In an instant, the lives of the seven very real people on this list were changed. From memoirs by famous kidnapping victims like Elizabeth Smart to true crime books about historical disappearances, these seven books will open your eyes to the terrors these victims faced. Lock your doors before cracking open one of these real-life kidnapping books.
Incident at Big Sky
In 1984, while training near Big Sky, Montana, biathlete Kari Swenson was kidnapped by Don and Dan Nichols—father and son survivalists who hoped to make Kari Dan’s bride. Kari was held captive for 18 hours, during which time Don Nichols shot dead Kari's friend Alan Goldstein when Alan came looking for her. Kari too suffered a gun shot after Dan Nichols' gun accidentally discharged. The father-son duo then fled their camp, leaving a wounded Kari chained to a tree. They managed to evade capture for 5 months. Incredibly, Kari Swenson survived her ordeal. Her story is told in this true crime book written by the Sheriff who eventually captured the kidnapping duo.
Elizabeth Is Missing
On New Year’s Day, 1753, Elizabeth Canning went missing while walking home in London, England. Friends and family were shocked when Elizabeth returned one month later, claiming that she had been robbed and kidnapped by Susannah Wells and Mary Squires after refusing to enter into prostitution. Though the community stood by Canning’s account, and Wells and Squires were found guilty, another judge later found Canning guilty of perjury and sentenced her to imprisonment followed by exile. But what really happened? Author Lillian de la Torre takes a crack at solving the case.
Did They Really Do It?
On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son, Charles Jr., was taken from the family’s home in the middle of the night. What followed was a desperate attempt to get him back. While the illustrious family paid a man who claimed to be the kidnapper $50,000 in ransom, Charles Jr. was not returned. The infant's remains were found months later near the Lindbergh home. Fred Rosen’s book explores whether or not the man executed for the kidnapping was responsible, among other cases.
Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings
In 2013, three young women were finally rescued after being held captive for years by Ariel Castro in his Cleveland, Ohio home. Michelle Knight, the first of three women kidnapped, tells her harrowing story. Knight was kidnapped on August 23, 2002—the same day she was supposed to appear in court to fight for custody of her young son. Believing she had run away, authorities removed Michelle from the missing persons list 15 months after she vanished. Though her captor tormented her with the thoughts that no one was looking for her, she never gave up.
3,096 Days in Captivity: The True Story of My Abduction, Eight Years of Enslavement, and Escape
At the age of 10, Austrian woman Natascha Kampusch was kidnapped while on her way to school in Vienna. Though the police conducted a massive search for the young girl, they came up empty handed. Her captor, Wolfgang Přiklopil starved and beat her—making her too weak to run away. She finally saw a moment of opportunity eight years after she was taken against her will. Natascha's memoir recounts her ordeal and how she never lost sight of survival.
In 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bed in the middle of the night by religious fanatics Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. She was held for nine months, enduring repeated rapes and threats that her family would be killed if she tried to escape. Smart's case made headlines across the world. Today, she's an advocate for kidnapping and sexual assault victims—traveling the country (and the world) to help others in need.
A Stolen Life: A Memoir
On June 10, 1991, Philip Greg Garrido kidnapped Jaycee Dugard near her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. While on her way to the bus, a car approached her and Garrido used a stun gun on Jaycee. Though her stepfather saw the incident happen and attempted to chase the car down on a mountain bike, he could not catch them. Dugard was not found until 2009, 18 years later, having bore two children while in captivity. The terrifying story of her survival is told in her memoir A Stolen Life.
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