Stranger Than Fiction

Some true stories are so weird, so different, or even so funny that we can hardly believe they aren't made up. Here's a sampling of what we mean.

Strange But True, America: Weird Tales from All 50 States

By John Hafnor

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"...a 50-state tour de force of every oddball fact missing from standard travel and history books. Richly illustrated by veteran artist Dale Crawford, the book's 101 weird tales and matching drawings are crafted to surprise. Author John Hafnor employed a deeply curious research style to unearth the little-known tales, each building to a twist ending that assures reader interest. The book pulls few punches in redefining much of America's previously unquestioned folklore."

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The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale

By Jan Bondeson

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In the 1790s, well before Jack the Ripper, more than 50 victims fell prey to the London Monster. A man went on trial for the crimes, but was he guilty?  According to The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The facts in this case are so peculiar that no novelist would have dared to invent them." See what *you* think!

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The Corpse Had a Familiar Face: Covering Miami, America's Hottest Beat

By Edna Buchanan

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For eighteen years, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Buchanan had one of the most exciting, frightening, and heartbreaking jobs a newspaperwoman could have -- working the police beat for the Miami Herald. Having covered more crimes than most cops, Buchanan garnered a reputation as a savvy, gritty writer with a unique point of view and inimitable style. Now, back in print after many years, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is her classic collection of true stories, as witnessed and reported by Buchanan herself. From cold-blooded murder, to violence in the heat of passion, to the everyday insanity of the city streets, Edna Buchanan reveals it all in her own trademark blend of compassionate reporting, hard-nosed investigation, and wry humor that has made her a legend in the world of journalism.

 

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Portraits of Guilt: The Woman Who Profiles the Faces of America's Deadliest Criminals

By Jeanne Boylan

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Unlike many police artists, Ms. Boylan tries to "get inside" the personalities behind the suspects she tries to help catch. She describes the work she did in the cases of the Unabomber, Susan Smith, and Polly Klass, among others. The book holds some very interesting insights into her work and the people she is drawing.

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Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America

By Peter Washington

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This fascinating book traces the growth of "theosophy," which together with both similar and competing movements, became New Age. Some of the people involved in this "evolution" (a term Madame Blavatsky would have despised!) were, to put it mildly, a bit eccentric.

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America's Dumbest Criminals: From the Hit TV Show...

By Daniel Butler, Alan Ray, and Leland Gregory

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"From the hit syndicated television show come 200 stories of fumbling felons, clumsy crooks, and ridiculous robbers--all the crimes are true, but the names have been changed to protect the stupid!"

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Ablaze! The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion

By Larry E. Arnold

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This book chronicles the mystery of spontaneous human combustion (SHC). It examines the facts, the myths, and the possibilities surrounding the very puzzling and macabre events that have been documented for many years.

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

By Mary Roach

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A few of the chapter titles will tell you more about this book than we can: A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste; The Cadaver That Joined the Army; and Out of the Fire, into the Compost Bin. Need we say more????

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Catch Me If You Can: The Amazing True Story of the Youngest and Most Daring Con Man in the History of Fun and Profit

By Frank W. Abagnale, Jr.

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Frank Abagnale pretended to be an airline pilot, an attorney, a professor, and a physician, among others, and conned a lot of people out of a lot of money. Hard to believe one person could get away with so much for so long in real life! His story is so compelling that it became a major feature film.
Also available in large print.

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The Dancing Plague: The Strange, True Story of an Extraordinary Illness

By John Waller

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"In the searing July heat of 1518, Frau Troffea stepped into the streets of Strasbourg and began to dance. Bathed in sweat, she continued to dance. Overcome with exhaustion, she stopped, and then resumed her solitary jig a few hours later. Over the next two months, roughly four hundred people succumbed to the same agonizing compulsion. At its peak, the epidemic claimed the lives of fifteen men, women, and children a day. Possibly 100 people danced to their deaths in one of the most bizarre and terrifying plagues in history.

"John Waller compellingly evokes the sights, sounds, and aromas; the diseases and hardships; the fervent supernaturalism and the desperate hedonism of the late medieval world. Based on new evidence, he explains why the plague occurred and how it came to an end... ."

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