7 True Crime Novels to Inspire Your Next Horror Story

“Based on true events.” Four little words that have the power to heighten tension before the story even begins. Heinous crimes have long served as inspiration for genre writers, giving us works such as Room (based upon the Fritzl case), We Need To Talk About Kevin (inspired by the Columbine massacre), and The Night of the Hunter (drawn from the Lonely Hearts murders).

In order to explore the beast within man, we need look no further than notorious cases of the past. From mass murderers to demented appetites, the ugliness of the human race is a deep well, one that can be drawn from for creative fodder. The following is a roundup of non-fiction books chronicling the accounts of real-life atrocities, disappearances and unsolved deaths. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it can also inspire it.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - Helter Skelter 1. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi: The former lead prosecutor in the Manson Family case, Vincent Bugliosi, provides an in-depth account of what went down in the summer of 1969. Bugliosi brings the Manson cult to life in just under 700 pages, providing character motives and a play-by-play of the trial that put you in the courtroom along with him. Juxtapositions of law and order against savage human nature give us incredible commentary on how far we’ve come as a society, and how much further we have to go.



True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - Columbine 2. Columbine, by Dave Cullen: On April 20, 1999, a Colorado high school (and America, by extension) was rocked by a devastating act of violence, committed by two disturbed young men. For the next decade, author Dave Cullen remained in the area as he attempted to make sense of the senseless tragedy. In an extremely unsettling account of the events of the Columbine massacre, Cullen puts us in the classrooms with the students, hiding behind upturned desks and waiting in fear as the shooters roamed the hallways, looking for their next victim. If you’ve never felt true terror, this book provides insight into that experience.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - For The Thrill Of It 3. For the Thrill of It, by Simon Baatz: Have you ever seen Hitchcock’s “Rope”? That story of two wealthy young men who kill a fellow student just for kicks was inspired by the chilling case of Leopold and Loeb. In 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two graduate students from wealthy families, kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy. Experts commented that the two were a toxic pair, and each would have been fairly harmless on his own. Once they put their heads together, though, they were a callous and devious duo. Does your work in progress have a killer couple? Try this book out.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - The Crime of the Century Richard Speck 4. The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked a Nation, by Dennis L. Breo and William J. Martin: In the dead of night on July 13th, 1966, one of the most horrific crimes of the twentieth century unfolded. This book mostly focuses on the police procedures and court proceedings during Richard Speck’s capture and subsequent trial. Together, the authors give a gut-wrenching account of how Speck murdered eight young nurses one-by-one over a period of four hours, and how law enforcement handled the massive manhunt that followed. This story is a display of the harsh fact that for many victims of violent crime, the nightmare doesn’t end when the perpetrator walks away. Catching and convicting the bad guys is a whole new ballgame.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - The Stranger Beside Me 5. The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule: True crime author Ann Rule was contracted to write a book about an (at the time) unknown serial killer. It was revealed that the man she was writing about, the man who had dispatched at least 30 women, was a man she not only knew, but had served with at a crisis center. Ann regarded Ted Bundy as an intimate, trusted friend and struggled with the reconciliation of that image with that of the man who stood accused of so many vicious murders. This book provides a keen look into the incredibly human charisma that some of the most inhuman monsters exude.



True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - Cannibal: The Maneater of Rotenburg 6. Cannibal: The True Story Behind the Maneater of Rotenberg, by Lois Jones: Imagine a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, but with a willing victim. This extreme story introduces us to Armin Miewes, a man who has an odd fetish: he wants to slaughter and eat another human being. He meets a man online who has a complementary fetish: he wants to be slaughtered and eaten by another human being. The subsequent “dinner date” and trial are described in riveting detail (NOT for the faint of heart). Cannibal is a shrewd investigation into the nature and nuture of an unbalanced human.



True Crime Stories To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - In Cold Blood 7. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote: 1959. Holcomb, Kansas. All four members of the Clutter family were roused from their sleep at an ungodly hour and bound. All four were shot in the head with a shotgun at close range. None survived. The killers left few clues, and there was no apparent motive for the slayings. No true crime list is complete without a nod to the classic “nonfiction novel”. In Cold Blood’s glory lies in its treatment of the subjects and its mastery of the English language. The mesmerizing prose brings the reader directly into the lives of both the prosperous Clutter family, and the feckless drifters that murdered them on a chilly fall night in 1959. If you read only one book in this roundup, let it be this one.



The inability to turn away from the horrific is a global human trait. As long as people commit heinous crimes and others wonder why, we writers will always have a story to tell. The best true crime novels show us the worst of humanity, and the best writers can draw creative inspiration from even the darkest of sources. Have you ever written a story based upon a real incident? Let us know in the comments below.

Scarina’s Weekly Roundup: 1/2/15

I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

OC Robotics has created what they’ve dubbed a snakebot.  Its extreme flexibility and swappable heads make it ideal for working in recovery areas with lots of debris.  Its staring robot eye and its undulating movements that resemble the creatures from The Abyss make it ideal for pranking your friends and loved ones.  I’d like to order at least five.

Source; http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/creepy-robot-snake-haunt-your-4852554


That’s the Tooth

Everyone’s seen the Salvation Army bell-ringers this time of year but have you ever wondered what people drop in their donation kettles?  A Kansas City bell-ringer recently received a gold tooth.  It is actually valuable; the gold is worth around $100.  Local Salvation Army official Rick Carroll seems hopeful that it’s an accident, based on how often they accidentally receive keys as donations.  This raises the question, who is carrying a tooth in their pocket?
Source; http://time.com/money/3644777/salvation-army-gold-tooth/


Again with the Robots

Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht has created an updated version of his 3D printed robotic spider dress that he first unveiled in 2013.  An Intel chip measures proximity and respiration.  If the wearer breathes like they’re in distress the limbs, which are positioned on the shoulders and look like spider legs, become threatening.  If the wearer is calm they relax.  There are also LEDs near the hips that look like eyes that glow based on the proximity of someone in front of you and how calm you are.  I recommend watching the video because the dress looks like it was designed by Lovecraft and Giger.

Source; http://www.gizmodo.in/indiamodo/The-Robotic-Spider-Dress-is-a-creepy-yet-cool-looking-outfit-to-keep-you-safe-from-predators/articleshow/45618203.cms

The Scorpion is Just a Gift with Purchase


A mason from Wisconsin was building a fireplace with stone imported from China when he found an extra special surprise, a Chinese golden scorpion.  The Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha took in the scorpion, which is the first scorpion they’ve ever cared for.  It got a cricket for Christmas dinner.

Source; http://www.jsonline.com/news/waukesha/stone-from-china-yields-scary-surprise–a-golden-scorpion-b99415044z1-286793631.html


Zombie Nativity Scene will be Back from the Dead


Haunted house manager and Sycamore Township, Ohio, resident Jasen Dixon isn’t backing down after being ordered to remove his zombie-themed nativity scene.  The township claims his display was in violation of local ordinances but Dixon claims he’s done displays with similar structures before.  His neighbors and father hate the display.  I think it’s brilliant.  After all, the Bible says “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.”

Source; https://www.yahoo.com/diy/zombie-nativity-scene-creator-vows-to-do-it-again-106359712125.html


A Way to Make McDonalds Even Creepier



So, there’s a new band in town.  They dress like McDonalds characters and sing about fast food.  They’re called Mac Sabbath and they make Ronald McDonald even creepier than usual.

Source; http://www.factmag.com/2014/12/28/mac-sabbath-mcdonalds-black-sabbath/


Creepy or Awesome Hotel Note?


Journalism student Amy Jones was staying in a hotel in Edinburgh when she found an amazing, creepy note that said, “Don’t open the locked door!  Don’t trust its whispers!  Leave, just leav [sic].”  I’m simultaneously jealous that I never get notes like that and creeped out.  She said she slept fine despite the mysterious locked door facing her bed.

Source; http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/news/276278/hotel-guest-finds-creepy-note-in-a-drawer


As If That Snake Robot wasn’t Bad Enough

Footage of a giant millipede swimming in someone’s toilet bowl has recently gone viral.  It’s enough to make you not want to use the bathroom ever again.

Source; http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/your-toilet-nightmare-creepy-clip-4887404

Scarina’s Weekly Roundup: 12/10/14

Arachnaphobes Take Cover!


A team of scientists found eight, count them, eight potentially new species of spiders in an Indian tiger preserve.  Field studies at the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is difficult due the bears, bison, tigers of course, and venomous snakes that live in the region, so microfauna like spiders have been ignored.  The researchers found new spiders that fling their webs like nets over their prey, others that resembled bird poop, and the cuddly fellow pictured that fishes for prey and can stay underwater for several minutes.

Source; http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-12/02/new-spider-species


Paging Max von Sydow

Fourteen teenage girls living on the island of Cebu in the Philippines recently came down with a bad case of the ghosts.  The island is supposedly idyllic and beautiful but has a reputation for spiritual possession.  In late November, a girl fainted when she claimed to see the ghost of a young girl.  Thirteen other girls fainted along with her.  The teens all attended the Toong Integrated School.  The parish priest recommended the local exorcist, Friederick Kriekenbeek.  The girls all recovered.  Is this a case of mass hysteria or ghostly possession?

Source; http://en.rocketnews24.com/2014/12/02/theres-something-strange-in-the-cebu-hood-14-high-school-girls-faint-after-seeing-a-ghost/


Again with the Spiders!


Abigail, a resident of the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn recently wrote to Gothamist after finding a creepy dead spider and egg sack in her luggage after a trip to Indonesia.  Would this unleash Arachnophobia 2 in Brooklyn?  Louis Sorkin, the friendly entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History says it’s a species known as a giant crab spider.  Happily, the species is docile and even consumes roaches, so yay!  I say if the spiders hatch, charge them rent and thank them for eating the roaches.

Source; http://gothamist.com/2014/12/02/scary_spider_brooklyn.php

Green with Envy


A mysterious, emerald-green cat has been photographed wandering in the Bulgarian city of Varna.  Has Elphaba been experimenting on cats?  Sadly, the possible explanation is a bit more mundane.  The theory so far is that the cat has been sleeping on fabric dyes or some kind of synthetic food dye.

Source; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/weird-news/mystery-of-bulgarias-green-cat-finally-explained-9905005.html

‘Tis the Season


UK’s Metro has compiled a list of fourteen creepy Santas so I don’t have to.  Remember, you can’t spell Satan without Santa.

Source; https://metro.co.uk/2014/12/05/14-seriously-creepy-santas-ho-ho-argh-4975273/

Scarina’s Weekly Roundup: 12/3/14

Beautiful Decay


Filmmaker Danny Cooke has found a way to gain new perspective on the abandoned site Chernobyl.  He managed to take amazing footage of the city of Pripyat, which has been abandoned since the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986.  There are no long-term residents but it’s safe for short-term visits.  You can view the video, Postcards from Pripyat.

Source; http://www.cnet.com/news/take-a-drone-tour-of-chernobyls-creepy-beautiful-decay/


Seals Serial Rapists?

In 2006, marine biologist William Haddad witnessed a fur seal raping a king penguin.  Haddad studies seals in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean and observed this behavior while studying elephant seals.

His hypothesis is that the rapey seals are sub-adults that don’t have the typical seal harem.  It’s not uncommon for bull seals to herd seals of other species or even sea lions into their own harems.  The researchers think that the seals may be practicing for when they have their own harem or could have learned the behavior from bull seals with harems.  Either way, someone should talk to these seals about consent.

Source; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/strange-but-true-seals-found-sexually-assaulting-penguins/

Do We Need More Reasons to not Visit Alabama?


A doll graveyard was found in Bear Creek Swamp in Autauga County, Alabama.  The dolls were tied to bamboo stakes that were then stabbed into the ground and they appear to be antiques or old-fashioned dolls.

Bear Creek Swamp has a reputation for being haunted and it’s a rite of passage for teenagers to visit.  Chief Deputy Joe Sedinger chalked the dolls up to a prankster.  My kind of prankster!

Source; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/25/creepy-dolls-found-in-swamp/70124484/


Something for Raiders of the Lost Ark Fans


Know a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Then this melting face Agent Toht candle from Firebox is the perfect holiday gift.

Source; http://www.ohgizmo.com/2014/11/27/creepy-awesome-raiders-lost-ark-melting-nazi-face-candle/


Clown Doll NOT Funny

A South Pine Creek, Connecticut man is dealing with a severe case of the creeps.  He alleges that his doorbell rang one evening.  When he looked out the window, there was a man in a hoodie standing on the street and a skeleton doll wearing a clown mask on his porch.

Fess up, which one of you did this?

Source; http://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/news/article/Scary-clown-doll-no-laughing-matter-on-South-Pine-5922605.php

Scarina’s Weekly Roundup: 11/25/14

Definitely Not the Work of the Elders at All

Remember in July when those mysterious holes started forming in Siberia?  They’re finally frozen enough for some brave scientists to start exploring them.


Until now, the working hypothesis is that global warming caused methane pockets to explode.  They found a lake, estimated to be 35-feet-deep at the bottom.  The hole is on the intersection of two active tectonic faults.  This led the area to have a higher temperature than usual, combined with the effects of climate change, led to the methane explosion.

Elder Gods were not mentioned but I choose to believe this is just a forerunner to C’thulu’s glorious reemergence.

Source; http://www.inquisitr.com/1616310/mystery-of-strange-siberian-holes-solved-scientists-rappel-down-into-darkness/


Looking For a Fun Museum?

Look no further than the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, Brooklyn.


This is the work of Ms. Joanna Ebenstein and a lifetime of collecting the odd and curious.  The collection ranges from taxidermy to parts of 19th century hearses and the coolest book shop.  I visited this summer to see Caitlin Doughty, author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory and founder of the “Ask a Mortician” Youtube series, speak about death culture in America.  This is definitely a must-see spot if you’re in the New York area.

Source; http://nyulocal.com/city/2014/11/17/stop-death-morbid-anatomy-museum-library/


Does this Image Remind You of Your Childhood?


The infamous Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz with illustrations even creepier than the stories by Stephen Gammell is set to hit the big screen.  John August, the writer of Big Fish, Corpse Bride, and Frankenweenie is set to adapt the stories.

I’m praying to everything unholy that it’s animated and looks like the pictures and has the stories about the kid that finds the big toe in his yard and eats it and the one with Harold the killer scarecrow.

Source; http://www.slashfilm.com/scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-movie/


I, For One, Welcome Our Spider Overlords

Tarantulas are on the move in the Santa Ynez Valley.  It turns out that it’s spider mating season and people are being startled as the little guys are on the move.  Their venom isn’t deadly but can cause irritation.  If you see them going at it, leave them alone and maybe play some Barry White.

Source; http://www.keyt.com/news/theres-a-creepy-feeling-in-the-santa-ynez-valley-with-tarantulas-on-the-move/29829976


For the Urban Explorers


American photographer Johnny Joo is releasing his first book of photos of abandoned places, called Empty PlacesThe Mirror has twenty creepy pictures of abandoned schools.  I love abandoned places.  I grew up reading about them in Weird New Jersey magazine and if you want more creepy stories, I recommend reading about the, sadly demolished, Lambertville High School.

Source; http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/20-incredibly-creepy-photographs-abandoned-4656005


Nature—Still Scary

The rare black seadevil was caught on film recently in its natural habitat, 2,000 feet under the sea.


Don’t worry about its teeth, at 2,000 feet it’s rarely going to encounter a human.  Plus, it’s only about 3.5 inches long.  The scary part is that the males are entirely dependent on the female to live.  The females are much larger.  A male will bite onto the side of the female and then its body dissolves until there’s nothing but testicles left behind.  The female will live the rest of her life with multiple parasitic males attached to her.  If the male can’t find a female then he’ll die.  Romantic!

Source; http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/24/watch-the-scary-black-seadevil-2000-feet-below-the-oceans-surface/