House of Mystery True Crime History

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Damnation Island with Stacy Horn

On a two-mile stretch of land in New York’s East River, a 19th-century horror story was unfolding . . . Today we call it Roosevelt Island. Then, it was Blackwell’s, site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals. Conceived as the most modern, humane incarceration facility the world ever seen, Blackwell’s Island quickly became, in the words of a visiting Charles Dickens, “a lounging, listless madhouse.” In the first contemporary investigative account of Blackwell’s, Stacy Horn tells this chilling narrative through the gripping voices of the island’s inhabitants, as well as the period’s officials, reformers, and journalists, including the celebrated Nellie Bly. Digging through city records, newspaper articles, and archival reports, Horn brings this forgotten history alive: there was terrible overcrowding; prisoners were enlisted to care for the insane; punishment was harsh and unfair; and treatment was nonexistent. Throughout the book, we return to the extraordinary Reverend William Glenney French as he ministers to Blackwell’s residents, battles the bureaucratic mazes of the Department of Correction and a corrupt City Hall, testifies at salacious trials, and in his diary wonders about man’s inhumanity to man. In Damnation Island, Stacy Horn shows us how far we’ve come in caring for the least fortunate among us—and reminds us how much work still remains.

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3/27/2020

LIFE AND CRIMES OF BTK - STEPHEN & JOYCE SINGULAR

To all appearances, Dennis Rader was a model citizen in the small town of Park City, Kansas, where he had lived with his family almost his entire life. He was a town compliance officer, a former Boy Scout leader, the president of his church congregation, and a seemingly ordinary father and husband. But Rader's average life belied the existence of his dark, sadistic other self: he was the BTK serial killer. The self-named BTK (for Bind, Torture, Kill) had terrorized Wichita for thirty-one years, not only with his brutal, sexually motivated crimes, but also through his taunting, elusive communications with the media and law enforcement. In 1974, BTK committed his first murders -- torturing and strangling four members of the Otero family -- and wrote the police an audacious letter declaring his responsibility for the Oteros' deaths and labeling himself, for the first time, BTK. Thus he established a pattern -- stalking and killing a series of ten victims, then bragging and claiming ownership of his crimes -- that ended in 1991 but left law enforcement confounded and the public with deeply troubling memories. Until, that is, he resurfaced in 2004 with another string of letters that would finally lead to his arrest. Drawing from extensive interviews with Rader's pastor, congregation, detectives, and psychologists who worked the case, and from his unnervingly de-tailed thirty-two-hour confession, bestselling author Stephen Singular delves into the disturbing life and crimes of BTK to explore fully -- for the first time -- the most dangerous and complex serial killer of our generation and the man who embodied, at once, astonishing extremes of normality and abnormality. In Unholy Messenger, Singular recounts the year prior to Rader's arrest, in which the BTK killer reemerged, and the aftermath. Woven throughout are the details of his crimes, elaborate schemes, and bids for public attention, and the wrenching impact his deception had on his family, church, and heartland community.