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The Indiana Torture Slaying: Sylvia Likens' Ordeal And Death
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The Indiana Torture Slaying: Sylvia Likens' Ordeal And Death

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  609 ratings  ·  74 reviews

In the heart of Indianapolis in the mid 1960’s, through a twist of fate and fortune, a pretty young girl came to live with a thirty-seven-year-old mother and her seven children. What began as a temporary childcare arrangement between Sylvia Likens’s parents and Gertrude Baniszewski turned into a crime that would haunt cops, prosecutors, and a community for decades to com

Hardcover, 187 pages
Published by Borf Books (first published July 29th 2008)
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In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonThe Manson File by Nikolas Schreck
True Crime
139th out of 398 books — 418 voters

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Carla ☺Did I Say That☺
Dont get me wrong...This was a riveting story...this book was based I will never forget....but the writing style of this one was terrible!!!...very scrambled and pretty much all over the place!!!
In this book the reader can gain a true account of exactly how cruel and vile human nature can become. I have read two fiction books based on this certain account, however the actual nonfiction record of exactly what happened on that tragic day in Indiana still remains the most chilling story... I suppose that reading House Of Evil digs at your skin so much because all of its contents are true. Before reading this book I could not even begin to believe that someone could be so vile and have such ...more
Robert Beveridge
John Dean, House of Evil: The Indiana Torture Slaying (St. Martin's, 2008)

I've spent a few years trying to track down the original Beeline Press release of John Dean's The Indiana Torture Slaying, so I was thrilled when I heard St. Martin's was going to re-release the book in 2008 thanks to the interested generated by the films An American Crime and The Girl Next Door. The Indiana Torture Slaying, now retitled House of Evil, has long been touted as the definitive book on the Likens case; not hav
I don't know why 'm reading it....
The Indiana Torture Slaying: Sylvia Likens' Ordeal and Death
by John Dean
Borf Books

After hearing of the story, and watching the movies, The Indiana Torture Slaying was a hard book to pick up and start. This book is the interpretation of the torture, and eventual murder of a young girl named Sylvia Likens.This book is written in a journalistic and very literal manner.

Sylvia and her sister Jenny were part of a big and very unordinary, yet loving, family. Their mother was in jail for
I think the title of this book is a little insulting to the actual story. It makes it sound like some cheesy horror story, when in reality it is a true story of a brutal and disgusting murder. I'm really not sure why I read this, I knew it would disturb me, however once I started, I couldn't stop. I think it was because I wanted a "why" in the end, which (spoiler?) you don't get much of one. I give it two stars because I certainly didn't "like" the book, (does anyone really LIKE a book like this ...more
Kristin Little
Creepy. Have read a few true crime books and this one was written in a really odd style. Which was probably a good thing. The writing style seemed disjointed and detached (probably a result of the authors instructions from the publisher - he alludes to this in the preface). If it wasn't, it may have been too gut-wrenching to think of the horrors inflicted on this poor girl. The "eight pages of shocking photos!" were terrible quality and most of the "shocking" photos were just pictures of the leg ...more
I picked this one up on a whim and could't put it down once I started it. The author's writing is very straight forward and simple. He pretty much just stated the facts on this horrible story. Hard to believe this ever happened but then again when I look at the era it happened in, the 60's, well that explains it. I would hope and pray that this could never happen in this day and age but then again we know it does. Sylvia is an enigma,I will never know or understand why she didn't think she was i ...more
I wanted to read this book because I had read Jack Ketchum's Girl Next Door and in the notes at the back he had mentioned that he based it on an actual crime. So I went digging and found this, checked it out of the library and read it.

It was written by a newspaper reporter, is a fast read and pretty much covers the facts and not much else. In fact, it reads like a very long newspaper story and doesn't really delve into anything beneath the surface.

For the basics on the case, the trial and the a
Incredible story. Straightforward and competent recounting of the "facts." Would have appreciated more insight into the characters' motives; however, on the author's admission, this is beyond the scope of his expertise and this book.
Sep 26, 2007 Britt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Sylvia Likens
If your like me and have happened upon Sylvia Liken's terrible case, this book is a very good source of information. It details things that are not found on crimelibrary, wiki, or any of those other users. While it's obviously a hard read they let you into more of Sylvia's life, not to mention what was said during the court transcripts. When it comes to Sylvia, this is a very reliable source.
Gut-wrenching story of the torture and death of young Sylvia Likens by her caretaker, the caretaker's children and children's friends. Although the story is captivating, the book itself is not very noteworthy. The writing is dull, but provides the basic events that occurred during the short life and death of the young Sylvia.
This case is a devastating reminder of how manipulative and powerful a parental figure can be on our youth. It's also a sad reality of how often society (as a whole and in part) fail to protect those who need it the most.
This book however, doesn't do this case justice. The author's writing is sporadic, dry, even confusing at times. It lacks any kind of emotion to the events in which the author describes, leaving much to be desired. It's bad enough when the case itself is a sad one, but even mor
Christina Lyles
Awful. For such a horrific crime, this book is poorly written. I feel like it is just one long run on sentence. It's like a 200 page book, and it took me over a month to read because it felt like such a chore.
Sep 21, 2009 Susan added it
The content was morbidly fascinating. Seemingly well-researched for the time the event occurred. I find myself unable to 'rate' this book as it would imply enjoying anothers' torture.
I had to give up on this book. It's not very well written. I went to Wikipedia and found out the whole story.
Alisha Marie
I first became aware of Sylvia Likens story after watching the film The Girl Next Door. Now that film is based on a novel that is based (loosely) on this case. However, after reading both The Girl Next Door and Let's Go Play At the Adams (It is speculated that that book was also loosely based on this case) and what is written in the True Crime Library website about this case, I found that there was very little about this book that I didn't already know.

I found House of Evil to be very surface-le
Sylvia Likens and her sister Jennie are left in the home of Gertrude Baniszewski by their parents, and the months of torture resulted one of the worse cases of child abuse in the United States. This book is rough to read. The author admits borrowing his format and storytelling approach from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, and it does fall short of that novel but not because of the content. The first part of this true crime follows the torture and death of Sylvia, and the second half is the trial. ...more
Having first seen the movie An American Crime, with Ellen Page, I was interested in the story and brutal murder of Sylvia Likens. Sylvia and her sister Jenny were, for want of a better word, boarders, in Gertrude Banizewski"s (Banishefski) home. Ms. B had 7 other children of her own and was paid $20 a month in 1965 to house Sylvia and Jenny when their parents traveled with a local carnival as concessioners.
What was never really made clear in either the book or the movie, Sylvia was made the sca
Very thorough examination of the case but I have a couple things I want to say.

Point 1) I can't bring myself to believe that Sylvia started the prostitution rumors. Stephanie's testimony seemed to be full of rubbish. I have a feeling they falsely accused her of a lot of things just to find excuses to punish her.

Point 2) I think Sylvia (and Jenny) didn't seek help when the violence was escalating because, like the children who abused her, they truly believed the punishment was legitimate. I know
This book was absolutely horrendous. The writing was fine, but the story was simply disgusting. I find it hard to process the fact that this poor girl went through all that... It is just vile. As flooring as the material was, the first half of this book had my full, undivided attention. After that, however, the material got very dry and boring. This was a recommendation from my sister, so it wasn't exactly my favorite genre, but it was certainly worth the read.
I thought this book was decent. The book was based on a true crime that happened in Indiana. Sylvia Likens experienced some horrific abuse! A few times while reading some of the abuse she endured, I'd find myself cringing as I read the beastly acts of crime they bestowed upon such an innocent girl. The first half of the book tells of the story and the crime. The second half goes into the trial. I found the first half more interesting. The second half didn't grab my attention too much, but overal ...more
Jill Crosby
This book lacked something, and I think what I missed most was background histories of the principles. I felt like I was reading about people who simply dropped out of the sky and got caught up in this story. I'd have appreciated some personal history of Gertrude B, and of the Likens family as well. Without knowing anything more than that she was "a young woman with a lot of children and no husband," I wasn't able to make sense of the violence in this story at all.
Gabby Moor
I am intrigued by the crime of Sylvia Likens. The passion and attention this crime was given is quite extraordinary. This book sums up all the details and gives you an inside look on what really happened in the basement of Ms. Gertrude (something I can't spell). I wonder every day what was going through the mind of poor Sylvia. I am 14, and this could very well happen to me. What a scare that gives me. This book was very good.
I grabbed this book randomly and started reading at the library waiting for my boyfriend to get what he was looking for. I was hooked and had to take it home and finish it. First who the hell just leaves their children with some random lady and her children?? Secondly every one of them how tortured that poor girl should be in jail and burn in hell. I read this years ago but the story sticks in your mind.
Jody  Julian
After seeing An American Crime as well as reading Ketchum's fictional take on this case, it was inevitable that I read this. I've never read of a more horrific case and I'm only rating this 3 stars because I'm divided. Sylvia Likens died a horrible death that could have been prevented in so many ways. I'll never forget her and as far as ever feeling any self pity about my own childhood (as we all do at times, I think)this certainly puts it into perspective.
On the other hand, as with any true
I've read a few books of Sylvia Likens now, I'm glad this one was a bit different. I got to see what happened in court. And I'm so glad everyone is dead that did anything bad to her. I'm not a mean spirited person and I probably wouldn't have given the death penalty either, living with guilt is a good punishment. Maybe without possibility of parole though. Those people didn't need to be out in the free world.
3 1/2 stars. Review to come. One of the most disturbing true cases of murder I've ever read. The abuse and torture Sylvia Likens suffered is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. No one deserves what she went through, and the woman behind the torture deserved far worse than she got.
Kaitlyn Henderson
I dont know what compelled me to pick up this book off the bookshelf at Borders, but I did. I didnt finish it, which is out of character for me. Im not a squeamish person and am not easily disturbed. Ive read a few true crime books, including The Night Stalker, which was quite horrifying, but nothing has come this close to disturbing me as House of Evil did. The extremes they go to to torture this girl put me over the edge. I couldnt finish the book out of fear of fainting or vomiting.

Should yo
Edwina Hall Callan
I first read this book back in the 70's when it was first published under the title: The Indiana Torture Slaying: Sylvia Likens' Ordeal And Death. I was a teenager and all I really remembered about the book was that I was shocked and sickened that something like that could happen in my home state.
Now, years later, I saw this republished edition at my local Library and decided to pick it up for a re-read.
Yep, still shocked and sickened by this case.
Most of the main characters are now deceased and
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