I first met Amanda Howard back in 1990 when I was a young school girl working my first job at K-Mart. I was a lowly checkout chick, whereas Amanda was locked behind a vaulted door looking after the money. Our interactions included me getting my register money off her, and returning it at the end of the night. Everybody wanted her job.
Little did I know that twenty *cought* six years later, I would get back in touch with Amanda.
It all started because my business, APPI Ghost Hunts & Tours, runs regular ‘Death Culture’ talks. We get people who work in the death industry to come in and speak about their work, what they do, and answer all of those taboo topics that many people are secretly interested in. These events have been very successful, and following one we did on an embalmer, the crew were all milling around McDonalds enjoying a cheeseburger, when it came to me. We should see if there are any True Crime authors in Sydney who would like to promote their work!
I went home and did a google search, and low and behold, up came Amanda!
I contacted her immediately, and within 24 hours she had responded and said she was very interested. Her talk was so amazing that I just knew I needed to work with Amanda again, so you will be seeing her at various APPI events in the future.
To help promote the release of her new book “Rope: History of the Hanged” I decided to interview Amanda. To see how her thought processes work and what she goes through to make her books as amazing as they are!
What do you think is the sickest crime you’ve read/heard about?
Sometimes the worst come from out of the blue. Most people know the story of Jeffrey Dahmer and the horrific things he did to his victims, but there are some like, David Parker Ray, a man that has never been convicted a murder who really gave me nightmares. He was found guilty of kidnapping two women and suspected of up to 60 murders, but died before he could be investigated. He recorded a kind of manifesto that he played to his victims. It goes for more than an hour and it is one of the most horrifying things I have ever heard. Until that point I wasn’t sure the difference between bad and evil. From that moment on, I had an understanding of how truly evil one person can be. Another case is the Marc Dutroux case in Belgium. On the surface it appears to be a cut and dry case of a man, and his accomplices with a desire to abduct and rape little girls, but digging beneath that brutal surface is what I can only describe as unimaginable horror. It is a case that reaches into possibly the highest levels of Belgium society and government. I have read things and seen things that will haunt my dreams forever.
Do you think writing about these crimes gives the victims closure of some kind?
That is a tough question to answer. Often the families of both the victims and the families contribute to the books, I always like to ensure I give the victims a voice. It allows them to live on beyond their brutal death. I believe that sometimes we learn from those who have gone before us. There are some incredibly strong people out there, like Jeffrey Dahmer’s father, and Anita Cobby’s father, both wrote a book on their experiences and they are very important to the healing process for both sides of the same coin. For the rest of us looking in, it can make us grateful for our own lives, that we are lucky to not have to know, intimately, such horror.
I know you have a book about the families of killers, and I’ve always wondered how they deal with these types of situations, have you ever felt sorry for a serial killer’s family?
I think it is important to feel sorry for the families of killers as well as their victims’s families. Denis Rader’s wife had no idea that she was married to a violent serial killer, how could we feel anything but sorrow for her. One day she was a loving wife and mother, the next she was known as the wife of one of the most famous serial killers of all time. How does someone process that? Jeffrey Dahmer’s father, Lionel is the same. He questions how he could have raised someone to be such a horrific monster. Yes, there are times when a killer has been a product of a violent and horrific upbringing, but this is not always the case. Some people are just bad, regardless and the butterfly effect of their crimes touches so many people.
Your book “Rope – History of the Hanged” was released recently. What kind of research did you need to do for that book?
When I started the earliest details of Rope: A History of the Hanged, I really didn’t think it would be such an interesting and incredible journey. It started as just an investigation of the history of judicial hangings, but ended up in a very different place. I discuss some very famous hanging suicides, the hopeless hangmen who were terrible at their job. I have an entire chapter on animals that were declared criminals and hanged. That chapter was both horrifying and outrageous. To think that we once believed that a pig could purposefully kill a human with criminal intent, just defies belief. I spent a lot of weeks reading through a pile of historical documents, there are some incredible stories about those who were hanged. Detailed records have survived through history to allow us a glimpse into some of our most brutal periods of history and I think it is important to ensure that this sort of information is kept for prosperity.
What was the weirdest/saddest/worst execution you found in your research?
As I mentioned above, it was so surprising to find out about the number of executions of animals, but the saddest is Mary the elephant who was executed in 1916 in Tennessee. She had killed two of her trainers and was deemed a violent criminal and sentenced to be hanged. They tried to hang her twice, the first time only resulted in her breaking several bones. It is an extremely tragic story.
Peet Banks is a paranormal investigator, ghost tour guide, events manager and documentary producer – she is also Cancerian, has blue eyes and likes walks on the beach…