Last week I offered five horror novel suggestions to get you ready for Halloween. But it occurred to me that, at this time of year, nonfiction fans might be looking for some nightmare inducing books, too. So without further ado, here are five suggestions of real-life horror stories.
The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
A fascinating tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner’s Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect murder. Science had no place in the coroner’s office and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice.
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
Robert Graysmith was staff cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when the Zodiac Killer first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac’s eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of bone-chilling facts from the case, including the complete text of the killer’s letters.
Witches: The Absolutely True Story of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer
In the little colonial town of Salem Village, Massachusetts, two girls began to twitch, mumble, and contort their bodies into strange shapes. The doctor tried every remedy, but nothing cured the young Puritans. He grimly announced the dire diagnosis: the girls were bewitched! And then the accusations began. The riveting, true story of the victims, accused witches, crooked officials, and mass hysteria that turned a mysterious illness affecting two children into a witch hunt that took over a dozen people’s lives, and ruined hundreds more, unfolds in chilling, novelistic detail—complete with stylized black-white-and-red scratchboard illustrations.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
In the summer of 1969, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances tied the murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his “family” of devoted young women and men.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
An oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies after death. For two thousand years, cadavers – some willingly, some unwittingly – have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.