In for a Penny, In for a Pound

In his fanaticism for capitalist optimization, H. H. Holmes was the equal or better of any industrial baron.

The Murder Castle Kristin Tata

When I was a child, perhaps around five or six years old, I developed a hysterical fear of Sweeney Todd. This wasn’t completely out of character—I was an anxious child with a flushed, febrile imagination, all neurotic compulsion and nightmared sleep and fear of the shadows congealed in the corners of my bedroom—but the intensity of my horror, the obsessive, nauseating fascination it provoked, was remarkable even for me. There were other killers who scared me, real-life killers, murderers of little girls who at the time seemed omnipresent on the news and in the tabloids, but for some reason they didn’t affect me quite so deeply as the invented evils of the penny dreadful.

The terror was caused, in part, by the tale’s sheer grisliness: the frantic arc of arterial blood, lips greasy with human flesh. But more than that, it was the innovativeness, the ingenuity of the enterprise, that seemed to stay with me. The spec…

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