Fiend: The Shocking True Story Of Americas Youngest Seria

Fiend: The Shocking True Story Of Americas Youngest Seria

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by Harold Schechter

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When fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was arrested in 1874, a nightmarish reign of terror over an unsuspecting city came to an end. "The Boston Boy Fiend" was imprisoned at last. But the complex questions sparked



When fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was arrested in 1874, a nightmarish reign of terror over an unsuspecting city came to an end. "The Boston Boy Fiend" was imprisoned at last. But the complex questions sparked by his ghastly crime spree -- the hows and whys of vicious juvenile crime -- were as relevant in the so-called Age of Innocence as they are today.
Jesse Pomeroy was outwardly repellent in appearance, with a gruesome "dead" eye; inside, he was deformed beyond imagining. A sexual sadist of disturbing precocity, he satisfied his atrocious appetites by abducting and torturing his child victims. But soon, the teenager's bloodlust gave way to another obsession: murder.
Harold Schechter, whose true-crime masterpieces are "well-documented nightmares for anyone who dares to look" (Peoria Journal Star), brings his acclaimed mix of page-turning storytelling, brilliant insight, and fascinating historical documentation to Fiend -- an unforgettable account from the annals of American crime.

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Chapter One

He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his gray beard....The very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors -- strange faces at the windows -- everything was strange.

-- Washington Irving, "Rip Van Winkle"

AUGUST 1, 1929

Dressed in the street clothes they had given him -- a shabby gray suit, its baggy pants supported by galluses; a rumpled white shirt, its collar too small to button; an old silk tie that dangled halfway down his chest; and a grotesque, checkered cap that sat on his head like an enormous mushroom -- he emerged into the sun-drenched prison yard. In his right hand, he clutched a paper-wrapped bundle about the size of a shoebox. His entire fund of worldly possessions was inside: a Bible, two or three poetry books, a few legal documents, some old, dog-eared letters.

Above him -- patrolling the walls and stationed in the armored cupola of the gray, stone rotunda -- the rifle-wielding guards peered down curiously at the spectacle below.

A crowd of journalists -- reporters, photographers, representatives of international wire services -- had assembled in the yard. At the first glimpse of the shambling old man -- his face half-hidden by the brim of his comically oversized cap -- they began calling his name, snapping pictures, shouting questions.

He pulled the brim lower over his eyes, tightened his mouth into a deep frown, and allowed the attendants to hurry him past the crowd and toward the rotunda.

The clamor of the mob was deeply unnerving. Still, their presence was a source of some satisfaction -- a confirmation of his celebrity. He had always taken pride in his status as "America's most famous lifer," in the awed looks he drew from new inmates when they caught their first glimpse of him. Lately, however, a whole generation of fresh fish had begun to filter inside -- young punks who neither knew nor cared anything about the old man everyone called "Grandpa." And when somebody told them who he was, they just shrugged, sneered, or looked utterly blank. His name -- once so notorious that its mere mention could induce shudders in impressionable children -- meant nothing to them.

Now -- sullen-tempered as ever -- he cursed under his breath as he waited for the attendants to unlock the double-barred doors and usher him into the reception room. Inside, Warden Hogsett and a few other officials were waiting. Ignoring the warden, he grumbled a few words of farewell to the chaplain.

Then -- at precisely 11:35 A.M. -- Hogsett nodded to the attendants, the screen door was thrown open, and -- flanked by two officers, Joseph O'Brien and William Robinson -- he stepped out into the world.

It was the first time in more than fifty years that he had breathed the air beyond the dark walls of the state prison. Everyone involved in sending him there was long gone -- the judge who had tried him, the attorney general and D.A. who had prosecuted him, the governor who had spared his life and sentenced him to a living death instead. He had survived them all. That was another source of satisfaction. The thought of it nearly brought a smile to his face. If it had, the sight would almost certainly have caused his captors to take notice. No one in all the years of his incarceration had ever seen him smile.

A small sedan was waiting in the cobblestoned square outside the main iron gate. So was an enormous crowd of curiosity-seekers -- more than one thousand people in all. They had been there since daybreak. At various points throughout the morning, policemen from Station Fifteen in City Square, Charlestown, had tried to disperse them. But the milling crowd would only wander a short distance away, then gather again in front of the prison as soon as the officers had left.

Even he was taken aback by the size of the crowd. Evidently, the public had not forgotten his name after all.

"Get in, Jesse," said Officer Robinson, motioning him toward the open door.

He knew all about motorcars, of course. During the past dozen years -- ever since the granite door of his tiny cell had been opened and he had been allowed to emerge, Lazarus-like, from his tomb -- he had seen one or two official automobiles in the prison yard. Still, he had never actually ridden in one. So unfamiliar was he with the procedure that, as he stepped onto the running board, his foot slipped, he smacked his head against the top of the doorframe, and his cap tumbled onto the cobblestones. He stooped to retrieve it, mashed it back down onto his head, and -- ducking into the car -- sank into the rear right seat.

Several squealing children ran up to the sedan, pointing up at the rear window as they capered and laughed. He put his face to the glass and glared down at them. Their laughter died instantly, and they scurried away. His face always had the power to frighten little children and, if anything, it had grown even more unsettling over the years -- the heavy jaw jutting grotesquely; the down-turned mouth made even more baleful-looking by the drooping walrus moustache; the left eye now filmed by a cataract; and the right one -- its pupil a dead, milky white -- as profoundly disconcerting as ever.

Officer Robinson slammed the rear door closed and climbed into the passenger seat. The engine roared. An escort of three motorcycle officers cleared a path. The convoy was on its way.

Measured in space, the trip to his new home was relatively short -- a distance of around forty miles. But the leap through time was almost inconceivably vast -- every bit as staggering as Rip Van Winkle's supernatural experience in the ghost-haunted Kaatskills, or the fantastic voyage of H. G. Wells's imaginary time-traveler. When he had last set eyes on the outside world, Ulysses S. Grant was president and Victoria queen. The whole country was in an uproar over the Custer massacre. The telephone hadn't been invented. And the neighborhoods of Charlestown, as one commentator described them, offered unbroken vistas of "muddy streets, horse-cars, oil-lamps, and two-story frame shacks."

Now, fifty-three years and one global war later, he was traveling through a world of telecommunication and transatlantic flight, neon signs and subways, radio stars and racing cars, motion pictures and jazz music, Cubist painting and quantum physics. For the nearly two hours of his trip, he gazed wordlessly at the marvels of modern civilization. He saw steam shovels, airplanes, elevated trains, and thoroughfares clogged with motorized traffic.

The whole world had changed. Except for one thing. The sidewalks were still full of frolicking children. And as the car came to a halt in front of a drugstore -- where Jesse would be treated to his first-ever taste of ginger ale and vanilla ice cream in a sugary cone -- it was hard for him not to remember those days, more than fifty years back, when he roamed this world freely. A time when the streets were his stalking-ground, and the little children his prey.

Copyright © 2000 by Harold Schechter

Meet the Author

Harold Schechter is a professor of American literature and culture. Renowned for his true-crime writing, he is the author of the nonfiction books Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, and, with David Everitt, The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. He is also the author of Nevermore and The Hum Bug, the acclaimed historical novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe. He lives in New York State.

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Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Right from the start, it's easy to tell the young Jesse Pomeroy was a very disturbed individual. Not only did his kidnap and torture victims not much younger than he was, but he was led to grizzly murders which created his image of being one of the most famous murder cases in the nineteenth century. He was arrested in 1874, putting him in prison for life at the age of 14. His murderous intent and sexual fantasies eventually led to his anti-climactic demise, dying in prison, two months shy of his seventy-third birthday, of coronary heart disease. There were no major messages, or themes that I noticed in this novel, other than to keep the ones you love close, and to lock your doors at night. The book presented a truly engaging and wildly disturbing look into the mind of a 14 year old serial killer, and is very hard to put down once you get going. While it may not be age-appropriate for some, it's recommended to any murder-mystery fans or any other person of the like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fiend is a gruesome look at a young boy serial killer's life in the 1890's. It is a completely well researched and well written book that I could simply not put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
well what can i say...the book is very good...i finished the book in one day...reading from dawn to dusk. very exciting but also sad and teary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fiend .......What can I say really....from the first to the last page this book will have u laying in your bed with toothpicks holding up your eyelids just to read more. The shocker not being he was 14 when he recieved his life in solitary confin. He was 8/9 yrs old when he started and if my memory is correct (granted I read this 2 yrs ago) he didn't start out with animals...he went straight to humans....which not only puts him out of serial killer norm it puts him on a whole different level. Jesse Pomeroy is the forgotten serial killer that I believe everyone should read about. It makes you realize that there is no limit to morbid acts people will do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s nice to know that youthful murderers have not come out in just the recent years. Jesse Pomeroy makes Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold seem like choirboys. Since Jesse was only fourteen, the governor commuted his sentence from death to life in solitary without parole. Harold Schechter's descriptions of Jesse's crimes were haunting , he really made you visualize what was happening. Even though very descriptive and gruesome I was very hooked to the book when it was talking about his crimes. I like learning about lesser-known murderers instead of recent youth murderers all the time. Yet another good book from Harold Schechter!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book 'Fiend' was one of the best books I have read on one paticular serial killer..It is actually interesting the whole way through, people accustomed to serial killers would even enjoy it..I wouldn't recomend to folks with a light stomach however
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book however the name of the book is wrong. Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer, Jesse Pomeroy only killed 2 people. There for is not a serial killer. The one thing i did not like about there book was some chapters had nothing to do with jesse pomeroy what so ever. They were about other crimes in the 1800s or what life was like back then.
Ashley4 More than 1 year ago
From the very beginning, it was obvious to see that Jesse Pomeroy was different from the rest of the children living in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He gained a strange pleasure in torturing little boys as a reflection of his own past. After being incarcerated for 17 months for such tortures, Jesse was released from the county jail. Unfortunately, his demonic urges climaxed when he committed two murders. Jesse’s fate was decided; he would spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. The story follows Jesse during the murders/tortures, into the trial, and incarceration. Fiend was a very intriguing book. I enjoyed reading about the psychological aspects of Jesse Pomeroy and found it interesting how he had such preciseness in all of his acts of crime. I also enjoyed how the book started off; it went right into the crimes and had many graphic details of Jesse’s attacks. I disliked how the book went off on many tangents about crimes that happened elsewhere during the same time, such as baby farming. There was also lots of repetition of facts that were previously discussed. One of the messages/ themes was that the judicial system is broken. There was much controversy surrounding the felonies performed but due to his young age, Jesse got a life sentence instead of death. Another theme I found was that of bad parenting. The parents of the victimized children let their kids wander around town without any parental supervision, which made it easy for Jesse to approach them and kidnap them. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about criminals or psychological behavior. I also recommend this book because it adds light comedy by talking about how Jesse attempted escapes that were quite ridiculous. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has a weak stomach and cannot handle reading about gruesome tortures and murders. Overall, I’d give this book four stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I tried really hard to like this book. I only got half way through. I had to abandon the book. Some parts were really good, while other parts were filled with useless info.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RapidReaderDC More than 1 year ago
Paragraphs, pages and chapters taken up with speculation and rumors to extend a book which should only have taken 30 pages to complete.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brooke41 More than 1 year ago
Fiend the Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer, was the biography about Jesse Pomeroy the fourteen years old that killed two young children and tortured many others. This story goes through Jesse's life including how and when he did his horrifying deeds to these young boys and girl. There are even quotes from old newspapers and statements made by the young boys he tortured during his case. It goes on to what happened when he was in jail and his forty plus years in solitary confinement and even to when he died by coronary heart disease. This book was a very interesting biography on someone that I had never heard of before reading this book. I really liked that Harold Schechter used actual quotes and statements made during the trial and used his words to show the true horror and terror that these young boys went through. This book was a very interesting book that was a very good read and could keep my attention because I wanted to know what happened next. I also didn't know anything about Jesse Pomeroy and what he did until I read this book. There were some parts of the book I didn't like because they were pretty graphic. These parts were when the author was explaining what Jesse did to those boys and how he did his gross things. However, the other parts of the book had very good word choice and helped me pictured what was happening and even how Jesse reacted to a lot of things that happened to him. Especially the explanation of what happened in his trial and what his reaction was; these parts made me really believe that I was in the court room watching the trial over a hundred years ago. The major theme in this book was of course the trial and conviction of the youngest serial killer Pomeroy. It helped me understand who he was and what he did to the boys he tortured. I think someone should read this book because it is a very informant book and it was decently attention grabbing. Even if you know the story of Jesse Pomeroy it would help you understand the story and trial even more. If you don't really like knowing the history of serial killers and why they do what they do than you shouldn't read this book. When I first started reading this book I wasn't very excited to read it but once I started reading it I began to really like it and would recommend it to history lovers. I would give this book 7 out of 10 because it was decent but there were some graphic details in it that some people might not like. This book was a very good read and was a lot better than I first predicted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author did a good job getting to the point of Jesse Pomeroy's problem at the very beginning of the book. It gave readers an insightful look into what went on in Jesse's mind before he started torturing children and why he did it. The book tapped into Jesse's psychological turmoil because it showed that Jesse's mind was "wired" differently. It also showed his emotional turmoil because Jesse was not ultimately close with his family and past experiences with his father beating him up led to future destruction for Jesse. One of the things I didn't like about the book though was that the author jumped from fact to fact and it was kind of hard to follow certain chapters. At times, I felt like I was reading a research paper and those can be boring to read. All in all, I felt like the book was a chilling thriller that could keep readers of this genre, interested.