The ideal time to find out you are camping next to a haunted cemetery is around midnight, after you’ve had lots of beer and are twenty-five miles away from home and on a bicycle. The patrons of June Bug’s Restaurant & Bar in Sutersville were alternately amused and horrified that we were camping next to “Stringtown Cemetery.” According to local legend you can hear babies crying (only if you are a man and only after midnight) and other disturbing sounds. Supernatural Lore of Pennsylvania: Ghosts, Miracles and Monsters writes that you may be chased by a two-headed astral dog from Satan or feel sudden, unexplained cold winds caused by a ghost train. (Brief history of Dravo Cemetery, if you’re interested.)
But you know what scares me more than two-headed Satan dogs? Humans.
Helter-Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, Vincent Bugliosi
Even 45 years later, the Manson Family murders have the power to fascinate and chill. In 1969 Los Angeles experienced a series of random murders, including the brutal stabbing of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and the seemingly unrelated murder of grocery store owners, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca . Written by the prosecutor of 1970 trial of Charles Manson, Helter-Skelter is a firsthand account of the cases of Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and other members of the”Manson Family.”
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, Peter Graham
Did you know Anne Perry (the author) is a murderer? In 1954, Juliet Hulme (now Anne Perry) and her best friend, Pauline Parker went for a walk in the woods with Parker’s mother, Honora. Honora Parker was later found “accidentally” bludgeoned to death with a brick. Both girls confessed and were convicted of the crime. Why did they do it? Because Honora Parker wanted to keep them apart. After serving five years in prison, Anne Perry went on to have a successful writing career. See the murder on film in the Peter Jackson directed Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet as Juliet Hulme.
The Zodiac Killer: Terror and Mystery, Brenda Haugen
After Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac Killer is one of the great unsolved serial killers in history. Starting in 1966 with the murder of student Cheri Jo Bates, the Zodiac killer claims to have murdered 37 people, but investigators believe his victim count was seven, two of whom survived. Taunting the police with cryptic notes and strange cyphers, police eventually ruled out over 2500 potential suspects. The one fingerprint found on a letter has never been matched to a suspect. In 2014 Gary Stewart released a book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All, where he claims that the Zodiac Killer is his biological father, Earl Van Best. As of right now there has never been a definitive DNA test and so it’s still officially unsolved.
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Dr. Henry Howard Holmes is one of the first documented serial killers in American history. He designed an entire hotel with murder in mind. A murder “castle” using multiple builders, so no one knew the exact plan of the building. Except him. It was a perfect killing ground full of soundproof, windowless rooms to suffocate people, gas lines to asphixiate, and a convenient chute to the basement for dead bodies (where even more atrocities occured.) Capitalizing on the crowds converging on Chicago for the 1893 World’s Fair, Holmes eventually confessed to murdering 27 people. However, it’s likely his body count is close to 200.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, Jon Krakauer
Krakauer combines a history of the Mormon Church with the investigation of a jarring double murder in this devastating book. In 1984 Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter, Erica, are discovered with their throats brutally cut. Delving into the dark world of the FLDS Krakauer recounts the “revelations” received by Lafferty’s own brother-in-law: revelations that required her “removal” for several offenses, as well as the underlying religious extremism that caused Ron and Dan Lafferty to romanticize and justify killing for God.
For the record, we never heard any babies crying, we never saw any kind of dog, astral or otherwise, and all the trains we heard were real. The worst part of the trip was cold feet- because I forgot socks.