8 Terrifying True Crime Books That Will Make You Want To Sleep With The Lights On

From listening to Serial to binge watching Law And Order we love learning about true crime because the stories aren’t only frightening, they’ve actually happened, unlike the other books or media we immerse ourselves in. It’s captivating to learn the way crimes unfold and to get a look at the mind behind a criminal or a serial killer. When we read true crime we learn the dizzying ways these charming but psychotic people get into the lives of ordinary people and it’s scary to think about how these stories could happen to anyone.

If you can’t wait until the next season of Serial starts to get your true-crime fix here are 8 of the most compelling true crime stories that will be sure to give you goosebumps.

1. The Last Victim, Jason Moss


Jason Moss was a college student when he began corresponding with living serial killers in prison. When he wrote to John Wayne Gacy, known as the Killer Clown, he portrayed himself as “the perfect victim” based on the types of people Gacy was known to rape and kill – young men.

John Wayne Gacy and Jason Moss meet
John Wayne Gacy and Jason Moss meet

Gacy took the bait and the two ended up meeting in a jail cell twice two months before Gacy was executed. Moss got away, but not without Gacy trying to kill him first. While researching the book Moss became heavily involved in Satanism and tragically killed himself on 6.6.2006.

2. Helter Skelter: The True Story Of The Manson Murders, Vincent Bugliosi


Written by Charles Manson’s prosecuting attorney, Helter Skelter is about the case and the trial surrounding Manson, and goes in-depth about the way the serial killer managed to convince a group of people to perform a series of murders for him. One of deaths discussed in detail (and will make you a little squeamish) is the death of actress Sharon Tate, who was stabbed 16 times when she was only a couple of weeks away from giving birth.

3. Delivered From Evil, Ron Franscell


In Delivered From Evil we hear from people who tell their true story about escaping a mass murderer. From a 12-year-old boy that hides in the closet while a killer murders his entire family to an 11-year-old girl who ends up out at sea when someone murders her family while vacationing, every essay is creepier than the next. Written by award-winning journalist Ron Franscell, this is one of those books that make you realize these things could happen to anyone.

4. Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano


In the Campania region of Naples, Italy, the murder rate is higher here than anywhere else in Europe. Since 1979, 3600 people have been murdered at the hands of Camorra, a Neapolitan mafia-like organization that dominates the area. “Gomorrah” tells the history of Campania and the brutal deaths that have happened; bodies decapitated with circular saws, drowned in mud, and tossed down wells with live grenades.

5. Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule


Like #4, Stranger Beside Me makes you realize how the serial killers and murderers we see on T.V. could be anyone we meet or know in our own lives. Ann Rule tells her story of not only meeting prolific serial killer Ted Bundy, but working alongside him when the two volunteered at a suicide hotline together. Rule describes Bundy as being sensitive and charismatic and it wasn’t until he was captured she realized the unknown serial killer she had been writing a book about was the guy she worked next to almost every day.

In 2003 she told The Houston Chronicle, “For a long time I was holding out hope that he was innocent, that somehow this all was a terrible mistake. And it wasn’t just me, it was all the people who worked with him.”

6. The Night Stalker, Phillip Carlo


Phillip Carlo spent three years researching and interviewing serial killer Richard Ramirez on death row before writing The Night Stalker, the in-depth look at Ramirez’s murders and the strange childhood and Satanic worship that surrounded the killer’s life. Ramirez was seen as so captivating and attractive even after he was sent to prison, many women contacted the writer when the book was published

7. Fatal Vision, Joe McGinniss


When his wife and two daughters were found dead physician and Green Beret Captain Jeffrey MacDonald claimed it was the result of a random break in and that he woke up to find three hippies slaughtering his family with a knife, ice pick and club, saying “acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” When investigators couldn’t find any evidence to support MacDonald’s story the husband and father ended up on trial himself. First he was convicted by the Army and 9 years later in a civilian court. In Fatal Vision, the author looks at the facts behind the case and how a father could kill his own family.

8. Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, Tim Reiterman


In Raven, writer Tim Reiterman looks at the definitive history of Rev. Jim Jones and how he led his cult following The Peoples Temple to the largest mass suicide in history. From his childhood in Indiana to understanding the mindset of the people that followed him, Raven looks at one of the most haunting true crime stories. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Former senior staff writer and producer at Thought Catalog.

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