Ever watch a scary movie and feel a wash of relief when it’s over, because it was nothing but a made-up story written by someone with a tortured mind. Well, let me pop that balloon of optimism for you. Not all scary movies are completely unfounded.
Ed Gein, a.k.a. The Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul has given me the willies for years. Turns out some of the most well-known psychological thrillers are rooted in his heinous crimes. I’ll give you three, but there are more in case you’re interested in a deep dive into psychopathy.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Although Leatherface is only loosely based off Ed Gein, the skin mask that the chainsaw wielding maniac wears is a nod to Gein. As are the body parts that decorate Leatherface’s home. HGTV had no hand in the killer’s decor, but Ed would have approved.
2. Silence of the Lambs
The serial killer, Buffalo Bill’s obsession with making suits out of his victims’ skin was taken from a page in Gein’s playbook.
Norman Bates’ twisted infatuation with his mother was patterned after Gein. When Gein’s mother passed away, her influence and tight laced ways remained cemented in his mind. Whenever a woman tempted him to step off the path of morality his mother had set him on, he killed her. Not sure if mommy would have approved of murder though.
From grave robbing to recycling human body parts, Ed Gein was one creepy dude. But his crimes show that sometimes fact is more unsettling than fiction.
You step into the restroom. The sight of the body on the floor turns your stomach. What could you possibly find that Marshal Durland didn’t notice. He’s the professional, after all.
The marshal hands you a pair of latex gloves, and you stretch them on. Carefully, so as not to contaminate the scene, you check the breast pocket of Archer’s suit coat. The gash on his neck has stained the material, but you shove that nasty detail into a mental box for later processing.
Nothing in the pocket. You check his pants. At first his pockets feel empty, but a folded slip of paper grazes your fingers. You pull it out and smooth the creases.
You scan the sheet. What on earth?
“It’s his will.” You glance up at the marshal then read Archer’s final wishes aloud.
“If you’re reading this, my lies have finally caught up with me, and he decided to hold me accountable. I’d like my assets to be divided evenly between my children. Their names and addresses are locked in the safe at my house in Bakersfield. Each of my wives can have the houses where they currently live.
All I ask of the person who finds my body is to have the police check into Sam Collison. He’s threatened me many times, and I wouldn’t put it past him to make good on his threats.”
Jeff had signed and dated at the bottom of the page. According to the date, he’d penned these requests just last week.
“Is there a passenger on the plane named Sam Collison?” You hand the document to the marshal.
A line forms between his brows. “Not sure. But we haven’t talked to everyone yet.”
“I think Sam’s the man we should be looking for.”
Clue #5 Jeff Archer’s will implicates Sam Collison.
Thank you all for joining me for week six! So you think they’ll find Sam on the plane?
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge Criminal Minds fan. The show is amazing on so many levels. One thing I love about it is the way they delve into what makes the murderers tick. Some of the UNSUBs have left a permanent imprint on my mind for one reason or another. Here are my top three.
3. The Inbred- Blood Relations
As far as I know, the inbred is the only UNSUB on Criminal Minds that never had a name. That in itself sets him apart. But at the end of the episode, he escapes and kills a couple in a cabin. They never return to this storyline, so we can only assume he’s still at large in TV Land. Yikes!
2. Billy Flynn- Our Darkest Hour
First off, those teeth make my want to floss immediately. Also, I don’t look at people who own campers the way I used to. They really are homicide vans on wheels.
Floyd Feylinn Ferell- Lucky
The cannibal on this episode gave me the creepy crawlies for days. And that smile when the truth came out was chilling. Would not want to run into a guy like him … ever.
It was beyond difficult narrowing this down to three (four if you count the honorable mention.) Which UNSUBs stand out to you?
Also, now that Criminal Minds is over, do you have any recommendations for comparable shows to take its place?
You and Marshal Durland step away from the woman in the sun hat. Why didn’t she consider taking the silly thing off when there wasn’t a sunbeam in sight and the brim kept whacking people in the face? It doesn’t make sense, but the way this trip is going, it’s par for the course.
“That got us nothing.” The marshal massages the back of his neck.
“Let’s talk to Trey and Melani.” You shrug. “Maybe they can shine a little light on the situation.”
You start toward the pair of lovebirds. Melani boops Trey on the nose, and he grabs her finger and kisses it.
Your stomach threatens to toss the hoagie you had in the airport terminal. This should be a real treat.
Marshal Durland rolls his shoulders until they pop. “Got a minute to answer some questions?”
“Sure.” Trey nods. “Anything we can do to help.”
“I don’t know how much help we can be.” Melani tilts her chin. “We were here in our seats the whole time.”
“Did you notice anyone head toward the back of the plane after the murdered man?” the marshal asks.
“We didn’t see anyone get up.” Trey glances at Melani. “Did we babe?”
If that were true, how did Jeff Archer get to the restroom unnoticed? You glance at the rows behind the couple. Both Jeff and the killer must have been sitting behind Trey and Melani.
The marshal presses on in his questioning, but your mind wanders.
What if Jessica had something to do with the killing? Something in your gut tells you that the flight attendant and Angie Garret are connected. Both women have ties to Claire Wilson from the photograph the victim carried. Both had a history with domestic violence of some form or other.
Jessica had access to the entire airplane. Had she been accounted for the whole trip up to the point of discovering Jeff Archer?
There were three rows of passengers left to question, then Mara and the cowboy. But Griz had been sitting next to you, sound asleep. And in those handcuffs, Mara couldn’t be stealthy if she tried. Not to mention the fact, she was under the marshal’s thumb until he dropped her off with the authorities in Sydney.
Was it possible Archer had been killed before boarding? Marshal Durland said the body was still warm when he investigated. How long did bodies stay warm?
You pull out your phone and enter the question in your Safari app. Hopefully, Homeland Security doesn’t flag you or put you on a list for such a suspicious question.
The answer appears on your screen. Twelve hours for a body to turn completely cool to the touch. And you’d been in the air two hours before finding him. Technically, he could have died hours before take-off. Your shoulders droop. But if that’s true, the killer could be long gone.
You mind replays the image of Jeff Archer’s body and the gash across his throat. It wouldn’t have taken long to cut and run. You cringe probably not the best terminology. Had Griz been in your row before you boarded? You think back. Yes. He was already seated when you stuffed your carry-on in the overhead bin.
Had he seen something?
Had he done something?
“Anything else?” Trey rubs his hands on his cargo shorts.
The marshals brows raise as he shakes his head. “That should be it.”
The couple ease into their seats, unbothered by the close quarters.
“You sure spaced out there for a minute.” The marshal slides his notebook back into his pocket.
“Did I miss anything important?”
“Not a blessed thing.” The marshal puffs out a sigh. “Get any bright ideas while you were out in la-la land?”
“You know, dead bodies don’t go cold for twelve hours. The murder may have happened before boarding. We should check the restroom again. See if the lock on the door was tampered with. Something. There has to be a clue we’re missing.”
“Worth a shot.” Marshal Durland unfastens the top button of his shirt. And you head for the back of the plane and the compartment housing Jeff Archer’s body.
Clue #3 If the murderer is on the airplane, he or she would be sitting behind Trey andMelani, but the time frame just got wider.
Thanks for sticking with me! Stay tuned for another installment next Friday!
Since romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres, I thought I’d share some of my favorite authors with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Along with each author, I’ll include a link to my favorite book they wrote.
3. Patricia Bradley
I love the perfect balance between romance and suspense that Ms. Bradley brings to the table. She’s got so much skill and her stories suck me from the first sentence.
2. Terri Blackstock
Not only are Terri Blackstock’s stories intriguing in the extreme, they deal with difficult topics and make me reevaluate life and my relationship with God and others. I can’t recommend the Restoration Series enough. It’s wonderful on so many levels.
How Ms. Coble can come up with so many unique story ideas baffles me, but each one has such exciting twists that I can honestly say I’ve never been disappointed by one of her books. Check her out! You’ll thank me later.
Who are your favorites? What good books have you read lately?
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Virginia Vaughan! Just last week I finished her newest release, Texas Twin Abduction, and I enjoyed it so much. There were twists and turns until the very end!
Let’s get right into the interview, then I’ll let you know how you can connect with Virginia and win your very own copy of Texas Twin Abduction.
What are your favorite books from childhood and why?
When I was a child, I fell in love with Gothic romances and authors like Phyllis A. Whitney and Willo Davis Roberts. For me, the combination of romance with danger and suspense was so exciting! It was the beginning of my love affair with romantic suspense.
2. Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I have a couple of quirky writing habits. I love to listen to 70s disco music when I write and you might even catch me dancing along to it, too, lol. My writing process is also kind of wacky. I write my books completely out of order. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I don’t even know where it will go in the book. Once I finish writing, I then have to put all the pieces together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. It’s a crazy process, but it works for me.
3. What do you love about the genre in which you write?
I am a fan of true crime and obsessed with digging into unsolved murder cases and mysteries. I love knowing that I can combine that passion into the stories I write and even draw ideas and create my own mysteries. Also, I get to kill people with little or no consequences. What could be better than that, lol?
4. In the Bible, do you have a life verse that is significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?
My go-to Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There have been so many times in my life when circumstances have knocked me to the ground and I didn’t know if I even wanted to get back up. But when I think on this verse and realize that God has plans (plural!) for my life, it gives everything meaning. It gives me a reason to continue on despite the difficult times. I cling to this verse whenever things go wrong and am reminded that I’m supposed to be living for God’s will and not my own. Because many of my characters are like me and have made mistakes, they often also need this reminder.
5. Which part of the book creation process do you like best– brainstorming, writing, editing, or marketing?
I love brainstorming new ideas! My favorite thing is to wipe my whiteboard clean and start with a fresh, new story. I get as excited about starting to plan out a new story and imagining scenes in my head as I do plunging into a good story to read. I also enjoy the actual writing process. I’m a pantser at heart so this is the time when I really get to know my characters.
Comment below to win a copy of Texas Twin Abduction! I’ll be drawing on Monday, August 10th.
This twin’s past is a blank…
And she might not have a future.
Waking up in a bullet-ridden car with a bag of cash and a deputy insisting she’s his ex-fiancée, Ashlee Taylor has no memory of what happened—or of Lawson Avery. But with her twin missing and someone hunting her down, she must trust him with her life. Can Lawson save her and her sister—even as Ashlee’s forgotten secrets become an inescapable trap?
Virginia Vaughan is a multi-published author of inspirational romantic suspense. Blessed to come from a large, southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age, devouring gothic romance novels and stories of romance, danger, and love. She soon started writing them herself. A former investigator for the State of Mississippi, Virginia utilizes her criminal justice background with her love of writing to transform words into powerful stories of romance and danger. Connect with Virginia through her website www.virginiavaughanonline.com or her email list at http://eepurl.com/dtFeVP.
“Well, that got us nowhere.” Marshal Ken cracks his neck.
“It couldn’t be Angie.” You shrug. “I was sitting in the row ahead of her since we boarded, and she never left her seat. Neither did Devon.” You have a knot in your lower back to prove that point.
Jessica, the flight attendant passes into the room housing the rolling refrigerators. The marshal clears his throat and cranes his neck in her direction.
“Do you have a minute to answer some questions, Miss?” He flips to a fresh page in his notebook.
Her brow puckers and her tongue skims her bottom lip. “What would you like to know?”
“Would you give me your full name, please?”
“Jessica Carmichael.” She taps her fingers against her navy skirt.
“How long have you worked for the airline?” The marshal scribbles something in his notebook. Does he notice her nervous body language, too? Of course, he does. He’s the professional, not you. Still, if he doesn’t mention it, you will.
“It would be five years in January.” Her voice softens.
“Would be?” Marshal Ken’s eyes narrow. “You plan on quitting?”
Jessica’s gaze shifts to the stained blue carpet. “This is my last flight.” She meets the marshal’s eye, then cuts a glance your way. “I’ve enjoyed this job.” She gestures to a window with her hand. Lightning rims the bruised clouds in the distance. “Who wouldn’t want to travel the world?” Her shoulders slump. “But what good am I doing here? So many women need my help, and me working on a flying tin can, handing sweaty people pretzels and peanuts isn’t what I should be doing.”
“So you want to help women?” You lift a brow. Such specific goals usually sprang from specific stressors.
Tears glitter in Jessica’s eyes. She blinks repeatedly, as if trying to erase a distressing memory along with the moisture. “My sister.” She shakes her head. A tear whispers down her cheek. “Tawny. She never told us what was happening.”
“What was happening?” The marshal lowers his notebook.
Jessica bites her lip and glances at the ceiling. “Her husband.” Her jaw hardens. “He’d convinced her she couldn’t do any better than him. But if she’d have married a catfish off the internet, he’d have treated her better.”
“What happened?” Funny that Jessica’s sister and Angie share similar story threads. But then, abuse is more prevalent than people like to think.
“You’ve seen Snapped.” Jessica straightens her shoulders. “I used to think those women who stayed with men that beat them and belittled them were crazy. I mean, why not leave when your husband can’t treat you like a human being? Only weak women stay when they know it can’t possibly get better, right?”
Marshal Ken tilts his head, mouth in a grim line.
“But Tawny, she wasn’t like that–not before. She was so strong. You should have seen her when–” Jessica sighs. “It doesn’t matter now. He changed her. But he wasn’t only mistreating her. Tawny found out he had a second family in Miami. He worked in sales and traveled a lot. It almost killed my sister when she found out that her husband had a wife and kids. ‘That other woman.’ That’s what Tawny called her. Until my sister found out that she was the other woman.”
You take a step closer to Jessica. “I couldn’t help but notice that you referred to your sister in the past tense. Did something happen to her?”
Jessica’s chin quivered. “She found out she was pregnant. She couldn’t bear the thought of bringing a child into such a messed up home. Planned to leave Rick–her husband. She didn’t make it out the front door. He killed her–and the baby. She wasn’t very far along, but still, it was a human life.”
You chew the inside of your cheek. What can you say? Nothing will make Jessica’s ache go away.
“My other sister and I are going to start a women’s shelter next month.” Jessica’s lips tremble. “We’re naming it after Tawny.” She pulls in a jagged breath. “No other woman should have to go through what my sister did. And on my watch, I’ll make sure they won’t.”
“That’s very admirable.” Such weak words, but they’re the best you’ve got.
“Where is your brother-in-law incarcerated?” Marshal Ken reaches into his pocket.
Jessica scoffs. “He’s not. Got off on a technicality. There’s been no justice for my sister.” She grinds the words through clenched teeth.
You catch the marshal’s eye. The look on the flight attendant’s face screams for revenge. Could the man in the restroom be tied somehow to her sister’s murder?
“Do you know a man named Jeff Archer?” Marshal Ken asks.
“Never heard of him.” Jessica lifts her chin.
The marshal extends the photograph of Claire Wilson for the flight attendant’s inspection. “Do you know this woman?”
Jessica shakes her head, not bothering a glance at the picture. She has to know something. Why act so cagey otherwise?
“Please, take a look.”
With a sigh, Jessica’s gaze falls on the photo. She purses her lips, recognition sparks in her eye. “I don’t know her name, but I know who she is. When Tawny thought her husband was cheating, she had a private investigator follow him. That’s Rick’s real wife.”
Thoughts churn through your brain. If the woman in the photo, Claire Wilson, was Rick’s wife, who was Jeff Archer, and how did he play into their story?
Clue #3- Claire Wilson was married to Jessica’s brother-in-law.
Thank you all so much for following the story another week! Let me know in the comments if you’d like the Word doc I created to keep the story straight. Who would you like to interview next? Any ideas on who the killer is, or how the passengers might be connected?
Call me crazy, and you’d probably be right, but I love me some true crime television, and Investigation Discovery is my favorite channel. It’s fortunate I don’t have cable, because if I did, I’d spend all my free time watching criminal investigation shows that I’d likely never get a word written. Although, in my defense, some of these shows could be considered ‘research’ as I plan the story lines for some of my upcoming projects. Especially #2.
3. Evil Lives Here
This show comes from a different angle than most true crime offerings. Instead of seeing the case from the eyes of investigators or crime writers, Evil Lives Here focuses on the morderers’ family lives. Although, their families remember happy times, there were always signs that something wasn’t quite right. Personally, I feel that looking at evil people from this point of view helps me see the perpetrators as human rather than just bad and two-dimensional. The episode that hit closest, literally, followed Robert Hawkins. He was the Von Maur shooter in Omaha–just a couple of hours from my hometown.
2. Web of Lies
I enjoy this show quite a lot. As helpful as the internet is for work and communicating with friends, it’s a really good way for murderers to meet potential victims. Seriously, watch a few episodes, and you’ll view the world wide web in a different way.
1. People Magazine Investigates
This show tops the list, since the crimes it covers involve some of the most high-profile murders in the recent past. The episodes are so well-researched and intriguing, that I couldn’t help but give it the spot of honor.
What are your favorite true crime shows? I’d love to hear your thoughts and check out any that I’ve not seen before.
You follow Marshal Ken Durland with your mind scattering a hundred directions. Who killed Jeff Archer. And why? As you pass each row, passengers turn to stare. When you walked to the restroom earlier, none of the faces looked anything but innocent–except maybe the prisoner and that degenerate little boy, Devon, sitting behind you. You rub the ache in your lower back.
The marshal stops and motions to a passenger, and Devon’s mother steps into the aisle. She grips Devon’s hand and the four of you find privacy with the rolling refrigerators in the crowded flight attendant’s space.
“We have to ask you a couple questions.” Durland pulls a notepad and pen from his pocket. “What’s your name, ma’am?”
“Angie Garrett.” Her gaze drops to the floor. Is that a touch of an Australian accent? Maybe she’s going home. If that’s the case, she can’t have anything to do with Jeff Archer’s murder. At least you’ll be able to trust someone on this airplane.
Devon starts making clicking noises with his tongue.
“Stop it! Things are bad enough without constant noise.” Angie rubs her temples.
His eyes grow wide, and the obnoxious sounds die in his throat. Had his mother ever spoken harshly to him?
“Mrs. Garrett. Where are you from?” Marshal Ken asks.
“It’s Miss Garrett.” Her jaw hardens and she swallows hard. “I’m originally from New Castle in Australia.”
“Were you in the US on vacation?” The marshal jots something in his notebook.
She shakes her head. Concern clouds her eyes. Devon grips her hand and nestles close to her. Maybe the little shyster has a sweet streak beneath all the aggravation.
“Why were you in Los Angeles?”
“I-I was married to an American. We lived in Bakersfield.” Angie wraps an arm around her son.
“So your trip to Australia is a vacation. Do you plan to visit family?”
Angie chews her upper lip. “We’re moving in with my parents-well, with my dad. Things didn’t turn out for us in America.”
You study Angie’s face. Though she’s young, stress lines her face. The shadows under her eyes tell a story that is far from pleasant. How did you not notice earlier? Had her husband abused her? It would hardly be a question you could ask with her son around. You glance at Devon. Had he been mistreated? Bruises pepper his arms. Were they the result of the normal wear and tear boys his age endured, or had his father–or would it have been his stepfather–inflicted them?
Despite the sore muscles in your back, your heart softens toward the boy. Yes, he’s still impossible, but who knows what the poor kid has been through.
“It was a rocky marriage, I take it.” The marshal leaned against a rolling refrigerator.
Angie nodded slowly. “We had to leave. We’ll be safe with Dad.” She glanced down at her son and smiled. “Isn’t that right, Dev?”
The boy nodded. “Yep. He’s gonna take me to see kangaroos!”
“Just a couple more things, then I’ll let you get back to your seat.” Marshal Durland slid what looked like the mangled photograph out of his pocket. “Do you know anyone by the name of Jeff Archer?”
Angie’s lips formed a line, and she raised her brows. “Never heard of him.”
“And do you recognize the woman in this picture?” He held it up.
Her eyes widened slightly, lightened by recognition.
“You know her, don’t you?” You lean forward. What was the connection between the two women?
“Not personally.” Angie’s brow puckered. “A few months ago, when I came home from Walmart, that woman was in my house. She was in a heated argument with my husband. I didn’t catch what they were fighting about. But Craig, my husband, sent her away. She was so angry. When she stomped out of the house she used some words I’d rather not repeat in front of Devon. And the way she looked at me.” Angie clasped a hand to her throat.
“Any idea what her name is?” the marshal asked.
“I only heard bits and pieces of the end of the fight, but my husband called her Claire.” She shrugged. “That’s all I heard.”
Claire. The name fit in your disjointed memory. You’d seen the woman before too. Maybe not in real life as Angie had, but in an article.
Claire . . . oh, what is her last name? Harris? No. It started with a W. Or did it? Sometimes when you’re certain about the first letter of a name, you find you were very wrong when the truth comes out.But W fits somehow. Williams? Wilton? Wilson?
You whip your phone from your pocket as Marshal Durland sends Angie and Devon back to their seats.
“You look like you’re onto something.” He takes a step closer and peers over your shoulder at your phone.
“The woman in the picture is Claire Wilson. I’m almost positive a friend of mine wrote an article about her. I just have to find it.” You type ‘Claire Wilson’ into a search engine, but there are too many results. Such a common name. So you add ‘Bakersfield’ to the criteria.
An obituary pops up along with a picture. Your mouth goes suddenly dry, and you consider grabbing a Coke out of one of these fridges. But you wanted a whole can, not a flight attendant’s tiny swallow. “Here she is.” You angle the phone so Durland can get a better look.
“She died last month.” He studies the screen. “It doesn’t give much information, and that’s never a good sign.”
You scroll down the list of search results, and an article with your friend’s name beside it snags your attention. Bingo! When you bring up the article, your stomach turns. Crime scene photos. Claire Wilson was murdered. And her killer is still at large.
Clue #2 The woman in the photo is Claire Wilson
Thank you for joining me for week three! If you’d like me to send you a Word doc listing the characters along with some of their information, let me know in the comments! Who would you and Marshal Durland like to interview next? I’m taking suggestions 🙂
In case you can’t tell from my posts, Suspense/Thriller is my favorite genre. I’ve had the hardest time narrowing this post to three authors, so I’m sticking ones I would classify as writing straight-up suspense and not romantic suspense. Since it was literally impossible to choose only three without squeezing out one of my favorites, I’m going to list four for your reading pleasure. And I’ll add links to Amazon or the author’s website to make it even easier for you to check out these amazing works of creepy genius. You’re welcome!
4. Nancy Mehl
Nancy Mehl’s Kaely Quinn series is a treasure! Her plots are unique and intricate. If you haven’t read her books yet, you’ll want to get on that.
The only thing I don’t like about C.C. Warrens’ Holly series and it’s spin-off is the fact that I literally get nothing done around my house when I’m reading one. They are beyond un-put-down-able. Check them out!
James Hannibal’s characters are unforgettable and wonderful on so many levels. You’ll want to start with the Gryphon Heist then move on the Chasing the White Lion. In the words of Adrian Monk, “You’ll thank me later.”
Okay, so if you’ve known me for any length of time, you saw this coming a thousand miles away. The Patrick Bowers series by Steven James . . . well . . . I’m scrambling for the right words to describe it, but the English language is a little lacking. Suffice it to say, the final book in the series, Checkmate, has the most satisfying ending of any work of fiction I’ve ever read. It was so perfect I laid awake in bed until 4 a.m. the night I finished it, thinking about how epic and perfect the whole series ended. If it sounds like I’m over-hyping the series, I guess you’ll have to check it out for yourself.