Acclaimed crime historian, podcaster, and author of American Sherlock, Kate Winkler Dawson tells the thrilling story of Edward Rulloff—a serial murderer who was called “too intelligent to be killed”—and the array of 19th century investigators who were convinced his brain held the key to finally understanding the criminal mind.
Edward Rulloff was a brilliant yet utterly amoral murderer—some have called him a “Victorian-era Hannibal Lecter”—whose crimes spanned decades and whose victims were chosen out of revenge, out of envy, and sometimes out of necessity. From his humble beginnings in upstate New York to the dazzling salons and social life he established in New York City, at every turn Rulloff used his intelligence and regal bearing to evade detection and avoid punishment. He could talk his way out of any crime...until one day, Rulloff's luck ran out.
By 1871 Rulloff sat chained in his cell—a psychopath holding court while curious 19th-century "mindhunters" tried to understand what made him tick. From alienists (early psychiatrists who tried to analyze the source of his madness) to neurologists (who wanted to dissect his brain) to phrenologists (who analyzed the bumps on his head to determine his character), each one thought he held the key to understanding the essential question: is evil born or made? Eventually, Rulloff’s brain would be placed in a jar at Cornell University as the prize specimen of their anatomy collection...where it still sits today, slowly moldering in a dusty jar. But his story—and its implications for the emerging field of criminal psychology—were just beginning.
Expanded from season one of her hit podcast on the Exactly Right network (7 million downloads and growing), in All That Is Wicked,Kate Winkler Dawson draws on hundreds of source materials and never-before-shared historical documents to present one of the first glimpses into the mind of a serial killer—a century before the term was coined—through the scientists whose work would come to influence criminal justice for decades to come.