Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Top 10 The Most Unsettling True Crime Books

By Trang Nguyen Jan 29, 2024

We can be both excited and scared by true crime stories at the same time. We grab hold of the newest book available, eager to delve deeper into the twisted realm of mass murderers and serial killers and pose further concerns about their sinister existence. What gives them their tick? How did they turn evil? Why would these demons decide to murder an innocent person in such a cruel way?
Although reading about real-life crimes is never easy, these writers have chronicled some crimes in such explicit and unsettling detail that you will find it difficult to sleep at night.

10. Jason Moss’s The Last Victim

As part of a study project, college student Jason Moss started writing letters to serial killers. He developed connections with Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy, and Henry Lee Lucas. He remarked, “It made me sick to my stomach to read about what he did to those kids—how he tortured them and raped them for hours and sometimes days.” Moss’s closest correspondence was with Gacy, who was able to “get inside the mind” of the man and deeply unsettle him. You then converse with him. Speaking with him every day makes it difficult to remember who he is. I knew Gacy for a while.Moss subsequently turned into Gacy’s “Last Victim” when, early on June 6, 2006, he shot himself in the head and passed away. Co-written with counseling professor Jeffrey Kottler, the book serves as a reminder of the dangers of approaching serial killers from too close a distance.

9. Kate Millet, “The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice”

Police in Indianapolis discovered 16-year-old Sylvia Likens’s body in October 1965 with the words “I am a prostitute and proud of it” etched upon her stomach. With each turn of the page, The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice reads like a real-life horror movie, detailing the horrific circumstances leading up to the horrific torture and murder of a young girl.Gertrude Baniszewski, who had been placed in charge of Likens, battered, starved, forced-fed excrement, and burned with cigarettes and boiling water for three months. Baniszewski once fractured her own wrist while severely beating Likens, then turned the cast back on her and used it as a weapon. After being fascinated by the case for 14 years, author Kate Millet created the book, which is a very unsettling read that might traumatize anyone.

8. Ann Rule’s Little Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder

Author of true crime Ann Rule aims to provide an explanation for the following: “What would drive a mother to kill her three children?” The narrative of Diane Downs is told in Small Sacrifices: A True narrative of Passion and Murder, and it demonstrates the lengths a woman will go to in order to find the love she so desperately wants, no matter the price. When Downs did not behave as one would expect from someone who had experienced such a horrible tragedy, hospital staff were suspicious of her 1983 claims that a mysterious stranger had shot her three children. It was then found that Downs killed them cold-bloodedly in order to enjoy her extramarital romance.The book examines the story of Downs, who was raped and subjected to mental torture her entire childhood and was given a life sentence. Downs was a victim who later committed murder. It’s a terrifying examination of the ways in which bad events might affect one’s moral compass.

7. Christine McGuire and Carla Norton’s The Perfect Victim

Twenty-year-old Colleen Stan accepted a ride from Cameron and Janice Hooker in 1997 while she was hitchhiking in Eugene, Oregon. After the deranged pair had trapped Stan in a remote location, they pushed her into a sealed box that kept out light and air. Stan was exploited as a sex slave for Cameron’s enjoyment throughout the course of the next seven years. She was kept in a box beneath the couple’s bed for up to 23 hours a day, called only “K,” and made to address her captors as “Master.”After breaking down and telling the authorities about her husband’s crimes, Janice was granted complete amnesty in exchange for testifying against him. In The Perfect Victim, the years of misery Stan endured are described, along with how the Hookers entertained friends at home and led a perfectly regular life while their victim was kept in a box under their own bed.

6. Stephen Williams’s Invisible Darkness: The Odd Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Popularly referred to as the “Barbie and Ken couple,” Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were charming, passionate, and lively. But they had a terrible secret that they were not afraid to reveal: they were hungry for violence. The Canadian couple killed three teenage females between 1991 and 1992, including Tammy, Karla’s 15-year-old sister. Homolka stated throughout the inquiry that she was not a willing accomplice in the killings and that she had also been abused by Bernardo. Unlike Bernardo, who was given a life sentence, she was able to leave jail after 12 years after striking a plea agreement with the prosecution.A glimpse of the terrible consequences that can arise from the union of two forces of pure evil is provided by Invisible Darkness. You’ll wonder how many more monsters like Bernardo and Homolka there are in the world as you read the in-depth, graphic accounts of the crimes.

5. Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me

Ann Rule met Ted Bundy, one of the most infamous serial killers in history, directly. “Ted Bundy took lives, but he also saved lives,” she later recounted, sitting next to her attractive and vivacious colleague who was an excellent worker on a suicide prevention hotline. After that, Rule didn’t speak to Bundy for two years until he called to inquire about the subpoena of his law school documents. She spoke with the Major Crimes Unit, who explained that Bundy was simply one of 1,200 people being investigated as part of a normal probe.What happened next was the revelation of the actual number of killings that Bundy was accountable for. Bundy killed at least thirty young women and girls in seven states between 1974 and 1978. A somber reminder that we seldom really know who we might be seated next to is provided by The Stranger Beside Me.

4. Dreams Buried by Tim Cahill

Serial murderer John Wayne Gacy will go down in history as one of the worst individuals to have ever lived, having suffered through a horrific upbringing and taking the lives of at least 33 young men and teenage boys. The Wall Street Journal dubbed journalist Tim Cahill’s biography of Gacy “the stuff of wrenching nightmares,” recounting in excruciating detail each murder committed during his five-year killing rampage.Gacy’s strategy was enticing his victims with the prospect of employment via his own contracting business. After luring them into his trap, he would drug them, bind them, and execute them—often masking their cries with a sock or their underpants. When authorities excavated the graphic murder scene, they found the remains of 27 victims. He would conceal the bodies in his home’s crawlspace after the killings. Gacy personified the epitome of what it meant to be a monster.

3. Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Cult leader Charles Manson instructed his adherents, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles “Tex” Watson, to travel to 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles, and “totally destroy everyone in (it), as gruesome as you can,” on the evening of August 8, 1969. Actress Sharon Tate, 18-year-old Steven Parent, famous hairdresser Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and his fiancée, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, were among the victims that evening.Given that Tate, who was only two weeks away from giving birth, had volunteered herself as a hostage in return for her child’s life to be spared, the murders were all the more horrifying. Tate shouted, “Mother… mother…” as she was stabbed to death, according to Tex Watson’s later revelations. Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor in Charles Manson’s trial, wrote a detailed account of the night that shook the world in his dark and twisted novel Helter Skelter.

2. John Paul Fay’s The Shawcross Letters: My Journey Into the Mind of Evil

Between 1972 and 1989, Arthur “Genesee River Killer” Shawcross prowled the streets of Rochester, New York, searching for sex workers to kidnap and murder. He murdered two small children in his hometown in 1972, but he accepted a plea deal and was only sentenced to 12 years out of a possible 25. Shawcross killed 14 people after being released from prison early, frequently disemboweling and cannibalizing the corpses.One of the most deranged serial killers in history provides an insight into his psyche in The Shawcross Letters: My Journey Into the psyche of Evil. He became friends with John Paul Fay, a former collector of murder memorabilia who is now a biographer, and revealed to him personal information about his atrocities that the reader would never forget. Many would advise not to turn the pages of this book at all due to the stomach-turning gory details of each rape and murder, which will keep you lying awake at night.

1. Jack Rosewood and Rebecca Lo’s book The Toolbox Killers: A Deadly Rape, Torture, and Murder Duo

The Toolbox Killers were two sadistic psychopaths named Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris who happened to meet while serving prison sentences for earlier crimes. Over the course of five months in 1979, they abducted, tortured, and killed five teenage girls who they had promised rides to. They even kept a record of their heinous deeds. Everyone lived in a new type of horror as a result of the savagery of the murders, which altered how young ladies and girls would navigate the streets of southern California.The Toolbox Killers: A Deadly Rape, Torture & Murder Duo examines the psychological makeup of the murderers as well as the horrifying pain and suffering perpetrated on these teenagers in graphic detail. Numerous issues are also raised, such as what would have happened if the two lethal individuals had never met. You’ll be left wondering about the true depravity of humanity by the stories in this book, which will keep you up at night.

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