Top 10 True Crime Books

I started reading true crime when I was around 16. I’m 33 now, so you can imagine how “easy” it is to think up 10 best books out of hundreds.

Nevertheless, I get so many requests for book recommendations that I feel a list like this will be interesting to my readers, so let’s do this.

10. This is the Zodiac Speaking, by Michael Kelleher and David van Nuys. (2001 Praeger Publishing)

This is the Zodiac Speaking

People who don’t read very much always think that in order to like a book, you have to agree with all of its claims. Of course, that’s not the case at all: a good book can build an entire case that you don’t agree with, but still be enjoyable and interesting to read. Such is the case with this book. While I think van Nuys and Kelleher occasionally read way too much into what amounts to fairly minimal evidence, This is the Zodiac Speaking is nevertheless a very interesting read.

Author Michael Kelleher sent psychology professor van Nuys the infamous Zodiac letters and asked him to analyze them, to paint a psychological portrait of the person who wrote them; van Nuys did not know that the letters had been written by the infamous California serial killer. This book has two “voices”: one is Michael Kelleher’s as he narrates the terrifying saga of the Zodiac crimes, and the other is that of Dr. van Nuys as he analyzes the psychopathic killer. At the end of the book both men take turns building a coherent profile of the Zodiac.

This is the Zodiac Speaking is extremely well written: Kelleher and van Nuys are clearly men who write for a living, and this makes the book easy to follow and suspenseful even to those with no prior knowledge of the case. As I mentioned earlier, the authors occasionally dip pretty deep into the pool of speculations and theories, but then again, maybe it’s time to start thinking outside the box – after all, regular police work and conventional profiling have not brought us any closer to the Zodiac’s true identity even after several decades.

Being that Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac is full of lies and intentional misreadings of information, I consider this book to still be the best and most reliable version of the Zodiac killer story.


9. The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. (2008 Grand Central Publishing)

monster of florence

Ever since he spent time there as a kid, American author Douglas Preston had a dream of living in Florence. Once it became financially possibly after the success of his suspense books (written with co-author Lincoln Child), Preston and his family packed their bags and headed to their dream city for a new life.

The dream quickly got sour after Preston realized that a serial killer known as “Il Mostro di Firenze” (“The Monster of Florence”) had been active near the neighborhood where Preston now resided with his family. A writer to his core, Preston began to investigate, and ended up becoming a part of the twisted story himself. This book tells the story of the “Monster”, and of how Preston himself became entangled in the web of creepy weirdness that is the “Il Mostro” investigation.

The book is absolutely flawlessly written: Preston is a professional entertainer who has made a fortune writing suspense books that are easy to read on an airplane or during a commute to work. This shines through as a big perk in The Monster of Florence: the complicated events, spanning several decades and all the way through to the moment Preston goes to Florence, are woven together effortlessly, and the reader is treated to an entertaining, scary read.

The crazy story the book tells has an equally crazy ending: the Italian police tell Preston to get the hell out of Italy and never come back. Why? I’ll leave that to you to discover.


8. The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule. (1980 W.W. Norton & Company)

stranger beside me

Ted Bundy is one of the most famous serial killers in history, and due to his very public life after being caught, it would be easy to assume that we know all there is to know about him. However, this assumption would be incorrect, as Ann Rule’s intimate portrait of the psychopathic killer proves.

Rule and Bundy actually worked together as volunteers at a suicide “hotline” where self-destructive people could call to get help with their problems, or at least an ear to listen to them. Throughout their time together first as co-workers, then as friends, Rule had no idea that Bundy was spending his free time brutally murdering women and burying their bodies in the woods of Washington state. Even after the handsome, well-mannered Bundy was arrested for his murders, Rule refused to believe the arrest was anything but a mistake. But as the court proceedings began, Bundy’s mask of sanity began to fall off, and Rule was left with a terrifying realization…

This book is often listed as number 1 in articles such as this one, where true crime classics are listed. No wonder. The thick book spans a long period of time, but is never boring. The characters are painted vividly as Rule gives a three-dimensional treatment to the people in her life, and throughout its length The Stranger Beside Me has a feel of lived life to it. Though she wonderfully weaves her own story into the work, the focus of the book is obviously Bundy, and Rule gives us a totally unique, insightful view of the performance Bundy gave to the world first as an up-and-coming young politician, then as the bogey man of America.


7. The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer, by Brian Masters. (1993 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.)

shrine of jeffrey dahmer

That clichéd mantra about how “even the most devious serial killers are nevertheless not that different from the rest of us” might be true in 99 percent of cases, but Jeffrey Dahmer was the exception – he was categorically, tragically different from the rest of us in all ways.

This lead to a sad, lonely, terrifying life that Masters lays out in his book. Though he never tries to defend Dahmer as a “victim” (I would not have liked this book if he had), Masters attempts a deeper understanding of his subject than your average true crime author, and the resulting portrait he paints of Dahmer’s bizarre road from a painfully awkward young introvert to a serial killer is a journey into a nightmare.

In the final chapter, Masters bites a bit too deep into the apple. He attempts a kind of psychoanalytical approach to the Dahmer case, wherein he places the morbid plans Dahmer had of building a shrine to his victims to the forefront of his analysis, and tries to find a deeper level in Dahmer’s thinking by comparing Dahmer’s spooky shrine fantasies to the general concept of “the shrine” and its meanings to mankind throughout the centuries. This doesn’t work very well, in my opinion, but it doesn’t ruin the book either, thankfully.


6. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi. (1974 W.W. Norton & Company)

helter skelter

This huge, very detailed book is nowhere near perfect, but it needs to be mentioned on a list like this. It is, after all, a very good book, perfect though it may not be.

Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecutor who put the Manson family behind bars after the hippie-cult-gone-mad murdered a group of people in California in the late 1960s. This book tells the story of the Manson family and its darkly charismatic leader, Charles Manson, as well as the story of how Bugliosi built his case against the cult in court.

Helter Skelter is a rare book in the sense that one can genuinely say it tells an entire story, not just a part of it: the book is rammed with details, and basically every aspect of the Manson story is told. This is a blessing in some parts, but a curse in others: Bugliosi has an ego, and he is very adamant about communicating every little detail of his experience in prosecuting “the Family”. While reading about the intricacies of a prosecutor’s work can be fascinating in some parts, overall I wish he had left some of the material to a memoir, or written two books: one about the Manson Family, one about his prosecution thereof.

Be that as it may, Helter Skelter is still worthy of its status as a classic, if for no other reason than for being the definitive book on one of the most shocking crimes of the 20th century.


5. To Steal Her Love, by Matti Joensuu. (2008 Arcadia Books)

to steal her love

Being a Finn, it would be a shame not to include a Finnish crime book. That would be an opportunity wasted for my readers as well, as there are indeed some Finnish books in this category worth reading, and some of them have even been translated into English.

Case in point: this book. Matti Joensuu was an actual homicide detective in the Helsinki Police Department. Throughout his career he investigated everything from stabbings to shootings to… God knows what else. Informed by his own experiences as a detective, he wrote a series of crime novels featuring a fictional detective named Timo Harjunpää. To Steal Her Love is widely considered the best in the series.

At this point, I need to make something clear: this book is fictional. So then, why am I including this on my list? Two reasons: one, it’s a very, very well written realistic book about the criminal underworld in Finland; and two, it’s based on an actual case, and probably says more about it than a non-fiction book ever could.

In the late 1980s several women in the city of Helsinki started having weird dreams. In those dreams they woke up to the feeling that someone was in their apartment, looking at them from the dark. Most of the women brushed these dreams aside as just that – dreams, the human imagination at work on a subconscious level.

But then one day, one woman started wondering if those weird dreams she’d been having lately may actually have been real… She started to investigate, and came to a creepy conclusion – someone had indeed been inside her apartment at night.

She contacted the police, who put out a notification to women in Helsinki to be careful. Suddenly, the police received dozens and dozens of calls from women who had had the same experiences.

This book was inspired by that case.


4. Bind, Torture, Kill, by Roy Wenzl et. al. (2008 Harper)

bind torture kill

Dennis Rader (aka the “BTK Killer”) is, in my mind, the most evil, terrifying, twisted serial killer of the modern era. He murdered several people over a period spanning several decades in Wichita, Kansas; his victims included an entire family. As if murder wasn’t enough, he sexually abused the bodies of some of his victims.

This book tells the story of a shockingly evil man without glorifying his dark deeds in any way. Yes, it is possible.

The authors are reporters of The Wichita Eagle, the local newspaper in the area where Rader was active in his serial killing. They know the area and the city intimately, and paint a wonderfully vivid portrait of the community Rader terrorized as well as the detectives who worked tirelessly to catch him. Though Rader’s story is also told, obviously, the good people are the focus of Bind, Torture, Kill while Rader is painted deservedly as the villain. By the end of the book you’ll be rooting for the cops to bring a climax to the suspense and unmask the “BTK”.

Brilliantly written, with the pulse-pounding pace and feel of a thriller, this book is a monument to the people who stand between us and the serial killers of the world.


3. Killing Pablo, by Mark Bowden. (2001 Grove Press)

killing pablo

If an era can be said to have a personality, the 1980s were loud, boisterous, excess-driven and narcissistic. Everything had to be big and flashy, and even the friggin’ cops drove Ferraris on TV.

Though his story spans other decades too, in many ways the story of Pablo Escobar was “The Great Story of the Eighties”. He went from a humble background to controlling the biggest cocaine empire in the world. He also didn’t mind showing it and rubbing it in the faces of the authorities hellbent on capturing him: he lived in a huge mansion with exotic animals imported from other parts of the world, flew in a private plane, and owned the best of everything. To his credit it must be said that he used some of his wealth to do good, too: he built housing for hundreds of poor people in his native country of Colombia.

The government was essentially entirely in Pablo’s pocket, and he was untouchable for a long time. There were, however, “anti-Pablo” forces within the government, people who refused to accept that Colombia was just a haven for drug lords, and they put together a concentrated effort to get Pablo extradited to the US to be tried for his drug-related crimes and murders. Once he heard of this, Pablo began waging a war against the government, and it got very ugly very fast: civilians were bombed, a plane was destroyed in mid-air, etc.

A kind of uneasy peace pact was ultimately reached, and Pablo was ordered to serve a prison sentence. Pablo yielded, as long as he didn’t have to be extradited – the drug lord once told his minions: “rather a grave in Colombia than a prison cell in the United States”. The only catch was, Pablo demanded that he get to build his own prison, to which the (pathetic) government of Colombia agreed.

When Pablo escaped from his own prison (if you can call it “escape”..) the Colombian officials had finally had enough. Pablo had made Colombia a laughing stock in the international community.

The negotiations were over. It was time for “el Patron” to die.

This book tells the story of the men and women who brought Escobar down. They risked their own lives (and the lives of their families – Pablo didn’t give a s*it who he killed) to fight corruption and drug crime in their country.

History comes alive on the pages of Killing Pablo as Bowden narrates the story with incredible intensity, creating suspense and excitement. I challenge you to put this book down after 20 pages.


2. The Damage Done, by Warren Fellows. (1997 Pan Macmillan Australia)

damage done

Australian Warren Fellows was involved in drug trafficking in the 1970s. After one of the operations he was involved in went sour, he ended up in a hellish prison in Bangkok, Thailand. This book tells the story of his imprisonment and his release.

Fellows is no Dostoyevsky, but rather than being a hindrance, that ends up serving the story: the narrative comes across as raw and real, and there is an emotional brutality to The Damage Done that would be lost if the author was obsessed with playing around with sentence structures. Fellows has lived through his tale, and is here to tell you what he saw.

Throughout the book, Fellows and his mates in prison suffer through some of the most inhumane torture, beatings, and other severe crimes against human rights. Some of the descriptions of the conditions in the prison would sound outlandish and made up if we didn’t know from other sources that the prison conditions in many prisons around the world are indeed horrible, and were probably even worse in the 70s and 80s.

Amidst the darkness of the story is a narrative about the resilience of the human spirit, and the persistence of hope. The balance of these two elements makes the story an enjoyable, memorable read.

Not for the faint of heart!


1. The Killer Department, by Robert Cullen & Victor Burakov. (1993 Pantheon)

killer department

In my humble opinion, this is the best true crime book ever written.

The Killer Department is a collaboration between writer Robert Cullen and Victor Burakov, the actual chief of the homicide division tasked with bringing down Andrei Chikatilo, one of the worst serial killers in history.

The book is a perfect example of how to weave together historical elements with a main true crime narrative without once losing focus. The fields and cities of Soviet Union are painted before our eyes with the magic of words, and when Chikatilo appears “on stage”, he walks into a perfectly constructed historical time and place, which makes reading his horrifying story that much more interesting.

Rather than just emphasizing the evil of Chikatilo, a deranged madman who murdered and ate women and children across Russia, the authors give life to the minor players involved as well. Family members, loved ones and friends of the victims are created on the pages as living human beings left with a lifetime of sorrow after Chikatilo was done with their loved ones.

Suspenseful, brilliantly written, and with a story to tell that will leave you speechless, I consider this to be the crowning achievement of true crime writing.





Il Mostro di Firenze – Italy’s first serial killer.

This magnificent article was written by my friend Giulia from Italy. Go follow her Instagram account at @parttimedandy

How it all began

Signor De Felice is exhausted. He has spent the whole night looking after his sick child and he’s now up again to bring him some fresh water.

Suddenly, someone knocks at the door. De Felice’s farmhouse is isolated, surrounded by thick woods and far away from any major city center. He gives a glance at the clock: it’s 2.00 A.M. He looks out of the window and is surprised by something totally unexpected: a child, alone. The child looks up and says: “Open the door because I’m sleepy, and Daddy is sick in bed. Afterwards, take me home, because Mommy and Uncle are dead in the car”.

The man rushes to the door and lets the child in. After some coaxing, the boy tells something more about the terrible events of the night: “It was dark, the trees were moving, there was no one around. I was so scared. To give myself courage I prayed and started to sing”.

When the Carabinieri arrive, the child gives his name: Natale Mele, nicknamed Natalino. “Mommy” is Barbara Locci, “Uncle” is Antonio Lo Bianco, one of Barbara’s many lovers.

They are the first known victims of the Mostro di Firenze (The Monster of Florence), the first Italian serial killer whose murder spree terrified the country for 17 years, from 1968 to 1985.

Sex, perversion, voyeurism, madness, murder: these are the ingredients of the saga of the Mostro di Firenze, the fiend who targeted couples who chose isolated places in the countryside surrounding Florence to have some privacy and make love.

The gun he used was always a Beretta .22 Long Rifle with Winchester bullets. After the murder, he separated the woman from her lover, then proceeded to removed her pubic area and the left breast with a knife. After this ritual, he repeatedly stabbed the lifeless body of the man.

The Mostro di Firenze has gained quite a “superstar” status, and his reputation equals that of more mainstream American serial killers. The Italian press and television covered the case in a way never seen before, even more so during the trial of the main suspects, Pietro Pacciani, Mario Vanni, Giancarlo Lotti and Fernando Pucci.
The case holds even more fascination because, despite Pacciani and Vanni being considered the killers, the murders are surrounded by a shroud of mystery and unexplained facts.

But let’s take a look at the murders and their victims:
August 21, 1968: Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco

Barbara Locci, 32, housewife and wife of Stefano Mele, is making love with Antonio Lo Bianco, 29, brick layer, inside an Alfa Romeo Giulietta parked in an isolated spot in the countryside of Signa, near Florence. In the back seat is sleeping 6 years old Natalino Mele, son of Barbara.

Suddenly, the night explodes in 8 gunshots that instantly kill the two lovers. After being rescued by De Felice, Natalino will lead the Carabinieri to the place of the murder.
The first suspect is obviously Stefano Mele, husband of Barbara: after all, what man could stand to be the laughingstock of the whole town because of the many lovers of his wife, known as “the queen bee”? But Mele is known for being totally dominated by Barbara, to the point of accepting her lovers in his own home.

Despite this, after 12 hours of interrogatory he admits to being the killer. And here the first mysteries and contradictions begin: he accuses himself but can’t hold a gun and doesn’t know which car window the killer shot through. What he knows is the exact number of shotguns and that one of Lo Bianco’s shoes is missing: this makes him at least a witness.

Stefano then recants and tries to put the blame on his wife’s many lovers, but to no effect.

Natalino, once more questioned by the Carabinieri, says that he has seen his father after being abruptly waken up by the shotguns, and that the man has carried him to the farmhouse of De Felice, recommending him not to tell anything. This would explain why the child’s socks were clean and how he could have rung the bell of De Felice, unreachable for him.

Despite the lack of evidence, the incongruences and the lack of the weapon, Mele is condemned to 14 years of detention.


September 14, 1974: Stefania Pettini and Pasquale Gentilcore

Pasquale Gentilcore and Stefania Pettini are reached by eight shotguns while in their car: he dies immediately, she is still alive. The girl is dragged out of the car and killed by three stabs on her breastbone. The killer then keeps stabbing her 96 more times, hitting her breast and pubic area. Than he penetrates her with a vine, a detail that leads someone to suspect an esoteric motive. Before fleeing, the killer stabs the body of Pasquale 5 times.

During the investigations it emerges that, the afternoon before being killed, Stefania has told a friend of a “strange encounter” with a weird man who has followed her during a driving lesson.

She isn’t the only victim of the Mostro di Firenze to report episodes of stalking before being killed.

June 6, 1981: Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi

The usual 8 shotguns kill Carmela de Nuccio, 21, and Giovanni Foggi, 30.

The girl is dragged out of the car, her jeans are cut and her pubic area is fully removed by three precise cutting blows. This time, too, the killer stabs the dead body of the man, who is still in the car like in the previous murder. Another similarity is that the content of Carmela’s bag is scattered on the ground. While in the case of Stefania Pettini her wallet, watch and some jewelry are missing, this time nothing is stolen.


October 22, 1981: Susanna Cambi and Stefano Baldi

After just 4 months, the killer strikes again.

The victims are Susanna Cambi, 24, and Stefano Baldi, 26. Susanna is killed by 5 shotguns, Stefano by four. Like in the previous murders, most of the casings are missing. This time the killer has to drag both bodies out of the car to be able to mutilate the pubic area of the woman.

Susanna is found 10 meters away from the car, in a ditch, with her shirt pulled up to expose her badly wounded left breast. Her purse and the things in it are scattered around her.

According to the first reconstruction, the day before the double murder Susanna’s aunt received a phone call from a mysterious stranger who immediately hung up. Shortly before the murder, Susanna told her mother that someone had been following her, but she didn’t know who he was.

June 19th, 1982: Antonella Migliorini and Paolo Mainardi

Despite her fear of the “maniac of the lovebirds” (the term “Mostro di Firenze” had yet to be coined), Antonella Migliorini is convinced by her fiancé Paolo Mainardi to spend some time alone in an isolated area near the town of Baccaiano di Montespertoli. Favored by the darkness, the killer shoots but, this time, he only manages to wound Paolo. The man has the time to start the car and shift into reverse but the vehicle crosses the road and gets stuck in a ditch. The killer then shoots the front lights of the car and kills both Paolo and Antonella.

Two details make this murder different from the others:

  • There is a steady traffic flow on the road near the spot where the couple has parked the car because of a festivity going on
  • The killer has no time to mutilate the woman and stab the man.

The couple is soon discovered: Antonella is already dead, Paolo will die the following morning without regaining consciousness.
Near the place of the murder, the police find an empty box of a psychotropic medication: does it belong to the killer? Some witnesses talk of a man in a striped shirt who was pacing along the road around the time of the murder.

Public prosecutor Silvia Della Monica decides to set up a trap and asks the press to write that Mainardi has revealed something important before his death.

After a few days, the driver of the ambulance that reached the scene of the crime receives a strange phone call: a “voice with no discernible accent” asks him what were Migliorini’s last words. When the man refuses to tell, the mysterious caller starts to threaten him, saying he is the killer.

The same voice calls again two years later, in 1984, asking the same thing.

The police dismiss the call as a prank.
September 9: Jens-Uwe Rüsch and Horst Wilhelm Meyer

Two German tourists, Jens-Uwe Rüsch and Horst Wilhelm Meyer, are found dead inside their Volkswagen T1 truck. They have been killed by 7 bullets, 3 casings of which are missing. According to the reconstruction, Meyer is the first to die; Rüsch tries to run for his life but is reached by 4 bullets.

The killer notices after the murder that the victims are both men: probably Rüsch’s long hair and lean body made him look like a girl from afar.
The murderer flees without touching the bodies and taking none of their belongings.


July 29, 1984: Pia Rontini and Claudio Stefanacci

Pia Rontini and Claudio Stefanacci are half naked when the killer attacks them: he shoots the girl twice and the man 4 times, then he stabs tem both multiple times.

Pia is still alive and is dragged out of the car in a nearby field, where the killer removes her left breast and her pubic area. Her necklace is stolen, but her bag is untouched and is found in the car.

This time, too, Pia has told her friends that there were some customers in the bar she worked at that made her feel uncomfortable.

September 7th or 8th, 1985: Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili

The last double murder of the Mostro takes place in the countryside of San Casciano Val di Pesa; the victims are French tourists Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili.

This time, the couple is not in the car but inside a small tent set up near it. The Mostro cuts the tent and shoots Nadine, who dies on the spot. Jean-Michel is wounded but tries to run way. The killer reaches the man and stabs him to death, then hides the body near a dumpster. After mutilating the woman’s body, the Mostro hides in the tent.

Part of the woman’s breast is delivered to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Florence, and precisely to Silvia Della Monica, in charge of the investigation.

A few weeks after the murder, the Public Prosecutors Paolo Canessa, Francesco Fleury and Pier Luigi Vigna receive three anonymous envelopes containing the copy of an article published on the newspaper “La Nazione”, a bullet and a sheet of paper that says “One for each of you is enough”.

There is no evidence that the sender is the Mostro and this episode is generally thought of as a prank.


The main suspect: Pietro Pacciani

After years of investigations, the turning point comes in 1991, when the SAM (Squadra Anti Mostro – Anti Monster Squad) led by Ruggero Perugini concentrates its effort on Pietro Pacciani, who is serving time for the rape of his two daughters.

Pacciani is a violent man, prone to bursts of anger and nicknamed Il Vampa (“the spark”).

In 1951 he kills his girlfriend’s lover and forces the woman to have sex in front of the body. During the trial, his justification is that he has lost his mind seeing the woman showing her left breast: forty years later, this detail leads the detectives to suspect he could be the Mostro.

For years, Pacciani beats his wife Angiolina Manni, a mentally ill woman, and repeatedly rapes his two daughters, Graziella and Rosanna, who are also forced to eat dog food and are kept segregated. After their coming of age, they leave for good and press charges against their father, who is found guilty and imprisoned from 1987 to 1991.

Despite all this, Pacciani loves to define himself as “povero agnelluccio” (poor little lamb) and to give the impression of an honest, god fearing, hard-working man. During his trials, he often shows the cameras a prayer card of Jesus.

In 1993, Pacciani is arrested again and accused of being the Mostro di Firenze.
According to the investigators, Paccian’s motive was to relive the episode of 1951 punishing the women victims with ferocity. In his home, the police find many newspaper clippings of the murders of the Mostro, and photos of female pubes marked in pencil. On a piece of paper, Pacciani has noted the license plate of a car belonging to a couple who often looks for intimacy around Scopeti, where Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili were killed in 1985.

The Italian law considers Pacciani alternatively guilty or innocent, according to the evidence from time to time presented against him. It’s only around 1995 that the compagni di merende (“picnic companions”) are involved in the investigation.


I compagni di merende: Mario Vanni

The expression “compagni di merende”, a figure of speech still commonly used in Italy to describe a group of dishonest, conniving people, is involuntarily coined by Mario Vanni, one of Pacciani’s friends who are accused of being accomplices in the murders.

When, during Paccian’s trial, he is asked about his job, Vanni answers in a completely illogical way “Io sono stato a fa’ delle merende co’ i’ Pacciani, no?” (I’ve had several several picnics with Pacciani, haven’t I?). When questioned further, he keeps saying he has taken part in some unclear “picnics”.

After the trial, Vanni is given a life sentence because of the connivance with Pacciani. The sentence is suspended in 2004 because of the man’s poor health, and Vanni dies in a nursing home in 2009.

I compagni di merende: Fernando Pucci

A friend of Pacciani, Vanni and Lotti, Pucci is a key witness during the trial. Despite being oligophrenic, he is found fit to stand trial.

Pucci accuses Pacciani and Vanni of the murders of 1984 and 1985 with these words. “I saw this: the tallest of the two, Vanni, cut the tent with a large kitchen knife. The man inside bolted and ran towards the woods. The one with the gun, Pacciani, shot and ran after him”.

Pucci dies in February 2017 at 84 years old, taking all his secrets with him to his grave.


Death of Pacciani

After being acquitted by the second instance verdict, Pacciani goes back to his farmhouse in Mercatale, where he lives alone while waiting for a new trial. His wife has divorced him in 1996.

According to his neighbors, Pacciani is very cautious and always bolts doors and windows before going to bed.

And it’s one of his neighbors who alerts the police on the day of Pacciani’s death, in 1998:

“That morning I had not seen Pietro, whose garden bordered mine. I noticed that the kitchen door and the windows were open, which was odd because he led a very retired life. I tried to call him and, receiving no answer, I peeped inside and saw him lying on the floor”.

His trousers are pulled down and his sweater is pulled up around his neck. In his blood there are high levels of a medicine for asthma, which can be lethal for someone like Pacciani, who suffered from heart disease and is obese and diabetic.

According to journalist Gabriella Carlizzi, Pacciani wanted to tell his own truth, and Sister Elisabetta, Pacciani’s spiritual advisor, confirms that the old man was afraid of being killed “for knowing too much”.


Was it really them? 

Over the years, many people questioned the actual guilt of Pacciani and his compagni di merende: was there an instigator behind them?

Pacciani, a humble farmer, had in the years of the killings so much money that he could afford a new car, two houses and the complete renovation of his own home. He also had 157 millions of Lire (almost 500.000 €) in cash. Before the murders, according to the police, he had modest means.

Vanni, too, had more money after than before the murders.

Could it be that the murders were commissioned by someone interested in magic fetishes?

According to Lotti, the parts cut from the female bodies were purchased by a “mysterious doctor”.

A little digression: as recently as July 2017, the investigation has been reopened. An ex legionnaire called Giampiero Vigilanti, now 86 years old, is suspected of being the Mostro di Firenze, or at least of being an accomplice. In 1985, some of his neighbors indicated him as the possible killer, and in his home the police found many newspaper clippings about the murders, as well as 176 bullets of the same kind of those used by the Mostro.

Maybe as an attempt to divert the attention from himself, Vigilanti has spoken about a doctor called Francesco Caccamo, now 87, ex general practitioner and freemason. According to Vigilanti, he was one of the instigators of the murders but, so far, nothing has been found against Caccamo.

Another doctor pops up in the story of the Mostro: in 1985, a few weeks after the last murder, Francesco Narducci was found dead in the Lake Trasimeno. First ruled as suicide, the verdict was turned to homicide when, after the exhumation of the corpse in 2002, the autopsy revealed that Narducci was strangled before being thrown in the water.

Narducci came from a rich, influential family, and his father was a freemason: according to some, his lodge was the instigator of the Mostro, or at least protected him from the police.

The name of Vigilanti surfaces also in relation to Narducci: the old man claims to have been with the doctor in the countryside around Florence when the murders took place. Which is relevant, because the police thought Narducci was in America in that period.
Apparently, Narducci wrote a letter that was found after his death. It just said “I am the Mostro, and ask forgiveness from the whole world”. This document was never found, and those who are said to have read it mysteriously (and conveniently) lost their memory.

Exploring the medical clue further, a chemist, Francesco Calamandrei, friend of Narducci, was also among the suspects, but nothing solid could be found against him.

The police are also investigating the lead of the so called “eversione nera”, a form of terrorism inspired by fascist ideas. Some think the murders were used as a carefully planned diversion to keep the police and the public opinion from investigating too deeply on those connected with the Years of Lead, the period from late 60s to early 80s marked by right wing and left wing terrorism. Vigilanti was well known in far right circles, and he knew Pacciani too, as well as the compagni di merende.

It is hard to believe that such a gang of illiterate, alcoholic, incoherent men could be so sly to dodge the police for almost 20 years. For example, in the murder of Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi, the woman’s pubic area was removed with a surgical precision that seems inconsistent with Pacciani’a and his compagni’s ways.

And it’s even harder to find a coherent reason behind the murders, as the convictions were mainly based on Pucci’s and Lotti’s depositions. At first, in 1996, Lotti said the victims were killed because they had rejected Pacciani’s sexual advances; then, a year later, he said Pacciani wanted his daughters to eat the “fetishes” cut from the victims’ bodies.

Plus, the gun used for all the murders has never been found, nor is there proof that it belonged to Pacciani or any “compagno di merende”.

Many suspect an esoteric motive: near the bodies of Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi (1981) the police found a small truncated pyramid of colored granite, a possible magic symbol.

Close to the area where Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili were found, a witness said to have seen three circles of stones, two open and one close. Inside them there were berries, burnt animal skin and wooden crosses. According to some investigators, these circles could symbolize the three phases of the murder: the targeting, the sentence to death and the actual killing.

Pacciani himself seems to have had an interest in Satanism, as books on black magic were found in his home and he used to join Salvatore Indovino, magician and fortune teller, at a farmhouse near San Casciano where orgies and satanic rituals took place.

The horror story of the Mostro di Firenze seems to be endless. Almost every year, new clues and accomplices seem to emerge, only to be once again dismissed as irrelevant.

So, was the instigator of the killings a masonic lodge? A deranged doctor who performed satanic rituals? Or, more simply, can the motive of the killings be traced to sheer ferocity, sexual perversion and voyeurism?

It is likely we’ll never know the entire truth, though the responsibility of Pacciani and his “compagni di merende” is beyond any doubt.


(book review in Finnish) Mielen rajoilla. Toim. Marja-Liisa Huhtasalo & Kaarina Koski. SKS 2017.

mielen rajoilla

Tätä kirjaa lukiessa huulilleni nousi vähän väliä tyytyväinen hymy. Olen seurannut ns. paranormaaleja ilmiöitä, niiden tutkimista ja ilmenemistä erilaisissa kulttuureissa, viimeiset parikymmentä vuotta, mutta vasta tämän kirjan lukemisen myötä monet jäsentymättömät ajatukseni saivat vihdoin järkevän muodon. Tämä on hyvän kirjan merkki.

Huhtasalo ja Koski ovat koonneet samojen kansien väliin kattavan poikkitieteellisen katselmuksen suomalaisiin “kummiin” kokemuksiin. Aineisto koostuu suomalaisilta kerätyistä kirjeistä, joilla ihmiset ovat saaneet vapaasti kertoa ns. yliluonnollisista kokemuksistaan, Teoksen kirjoittajat lähestyvät kokemuksia erilaisista näkökulmista, mutta yksi teema kantaa läpi kirjoitusten: ideana ei ole päättää ovatko kokemukset “totta” vai eivät – kokemuksia tutkitaan kokijoilleen merkityksellisinä tapahtumina, ihmisten omaa arvostelukykyä kunnioittaen. Teoksessa ei ole niinkään kyse paranormaalien ilmiöiden tutkimisesta (ainakaan perinteisessä mielessä), vaan kirja lähestyy useista eri näkökulmista kysymystä siitä, kuinka paranormaalit/kummat kokemukset jäsentyvät osaksi ihmiselämää ja ympäröivää yhteiskuntaa, kieltä ja kulttuuria.

Mielen rajoilla ei ole kirja, jota suosittelisin kenellekään ensimmäiseksi sukellukseksi suomalaisen “kumman” syövereihin. Teos on lopultakin tieteellinen esitys (joskin esimerkiksi väitöskirjaa kevyempi) joka vaatii jonkinlaisen totunnaisuuden tieteellisten tekstien lukemiseen. Jos olet aiemmin katsellut ainoastaan X-Fileseja ja/tai Juhan af Grannin dokumentteja, suosittelen lämpimästi että aloitat vaikkapa (tässäkin teoksessa usein mainitun) Leea Virtasen kirjalla Kun kello pysähtyi (1974).

Mielen rajoilla on vakavasti otettava, nautittava sukellus aiheeseen, josta puhuttaessa keskustelua yleensä vaivaa tirskahtelu ja hihittäminen. Kirjoittajat kertovat tehneensä teoksen osittain siksi, että outojen kokemustensa kanssa kamppailevat ihmiset ovat ottaneet heihin yhteyttä ja pyytäneet, että joku tuottaisi tutkimusta joka ei pilkkaa heitä, vaan antaa lukijoilleen työkaluja “kumman” käsittelyyn.

Tehtävä suoritettu.

The Disappearance of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon. Article by guest writer Fay Staring.

This post was written by a talented young writer and good friend of mine named Fay Staring from the Netherlands. Check out her Instagram account at @faystaring and follow her to keep up with her future exploits.

I love mysteries. They’re exciting. They make me want to go full Sherlock-mode. I’m not a detective and definitely not England’s most high-functioning sociopath, but I can pretend I am and take you on a creepy journey through one of the most mysterious disappearances of the place I was born: The Netherlands.

I’m talking about the disappearance of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon.

Kris, a smart, creative and social girl aged 21. Lisanne, a sporty and intelligent girl, aged 22.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 9.40.46 AM

Two friends who met each other through school. They got their diplomas and decided to go on a ”gap year”, which is often used to learn new languages by traveling. The two wanted to learn Spanish, and chose the town of Boquete in Panama as their destination. The girls planned to do some charity work at a kindergarten. However, this plan was canceled at the last moment, which left the girls with an unexpected week of free time.

So, on the 1st of April the two girls decided to go for a hike in the Jungle of Boquete. They got offered a fully guided tour, but declined; they wanted to go off on their own, and take the fully guided tour the next day. They took the dog of the host family, named ‘Blue’, with them and wandered off into the millions of trees with just a backpack and each other. This would be their last hike ever.

Blue returned to the home of the host family. The girls did not. The family tried contacting Lisanne’s mother, who then tried to contact her daughter. Lisanne never answered the phone, nor did she return the call.

I can’t even imagine how panicked her mother must have been, knowing her daughter might be in danger in a place so far away. The police was contacted, but the official search for the two girls started on April 4th. This means they started the search 4 days after the girls went missing, while the first 72 hours after an accident or disaster are critical. Were they lazy? Did they not start because the girls weren’t minors?

Whatever the case, the search parties were finally trying to locate Lisanne and Kris, but they found nothing. This was partly due to heavy rainfall. They ceased the search on April 14th with no clues as to where the girls went, and the chance of finding them alive becoming smaller and smaller.

Then suddenly, on June 14th a woman came to the police station holding a backpack which contained their cell phones, identity cards, and a camera. The woman had found the backpack near a river called ”Serpent” in Spanish. Now, with new info on the possible location of the two girls, new search parties were dispatched.

(A picture taken right before their first 112 emergency call)

In the meantime, the camera and cellphones were being investigated. The phone contained about 90 photos taken while the girls were lost in the woods. A few of the photos were taken on the night of April 8th, which means they were still alive when the search parties started looking for them. The photos were taken once every second, which means one of them was frantically trying to either capture something on camera, or they were trying to see their surroundings by flashing the light around. Kris’ phone apparently called 112, the Dutch emergency line, 8 times. Due to having no service, none of the calls actually came through.

On one of the pictures they took you can see toilet paper laying on the ground in the shape of the word ‘SOS’. You can also see a mirror, which they might have placed there so search helicopters would see a reflection of light if they were passing over. A smart move, I’d say. Experts say the girls probably drank from the river. Drinking dirty water causes exhaustion, dehydration and diarrhea. This might have caused the girls to get lost even more.


They were alone, ill and scared.

By the end of August, 33 pieces of bone were found near the river Serpent. 28 of these were from Lisanne’s left foot (which was still in her shoe). The other pieces, which were examined later, were from Kris. The person who saw the girls last, the tour guide, also found their bones. Suspicious? Maybe. The case is still treated as an accident. According to the leader of the Dutch search group, Frank de Groot, getting lost in the jungle is pretty easy:

”When you’re in the jungle you can scream as loud and as many times as you want to, but nobody will hear you. The dogs can’t smell you, and there’s no cell service”

The search parties went out looking for the girls, or their bones, a few more times. The last search for the two girls took place on January 15th, 2015.

The bones that they did find were flown to the girls’ families, who buried them. The taxi driver, who was also one of the last people to see the girls, later fell into a lake and drowned. Also suspicious? Maybe.

And that’s as close as we will probably ever get to understanding what happened to Froon and Kremers that day.

We’re left with so many questions. If Lisanne and Kris knew that they were going to die, why didn’t they leave a note for their family? Were they trying to save battery power? What actually happened to the girls? Why was the dog able to return to the home, but the girls weren’t? Why did the battery of the phone last for 8 days? Would they have been saved if the search parties went looking for them sooner?

I don’t know. You don’t know either.

Only those 2 girls do.

But I know one thing for sure; I’m never going hiking without a tour guide.

Satan Comes to Finland

A kind of running joke among Finns is that due to our relatively isolated geographical location, everything from music to trends reaches us with a delay. Insofar as this is true, it applies not just to positive phenomena – the negative reaches us slightly slower, too.

Perhaps it is because of this that Finland experienced its first genuine “Satanic Panic” in the late 1990s, about 10 years later than, say, the United States.

The fire started on the 21st of November 1998, in a small town in southern Finland called Hyvinkää.

On that night, a bus stood at a downtown parking lot in Hyvinkää. The bus had an unusual taping on its side; it spelled out ?

Inside sat a group of teenagers, neatly dressed and unusually sober for a group of Finnish youngsters spending an evening together. They were young Christians who had gathered together that night to talk among themselves, and to offer a chance at a conversation to anyone who might walk in to hear what Christianity might have to offer them. The bus was part of a larger strategy of addressing the problems of drunkenness among the town’s youth.

Among these teenagers was a group of darkly dressed youngsters, their presence oozing a kind of unpredictable, nihilistic energy. They smelled of liquor. They were there that night to challenge Christians on their beliefs. In fact, at least two of them identified with Satanism. Witnesses would later say that, though the group were vehement about their beliefs that Christianity was a waste of time, and that the only truthful philosophy was the uber-individualism of Satanism, they nevertheless behaved reasonably well, debating with the religious youth in a passionate but non-violent way.  Once the debate had reached that endpoint where two world views simply cannot argue any further productively, the group left the bus and headed to the night.

They were five.


(photo credit: Alibi-lehti, 7/2000)

Jarno Elg, 23, was the unofficial leader of the group. He had a troubled background filled with alcoholism, substance abuse and petty crimes. His educational background was poor, and he was mostly devoting his time to the study of Satanism. If anyone asked him about Satan, though, he was quick to point out that Satanism (as opposed to Satan worship) was a non-deistic philosophy, a kind of extreme individualism whereby one believes only in oneself, and devotes his/her life to the pursuit of pleasures, rarely denying oneself anything due to moral constraints.

Terhi Tervashonka

Terhi Tervahonka (later Terhi Tukio), 17, was a kind of follower and admirer of Elg. She was a young lady who could drink your average man under the table, and she shared Elg’s interest in Satanism, considering Elg a kind of teacher in the matter. Many who knew Tervahonka before the events depicted in this post say that she was a reasonably nice person, easy to talk to and friendly. In other words, the classic “I-never-would-have-though!” scenario applied with most people who had crossed paths with her.

As for the three other members of the posse that night, we know considerably less about them. The media zeroed in on Tervahonka and Elg from the start in its incessant lust for “Bonnie and Clyde” types of stories, and the court followed along the same lines, keeping the identities of the other three secret. Here’s what we do know:

  • “Mika R.” was a 20-year-old young man, a friend of Tervahonka and Elg.
  • “Mister X” was a 16-year-old acquaintance of the group.

And, finally, we have the person known simply as “uhri” (eng. “the victim”), a 23-year-old male who would not live to see the next day.

As is the case with many dramatic events (especially if you throw in some psychopathy and home-made liquor…), there are varying versions of what happened. However, it is possible to construct a relatively believable narrative.

All through the night the group had been drinking heavily, one of the consumed beverages being “kilju”, the Finnish equivalent of moonshine, an extremely intoxicating homemade drink.  After leaving the bus they headed to Jarno Elg’s apartment in downtown Hyvinkää, where the evening continued under the same boozy stars.

Once they had settled in the living room, the intoxication reached that point where music starts to sound even better, and Elg treated his posse to a selection of songs from possibly the most brutal and opinion-dividing musical genre in history: Black Metal. Though it takes a stretch of the imagination to come to the conclusion that the music somehow “caused” the murders (as some conservative commentators would later claim), it doesn’t exactly soothe its listener either or calm him/her down to a smooth and relaxed frame of mind.

At some point in the evening the rest of the group turned against Victim. Again, stories vary as to why, but for some reason the very presence of the guy, not to mention him taking part in the conversation, became so irritating that Elg (aided by someone else) punched Victim in the face, bringing him down to the floor. The group lifted him to a couch, where he came back to consciousness and began wailing. At this point Elg struck him with a pair of scissors, which only made the poor guy cry out even worse (surprise).

So somebody fetched some duct tape.

At first, the group claim, they taped Victim’s face shut “as a gag”, to simply show him that they were serious about that whole shutting-up thing.

However, Victim didn’t comply.

And that’s when it got deadly serious.

The group taped Victim’s mouth shut again, this time for real, and in doing so ended up blocking his ability to breathe.

The killers claim that this was an accident. They had supposedly gotten so drunk that they simply “forgot” to remove the duct tape from Victim’s face. Whatever the case, Victim died there, suffocating in Jarno Elg’s living room with terrifying music blaring out of the stereo.

Elg and company claim that they went back to drinking, chatting and playing some guitar when suddenly they realized the man had actually suffocated to death. The degree of intention in this killing (and thus the entire believability of Elg and co.’s version of events) is up for debate, but I think it’s safe to say that it was a more intentional homicide than the killers would have us believe – after all, the standard way of getting rid of an unwanted guest at a house party is asking the person to just leave…

Though we can debate whether the killing was intentional or accidental, we do know for certain that once Victim had died, the remaining group jumped into action in an eerily determined and pragmatic fashion.

Victim had to disappear.

They dragged him into Elg’s bathroom where several sharp objects, including knives, were used to dismember him. The killers later described the bathroom as like a slaughterhouse, with blood everywhere from the walls to the floor as the four hacked away at the body of their victim. Once the cadaver was more or less in pieces, Elg and Tervashonka stayed at Elg’s apartment to sleep off the moonshine, while the other two participants took off to their own homes.

The next day the drinking continued, though this time without the two runaways. Tervashonka and Elg left the apartment and wandered around downtown, trying to figure out what to do with the dead body in pieces back at Elg’s place. The decision was made unanimously: the body would have to be hacked in even tinier bits, and the parts scattered to different trash disposal spots around town.

The dynamic duo returned to the crime scene and Tervashonka cleaned up the blood while Elg chopped the body further into smaller pieces. Had some TV writer been present to witness this absurd scene, we may now have a sitcom about a quirky Finnish family where the mother is always nagging about having to clean up after Dad’s dead bodies… (“A Family That Slays Together, Stays Together!”)

Once the body was sufficiently mutilated to the tastes of the young couple, they packed the pieces into trash bags and did their best to get rid off the bags at different parts of town.

This was all they could do for now.

They settled down to wait and see what would happen next.

At first, little happened.

A young man had disappeared. Nothing earth shattering – in fact, sadly common in Finland, especially among those known to engage in hard drinking social circles. Elg and Tervashonka must have felt like maybe, just maybe they’d gotten away with it!

But then one night they sat in front of the TV to catch a show called Poliisi-TV (literally “Police TV”). The show featured crime stories from around Finland delivered in a format resembling the news; a kind of “this week in crime”. Tervashonka and Elg watched that week’s episode to see if their “missing” friend might be mentioned. At first everything went perfect – no mention of a guy disappearing in Hyvinkää. But then, just as the broadcast was about to end, host Raija Pelli was handed a note, and she read it out loud.

A gruesome discovery has been made at a garbage disposal site in Hyvinkää. A citizen dropping off his garbage discovered human remains among the rubbish. More information next week.”

The bell had rung and the chase was on.

Soon after Elg was called to be questioned, though first as a witness. Locals had seen Victim hanging around with Elg’s posse. Though the transcript of the police interview will be secret for a few more decades to come, it’s easy to imagine Elg in the interrogation room, removed from the events, giving arrogant answers to the “pigs”. No doubt this was partly what led to the police casting their suspicions on him.

In any case, somewhere in the bowels of the Hyvinkää police department a decision was made: “arrest Elg.” And so they did. Tervashonka and the others followed soon thereafter, and further interrogations tied the final knot.

The police had found their culprits, and the game was over.


(front page of Iltalehti screams “Youngsters suspected of cutting-up murders remain in police custody. More bodies may be found.“)

Once the case reached the news, the proverbial s*it hit the fan. The Satanism and black metal listening of the suspects was smeared in the faces of anyone who opened a newspaper around that time, and this lead to a “Satanic Panic” in Finland, at least in the more religious rural areas.

I was in 8th grade when this happened, and it was clear the teachers had spoken amongst each other, as well as with parent-teacher associations, about how to discuss the case with kids. My religious studies teacher, who was also my favorite teacher and the best teacher in the school, simply had us discuss the events productively instead of giving in to a Satanic panic.

The Christian Church saw an opportunity to further wedge their way into the lives of the population. Soon, every other television show featured an “expert” on Satanism and Satan worship, the “experts” basically explaining that if your kid wears dark t-shirts with Metallica logos on them, The Evil One may have already created a nest in his/her heart!

Everyone was waiting for the part of a crime story where the public is finally afforded some explanations and background information: the trial.

Though many were expecting the trial to be the point where the killers show remorse for their crimes and the public panic thus subsides, this was not to be. Quite the contrary, in fact. Elg showed up to the trial smirking and wearing the darkest black metal -t-shirts he could find in his collection. He would smile at the cameras and flash the “metal horns” sign with his hands. When the prosecutor read out loud a description of the events that transpired that night when Elg and company murdered and dismembered their friend, Elg laughed theatrically.

Elg received hundreds and hundreds of letters from women, some sent from abroad. The female attention can easily be considered a motivating factor in Elg’s public behavior: he clearly fancied himself a kind of cult leader now, a man of mystery and a bad boy.

The prosecutor’s case was built on the idea of a ritual murder carried out by Satanists wanting to experiment on murder, while the defense argued the accident scenario.

The killers were all subjected to evaluations of their mental state. It was determined that Elg had acted in full knowledge of his deeds and full control of his mental capacities. Tervashonka, on the other hand, received a more lenient assessment: the court-appointed psychiatrists found that she had not been acting in a state of mind that would qualify a verdict similar to Elg’s.

Towards the end of Summer 1999, the verdicts were delivered.

  • Jarno Elg – life in prison with the possibility of parole (in Finland, “life” means 12 years for a first-timer)
  • Tervi Tervashonka – 8 and a half years in prison
  • “Mika R.” – 2 years for battery and assault
  • “Mister X” – released due to his being a minor

Both Tervashonka and Elg gave interviews to a magazine called Alibi, Finland’s most popular true crime magazine. The contents of the interviews were pretty much what one would expect: “it was all blown out of proportion”, “it wasn’t that bad”, “it was an accident”, etc.

The events began to fade into the background as new outrages and scandals filled the tabloids and, thus, the minds of the average citizenry. Since any further news about the darkly dynamic duo became nonexistent, most people probably started to believe their version of the events: it was all an misstep by otherwise reasonably normal, if slightly troubled youngsters under the influence of alcohol.

But then, in 2007, Finns opening their newspapers in the morning were met by a familiar face.

terhi tukio

(photo credit: Iltalehti)

Terhi Tervashonka (now Terhi Tukio) had made a comeback, and she was deadlier than ever. But why was she in the papers again?

Having been released some time earlier, Tervashonka had been drinking with some friends. Again, her favorite beverage moonshine was in the picture. Only this time, even the Finnish court didn’t consider it a mitigating factor.

During the night of drinking, Tervashonka had murdered a member of the jolly drinking group.

With a billhook.


(police photo of the murder weapon)

The explanations were the same. “I was drunk”, “I didn’t mean to kill him”, etc.

This time she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In 2011 she made her last appearance (hopefully…) in the news when it was reported that she had escaped from prison. She was quickly apprehended, though, and thrown back in her cell. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

Jarno Elg later made a brief appearance in the news, too. In 2011 he had been placed in a minimun security prison, and granted the privilege of going on leave from the facility. Elg had marched directly into a bar where he had become angry over something, and knocked three people down before being arrested and taken back to his prison. Elg was released on parole in 2016. His current whereabouts are unknown.

So now then, was it all an accident or was there actual truth behind the prosecutor’s claims of a ritual killing?

Nine times out of ten, my skeptical mind leans toward the less scandalous explanation in cases such as this one. The Hyvinkää murder case, however, is the exception. Why?

Sometime before the murder Jarno Elg had savagely killed his dog by duct-taping it to a radiator and stabbing it, letting it slowly die in pain while Elg watched. Sound familiar? I believe this was a kind of practice run for the real thing: Elg had a sadistic fantasy of seeing an actual human being in place of his dog, and Victim would end up being the guinea pig. This does not need to imply that Elg had planned the killing for years – indeed, the thought may have occurred to him that very night. But in any case, I do not believe the victim’s face was duct-taped shut to “shut him up”.

And besides, motives do not need to be seen as mutually exclusive. There may be what we might call “major motives” and “minor motives”, or “conscious motives” and “latent motives”. Perhaps Victim did indeed act in a loud and obnoxious way, and this triggered the thoughts of murder, and Elg decided the time had come to try the real thing. To the other members of the group it may have seemed like just “shutting him up” out of irritation.

I also believe Tervashonka was in on it, to one extent or another. As close as they were, bonded by an admiration of all things evil and selfish, it’s hard to believe Elg never told Tervashonka about killing his dog in a brutally painful manner. The explanation that Tervashonka just went along with it all after an “accident” happened is made less believable by her later behavior: her true brutality and propensity towards extreme violence was made evident in 2007.


Film and book favorites: Timo Airaksinen, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.


(photo credit: Foto Airaksinen)

Dr. Airaksinen is one of the best known philosophers in Finland. In addition to his professorial duties at the University of Helsinki, he frequently takes part in public discussions about various topics, and is a popular speaker. Some of his work has been translated into English, including

  • The Philosophy of Marquis de Sade (1995)
  • Ethics of Coercion and Authority (1988)
  • The Philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft (1999)

Here are his film and book favorites. Thanks for taking part, Professor! 


Most of the films I see today, and I see many, are rubbish. So, this list is from my youth when I still could truly appreciate the motion picture art. The best Western ever is the “Last Train from Gun Hill.” It is stern, straightforward, and convincing story of a lawman doing his work plus having a revenge motive. Kirk Douglas is so good in this film! Then of course “Doctor Strangelove.” What can I say? I like the comedy, politics, and the cowboy bomber pilot and all the technical work the crew does. Finally, to go back to this day, the films of Mae West are something else, especially when she sings about the “Willie of the Valley.” It is obscenely funny. I like her swagger when she walks and talks, too.


I discuss only novels although these days I mostly read non-fiction and philosophy. The best novel ever for me is Herman Melvilles “Moby Dick.” I have visited New Brunswick, MA where it all starts and the beautiful whaling museum there. The White Whale is an unforgettable symbol of something (I do not know of what, though). The book should be read together with Edgar Allan Poe’s “A. Gordon Pym,” a seriously underestimated masterpiece of American literature. I also read Kafka’s “The Trial” and “The Castle,” although I do not seem to like those book so much. I have written several scholarly articles on them and as objects of serious study they are the best. I love them because I do not know they mean.