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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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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ALL THE TRUE CRIME YOU WILL EVER NEED

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!!!!

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

great dissertation on the act of serial killing

written more like a dissertation than an anthology, using specific individuals as case studies or examples of trends. a little repetitive at times, but still very engaging with extensive coverage.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Informative but a bit repetitive

Accurately researched and written, also performed well. However somewhat repetitive....I realize Albert Fish falls into several categories of mental illness and depravity, just didn't need to rehash his atrocities in full at each reference.
Also lots of horrific murderers missed.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good, slightly repetitive but that's OK

This was a good read for anyone with an interest in Serial Killers. :) The serial killer mind is something I have always been fascinated with. This book does not really go into detail about the mind of a serial killer, but rather gives the history of serial murder from the first known serial killer up until present time. It is slightly repetitive, but I did not mind since the book is so full of information it was hard to remember who killed who, so the fact that the book repeated some of the same stories about the same people was ok with me, it helped me remember. I LOVE the narrator for this book as well. He has a nice 'to the point' voice and I think he did a good job. All in all, if you are looking for a book that gives the super gory details and digs into the actual mind of a killer, this is probably not for you. If you are looking for a book that really just summarizes all of the creepy and crazy things serial killers have done throughout history, then this is a great read!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

creepy serial killers

this book is great in describing the various serial killers and how they chose their victims. the killers were into different ways to kill and creepy sexual assault. I now know how sick and twisted people are in this world.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic and educational. Definitely a good read.

I love this book. It's very educational, interesting, straight to the point, and overall enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is into the study.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Too Many Repeats

Many killers and facts are repeated in each section off the book. Redundant! Confusing and repetitive.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Exhaustive book on the subject, but repetitive

Excellent and broad ranging. Covers killers and topics not found elsewhere. A solid 4/5.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting but repetitive

While the majority of this title is interesting it seems as though this is just a large compilation of many topics, hence the title, I guess. Rather than cover each killer/murder/crime in a long in depth look the book covers a crime then comes around to it a handful of times throughout the book making it seem as though they were running out of material and had to double back on a topic. It's still very fascinating and intriguing to hear some of the stories this book contains.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful