cover image Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects

Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects

Harold Schechter. Workman, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5235-1529-5

True crime writer Schechter (Butcher’s Work) spotlights objects linked to acts of violence in this eccentric volume. According to Schechter, the practice of holding on to such keepsakes dates back to at least 1827, when an English hangman cut up a noose from a notorious killer and sold one-inch sections of it for a guinea each. Here, the author pillages evidence lockers, universities, museums, and private collections for morbid mementos, using them as launching points into a bevy of bloody real-life tales. He discusses artworks by serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Danny Rolling, and examines the mummified head of Germany’s Peter Kürten, who in the 1930s killed at least nine people and drank their blood. After his execution, Kürten’s head was split open so researchers could dissect his brain; the empty head wound up in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in Wisconsin. Schechter’s prose has the punch of a campfire ghost story (“He arrived around midnight when the women were asleep”), and the objects run a satisfying gamut from intriguing curios to the stuff of nightmares. It adds up to a strange and fascinating tour of the macabre. Photos. Agent: David Patterson, Stuart Krichevsky Literary. (Sept.)