American Demon

Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America's Jack the Ripper

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New York Times bestselling author and Edgar Award-winner Daniel Stashower returns with American Demon, a historical true crime starring legendary lawman Eliot Ness.

Boston had its Strangler. California had the Zodiac Killer. And in the depths of the Great Depression, Cleveland had the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

On September 5th, 1934, a young beachcomber made a gruesome discovery on the shores of Cleveland’s Lake Erie: the lower half of a female torso, neatly severed at the waist. The victim, dubbed “The Lady of the Lake,” was only the first of a butcher’s dozen. Over the next four years, twelve more bodies would be scattered across the city. The bodies were dismembered with surgical precision and drained of blood. Some were beheaded while still alive.

Terror gripped the city. Amid the growing uproar, Cleveland’s besieged mayor turned to his newly-appointed director of public safety: Eliot Ness. Ness had come to Cleveland fresh from his headline-grabbing exploits in Chicago, where he and his band of “Untouchables” led the frontline assault on Al Capone’s bootlegging empire. Now he would confront a case that would redefine his storied career.

Award-winning author Daniel Stashower shines a fresh light on one of the most notorious puzzles in the annals of crime, and uncovers the gripping story of Ness’s hunt for a sadistic killer who was as brilliant as he was cool and composed, a mastermind who was able to hide in plain sight. American Demon reconstructs this ultimate battle of wits between a hero and a madman.


1. The Lady in the Lake
2. Chicago Has Fallen
3. Jackass Hill
4. Snorky’s Last Ride
PART II: The Mad Butcher Strikes Again
5. Capone Nemesis Gets Big Job
6. Woman Slain, Head Sought in Coal Bins
7. “Let’s Go”
8. The Tattooed Man
9. Lake Torso
10. Voodoo Doctors and Chicken Freaks
11. Steel and Bone
12. Do You Know This Room?
PART III: Who Is This Mad Torso Killer?
13. Gaylord Sundheim
14. Misguided Zeal
15. The Hot Seat
16. There Goes Eliot Ness
17. The American Sweeney
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This book would not have been possible without the assistance of the following institutions and their knowledgeable research assistants: The Library Research Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society, with special thanks to Ann K. Sindelar and Vicki Catozza; the Harold H. Burton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, with special thanks to Thomas Mann and his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; the Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections, Cleveland State University, with special thanks to William Barrow and Elizabeth Piwkowski; the Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum, with special thanks to Mazie Adams; the Cleveland Public Library, with special thanks to Brian Meggitt; the historical archives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Harold Washington Library Center of the Chicago Public Library; the National Archives and Records Administration of College Park, Maryland; and the National Law Enforcement Museum of Washington, DC.

In addition, I am grateful to the following individuals for lending their talents and unflagging support: James Badal, Rebecca McFarland, Marilyn Bardsley, Arnold Sagalyn, Charles Spicer, Andrew Martin, Sarah Grill, Hector DeJean, Susanna Einstein, Patterson Smith, Harlan Coben, Jeff Abbott, Sonny Wareham, Linda Rutledge, the Allen Appels (père et fils), Larry Kahaner, John McKeon, and Marc Smolonsky.

Special thanks always to Alison Corbett, till a’ the seas gang dry.

And a lasting debt of gratitude to Jon Lellenberg (1946–2021), my dear friend and frequent collaborator.

On Sale
Sep 6, 2022
Page Count
352 pages