechter (P)2016 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Neuron on 02-07-17

Made me feel sick, yet I didn't want it to end

I don’t look away when a person is tortured on TV. Nor do I get very emotionally stirred when reading about murders. But this book took the game to a new level. It has a seemingly never ending supply of the sickest imaginable people doing unspeakable deeds to other human beings. For the first time since I read Marquis de Sade (who is mentioned in this book), I occasionally had to put the book down, take a breath, and contemplate what I had just read. I can promise the reader that whatever they can dream up doing to someone, a serial killer described in this book has “been there, done that”. If I am wrong, please seek help, today!

Jeffrey Dahmer, to take one example, drilled a hole in a person's skull to be able to have sex with the head of his victim (in the most literal sense in case). Poor Jeffrey, who had nothing against his victims and, in this case, didn't want his victim to die (at least not right away) didn't realize that his brainophiliac behavior would be fatal. Eddie Gyne, another prominently featuring character who was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, as a hobby liked to dig up corpses and make furniture, kitchen wares, and skin suits that he wore, from their bodies.

A whole bunch of medieval (in the literal and the figurative sense) mass slayers, are also described in the book, including Vlad, the inspiration for Dracula, and even more chillingly, Erzsébet Báthory, who in the 16th century reportedly brought more than 650 peasant girls to her castle in Hungary where she got multiple orgasms while torturing them and bathing in their blood. There is much much more of this, and the sensitive reader should probably stay away.

The description of killers is focused around themes. The author starts the book by trying to explain what a serial killer is. Unsurprisingly it turns out that there are several definitions, none of them entirely satisfying. Later themes include necrophilia, cannibalism, lust killers, vampires, poison murderers, snipers, etc. Before going into these sub-categories, however, the authors describes the deeds and biographies of a vast number of serial killers. Towards the end of the book, the author also discusses culture and humor related to serial killers, as well as the phenomenon of groupies, i.e., women who fall for serial killers, even those who freely admit to having raped and mutilated children (these women are also very disturbing and fascinating in their own way).

My one criticism of this book is that it sometimes relies too much on anecdotes when drawing conclusions. For example, early in the book, it is suggested that homosexual serial killers are especially brutal. This claim is then backed up by a few cases of brutal serial killers who were homosexual. The book then goes on to speculate as to why homosexuals would be more brutal serial killer. Scientifically, this is quite disturbing. Please show me some evidence of the premise before explaining the conclusion. The same problem occurs when the author talks about profiling. The conclusion seems to be that profiling sometimes works, because in the past profiles have sometimes lead detectives in the right direction and sometimes in the wrong direction (and sometimes profiles are ridiculously broad, e.g. white man between 20-40 years who doesn't like his mother, check!). I realize that it is difficult to do a proper study, but some numbers or stats would be a big improvement.

Despite this minor nuisance, this book is one of the more entertaining books I have read. I didn't want it to end! Ok, maybe that says more about me than about the book, but as the section about psycho-tourism describes I am far from alone in my fascination with these sickeningly disturbed people and their unspeakable crimes. So if you also have this fascination. Then this book is for you. Highly recommended.

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23 of 25 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Linda Lou on 04-30-16


This is a well-written account of serial killers (with a few thrown in which don't technically fit the mold), from the beginning of time. In addition to the usual "done to death" criminals like Theodore Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jack The Ripper, Zodiak, Jeffrey Dahlmer, Lizzie Borden, Ed Gein and Belle Guinness, there are dozens of little-known perps that I never knew existed. The author does a great job of capsulizing each killer's life, motivation, acts and adjudication, if available without a lot of unnecessary minute. As a result, the account flows nicely. A really great book! Well worth the credit!!!!

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22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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