With Halloween around the corner, it’s the season for spooky decorations, scary movies and creepy reads. For a biography-lover who isn’t terribly prone to nightmares, it’s just the time of year to dig into the life story of someone who was — or perhaps still is — unbelievably deranged. There’s a terrifying wealth of books written on serial killers. Here are ten to get you started:
The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers
If your knowledge of serial killers is limited to old Freddy movies and re-runs of TV crime dramas like Criminal Minds, this book is the perfect primer to get you acquainted with the weird, wide world of nonfictional murderers. Boasting “more than one hundred profiles of lethal loners and killer couples, Bluebeards and black widows, cannibals and copycats,” this compendium may introduce you to a psycho you’d like to learn more about. Welcome to the dark side!
With more than seven million copies sold, this account of the Manson murders is one of the most well-known and highly regarded crime stories ever written. Written by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecuting attorney in the Charles Manson’s trial, it offers first-person insight on the baffling murders that Manson and his followers committed.
Ever have a co-worker who creeped you out a bit? Author Ann Rule tells her story of sharing the late shift at a suicide hotline in 1971, working alongside a seemingly sensitive man named Ted Bundy. “The Stranger Beside Me” shares her terrifying realization that her colleague was one of the world’s most prolific serial killers — who would eventually confess to killing thirty-six young women from across the United States.
When you think of Jeffrey Dahmer, the first two words that come to mind probably aren’t “tragic figure.” But this graphic novel paints a sympathetic self-portrait of the author’s high school friend, Jeff, revealing the disturbingly sad early life of a serial killer. After a horrific adolescent experience, Dahmer would go on to commit seventeen murders that involved rape, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism.
Author Douglas Preston moved his family to a villa in Florence, Italy only to learn that an unsolved double murder was committed on the olive grove next door. The killer — who hasn’t been caught — is known as the Monster of Florence and is believed to be responsible for the murders of seven couples, all of whom were killed while parked in their cars in the Italian countryside. Preston’s involvement with the case makes for a dark and suspenseful read.
James B. Stewart
If you’re already a little freaked out about visiting the doctor’s office, you may want to thnk twice about this one. “Blind Eye” recounts the tale of a handsome, young, psychopathic doctor, Michael Swango, who left a trail of patients dying mysterious deaths in Ohio, Illinois, New York, and South Dakota.
If soup bowls shaped like human skulls are part of your Halloween décor, here’s your chance to meet the man who created the original design. Wisconsin farmhand, grave-robber and murderer Ed Gein, the man who inspired characters in the films Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs, is introduced through the meticulous research of author Harold Schechter.
This graphic novel tells the story of the Green River Killer, Gary Leon Ridgway, from an unexpected perspective. Author Jeff Jensen is the son of the Seattle police detective spent 188 days interviewing Ridgway and uncovering the chilling details of the dozens of murders he committed.
The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer
Written by investigative journalist Steve Miller, “Nobody’s Women” tells the sordid tale of a Cleveland-based ex-marine and registered sex offender who butchered women and lived among their corpses. Miller also shares the stories of the murdered women — primarily prostitutes and junkies — and explains how their deaths were avenged.
If you prefer a scary story with a literary bent, now’s the time to read — or re-read — “In Cold Blood.” In this masterpiece of literary nonfiction, Truman Capote dives into the quadruple murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. He expresses the utter brutality of the murders while showing an unexpected empathy for the killers. It’s not a straightforward biography, but Capote’s careful research and one-on-one interviews tell the stories of two real-life men who committed an unthinkable crime.