Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{May 22, 2012}   {Review} Houses of Death by Gordon Kerr

From Goodreads: If the walls of 25 Cromwell Street had ears, what horrifying acts would they have overheard during the occupancy of serial killers Fred and Rose West? A house where brutal torture sessions and grisly murders were a regular occurrence, and young women and girls were routinely dismembered and buried in the cellar or under the garden patio. When the police investigation concluded that the Wests had between them murdered at least 12 females whilst living at the house and their killers were finally brought to justice, 25 Cromwell Street had to be torn down to stop souvenir hunters from collecting items from the grounds to sell or to keep as memorabilia.

Such buildings retain something of their previous lives. After the evidence has been removed and the perpetrators imprisoned or executed, an aura of horror, fear and disgust lingers on for decades, sometimes centuries. These places become ‘the haunted house’, or ‘the bogey man’s lair’ to generations of local school children, who stare at the pavement, or run quickly past in order to avoid whatever evil still lurks behind the darkened windows. Houses of Death explores these infamous buildings, the murderers and the victims who called them ‘home’, as well as the bizarre and bloody events which took place within their walls.


One of my friends and I recently drove to Philadelphia to tour the ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary.  I wouldn’t say that I love old ruins, or that I’m a history buff in the least, but places like old prisons, insane asylums, and battlegrounds have always held a kind of awe for me.  Walking through the ruins, listening to a tour guide describe events in detail is amazing, especially when the place is supposed to be haunted.  Now, while Eastern State Penitentiary is a ruin, I wouldn’t say it was scary to tour.  I imagine going there at night or being the sole person on the premise would have been freaky, but since it’s only open during the day time and many people are all over the sight, I wasn’t scared in the least, but more so intrigued. 

Seeing those cells, and the remnants of prisoners from long ago was exciting, and so I went to find a book about it.  Interestingly enough, I was unable to find any books about Eastern State Penitentiary via Kindle.  Yes, there are hard copies galore, but in my haste to learn as much as I could and be able to download it stat, I found nothing aside from Houses of Death, by Gordon Kerr.  Being the instant gratification kind of person that I am, I purchased it (.99 cents) and read it in one sitting—it’s relatively short.  Now, I was a little sad to find that the section of Eastern State Penitentiary was only a few pages long, but the book itself was great, focusing on 38 infamous houses and wielders of death throughout the world—from the Manson family, to Sing Sing, to Lizzie Bordon, to Alcatraz, the list goes on.  Kerr digs deep down into history, giving the reader an overview of the people and places where atrocities took place, explaining the crimes (if any) and places in detail, yet not expounding upon the gruesomeness of the murders, which is a plus.  I found this book to be a great buy, and if you’re interested in historical crime, then this book is for you.  Four stars.

Contents included in this book: 

  1. Countess Erzsébet Báthory: Castle Csejthe, Slovakia,
  2. Eastern State Penitentiary: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA,
  3. The Bloody Benders: Bender Family Log Cabin, Kansas, USA,
  4. Sing Sing Ossining, New York, USA
  5. Lizzie Borden: 92 Second Street, Fall River, Massachusetts, USA
  6. H H Holmes: The Murder Castle, Chicago, USA
  7. Newgate Prison: City of London, England
  8. Lemp Mansion:3322 DeMenil Place, St Louis, Missouri, USA
  9. Bangkwang Central Prison:Nonthaburi Province, Thailand
  10. Collingwood Manor Massacre: 1740 Collingwood Manor House, Detroit, USA
  11. John Bodkin Adams: Trinity Trees Surgery, Eastbourne, England
  12. Washington State Penitentiary: Washington State, USA
  13. Nazi Death Camps: Germany, Poland, Austria
  14. Bugsy Siegel: 810 Linden Drive, Beverly Hills, California, USA
  15. Pentonville Prison: Caledonian Road, North London, England
  16. John Reginald Christie: 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London, England
  17. Ed Gein: Gein’s Farm, Plainfield, Wisconsin, USA
  18. Holloway Prison: London Borough of Islington, England
  19. Alcatraz: San Francisco Bay, USA
  20. The Manson Family: 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles, USA
  21. Jonestown: Northwestern Guyana, South America
  22. The Curse of Pearl Bryan: 44 Licking Pike, Wilder, Kentucky, USA
  23. Wonderland Murders: 8673 Wonderland, Los Angeles, USA
  24. Waverly Hills Sanatorium: Louisville, Kentucky, USA
  25. Gambino Mafia Family: The Gemini Lounge, Brooklyn, USA
  26. Fred & Rose West: 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, England
  27. Menendez Brothers: 722 Elm Drive, Beverly Hills, USA
  28. Jeffrey Dahmer: 213 Oxford Apartments, Milwaukee, USA
  29. David Koresh: Mount Carmel, Waco, Texas, USA
  30. The Tent Jail: Tent City Jail, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  31. Thomas Hamilton: Dunblane Primary School, Dunblane, Scotland
  32. Gianni Versace: Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
  33. Heaven’s Gate: 18241 Colina Norta, San Diego, USA
  34. Luke Woodham: Pearl High School, Mississippi, USA
  35. Gary Heidnik: 3520 North Marshall Street, Pennsylvania, USA
  36. Columbine Massacre: Columbine High School, Jefferson County, Colorado, USA
  37. Ian Huntley: 5 College Close, Soham, Cambridgeshire, England
  38. Virginia Tech Massacre: Virginia Tech University, Virginia, USA

et cetera
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