Category Archives: True Crime

Mx3 Review: The Devil I Know by Jackie Barrett

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 7, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0425250423
  • Source: Personal Copy

Fans of horror are familiar with devastating killings that took place at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY. 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo was subsequently convicted and imprisoned for killing his entire family.  These killings were just the precursor to decades of unnatural occurrences that took place in this home. Later, another family, the Lutzes, moved into the home. They didn’t last long…the supernatural activity they experience caused them to flee less than a month after moving in. A book and subsequent movie, named The Amityville Horror were released, once again  shining the spotlight on this eerie home.

Countless numbers of press contacted DeFeo after the book was published, wanting to know about the supernatural events that took place in his home. They all wanted to hear about the hauntings; no one wanted to hear about what happened the night his entire family was brutally murdered. DeFeo withdrew from all the attention, growing more bitter and angry as his celebrity status increased. One day, he receives a letter from psychic Jackie Barrett. Barrett insists that she learned about him from an unknown force, but feels she has to talk with him about the evil that has been tormenting him all these years.

DeFeo and Barrett start communicating via letter and then by daily phone calls. Barrett is startled, but not necessarily surprised, when DeFeo is able to mention incidents in her past that aren’t publicly known. The two seem to be forced together an energy that neither one can control. Thousands of hours of recordings and hundreds of phone calls later, Barrett is finally able to extract the truth from one of the most evil individuals, reportedly the Devil himself.

Whether or not you believe the stories about the Amityville Horror, The Devil I Know is a truly well-researched exploration an study of a truly evil, and obviously imbalanced, man. That said, it portrays not only DeFeo’s story, but Barrett’s herself. Starting at a very early age, she was forced by her mother to take part in a number of exorcisms and seances, her gift to draw out spirits and talk to the dead a valuable one.  But one case involving someone dear to her didn’t turn out the way she’d expected, an event that continued to torment her life. Ultimately, this is a story of freeing one’s own personal ghosts, be it supernatural or spiritual.

There are a few scenes that are particularly spooky…but in my mind not nearly as terrifying as the account of the horrid crime that took place in this home. It could be that it takes a bit more to scare me than the average person?  Ultimately, it’s not the supernatural aspects of this case that are terrifying but instead the documented events that transpired the night of the DeFeo family killing.

Fans of horror and of true crime are certain to enjoy this book. Do a fiction/non-fiction mash-up, read it alongside Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror. Or even better, watch the film & then read this book. Any way you go about it, this is a book you must add to your Halloween reading list. Highly recommended.

 

Frightful Friday: A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of A Murder by Karen Spears Zacharias

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured book is actually a memoir, somehow making it even more chilling: A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder by Karen Spears Zacharias.

 

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing (April 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 159692375X
  • Source: Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc

Karen Zacharias is an investigative journalist living a relatively peaceful life in Corvallis, Oregon.  Never could she have imagined that she would become involved in the murder case of Karly Sheehan, the three-year-old daughter of a troubled woman Zacharias had once welcomed into her home and considered her to be part of her family.

Having parted ways with Karly’s mom, Sarah, years ago,  Zacharias was shocked to learn of Karly’s death.  Upon learning more, she discovered that Karly was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend. Stunned into action, Zacharias immerses herself in the investigation, contacting local police, Karly’s father, and other individuals close to the Sheehan family, desperate for an explanation. Having a personal knowledge of the type of woman Sarah Sheehan was, it didn’t take long for Zacharias to realize she was somehow involved. Slowly, the police (and Zacharias following closely behind) unveil a history of abuse involving Karly, an abuse that while reported was never really acted upon by the authorities.

Sharing Karly’s story soon became Zacharias’ passion, her obsession, knowing how many children in this country are victims of abuse and neglect. Additionally, she witnessed the love Karly’s father, David Sheehan, had for his daughter. Once thought to be the source of Karly’s abuse, David Sheehan had been through hell and back after the death of his daughter. Zacharias saw this pain and love in David’s eyes and knew that moment that Karly’s story had to be told.

This is certainly not a light subject matter, but regardless is a book that should be read. So many children in our country, a country that is so rich in freedom, are forgotten, lost victims of abuse. Zacharias doesn’t sugar coat anything, using her skill as an investigative reporter to find and report on the facts.  Her dedication to this cause and her love for this young girl without a doubt impacts her feelings about this case, yet she doesn’t allow it to influence her reporting.

A Silence of Mockingbirds should be a wake up call for as all, a call to action to do something about this epidemic of childhood abuse in our country. We shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up if we fear a child is being abused, for our voice may be that child’s only hope. This is a book I beg of you to read for it has affected me like none other.  Yes, it’s heartbreaking, it will make you cry from deep within your soul. It is also masterful and compelling, a book you’ll read in one sitting, then immediately rise up and want to make a difference, a call to change!

It is thanks to this book that I have volunteered to read with the children of abuse. While I may not be able to erase the abuse they faced, I can do my part in improving the life they have now. Highly, highly recommended.

Listen to Diane Rehm interviewing Karen Zacharias about the book.