Nick Broomfield, “Tales of the Grim Sleeper”

“Where’s the crack house?”
“Right here, I’m fittin’ to show you. It’s death, see how dark it is? Next, right here. This the crack house. The dark one. It’s the devil’s den.”

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Simon Parkin, “Return of the Chess Cheat”

“Accounts vary as to how exactly a chess game between King Canute the Great and one of his most trusted Viking chieftains, Earl Ulf, went down, in 1026, but certainly cheating was involved, and for at least one party the match proved fatal. In their 1851 book “The Chess Player,” the German chess masters Bernhard Horwitz and Josef Kling tell a version of the story in which the king made a “false move” and lost one of his knights. Canute “would not have this,” they write, and insisted that he be allowed a redo, at which suggestion Ullf “waxed angry” and overturned the board. (The match took place at a banquet; he may have been emboldened by mead.) Things escalated. The king accused Ulf of cowardice, prompting the earl to remind Canute of the assistance he had rendered him at Helge River, when, he gibed, “the Swedes beat you like a dog.” Ulf turned on his heel and retired for the night. It was to be his last: Canute had him killed in church the next day.”

From The New Yorker, 4/17/15

Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, “The Monster of Florence”

“Out of the Everest of evidence in the Monster case, Giuttari had pried out a few pebbles that he felt supported his new theory. First, Lotti had made an offhand statement, ignored at the time, that “a doctor asked Pacciani to do a few little jobs for him.” For Giuttari, this revived the old suspicion that a doctor was responsible for the killings— this time not as the killer himself, but as a mastermind. And then there was Pacciani’s money. After the old peasant died, it turned out he was rich. He owned two houses and had post office bonds worth more than the equivalent of a hundred thousand dollars. Giuttari was unable to track the source of this wealth. This should not have been all that surprising— a large percentage of the Italian economy at the time was underground and many people had unexplained riches. But Giuttari ascribed a more sinister reason to Pacciani’s affluence; the peasant farmer had gotten rich from selling the body parts he and his picnicking friends had collected in their years of labor.

In a later book on the case, Chief Inspector Giuttari explained his satanic sect thesis more particularly. “The best sacrifices for evoking demons are human sacrifices, and the death most favorable for such sacrifices are those that occur during orgasm and are called mors iusti. A similar motive led to the killings of the ‘monster,’ who struck his victims while they were making love…In that precise moment [of orgasm] powerful energies are released, indispensable for the person acting out satanic rituals, which bring power to himself and to the ritual he is celebrating.

Digging deep into medieval lore and legend, the chief inspector found a possible name for this sect: the School of the Red Rose, an ancient, almost forgotten diabolical order that had left its mark across centuries of Florentine history, a perverse Priory of Sion in reverse, all pentacles, black masses, ritual killings, and demonic altars. The school, some said, was a deviant offshoot of an ancient order, Ordo Rosae Rubae et Aurae Crucis, an esoteric Masonic sect connected to the English Golden Dawn, and therefore, with Aleister Crowley, the most famous satanist of the last century called himself “the Great Beast 666” and who in the 1920’s founded a church in Cefalu, Sicily, called the Abbey of Thelema. There, it was said, Crowley practiced perverted magical and sexual rituals involving men and women.”

INSIDE OF ME, THE NIGHT WILL LAST FOREVER

I AM VERY CLOSE TO YOU. YOU WILL NEVER TAKE ME UNLESS I CHOOSE IT. THE FINAL NUMBER IS STILL FAR AWAY. SIXTEEN ARE NOT MANY. I DON’T HATE ANYONE, BUT I HAVE TO DO IT IF I WANT TO LIVE. BLOOD AND TEARS WILL RUN SOON. YOU WILL MAKE NO PROGRESS THE WAY YOU ARE GOING. YOU HAVE GOTTEN EVERYTHING WRONG. TOO BAD FOR YOU. I WILL MAKE NO MORE MISTAKES, BUT THE POLICE WILL. INSIDE OF ME, THE NIGHT WILL LAST FOREVER. I CRIED FOR THEM. EXPECT ME.

Anonymous letter claiming to have been written by The Monster of Florence, mailed to Mario Spezi, who covered the case for La Nazione.

Douglas Preston, “The Monster of Florence”

“Myriam urged her husband to seek help, and finally he agreed. Instead of going to a psychiatrist, Spezi, a devout Catholic, turned to a monk who ran a small mental-health practice out of his cell in a crumbling eleventh-century Franciscan monastery. Brother Galileo Babbini was short, with Coke-bottle glasses that magnified his piercing black eyes. He was always cold, even in summer, and wore a shabby down coat beneath his brown monk’s habit. He seemed to have stepped out of the Middle Ages, and yet he was a highly trained psychoanalyst with a doctorate from the University of Rome.

Brother Galileo combined psychoanalysis with mystical Christianity to counsel people recovering from devastating trauma. His methods were not gentle, and he was unyielding in his pursuit of truth. He had, Spezi told me, an almost supernatural insight into the dark side of the human soul. Spezi would see him throughout the case; he would confide to me that Brother Galileo had preserved not only his sanity, but also his life.”

Originally printed in The Atlantic, July 2006

From “A Very Argentinian Mystery,” by Jon Lee Anderson

“In 1955, when Juan Domingo Perón, the grandmaster of twentieth-century Argentine politics, was overthrown in a military coup, the general who had ousted him ordered a team of officers to steal the embalmed body of his late wife, Evita, who had died of cancer three years earlier. Evita’s body, which had been on exhibit at a Perónist union’s headquarters in Buenos Aires, vanished for the next seventeen years, its whereabouts known only to a select few officers. At one point, leftist Montonero guerrillas kidnapped and murdered a former President in a failed effort to retrieve the corpse. Evita’s body was eventually sent to Spain, where Perón was living in exile, and handed over to him.”

From The New Yorker, 1/23/15

Mike Sager, “The Devil and John Holmes”

“In the morning, they went out to get food. ‘When we came back, the door was locked,’ says Jeana. ‘The Holy Roller was up in the balcony, waving a Christian flag, praying and hollering, singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ She said John had cut some coke with an old tarot card and she believed it was a sign from the devil. I said, ‘Please, just let me get my clothes and my dog and we’ll leave.’”