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House of Evil

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  1,037 Ratings  ·  108 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

Kindle Edition
Published (first published July 29th 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 24, 2016 Rossy rated it it was ok
1.5 stars
The first half of the book was interesting although heart-wrenching and really really dark, but the second half was tedious, it covered the trial details and it felt like homework to finish it.
Apr 28, 2012 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
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
3.5/5 the first half of this book sucked me in. The second half I skimmed a lot quicker. The ending made me mad. I don't think there was justice in this case unfortunately.
Apr 17, 2009 Hera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 10, 2015 Hanaa rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
This case was senseless and horrifying; however, if you want to read about it, I recommend you go to Wikipedia instead. The author has a unique way of writing in that he jumps back and forth between events, but funnily enough he has a dramatic way of writing. When I read a true crime book, I prefer it to not read like a novel, but most do.
The book ended up being dry, especially when the author goes into great detail about the legal side of the case. I wasn't interested. Oh! Also, the book
Kristin Little
Apr 05, 2011 Kristin Little rated it it was ok
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
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!!!
Jul 07, 2009 Michele rated it did not like it
Shelves: my-shelf
I don't know why 'm reading it....
Feb 24, 2010 Elisa added it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jul 26, 2009 Jeannie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
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
Jennifer Melnyk
May 22, 2017 Jennifer Melnyk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle, 2017
Sadistic and evil

The best part of this book was the epilogue. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that none of the people involved in such a heinous crime would live to see another day. God rest poor Sylvia's soul. I hope her killers enjoy their personal spot in hell.
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
Tera Marie
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.
Sep 26, 2007 Britt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Christina Lyles
Oct 25, 2010 Christina Lyles rated it did not like it
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 11, 2014 Shaun rated it liked it
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.
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.
Joanne Hastings
Jul 15, 2016 Joanne Hastings rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Not as well written as some othe true crime I have read but still interesting
Tera Baird
Jul 24, 2015 Tera Baird rated it it was amazing
My only problem is I think the mother should have been sentenced to death! And NO ONE should have been paroled
♡´°~♡ Unsolved Mystery ♡~°´♡
Jun 02, 2010 ♡´°~♡ Unsolved Mystery ♡~°´♡ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True crime lovers

I had a review posted but Goodreads ate it.
Feb 04, 2011 Patricia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I had to give up on this book. It's not very well written. I went to Wikipedia and found out the whole story.
All my reviews probably contain spoilers

Like many other reviewers, I agree that the first half of the book is much more engaging than that last half, which focused on the aftermath of Sylvia Likens' death and the trial(s) that followed. With that said, I enjoyed John Dean's style of writing and very clear and concise explanation of events - I'm guessing his experience as a news reporter made it feel like that: one big report on the horrific death of Sylvia Likens. Some other reviewers harshly
Summer Leblanc
Mar 13, 2017 Summer Leblanc rated it really liked it
So sad that such a horrible thing happened!
Mar 07, 2017 Michelle rated it liked it
The first part of this book, though gut wrenching, read fairly quickly. Such a sad story. How terrible that people can so easily be so cruel and abuse another human being. How sad that Sylvia's own parents didn't seem to care enough about her to get to know the lady they "dumped" Sylvia and her sister with. How can you just leave your children with a stranger?

The second half of the book dragged a bit as it gave detailed accounts of the court trail. Not to say that those details were bad, but it
Mohsin Khan
Mar 27, 2016 Mohsin Khan rated it really liked it
Based on a true story in the state of Indianapolis during the 1960s, “House of Evil” gives a heart-wrenching account of the horrifying torturous experiences that the 16-year-old Sylvia Likens suffered from the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski. This is not an easy book to read because it intricately describes some of the torture that this poor girl endured until her death. The first half of the book covers the actual story, which begins when Sylvia Likens and her sister, Jenny Likens, through a twis ...more
Tabitha Spear
Jan 25, 2015 Tabitha Spear rated it liked it
If you're having a day where your faith in humanity has been restored, don't read 'House of Evil' by John Dean. This is the story of an Indianapolis woman named Gertrude Baniszewski who along with her own 9 children, and the children in her slum of a neighborhood brutally tortured and killed Sylvia Likens in the 1960's. Sylvia's parents were part of the traveling fair circuit and couldn't afford to take their two youngest children, Sylvia and her sister Jenny, with them to their newest job site, ...more
Mar 03, 2012 Dana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
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
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
Sep 04, 2016 Paul rated it liked it
I read The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum a while back which is a fictional story closely based on this true crime. Its an incredibly well written book that stays with you and follows the crime as seen through a young boy who lives next door to the "house of evil". When I finished it I had a real sense of sadness and loss.
I wish could say the true crime is far less dramatic than the Ketchum story, but it would not be true. This is a heartbreaking account of the event followed by the court procee
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“discussing facts or culpability in the matter because the convictions are still on appeal. But I have been repeatedly asked why Sylvia did not just simply run away. I would suggest that by the time Sylvia told her sister she knew she was dying, she had reached profound apathy” 0 likes
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