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The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice: With a New Introduction

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  25 reviews
On October 26, 1965, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl named Sylvia Likens was found on a dirty mattress in a basement in Indianapolis, Indiana. Starved, mutilated, covered with cigarette burns, the victim had been imprisoned and tortured to death by a gang of teenagers led by a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski, in whose care Sylvia and her younger sister, Jenny, had bee ...more
Hardcover, 341 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 1979)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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 ·  161 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Sabrina Rutter
Jun 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
This author seems a bit off her rocker! I have never read a true crime book before where the author claims to be obsessed with the victim of a brutal crime. I just can't read this book one page further! The author has made herself a part of the story and that's just not sitting well with me. I'm so glad I borrowed this from the library instead of buying it!
There are only two books I know of that are about this crime and both in my opinion are horribly written. The other THE INDIANA TORTURE SLAYI
Edwina Callan
Sep 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library-book, 2014
Oct. 26, 1965 a 16 year old girl was found tortured to death in a basement of a home in Indianapolis, Indiana ... 10 years later, a woman obsessed with the case decided to write a book,
a book based mostly on speculation.

For the Author to take such horrific, heartbreaking subject matter and try to twist it into being some kind of pornographic thrill ride disgusted and sickened me unlike anything I've ever read.
How dare she assume to know what Sylvia Likens or Gertrude Baniszewski or ANY of them w
Tom Mueller
A graphic description of Sylvia Likens 1965 torture/murder by Gertrude Baniszewski in Indiana. Apathy of witnesses who heard ongoing torture, at least 15 involved in torture. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is based on this murder. See also Victorian Murderesses by Mary Hartman].
After I first read Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, I followed up by reading a lot of newspaper reports and some non-fiction books. I have a penchant for reading true crime; constantly amazed, horrified and tormented
May 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one at all
Shelves: 2009
I had to read this book in speedy spurts; while I wanted to get through it as quickly as possible, I could only take so much at a time. The content was horrifying and the writing horrible. By the end, I was actively angry with the author for her ego, presumptuousness and plain bad writing. The entire book is like a case study based on speculation.
May 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
I gave this the maximum number of stars because it Is an amazing book, but there is nothing entertaining about it - and there isn't meant to be. It's heartbreaking, angering, and disturbing, and you won't forget it. ...more
Phil Overeem
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoy true crime, as well as psychological excavations of the criminal mind, and I'd been meaning to read about this case since I heard John Waters allude to it long ago. It is a book to be read in small doses, but it is very, very good--and Millett's courage in plunging into the possibilities and implications is...beyond measure. ...more
Aug 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: misc
I could not get through this book. It's based on a murder that really did happen, but Millett's writing style is so schlocky I didn't care about the victim or perps. Millett is too wordy, too sappy, and just over-the-top. Crime/murder books based on real events should be told objectively, but Millett puts way too much of herself in this one. ...more
Jun 29, 2008 added it
Haunting reminations on how on Oct. 26, 1965 a 16 year old girl was found tortured to death in a basement of a home in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
I can only read a little bit of this book at a time, as it is so disturbing. After seeing "An American Crime" I became very interested in what really happened in this case. ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I shall admit I did not finish the book. I read to about 60 pages because of the gruesome details.
Second, I do not like it when a writer use the Case of a murder/abuse to make a feminist statement.
I am a hundred percent for equality, but a child who is tortured to Death is horrible, regardless of gender.
Jun 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
I think it's good that a book was written about this senseless crime, but I did not like the way it was written--with the author assuming the voices of the murderer and her victim for over half the text--at all. ...more
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ich war etwa 14, als mir meine Mutter dieses Buch borgte. Beim lesen wurde mir teilweise schlecht, ich habe geweint, doch ich habe es bis zur letzten Seite geschafft. Ich erinnere mich noch heute an jedes Detail.
Melissa Wells
For starters, the author is downright weird. She rambles on through most of the book as though she's high and completely obsessed with Sylvia Likens. Her view on why Gertrude did what she did to Sylvia borders on sexual predator and is so disturbing. The author is way too disturbed for my taste. ...more
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
When I first read this in 1985 I thought it was fantastic. Later after reading more about the case I realized that Kate Millet had been creative with her portrayal of some of the "characters" and the "facts" surrounding the case. ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
This is a book about the Sylvia Likens case. This book is interesting in that it's part fact, part fiction. The factual part comes mostly from court transcripts as well as some articles that were written about the case. The fiction part comes from the author writing what she thought some of the key players, mostly Sylvia, Gertrude, and Paula were thinking during the entire time from the beginning up to Sylvia's death. If you are interested in the case, this book is worth reading. I will warn you ...more
Mar 20, 2020 added it
Shelves: read-in-2020
I honestly have no idea what to do with this text. I went from thinking it was five stars to zero, sometimes on the same page. I think reckoning with it is essential for true crime scholarship, but I really don't feel up to the task. ...more
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: great
Mar 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is an extremely poorly written true crime book. The author actually inserts herself into the book/investigation oddly enough, and she does way too much speculation/theory, and adds in things that are not even true about the case, murder, and people this book is about.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I cannot in all honesty say that I "enjoyed" this book. It is mesmerizing, but there were many times where I powered through passages, fighting the urge to be violently ill. Polarizing is a very good description for this book. It's an enthralling read for those interested in the true crime genre, or the Likens case in general. The major difference between this account of the case and say, "House of Evil" by John Dean is that "The Basement" fully immerses you into the horror of Sylvia Likens' fin ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had wanted to read this for a while after learning that it was one of John Waters' favorite books, and then by curious coincidence, Netflix, using their inexplicable algorithm, thought I would like to watch An American Crime, based on the same story - a shame John Waters didn't do an over-the-top interpretation. Kate Millet's take on the crime is interspersed with testimony taken from the trial, along with her own musings, often through the point of view of the perpetrator and the victim, whic ...more
I'm glad I borrowed this from the Kindle lending library because I was done after reading for about 20 minutes. Maybe I'm just too dumb for this, but it rambles on and on, jumping around in time and bumbling around the page with sentence fragments and non sequiturs. This would be pretty much impossible to read if you're not coming at it with a basic understanding of the crime. And for me, it was just tiring and uninteresting and rather confusing inside the writer's brain. ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: on-hold-dropped
Had to return this before I finished but idk if I'll go back to it - I came here looking for gratuitous & grisly but this is a whole other level of self-indulgence. ...more
Del Chadburn
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book 10 years ago and I still remember it to this day. A compelling read. Not for the faint hearted
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Difficult in a few different ways. Really alienating at times. Reading about the context of the novel in Kate Millett's life made reading it much more interesting. ...more
roberto cotroneo
rated it it was ok
Nov 12, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Jan 30, 2014
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Jul 25, 2017
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Apr 03, 2019
Suzze Tiernan
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Jan 08, 2012
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Katherine Murray "Kate" Millett was an American feminist writer, educator, artist, and activist. She attended Oxford University and was the first American woman to be awarded a postgraduate degree with first-class honors by St. Hilda's. She has been described as "a seminal influence on second-wave feminism", and is best known for her 1970 book Sexual Politics," which was her doctoral dissertation ...more

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