For most, winter is a time of joy and family gatherings. But for some, these pleasant times bring out the most murderous of tendencies.
While you were unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, a frozen corpse was discovered in a snowdrift. While you were prepping for your holiday party, a serial murderer was confessing to heinous acts. While you were counting down to the 12 days of Christmas, some of the most notorious murderers were being led to trial for their horrifying crimes.
Check out these winter true crime books of double lives, murder schemes, and cruel acts of violence that all took place during the holiday season. Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like these truly demented tales.
Winter of Frozen Dreams
This chilling true story begins on Christmas Day 1977, when Jerry Davies led Madison, Wisconsin police to a snowbank concealing the corpse of Harry Berge. Following the Berge’s trail before he disappeared, police discovered he had recently signed over his insurance policy to his ex, Barbara Hoffman. Even more twisted, Jerry Davies, the man who notified the police of the crime, had also signed over his insurance policy to Hoffman, and would later wind up dead too. Follow this wildly crazy true story of greed, murder, and suspicion. You may never be able to look at a snowdrift quite the same way again.
Chill Factor: The hair on the back of your neck will stand on end anytime a chance of snow is in the forecast; you just never know what may be buried under that first snowfall …
This unsettling story of a monster and his victims begins in December 1978, just days before Christmas, when John Wayne Gacy finally confessed to the murders of the 27 bodies found in the crawlspace under his house. Adding to the chill factor, in January, severe winter snowfall paused the ongoing excavation of the Gacy home. Hailed as one of the most notorious serial killers of our time, Gacy was found guilty of the heinous murders of 33 people. Read this poignant profile of the man behind the clown mask.
Chill Factor: Even horror master Stephen King was covered in goosebumps after reading this tale.
The Von Bülow Affair
On December 21, 1980, just days before Christmas, Sunny Von Bülow was found unconscious; the result of an attempted murder that uncovered one of the most infamous family feuds of all time. Family drama is inevitable during the holiday season—but when that family has money, a complicated history, and a greedy second husband, it’s the perfect recipe for murder.
Chill Factor: Get under the covers and get comfortable, you’re not going to want to join the real world for quite a while when you can’t even trust your own relatives.
A Thirst for Blood
In late December 1977, Richard Chase killed his first victim in a drive-by shooting: 51-year-old Ambrose Griffin. Sadly, it was just the beginning of his rampage. Weeks later, Sacramento police discovered the brutalized body of soon-to-be mother Teresa Wallin. Her body was disfigured in unholy ways, and evidence suggested the culprit cannibalized the remains and collected large volumes of blood. In less than a month, more victims were discovered, their bodies contorted and drained just like Teresa Wallin's. Written by Lt. Ray Biondi, the lead homicide detective assigned to the case, this blood-chilling account traces the serial murder spree of the man known as “the Vampire of Sacramento.”
Chill factor: You're going to want to skip the holiday party and double-lock your doors after reading this nightmarish home invasion tale.
Murder & Mayhem on Staten Island
Does the name Polly Bodine ring a bell? You'd be forgiven if it doesn't. Yet it was a far different case for New York City residents in December 1843. On Christmas night of that year, Polly Bodine was accused of brutally murdering her sister-in-law and infant niece on Staten Island. The crime scene was so horrific that P.T. Barnum proclaimed the suspect “the Witch of Staten Island.” Even Edgar Allan Poe weighed in on the matter. Bodine was tried three times for the slaying—only to be acquitted. Her story is just one of a dozen gruesome cases unearthed by historian Patricia M. Salmon in her book about Staten Island true crime.
Chill factor: Forget the charming trip on the ferry. The Big Apple's southernmost borough has a serious dark side.
Murder in Little Egypt
On a bleak December day in 1984, Dr. John Dale Cavaness was charged with the murder of his second son, and suspected of the murder of his first son. Once again we see how a family’s troubled past can be the perfect recipe for murder. Upheld as a hero of a small town in Illinois, Dr. John Dale Cavaness’ life behind closed doors proved him to be an abusive husband and father, and eventually a cold-blooded killer. Read this chilling profile of a man who inspired so much hero-worship that, even as he was convicted of murder, his loyal followers refused to believe it.
Chill Factor: Likely to cause suspicion of all family members, doctors, and empty fields. Are you safe anywhere?
On a cold, and bitter winter day in December 1985, the trials of pimp John “Lucky” Fry took place, where he was charged with murdering and dismembering Dr. Alan Canty, and hiding the body parts throughout Detroit. Dr. Canty was a respectful psychologist in the wealthy parts of Detroit. However, when temptation leads him to get tangled up with a young prostitute and her pimp in the seedy part of town, the doctor becomes the victim of a gruesome murder. Follow this disturbing tale of a well-to-do doctor leading a double life of seduction and greed.
Chill Factor: After this gruesome story, a night-light may be in order.
Murder at the Roosevelt Hotel in Cedar Rapids
On December 13, 1948, Byron C. Hattman checked into the Roosevelt Hotel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa—and never checked out. Two days later, a maid found Hattman's body in a blood-spattered room. Investigators linked the murder victim to the wife of a pediatrician in St. Louis, and the doctor admitted to the attack after trying to poison himself. While scandalous, the case seemed open and shut for prosecutors. That is, until new evidence entirely changed the narrative. Reporter Diane Fannon-Langton uncovers the truth in this comprehensive account of the Hattman slaying.
Chill factor: Traveling to see family members this holiday season? Check your hotel room thoroughly—you never know what went down before your stay.
On New Year’s Day 1973, schoolteacher Roseann Quinn was stabbed to death by John Wayne Wilson—a man she picked up at a bar across the street from her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The crime went on to inspire the novel Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and its film adaptation starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere. Lacey Fosburgh’s true crime account uses dramatization techniques, and changes Quinn’s name to Katherine Cleary, in order to paint a picture of a woman who was vastly different from the person others believed her to be.
Chill Factor: You’ll be weary of talking to strangers in bars anytime soon after reading this horrifying true story.
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