The Phantom Killer by James Presley

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Another win for the press with cool serial killer names.

Quick synopsis: A true crime story from 1946. The Phantom Killer murdered 5 people and assaulted 3 more in Texarkana, Texas.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The Texas Rangers were so frazzled by this guy that they arrested almost 400 suspects. Not questioned, people. Arrested. I believe this is the police definition of “flailing.”

Fun Fact for History Nerds: We actually probably know who the Phantom Killer was. The guy even spent years in jail. The evidence is damning but an official case was never hung on the suspect.

My Take: This is why I love good historical true crime. If you aren’t from Texarkana, Texas then you’ve probably never heard of the Phantom Killer. The city was so scared of this guy that gun stores ran out of weapons to sell. In Texas. We all realize how amazing a statement that is, right?

The killer focused on couples not unlike the Son of Sam would later on. He was amazingly adept at not leaving much of a trace at crimes scenes and his reign of terror only lasted about 3 months. Presley does a great job here making the dread build as the crimes continue. He also makes you feel the terror as people huddled in their houses hoping not to become the next victims.

I’d be remiss not to point out that Presley also presents a crime scene in an incredibly detailed manner. This all happened in 1946 but Presley pieces together the facts to create a great visual of each crime scene through his prose.

Verdict: This is really good historical true crime. Read it!

If You Liked This Try:

  • Simon Baatz, The Girl in the Velvet Swing
  • Skip Hollandsworth, The Midnight Assassin
  • Gregg Olsen, Starvation Heights
  • Douglas Starr, The Killer of Little Shepherds
  • Hallie Rubenhold, The Five
  • J. Robinson, Mystery on the Isle of Shoals
  • Miriam Davis, The Axeman of New Orleans
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The Phantom Killer by James Presley
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