“[Englade is] one of the most astute observers of America's wild side.” Bestselling author Jack Olsen
Cellar of Horrorby Ken Englade
Serial killer Gary Heidnik's name will live on in infamy, and his home, 3520 North Marshall Street in Philadelphia, is a house tainted with the memory of unbelievable horrors. What police found there was an incredible nightmare made real. Four young women had been held captive--some for four months--half-naked and chained. They had been tortured, starved, and… See more details below
Serial killer Gary Heidnik's name will live on in infamy, and his home, 3520 North Marshall Street in Philadelphia, is a house tainted with the memory of unbelievable horrors. What police found there was an incredible nightmare made real. Four young women had been held captive--some for four months--half-naked and chained. They had been tortured, starved, and repeatedly raped. But more grotesque discoveries lay in the kitchen: human limbs frozen, a torso burned to cinders, an empty pot suspiciously scorched...
This is not a story for the faint-hearted. Cellar of Horror is a shocking true account of the self-proclaimed minister with a long history of mental illness, who preyed upon the susceptible and the retarded in a bizarre plan to create his own "baby factory." It is a macabre web spun around money, power, and religion, tangled with courtroom drama and lawyers' tactics, sure to send a chill into your very soul.
“[Englade is] one of the most astute observers of America's wild side.” Bestselling author Jack Olsen
- St. Martin's Press
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- 4.24(w) x 6.83(h) x 0.75(d)
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Cellar of Horror
By Ken Englade
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1988 Ken Englade
All rights reserved.
November 26, 1986
Josefina Rivera was having a rough night. In another hour it would be Thanksgiving, but so far she didn't have a lot to be thankful for.
She was still fuming about her argument with her boyfriend, a thirty-year-old black man named Vincent Nelson. She stomped out of his apartment in a huff. Then, when she went back an hour later to apologize, they started fighting all over again. That's when she said to hell with it and left a second time, figuring she might as well go to work.
Pacing back and forth at the corner of Third and Girard, she cursed under her breath and kicked at the trash littering the sidewalk: empty coffee cups; bright aluminum cans, which would soon be scooped up like treasure by neighborhood bums on their nightly rounds; and soggy mounds of what had been sheets from that afternoon's Daily News, now reduced to mush by a heavy, early-evening shower.
The rain had been the forerunner of a Canadian cold front barreling down the Eastern seaboard, bringing a jolting taste of winter to Philadelphia's northside slums. As she performed a little hop-and-skip around the puddles of dirty water, she burrowed deeper into her thin windbreaker, seeking relief from the plunging temperatures.
All the while, even as she swore against Nelson and the weather, she kept an eye on the street, sensitive to the cars that braked and cruised slowly past while the drivers gave her the once-over. Every time one of them seemed about to stop, she made an effort to look cheerful, flashing a fake, airline-hostess smile.
What the drivers saw was a thin, striking-looking woman of medium height clad in sneakers and skin-tight jeans. Josefina Rivera had fine, well-developed features, inherited from her Puerto Rican father rather than her black mother. Her nose was long and straight, her lips pencil thin, and her skin the color of coffee with double cream. Fortunately for her, the dim light hid the hard lines at the corners of her mouth and the flat glint in her eyes; the cool stare that was much older than her twenty-five years. When it looked as though a potential john was really interested, Rivera gave her head a quick jerk, setting the waves in her outsized wig jiggling like a fat man's stomach.
Usually she had no trouble attracting men, but tonight was exceptionally slow. As the evening wore on, she became increasingly desperate. It was cold and wet on the glum street corner, but she couldn't afford to give up yet. She didn't want to quit without at least one quick trick. She needed the money. A rabbit-fast liaison in a seedy motel or the back of a car would make her night, give her enough money for a hot Turkey Day dinner.
As she reached the edge of her self-defined boundary and reversed her course to make another circuit, a pair of headlights glared, went slightly past her and stopped. Glancing over, she opened her eyes slightly in surprise when she saw that it was a shiny new pewter-over-white Cadillac Coupe De Ville, complete with gleaming continental kit.
As she stared, the window glided down and a man spoke. It was a white man's voice, soft and low. "Hi," he said, leaning forward. "You hustling?"
"Yeah," Rivera responded, straining to see inside. Despite the gloom, she caught a reflection of light off a big, expensive-looking watch on the man's left wrist.
"How much you want?" he asked affably.
She named a figure and he made a counter offer: "Will you take twenty?"
It didn't take her long to decide. In response, she opened the door and slid into the passenger seat, noticing as she did the initials GMH painted on the door in flowing blue script. The smell inside the car was intoxicating, an overwhelming aroma of leather and wax. The Caddy was only nine days off the dealer's floor.
"My name's Gary," the man said.
"I'm Nicole," she answered, using her favorite alias. Nicole was a nice name, she felt, infinitely fancier than Josefina. To her it had class; it went better with her image of herself as a slightly exotic hooker.
"I want to make a quick stop first," the man said as he pulled away. A few minutes later he aimed the big car into the crowded lot of a McDonald's.
When he walked inside, she went with him. He bought coffee but offered her nothing. Clutching his steaming cup tightly in his right fist, he strolled to a back table and sat facing the parking lot. She slid into a chair across from him.
In the restaurant's bright light she could see him clearly, appraising with interest the thick gold chain and gold cross visible through the open neck of his plaid flannel shirt. In counterpoint to the jewelry and the heavy watch, which she now saw carried the Rolex name, the man wore an inexpensive cowhide jacket with leather fringes down the arms, the same kind of garment Jon Voight favored in the movie Midnight Cowboy.
The jacket was stained, and in spots the suede had rubbed through, leaving irregular shiny patches that looked like moth holes. It smelled, too, of sweat and grease, a fact evident now that it wasn't camouflaged by the new-car scent.
The man, Rivera noticed, was not the cleanest john she had ever done business with. His dark beard was neatly trimmed and his hair had recently been styled, but now it was unwashed, hanging in greasy ringlets over his ears. His shirt had a slept-in look, and his jeans, although fairly new, were marked with traces of oil and dirt. He had a strong jaw, though, and a straight nose. His most arresting feature was his eyes; they were as expressionless as two blue glass marbles. Looking into them, a shiver ran up her spine.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"I already told you," he said. "Gary."
"Gary what?" she persisted.
"Gary Heidnik," he said, lapsing into silence, quietly sipping from his steaming cup.
"Let's go," he said after a few minutes.
"Where are we going?"
"My house," he answered, already heading for the door.
* * *
Heidnik pulled out of the lot and pointed the car north, deeper into the slum district. Speeding recklessly down the potholed streets, one foot on the brake and one on the gas, Heidnik said nothing as they maneuvered through an expanse of row houses, block after block of dwellings sitting literally on the cracked sidewalks.
In years past, this section of Philadelphia had been home to hardworking blue-collar immigrants, Germans for the most part, who took pride in their surroundings and kept the streets as spotless as their houses. When these immigrants and their descendants abandoned the neighborhood for the suburbs, the blacks and Hispanics who moved in were not as fastidious.
By 1986 the neighborhood had earned the nickname "The OK Corral" because of a highly publicized, middle-of-the-street shootout between would-be drug lords — an incident that left several bystanders wounded while the participants escaped unscathed. In a demonstration of perverse pride, neighborhood toughs sewed the name "OK Corral" on their jackets and strutted the title proudly through the neighborhood, especially when they worked the corners hawking crack, coke, and pot to passing motorists.
When they got to North Marshall Street, Heidnik took a sharp left, nearly clipping an abandoned Chevy parked at the curb. The car's windows were broken out and its wheels had been removed. All vital parts had long ago been carted off. At one point someone had attempted to torch the vehicle, and the path of the flames were still visible on the rusting exterior.
Just past the wreck, Heidnik turned left again, swinging through a gap in a waist-high chain-link fence into a trash-littered yard. The number on the post in front was 3520. Gary Heidnik was home.CHAPTER 2
Number 3520 was an anomaly. For blocks around, in all directions, there were nothing but row houses; street after street of grim, deteriorating dwellings lying on their deathbeds with their chins in the street. But Heidnik's house was different. It was not only set back a dozen yards from the sidewalk, but it was unattached on one side, leaving enough space for a small yard and a driveway, which led to the rarest structure of all, considering the neighborhood: a garage.
In Heidnik's case the garage was a ramshackle building with a definite starboard list; a fragile-looking structure of badly weathered board topped with a row of barbed wire to keep trespassers from climbing over from the alley. He also had lined the inside of the creaky doors with metal after a group of neighborhood punks fired several shots at the building the previous summer. One of the bullets had damaged a Cadillac Heidnik had parked inside, the predecessor of his current De Ville. He had vowed that would never happen again. Heidnik was very attached to his cars.
As Heidnik eased into the garage, Rivera noticed a dark shape occupying the other half of the building. Barely visible in the dark, it was a 1971 Rolls-Royce — Heidnik's pride and joy. He had paid $17,000 in cash for the vehicle less than a year before, but in the few short months he owned it he had managed to burn out the engine and transmission, which he replaced with Chevrolet parts. Unsatisfied, too, with the finely crafted radio that came with the vehicle, Heidnik had mounted a cheap tape player under the dash. Scattered around on the Rolls' floor were inexpensive cassettes of music he had taped himself.
As he hurried toward the house, anxious to get out of the rising wind, Heidnik pulled a ring from his pocket and twirled it until he came to a stumpy piece of metal with an unevenly serrated edge. Rivera eyed it curiously.
"What's that?" she asked.
"A key," he grunted.
"I never seen a key like that before."
"I made it," Heidnik said. "I put the regular key halfway in and sawed it off. The front half stays in the lock permanently."
"Why'd you do that?" she inquired.
"So no other key except mine will work," he replied, swinging open the door and stepping in front of her into a small kitchen, the walls of which were half covered with pennies which had been meticulously glued into place.
"This way," he said, leading her into a sparsely furnished living room.
On one wall, under a heavily barred window, was a battered orange couch, stained and swaybacked. Opposite the couch was a stand holding a stereo tape deck and turntable, a TV and a VCR. Next to the stand was a cabinet jammed with dozens of videotape cassettes, each with a handwritten label.
"You want to see a movie?" he asked.
Rivera glanced at the titles; she could see he was heavily into porno flicks, horror films, and sappy comedies. Disinterested, she made a show of looking at her watch.
"Let's skip the movie," she said. "I'm running a little short on time."
Catching the quick flash of anger that jumped across Heidnik's face, she hastily added: "I have three children at home, and my babysitter leaves at midnight."
It was a lie, but Heidnik didn't know that. She was beginning to feel very uncomfortable, and all she wanted to do was finish the job, collect her money, and go back to see if she could straighten out her disagreement with Vincent Nelson.
"Okay." Heidnik shrugged, apparently unoffended. Turning on his heel, he led the way up a flight of rickety stairs. As they entered a narrow hallway at the head of the steps, Rivera did a double take. The wall there, instead of being covered with pennies, had been partially papered with one- and five-dollar bills.
"In here," Heidnik said, opening a door into a room containing a waterbed, a dresser, and two chairs. "Here's your money," he said, digging in his pocket and extracting a soiled twenty dollar bill, which he handed to Rivera. Without another word, he peeled off his clothes and jumped into bed.
Rivera put the bill on top of the dresser, slipped out of her shirt and jeans, and climbed in with Heidnik.
* * *
After a few minutes of active but emotionless coupling, Heidnik stood and walked across the room toward his pile of clothes. Rivera got up, too, and reached for her shirt. She had it on and was about to step into her jeans when she felt a pair of strong hands clamp securely around her throat. Twisting, she looked up into Heidnik's eyes, which seemed colder than ever. Without expression, he tightened his grip, slowly squeezing her life away. Just before she passed out, she squeaked her surrender.
"All right," she croaked. "I'll do anything you say, but don't hurt me."
When Heidnik relaxed his pressure, she sagged to the floor. As she fell, she realized he had slipped a handcuff onto her right wrist.
"Stand up and put your hands behind your back," Heidnik ordered.
When she complied, he slipped the twin cuff on her other wrist. Dragging her over to the dresser, he scooped up the bill he had given her earlier and returned it to his pocket. Then he pushed her out the door, down the stairs, and through the living room and kitchen. He opened another door and she saw a second flight of stairs, these narrower than the first and unprotected by a banister. Pushing her again, he forced her down into a cold, damp, dimly-lit room that smelled strongly of mildew and dust. The chill air reminded Rivera that she was wearing nothing but a shirt. As her feet hit the icy concrete floor, she jumped in surprise. Then she started shivering.
"Over there," Heidnik said, maneuvering her toward a lumpy, bare mattress pushed into one corner of the small room.
"I can't see out of my right eye," she complained.
"Shut up," he told her.
"My vision is blurred," she insisted.
He grabbed a piece of lumber that was lying among other bits of debris on the dirty floor. "If you don't shut up, I'm going to hit you," he said, waving the club.
She shut up.
Walking across the room, Heidnik picked up a small cardboard box and extracted from it a metal rod that had been bent in the middle to form a skinny U. Looking closely, Rivera saw that each end of the rod was threaded. Actually, the device was a commercially-made product called a muffler clamp. Mechanics attach them to the underside of cars to cradle and support a vehicle's exhaust pipe.
Heidnik ran one end of the clamp through a heavy chain, which he pulled from another box, and then forced the clamp over Rivera's ankle. A small metal bar fit between the two prongs to seal off the open end of the U. He dug in the box again and came up with two nuts, which he screwed onto the threads after first wetting them down with super glue. From out of nowhere, it seemed, he pulled a hair dryer and aimed that at the glue to make it dry faster. Then he repeated the procedure with a second clamp.
While Rivera stood frozen in shock, Heidnik flipped the loose end of the chain over a five-inch-thick pipe that came out of the ceiling and ran across the room into the opposite wall.
Standing back to survey his handiwork, Heidnik nodded in satisfaction. "Sit down," he told her, pointing at the mattress.
When she did, he stretched out beside her, put his head in her naked lap and went to sleep.CHAPTER 3
November 29, 1961
Gary Heidnik had a thing for November. Important things happened to him then. He was born in that month, in 1943. He faced his first criminal charges in November 1978. He took Josefina Rivera captive in November eight years later. He would take one more captive before the month rolled over. And in November 1961 he had committed what may well have been his last-ever conventional act. One week after his eighteenth birthday he joined the Army.
Each of these events was significant. Each was traumatic. Each was a starting point or a turning point. Come December, in 1961, 1978, and 1986, Gary Heidnik may as well have been born again, because his life was changed forever.
Thousands of teenagers join the Army every year. For most of them it is a bittersweet occasion. They're growing up. They're leaving family and friends, at least temporarily. But there was nothing temporary about it for Gary Heidnik. When he rolled out of Cleveland, Ohio, bound for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he wasn't ever going back. Well, maybe once. But only for a few days. Later, he would tell psychiatrists his father would fight with him. Disown him. His father admitted they didn't speak for twenty-five years. They still don't. His father told reporters he has no use for his son. And Gary has none for him. When Gary Heidnik ended up in jail, charged with all sorts of monstrous crimes, his father had no sympathy. If he did those things, the father said, he hoped they gave him the electric chair. He would even pull the switch.
Excerpted from Cellar of Horror by Ken Englade. Copyright © 1988 Ken Englade. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Ken Englade is an investigative reporter and bestselling author whose books include Beyond Reason, To Hatred Turned, A Family Business, Deadly Lessons, Murder in Boston, and Blood Sister. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife Heidi.
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