Fans of gruesome serial killer stories have all heard of H. H. Holmes, who is known to be the criminal who actually brought the term "serial killer" to life. Having set up a hotel at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago to lure his victims, he's rumored to have killed hundreds of people, although of the 27 he confessed to, only nine were confirmed.
'The Midnight Assassin' Is The Story Of The First Ever Serial Killer
But the release of 'The Midnight Assassin,' Skip Hollandsworth's first book, could shed the light on a pattern of assassinations that occurred a few years before, back when the police were completely unfamiliar with the idea of a killer operating in this manner. Unlike Holmes, he was never found.
His story centres around a murderer later nicknamed the Midnight Assassin, thought to be responsible for the macabre bodies of six women and a young girl found in Austin, Texas, between 1884 and 1885. They were violently mutilated, slaughtered like animals with bricks and iron rods. They left the police force completely clueless.
While some said the killer fled to England to become Jack the Ripper, the newspaper New York World wrote that the murders "may well give to history a new story of crime—the first instance of a man who killed in order to gratify his passion."
You Can Read The First Two Chapters Of 'The Midnight Assassin' Online
The book just came out April 5 and has received stellar reviews, including praise from The New York Times' Robert Draper:
Skip Hollandsworth has achieved a literary miracle with 'The Midnight Assassin'. With haunting granularity, Hollandsworth breathes vivid life into a forgotten, century-old tale of the hunt for America's first diabolical serial murderer―set in, of all places, the quaint but upwardly mobile town of Austin, Texas. To read 'The Midnight Assassin' is to experience the lost innocence of a 19th-century capital city set on edge by the unseen monster in its midst.
If that makes you curious, you'll be happy to know that Hollandsworth, who won the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing from the American Society of Magazine Editors in 2010 and co-wrote the Richard Linklater movie Bernie, has made the first two chapters available on the Esquire website. Check the chapters out or enjoy these two bloody excerpts:
Spencer was barefoot, clad only in a nightshirt. Blood was oozing from several gashes in his head. He was wobbling, as if he was having trouble keeping his balance. He told Chalmers that someone must have attacked him while he had been asleep in bed next to Mollie, hitting him over the head and knocking him unconscious. And the person who attacked him, he said, must have done something with Mollie. She was nowhere to be found.
The author doesn't waste any time telling us what happened to poor Mollie:
Howe opened the door and followed a trail of blood for more than fifty feet, got to the outhouse, and stopped.
Mollie Smith was on her back. Her head had been nearly split in two and she had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest and abdomen. Some of the gashes were deep enough to expose her organs. Her legs and arms were also slashed. Blood was everywhere—bright red lung blood and nearly black gut blood. So much blood was around her, filling up the ruts in the alley, that she seemed to be floating in a pool of it.
What happens to the other women? You can get more information on the book's website, including a timeline of the real events, but I guess you'll have to read the book to find out!
Which serial killer story scares you the most?