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True Crime - Top 10 Real Life Crime Stories

Updated on January 30, 2011

True Crime - The Dark Mind

I have read a lot of true crime stories in my life. I find the documented facts in many of these stories to be a good door into the human psyche. We all have what psychologists call our shadow. This is the part of our psyche that most of us disown or bury deeply. The healthiest way of dealing with our shadow is to own it, accept it as part of ourselves, then keep it chained up.

What are the elements of a true crime story? A good true crime story should teach us about the human condition and thereby, our shadow. First of all, it should not be super judgmental. We are all human, we are all a mixture of both good and evil intentions. We all have dreams and we all make mistakes. Being overly judgmental can blind us to truly dangerous people. Second of all, it should show us the motivations and logic of our villain. This should not be simplistic religious dogma like "she choose to be evil". After reading a good true crime story, we should feel that we understand the mind of our villain. We should understand our villains hope, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, and delusions.

Understanding the motives behind these crimes can help us to prevent further crimes. Harsh sentences can only do so much and can even become counterproductive in some cases. For instance, I believe that the violent California penal system was responsible for the formation of Charles Manson's personality.

True Crime Stories and Books

Of all of the true crime books that I have read, here are my top 10 true crime stories:

  • The End of the Dream: Story of a boy who was a success at everything he attempted. He finally decided to live the life as a fairly successful bank robber. Eventually, his luck ran out. One of the better books by Ann Rule.
  • Lethal Intent: Aileen Wuornos was not only a prostitute, but a serial killer too. I found the book to be significantly different than the movie concerning her motivations. I felt the movie didn't even get the known facts correct.
  • If You Really Loved Me: Story is about a computer genius who grows arrogant and eventually believes that he can get away with anything. His multiple relationships provide a glimpse into his motives and are as fascinating as his crimes. The detectives who solved this case should be commended for their hard and diligent work in locking this guy away from society.
  • Poison Mind: You would think that more geniuses would avoid committing murder. The risk to reward ratio is extremely high. You would think that they could find better alternatives to their problems. George Trepal, a member of Mensa, still tries to get away with it though.
  • Perfect Victim: Most crimes are short lived, but this is about a girl brainwashed and kept as a slave for seven years by her married captor Cameron Hooker. She is so deeply brainwashed that he actually allows her to leave the house for short periods of time.
  • Lethal Marriage: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were a married couple with a very unusual hobby. They documented their crimes, providing us with a glimpse into their minds.
  • Prophet of Death: The Mormon-Blood Atonement Killings: Recounts the killing of the Avery family by a cult led by leader Jeff Lundgren. This book focuses on his slowly growing psychosis.
  • Helter Skelter: Written by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, this book is about one of the worst mass murders in 1969 by the Manson family. The Manson family was basically a cult led by Charles Manson. Although the authors don't make a strong attempt to divine the motives of our killers, there are enough details that you can form your own opinion. There are several other books about Charles Manson and other members of the Manson family to help further understand Charles Manson and his cult.
  • And the Sea will Tell: Once again, by Vincent Bugliosi, I like this book because of its rare outcome. This story shows what it is like to be on the wrong side of the law and to fight for your freedom. Vincent provides some rare insight into the working of the legal system. If you only read one true crime story in your life, this is the one to read.
  • Mind Hunter: This book by John Douglas is not about a particular true crime, but actually about certain psychological characteristics of true crime. It includes a lot of examples and comparisons. John Douglas was an FBI profiler who studied and categorized serial killers to help find and arrest them. He has some fascinating insight into their thoughts and motivations.

True Crime Stories - Afterward

I hope you will find the above books as fascinating as I have. You will notice that I have not included books where the bad guys were highly schizophrenic or suffering from uncontrolled anger. Those type of people I feel are fairly well understood in their motives and actions. In all of these books above, the bad guys definitely knew that what they were doing was wrong and attempted to prevent the authorities from discovering their crimes both before and after the fact.

I have included Amazon links below if you would like to purchase any of these books online:


Submit a Comment

  • Hellyer6 profile image

    Hellyer6 6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

    Check out my true crime book and let me know what you think. I created a hub for it: Confessions of a Suburban Stripper". Thanks so much :)

  • Ehnaira05 profile image

    Ehnaira05 6 years ago from Charlotte, Florida

    You clearly state it. Nice post and I like it.

    Hope you can visit my hub too.

  • ChilliWilly profile image

    ChilliWilly 7 years ago from Kaunas, Lithuania

    Interesting list. Thanks for sharing!