The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals by Aaron Mahnke

Lore: Wicked Mortals by Aaron Mahnke

Previously in his book Monstrous Creatures, author and podcast guru Aaron Mahnke discussed mythological beasts, such as the Jersey Devil, the Wendigo, and sneaky elves. In his new collection, Wicked Mortals, Mahnke relates evil of a different kind - a more human kind. Sometimes, the truth can be more terrifying in fiction.

Throughout the book, Mahnke introduces us to a number of cold-hearted individuals, including William Brodie, a popular Scottish cabinetmaker. Brodie was seen as a respectable man, fixing locks and other security mechanisms around Edinburgh. But, at night Brodie would break into houses of the elite after copying their keys into wax impressions. It was also revealed that he had an intense gambling habit and five children with two mistresses. Brodie's second devious life inspired a young man to write a book. That young man was author Robert Louis Stevenson, and the book was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1896). 

One of the most memorable stories from Wicked Mortals takes place in Central Europe on the brink of WWI. According to Mrs. Jakubec, a housekeeper for a Hungarian tinsmith named Béla Kiss, Kiss was a lonely bachelor who corresponded with a number of women. She noticed that frequently Kiss would bring the women into his home, although she had little contact with them. He was quiet, yet well-liked by many of his neighbors, who saw his practices as odd but not bothersome. The only other thing about him seemed to be the large metallic drums he collected, which he filled with oil - in order to prepare for the war, he said. In 1914, he was drafted and left his tiny, cozy cottage in the care of Mrs. Jakubec.

In July 1916, the police received a phone call from Kiss' landlord about his barrels of the reserved oil, saying they would be useful to the local troops. But, upon attempting to open one of the drums, a foul odor was detected, and strange, brown liquid that was not gasoline seeped out. After opening one, they discovered the body of a strangled young woman. The other drums revealed the same horrifying discovery, and the search of Kiss' house contained 24 bodies. Eventually, the police found letters of correspondence with 74 women - the oldest letter dating back to 1903. Each victim's body had been drained of blood, leading some to believe Kiss was a vampire. The serial killer escaped a Serbian hospital while recovering from war wounds, and, although there were sightings of Béla Kiss, he was never apprehended. The number of actual victims remains unknown.

Brimming with more disturbing accounts and legends from history, Aaron Manke's Wicked Mortals is yet again a riveting round-up of horror stories. His podcast Lore has more than 129 million listeners, and Amazon Prime brought it to life through a Web series. The second season is set to premiere in fall 2018. Manke has also introduced another podcast called Cabinet of Curiosities, which explores unusual and bizarre people, events, and objects throughout history. Check out the book list below, inspired by the Lore podcast and its Penguin Random House book series.