Wednesday, November 03, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 81

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as fantasy author.

by Harold Schechter

Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago (Pocket Star Books True Crime)During the 1980s and on up until about the mid-1990s, I read tons of non-fiction books about crime, most of it about serial killers and mass murderers. Why would I do such a thing? Well, I wanted to be a horror novelist. I felt I was doing research.

Of all the books I read about such depraved individuals, several stood out. One of those was this book, Depraved, by Harold Schechter.

The book is about the mysterious figure known as H.H. Holmes but who had numerous aliases. In the late 19th Century, Holmes was a respected pharmacist in Chicago. He was so respected and did so well with his business that he could afford to build himself a huge building in Chicago that was dubbed his "castle." Holmes would rent rooms to tenants, many of whom were never seen again afterwards.

But that was just the beginning.

Without going into all the details (hey, I want you to read the book, if you're interested), Holmes ends up splitting a family apart while pulling a scam on them, then executes nearly all of them one by one. By now Holmes is on the run from the police who had gained entry to Holmes' castle and found all kinds of gristly things.

Such as tons of bones in the basement. Secret rooms. Secret doors. Secret windows to look into rooms. Rooms that had gas lines run into them, and the gas was something that would not people unconscious. Acid. A giant furnace. An impromptu surgical suite in the basement ... basically, a torture and dissection room.

Holmes was eventually captured, and while in prison awaiting his trial he actually wrote a book about himself. As can be expected, he was eventually found guilty and executed.

How many people did he kill? No one knows for sure. Maybe hundreds. Maybe thousands.

But as a writer, this book showed me the true depths of depravity to which a human being could stoop. I still draw upon it from time to time for inspiration in my horror writings.

Up next: The Count of Monte Cristo

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I typically can't handle true crime fiction. Just too much for me.