A look at the dark world of the most notorious psychopaths. Mercy was not one of their defining traits.
Ever heard of Charles Manson and the terrifying stories of his murders? His story scares me to death, but it also makes me want to know more about the killer. In November 2016, the 86-year-old cult leader died from natural causes after spending 46 years in prison. Manson and his followers shocked the world by committing thirty-five murders in the 1960s. One of their victims was Hollywood darling Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. The Manson Family's Los Angeles murder spree inspired movies, documentaries, songs, and almost forty books.
Manson’s life intrigued writers because he had been in and out of jail constantly throughout his life, yet he managed to brainwash about 100 people into becoming his followers. Most of his cult members were young women who led a nomadic lifestyle, used hallucinogenic drugs, and worshipped him like a god. The details about the murders and the methods he used to control and persuade his followers were described in books like The Family (1971) and The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten (2001), to name a few. If you like reading stories like Manson's, you're going to want to take a look at the following non-fiction books about the most notorious serial killers in recent history.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (2001)
Written by Vincent Bugliosi, Charles Manson's prosecutor, this is one of the many books that bring you inside the world of the Manson Family. The story of Manson's life and the account of the crimes committed during the summer of 1969, made this a best-seller. What makes it such a masterpiece of the true crime genre? The inside perspective and knowledge of the author.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (2004)
If you like scary clown stories, this title is the one for you. Witten by Erick Larson, this four-part book is about the true story of a serial killer in the 1890s who lured his victims at fairs in different cities. His name was Dr. H. H. Holmes, and he was a pharmacist, who for five years implemented his "Murder Castle" technique to kill.
The Stranger Beside Me (2008)
Renowned true crime writer, Ann Rule tells the story of how she met and befriended a nice coworker who turned out to be a ruthless serial killer: Ted Bundy. He worked with Rule at a crisis hotline and confessed to killing over 36 women across the US. It's a shocking and suspenseful true story that'll stay with you long after you finish reading.
The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father . . . and Finding the Zodiac Killer (2015)
This best-selling book was written by Gary L. Stewart, in collaboration with award-winning author and journalist Susan Mustafa. Stewart's story is about the search for his lost father, who after a 10-year investigation turned out be the Zodiac killer. Stewart spent years reading public records and files about the murder, which he later found out his own father had committed. This book is a valuable piece of investigative journalism, as well as an entertaining true story.
Nobody's Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer (2012)
Steve Miller is the author of this terrifying story about Anthony Sowell, who was a former Marine and registered sex offender. Authorities kept their eyes on him due to his record, but they were never able to enter his house until a warrant for sexual assault allowed police officers in Cleveland to search it. The police didn't find Sowell, instead they stumbled into the decomposed corpses of 11 women murdered by the cold-blooded rapist.
St. Albans Poisoner: Life and Crimes of Graham Young (1995)
Written by Anthony Holden, this story is about an unusual serial killer who preferred to murder his victims by poisoning them. Graham Young became the youngest inmate at the infamous British Asylum of Broadmoor. His goal was to become the best known poisoner out there. He managed to poison his family members as well as other victims. Not the kind of bloody killer you read about? Well, this psycho did some frightening things that will leave you terrified.
In Cold Blood (1994)
In the famous Truman Capote story, the town of Holcomb, Kansas experiences a murder case that appears to have no motive. Four members of local family are shot at a close rage with a shotgun. There is plenty of suspense as well as the quest to understand the motive and perpetrators of this violent attack.
Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho (2010)
You have probably watched the films Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs. Well, this book inspired those two films. Written by Harold Schechter, this books transports readers to Wisconsin during the 1950s. A farmhand named Ed Gein, also know as The Butcher of Plainfield, exhumed corpses from local graveyards and collected their remains as trophies. He is well known in American crime history for redefining the word "psycho."
When Manson died this past year, many wrote some of his quotes on social media and started searching for information about the convicted killer. Sometimes, readers are so attracted by criminal minds, that they start idolizing these protagonists. However, we should focus on the people the investigative teams that managed to catch them.