In the 1960s, a slew of disappearances were the talk of Truro and surrounding Cape Cod towns. After the 1969 disappearance of Patricia Walsh and Mary Anne Wysocki, search parties went out to find the girls, dead or alive. After two weeks, a highly mutilated corpse was found—the remains of Susan Perry, who had been missing for five months.
About a month later, the remains of Walsh, Wysocki, and Eastham native Sydney Monzon were found in a shallow grave just over a mile from the site of Perry’s body. Already on high alert, citizens were further terrified thanks to a remark made by District Attorney Edmund Dinis, who claimed that “Each body was cut into as many parts as there are joints.”
The perpetrator of these horrific crimes were soon suspected to be Tony Costa, a local carpenter and drug dealer with previous run-ins with the law. In Helltown, Casey Sherman examines the horrors caused by Costa while bringing his victims back to life, exploring their worlds and desires. Intertwined in his narrative is also the literary and political landscape of the time.
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Sherman’s enthralling and deeply researched true crime book unveiling the Cape Cod serial killer will be published on July 12—but Creepy Crate subscribers will be receiving a copy of Helltown before its publish date in the June/July Creepy Crate!
Editor's note: The following excerpt contains graphic detail.
Read on for a sneak peek at Helltown, then subscribe to Creepy Crate for your copy!
Sydney Monzon’s killer did not own a television set, so he did not keep up with the bloody spectacle in Chicago. But on the town all green in Provincetown, Tony Costa gathered his hippie friends, his so-called disciples, to rail against the bloodshed overseas in Vietnam.
“Our fathers preach peace, but give us war!” he told them. “Peace cannot be obtained through war. Peace can be obtained through peace and only peace.”
He did not need to watch the nightly news to express how he felt. The killer also shied away from reading the Cape Cod Standard-Times out of fear that police might announce a break in the Monzon case. Sydney was still considered missing and not murdered. He figured that the likelihood that someone would stumble upon her remains was remote, considering the secluded area and sprawling vegetation she was buried under. Costa also believed that his role as a police snitch in Provincetown would give him the opportunity to keep tabs on the investigation, if there was one. Local cops were the worst gossipers in town, he knew.
The killer did not think about Sydney anymore as his focus was now on a new girl. Labor Day was approaching, and the Cape Cod tourism season was winding down. He had enjoyed a good summer, living at the Crown & Anchor hotel on Commercial Street, where he paid off his room and board by performing light carpentry and plumbing work. Built in the nineteenth century, the seventy-five-room hotel was always in need of some repair, as long as the work did not interfere with the nightly cabaret shows performed by a gaggle of glittering drag queens. But the entertainers, who called themselves the “Wuthering Knights,” had packed away their evening gowns and high-heeled pumps, and the cruising area of Bay Beach known as the “Dick Dock” was deserted once more.
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Costa busied himself by winterizing the hotel, repairing toilets, rebuilding the gazebo-room bar, and adding a new sundeck.
He met seventeen-year-old Susan Perry one day while pedaling home on his bicycle, the one he called Baby Blue, from the town library. He had a book tucked under his arm: Manual of Taxidermy: A Complete Guide in Collecting and Preserving Birds and Mammals. It was a reprint of a textbook written by Charles Johnson Maynard in 1883. The killer devoured books on taxidermy, and he vanquished small creatures like egrets, piping plovers, squirrels, and chipmunks from salt marshes and heath lands along the Cape Cod National Seashore. When he was too tired to hunt, he would scout for roadkill around town. He was diligent in his work, using a sharp knife to carve an incision in a small animal’s tail, then pushing the blade up to the head before separating and peeling its skin back and cautiously removing the innards.
Costa hid the book in the back pocket of his jeans as he chatted with Susan in front of the Lobster Pot restaurant on Commercial Street.
“Are you going to stick around this dead-end town through autumn?” he asked her.
She shrugged and smiled, brushing a blond curl away from her face.
“I’ve taken a splendid job in Boston, building a new home for a client,” he told her. “I am going to stay with some acquaintances in the suburb of Dedham. You should visit if you get bored.”
“You kinda talk funny, Sire,” Susan noted. “You don’t speak like the guys around here. You use big words. You remind me of an actor. Cary Grant, I think.”
He grinned sheepishly. “If you find that you want to get off the Cape for a period, please let me know.”
He continued his bike ride while Susan Perry contemplated the offer.
She told some friends that she was eager to leave Ptown, that spit of sand at land’s end, and head up to Boston where everything was happening. Plus, Susan did not have enough money to afford a place of her own on Cape Cod, even during the off-season. She turned what seemed to be a casual invitation to visit into a formal proposal to live together.
A friend spotted her a week or so later hanging around the Boston Common, where college kids from nearby Harvard, Boston University, and Emerson College gathered daily to smoke dope and decry the war. Susan carried all her clothes in a big duffel bag. She had also dyed her hair black. The blond pixie was now a spitting image of Sydney Monzon.
“We’re living together now,” she said to the friend, beaming. “I’ve slept with him. I hope he likes me now.”
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Tony Costa soon joined them. He pulled out a hash pipe from his pocket. Its ornate carving showed a female body without arms or legs. The three of them got high and sat in the grass near the Parkman Bandstand at the eastern side of the Common and listened to rock music. After sharing a few tokes of pure Black Gundji hash with a trace of opium, they strolled through the city together. Costa had a small camera and snapped away each time they came across a road sign.
“One Way, Do Not Enter, Detour and Exit, they each have a symbolic significance toward my relationship with someone,” he explained to the girls. “For instance, if I hand you a photograph of an Exit sign, it means that you are no longer in my life.”
Hearing this, Susan hugged him closer, fearing that he would soon get tired of her.
Later, alone together at the apartment in Dedham, he pulled out three tabs of blue cheer acid and offered them to Susan.
“Do you feel like turning on?” he asked her. “Just let them melt on your tongue. The next thing you will see is a Tinkerbell ballet.”
The girl was unsure, but she realized that sex and drugs were the keys to owning the young man’s heart.
Susan closed her eyes and parted her narrow lips. She could barely feel the specks of paper touching her tongue.
“It’s real head acid,” he told her. “This will be magical for your mind.”
A sudden feeling of warmth spread through Susan’s body as her blood pressure rose and her eyes dilated.
The young man walked over to the turntable and let the needle fall on the Rolling Stones’ “The Spider and the Fly.”
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He hummed Keith Richards’s bluesy opening chords and sang along to Jagger’s lyrics.
With her tiny body almost lost in an overstuffed armchair, Susan stared back at him blankly as he continued.
He stopped singing and looked at her for a moment. He then lunged forward, grabbing the girl’s throat. She pulled away, so he reached for her hair and dragged her into the bathroom.
What’s happening? Susan asked herself. Am I tripping? Am I hallucinating?
But the pain was all too real, and Susan tried to free herself from Costa’s tight grip. She felt his other hand grab the back of her collar as he hauled her across the carpet.
There was a sharp knife resting on the bathroom sink. He called it his “pig stabber.” He threw Susan to the floor, raised the weapon, and plunged the blade into her chest. Her eyes went wide, and she emitted a gurgling sound as blood formed at the corner of her pink lips and blossomed like a scarlet flower from her shirt. He pulled the knife out and stabbed again, this time keeping the blade inside her chest. Her body went limp, and her eyes were lifeless. Susan Perry had completely submitted herself to him. He stood up and began unbuttoning his shirt. His jeans came off next. Tony Costa covered the dead girl’s body with his own, letting her blood smear his bare chest. This excited him. He ran his hands over her nude figure and suckled her breasts. He then pushed her legs apart and entered her. She was still warm. After several violent thrusts, he finished the ritual. He pulled himself off her body and walked back into the living room naked, glistening with sweat and blood. He reached for a book, the one titled Manual of Taxidermy: A Complete Guide in Collecting and Preserving Birds and Mammals. With fingers bloodied, he flipped through the pages dedicated to catching prey—he had already succeeded in that—and turned to chapter 2, “Skinning Birds.”4 “A bird had better lie for at least six hours after it has been killed,” the author advised. The killer had no time for this. Following further instructions, he inserted the point of the knife under the girl’s skin near the sternum and slid it downward, and so on.
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Featured photo: capecast / YouTube