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The Injuries of Reading: Jesse Pomeroy and the Dire Effects of Dime Novels

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 December 2012


In December 1874, at the age of fifteen, Jesse Pomeroy became the youngest person in Massachusetts ever to be sentenced to death. He had, when he was twelve, tortured seven children in his South Boston neighborhood, subsequently mutilating and killing two others. All Pomeroy said in explanation was that he “couldn't help it.” This essay argues that an important cause of Pomeroy's affectless violence was one held by many of his contemporaries but dismissed by later cultural historians: his voracious reading of dime novel westerns. Central to cheap western literature was the formulaic scene of torture practiced by Indians and white renegades. Pomeroy's crimes, as I will describe, strikingly repeated these accounts, and they further disclose his dangerous identification with the unambiguously evil renegade Simon Girty. Moreover, the logic of torture in dime novel westerns – the fact that the torture is promised but never delivered – maps perfectly onto what have been called the “nonfulfilled experiences” central to the fantasies of serial killers. Just as with some horrific crimes of our own era, it seemed as if the mass media – specifically the mass production of repetitive violent images and plots – had indeed played a role in a boy's compulsive violence.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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1 See, for example, The Murders. The Boy, Jesse Pomeroy, Confesses His Guilt,” Boston Daily Globe, 24 April 1874, 1Google Scholar; The Boy Murderer,” Boston Daily Globe, 24 April 1874, 4Google Scholar; The Boy Murderer. Pomeroy Confesses the Murder of Katie Curran,” Boston Daily Globe, 21 July 1874, 1Google Scholar; Jesse Pomeroy,” Boston Daily Globe, 22 July 1874, 1Google Scholar; Pomeroy's Crimes,” Boston Daily Globe, 23 July 1874, 1Google Scholar; Jesse Pomeroy. Second Day of His Trial for the Murder of Horace Millen,” Boston Daily Globe, 10 Dec. 1874, 8Google Scholar; and The Boy Murderer. He Is Found Guilty,” Boston Daily Globe, 11 Dec. 1874, 8Google Scholar.

2 James T. Fields, interview with Jesse Pomeroy, 6 April 1875, Annie Fields Papers, 1847–1912, 3 microfilm reels, Massachusetts Historical Society, Reel 3. See also Fields, Biographical Notes and Personal Sketches, ed. Annie Fields (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1881).

3 The details of Pomeroy's crimes, trial, and imprisonment are taken from local newspaper coverage, primarily the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Boston Post. The official trial transcript has been lost, but nineteenth-century trial transcripts were typically provided by (or compiled from) local newspaper coverage. I have also drawn from some original documents, mostly accounts of Pomeroy's arrest and inquest, kept at the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston.

4 Jon Savage's recent study of the emergence of youth culture, for instance, describes how, in attempting to explain the boy's vicious crimes, Pomeroy's contemporaries found one possible solution in his “avid consumption of dime novels,” particularly their “descriptions of torture and murder.” Savage, Jon, Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture (New York: Viking, 2007), 910Google Scholar. Savage goes on to add, though, that while late nineteenth-century social reformers were busy worrying about dime novels, they “barely considered” the harsh and impoverished conditions in cities, which he clearly deems the real cause of juvenile crime (10–11). See also Hawes, Joseph M., Children in Urban Society: Juvenile Delinquency in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 112–13, 118Google Scholar; Pearson, Edmund, Dime Novels; or, Following an Old Trail in Popular Literature (Boston: Little, Brown, 1929), 93Google Scholar; Denning, Michael, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America (New York: Verso, 1987), 4950Google Scholar; Glazener, Nancy, Reading for Realism: The History of a U.S. Literary Institution, 1850–1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 171–2Google Scholar; Barbara Sicherman, “Ideologies and Practices of Reading,” in Scott E. Caspar, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship, eds., A History of the Book in America, Volume III, The Industrial Book, 1840–1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 279–302, 291. Substantial scholarly discussions of Pomeroy (beyond the dime novel debate) have been few. See Schechter, Harold, Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer (New York: Pocket Books, 2000), 232–40Google Scholar (a “true-crime” account), and qtd. in Rogers, Alan, “Murders and Madness: Law and Medicine in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 106 (1994), 5381Google Scholar, available at, 70–76, accessed 2 Aug. 2011.

5 Shrock, Joel, The Gilded Age (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004), 173, 174Google Scholar. In her book on serial murder, Ramsland, like Shrock, dismisses in one sentence the idea that dime novels had an effect on Pomeroy: “During his sensational trial, moralists blamed his violence on lurid dime novels.” Ramsland, Katharine, The Human Predator: A Historical Chronicle of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation (New York: Berkley, 2005), 69Google Scholar. Similarly, in her book on children who kill Carol Anne Davis dismisses late-nineteenth-century beliefs about the influence of dime novels on Pomeroy: “In reality,” she writes, “most of these novels had print runs of over sixty-thousand so if truly corrupting one would have expected them to produce sixty-thousand boy torturers – but there was only one.” Davis, Carol Anne, Children Who Kill: Profiles of Pre-teen and Teenage Killers (London: Allison and Busby, 1988), 29Google Scholar. Davis's view of how fiction affects its readers is obviously completely reductive (presuming every reader would be affected the same way), and there were actually more child torturers than just Pomeroy. I have found at least twenty-three cases of child brutality, for instance, that were directly linked by the press to Pomeroy – dubbed his “imitators.”

6 Denning, 51.

7 Shrock, 174. Sicherman, 291, agrees with Shrock: right after she too adduces the Pomeroy case, she writes, “The hyperbolic language of this discourse betrays deep-seated anxiety that middle-class youth would be contaminated by reading about behavior their elders associated with a degraded working class.”

8 This critical commonplace owes much to Denning's Mechanic Accents, which both Shrock (172) and Sicherman (296–7) cite. Denning clearly orients his highly influential discussion of dime novels to what he calls the “more properly ideological debate” (52). Sicherman, it should be noted, is generally suspicious of such broad generalizations about the classed (or gendered) nature of reading practices and ends her essay by writing, “How men and women, individually or collectively, made sense of what they read is a subject that remains largely unexplored. That is the very considerable task of the next generation of historians of reading” (at 302). This essay in part responds to Sicherman's call.

9 Keen, , in Empathy and the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, ix, “scrutinizes the notion, shared by many librarians, teachers, and millions of participants in book groups, that reading certain novels is good for people.” For her summary of claims for fiction's efficacious effects (especially in producing empathy), see xv–xx and 37–64.

10 In his contribution to Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate, Graham Murdock cites Pomeroy's confession that he read many “blood and thunder tales” and that they most likely injured him – and he claims that Pomeroy's crimes precipitated the first major wave of hysteria about the dire influence of the media on youth. Graham Murdock, “Reservoirs of Dogma: An Archaeology of Popular Anxieties,” in Martin Barker and Julian Petley, eds., Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate (New York: Routledge, 1997), 150–69, 159. Broadcasting scholar Roger Sadler even suggestively posits the Pomeroy case as America's “first media copycat claim,” the first case in which the media seemed to have directly incited dangerous behavior and created an “undue risk of harm.” Sadler, Roger, Electronic Media Law (New York: Sage, 2005), 220–21Google Scholar.

11 See Ferdinand, Theodore N., “The Criminal Patterns of Boston since 1849,” American Journal of Sociology, 73 (1967), 8499CrossRefGoogle Scholar, available at; Lane, Roger, Policing the City: Boston 1822–1885 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 157–79; and Lane, Roger, “Crime and Criminal Statistics in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts,” Journal of Social History, 2 (1968), 156–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar, available at

12 See Erik Larson's engrossing book on Holmes, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (New York: Vintage, 2003)Google Scholar.

13 See Ferdinand; Lane, “Crime and Criminal Statistics.”

14 See Jenkins, Philip, “Serial Murder in the United States 1900–1940: A Historical Perspective,” Journal of Criminal Justice, 17 (1989), 377–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Roth, Randolph, American Homicide (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009)Google Scholar, esp. 322–24, on historical causes of the emergence and causes of serial murder.

15 Spierenburg, Pieter, A History of Murder: Personal Violence in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (Malden, MA: Polity, 2008), 5Google Scholar.

16 I mentioned in footnote 5 above that I have found twenty-three cases of supposed “Jesse Pomeroy” imitators in the years after the boy's highly publicized crimes and trial. I do not argue, however, as the newspapers themselves all implied, that all twenty-three cases (or even perhaps any) were in fact directly influenced by Pomeroy. I believe that children's occasional brutality to each other has most likely been a historical constant and that, as I argue about the emergence of serial killers, such acts have just become increasingly visible as society becomes more “civilized.” In terms of serial killers, for instance, Leyton's, ElliottHunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2001)Google Scholar, provides a fascinating study of the persistence of serial killing from at least the fifteenth century (although he argues that who killed, and what their acts meant, depend on the historical moment). Similarly, children have hurt and killed each other for as long as there are historical records. In his account of the killing of Bulger, James, Smith, David James, Fatal Innocence: The Crime That Shocked the World (New York: St. Martin's, 1994)Google Scholar, 4, objects to the media's cries that the crime was unprecedented, tracking the first murder of a child by another child back to 1748. And in When Children Kill Children: Penal Populism and Political Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)Google Scholar, David Green compares the Bulger case to the killing of Silje Redegård by two small children in Norway, arguing that one of the things that contributed to the sensationalizing of the latter was the media's attempt to make the killing both utterly unprecedented and part of an emergent epidemic of juvenile crime. Neither was true, and Green suggests that such crimes, while rare, have happened persistently.

17 Lane, “Crime and Criminal Statistics,” 159–60, 163.

18 Roth, 11, mentions high rates of violence on the frontier. See Roger D. McGrath, “Appendix: Scholarly Assessments of Frontier Violence,” in McGrath, Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 261–71, for an illuminating discussion of the scholarly debate over how violent the frontier actually was.

19 Saxton, Alexander, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Verso, 1990)Google Scholar, creates a useful chart of themes in Beadle and Adams books and serials from 1859 to 1900 and it is clear from his chart (at 329) that by far the most prevalent “themes” between 1865 and 1875 – the decade when Pomeroy was reading – were “Indian-related” frontier and western themes. So Pomeroy would inevitably have come across far more dime novels about Indian conflict on the frontier than on any other topic.

20 “The Boy Fiend,” Boston Herald, 10 Dec. 1874, 1. The Boston Post confirmed the Herald's account of Choate's testimony: “[Pomeroy] complained of having a pain before the murder, and stated that he was no doubt influenced by reading Indian stories, and of the torture practiced by savages on their captives. He had read many cheap novels” (“Jesse H. Pomeroy,” Boston Post, 10 Dec. 1874, 4). Choate also testified at trial that Pomeroy had told him that “he once stole some money with which he intended to run away and live with the Indians” (“The Boy Fiend,” 10 Dec.) – a familiar impulse that seemingly afflicted many boys at the time and was often reported in the newspapers, and attributed to the influence of dime novels.

21 Fisher, Theodore W., “Limited Responsibility: Proceedings of the Suffolk District Medical Society,” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 93 (July–Dec. 1875), 531–38Google Scholar, 535.

22 Jesse's work delivering newspapers for his brother is noted several times in the Globe's coverage of the case (including a comment that Pomeroy went to the New England New Company to pick up papers). See “The Murders. The Boy, Jesse Pomeroy, Confesses His Guilt”; “The Child Murder,” Boston Daily Globe, 25 April 1874; and “Jesse Pomeroy,” Boston Daily Globe, 22 July 1874, 1. As Johannsen, Albert, The House of Beadle and Adams and Its Dime and Nickel Novels, 3 vols., Volume I (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950)Google Scholar, 80, notes, Beadle's Dime Novels identified the name and address of a “distributing agent or book-seller” underneath the address of the publisher on the title page. Two of the novels I looked at specify the New England News Co. of Boston: Howard, Charles, The Wolf-Queen; or, The Giant Hermit of the Scioto (New York: Frank Starr, 1872)Google Scholar; and Badger, Joseph, The Mad Ranger; or, The Hunters of the Wabash (New York: Beadle, 1871)Google Scholar. Smith, Henry Nash, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950)Google Scholar, 90, notes that while Beadle's books were handled at first through jobbers, after 1864 the American News Company took over – a company “closely affiliated with the firm of Beadle & Adams.”

23 Beall, Asa, The Backwoodsmen; or, on the Trail (New York: Beadle, 1871), 14, 27Google Scholar.

24 Nichols, Roger L., “The Indian in the Dime Novel,” Journal of American Culture, 5, 2 (2004), 4955CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 50. Christine Bold, “Malaeska's Revenge; or, The Dime Novel Tradition in Popular Fiction,” in Richard Aquila, ed., Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 21–42, 22–23, has also emphasized the repetitive and formulaic nature of dime novels, writing about the “emphasis on standardization” and the “imitative tendencies of individual authors.” She notes that the Beadle writers “realized that the fiction was part of a commercial policy of repetition and conformed to the same general pattern in plot, characterization, and scene” – though she also argues, more generally, that individual writers managed to insinuate some individuality, especially in their address to the reader. Bold, Christine, Selling the Wild West: Popular Western Fiction, 1860–1960 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 35Google Scholar.

25 Beall, The Backwoodsmen, 81.

26 Rodman, Emerson, The Wood Rangers: A Tale of the Ohio (New York: Beadle, 1880; first published 1869), 82Google Scholar.

27 Badger, Joseph, The Border Renegade: or, The Lily of the Silver Lake (New York: Beadle, 1872), 4849Google Scholar.

28 Badger, Joseph, The Mink Coat; or, The Death Shot of the Miamis (New York: Beadle, 1871), 98Google Scholar.

29 Howard, The Wolf-Queen, 73.

30 Badger, The Mink Coat, 97–98.

31 Badger, Joseph, The Black Princess (New York: Beadle, 1871)Google Scholar, 92.

32 The most reliable details of Pomeroy's torture of six of his seven victims from December 1871 through September 1872 come from newspaper accounts of the boys' testimony at Pomeroy's trial for the murder of Horace Millen (one boy did not testify). See esp. “The Boy Fiend,” Boston Herald, 9 Dec. 1874, 4; “Jesse Pomeroy. Second Day”; “Jesse H. Pomeroy”; and “The Last Dorchester Tragedy,” Boston Herald, 24 April 1874, 2.

33 “The Last Dorchester Tragedy.”

34 “The Boy Fiend,” 9 Dec.

35 “Jesse Pomeroy. Second Day.”

36 “The Last Dorchester Tragedy.”

37 “The Child Murder,” Boston Herald, 27 April 1874, 4.

38 “The Boy Murderer. He Is Found Guilty.”

39 Badger, Joseph, The Indian Spy; or, The Unknown Foe (New York: Beadle, 1870)Google Scholar, 77, 81.

40 Badger, The Black Princess, 95.

41 Aiken, Albert W., The Wolf Demon; or, The Queen of the Kanawha (New York: Beadle, 1878; first published 1870–71), 40Google Scholar.

42 Howard, The Wolf-Queen, 43, 49, 53.

43 “The Pomeroy Case. A Strong Letter from One of the Mothers,” Boston Daily Globe, 2 Nov. 1875, 3.

44 “The Boy Fiend,” 9 Dec.

45 “The Last Dorchester Tragedy.”

46 John, Percy St., Queen of the Woods; or, The Shawnee Captives (New York: Beadle, 1868), 58Google Scholar.

47 “The Boy Fiend,” 9 Dec.

48 “Katie Curran,” Boston Post, 25 July 1874, 3. See also the testimony of Mrs. Willie Margeson and John Murphy (“Katie Curran,” Boston Post, 28 July 1874, 3) and “Coroners’ Inquests,” Boston Daily Globe, 28 July 1874, 5.

49 “Young Pomeroy,” Boston Daily Globe, 25 July 1874, 1.

50 “Pomeroy's Evil Eye,” Boston Daily Globe, 17 Aug. 1891, 1. Barr, Daniel P., “‘A Monster So Brutal’: Simon Girty and the Degenerative Myth of the American Frontier, 1783–1900,” Essays in History, 40 (1998), available at Scholar.

51 Barr, 1–2, writes that “one of the most pervasive myths of the nineteenth century” was “the degenerative saga of Simon Girty, the infamous frontier renegade and so-called ‘white savage’.” According to Barr, the myth of Girty's absolute depravity “reached its zenith in the 1880s” (4), so Pomeroy's apparent preference for this man was a preference for a man who, by all accounts, was, at the time, universally hated and feared.

52 “Jesse Pomeroy Dies,” New York Times, 1 Oct. 1932, 34.

53 Howard, The Wolf-Queen, 15.

54 Barr.

55 According to the OED Online, the term “psychopath” was first used in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885 (three years before Jack the Ripper). See In its obituary of Pomeroy in 1932, the New York Times intoned flatly: “He was a psychopath” (“Jesse Pomeroy Dies”). The thesis of Schechter's Fiend is that Pomeroy is a psychopathic lust murderer (234, 237), and most subsequent scholars rely on Schechter's portrait. Brumberg, Joan Jacobs, Kansas Charley, the Boy Murderer (New York: Penguin, 2003)Google Scholar, 196, calls Pomeroy a “sexual psychopath”; Ramsland, The Human Predator, 69, considers Pomeroy a serial killer – “likely the first American pattern killer for whom thrill was a known motivator”; Moffatt, Gregory K., Stone Cold Souls: History's Most Vicious Killers (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008)Google Scholar, 91, deems him “sociopathic.”

56 Rodman, The Wood Rangers, 19.

57 St. John, Queen of the Woods, 74.

58 Quoted in Barr.

59 Aiken, The Wolf Demon, 32.

60 Dawson, George E., “Psychic Rudiments and Morality,” American Journal of Psychology, 11 (1900), 181224CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 204.

61 Quoted in Rogers, “Murders and Madness,” 74.

62 Guggenbühl-Craig, Adolf, The Emptied Soul: On the Nature of the Psychopath (Putnam, CT: Spring, 1980)Google Scholar, 77.

63 “The Boy Murderer.”

64 “The Child Murder,” Boston Daily Globe.

65 “A Curious Case,” Boston Daily Globe, 22 July 1874, 4.

66 St. John, Queen of the Woods, 77, 79, 80.

67 “The Last Dorchester Tragedy.”

68 “Boy Fiend,” 9 Dec.

69 St. John, Queen of the Woods, 81, 82.

70 Bishop, W. H., “Story-Paper Literature,” Atlantic Monthly, 44, 263 (Sept. 1879), 383–93Google Scholar.

71 One possible reasons for Pomeroy's apparent psychopathy – his lack of human emotion – could be a severe reaction he had to a smallpox vaccination as an infant, which left his body covered in sores: in pain for months, no one was allowed to touch him. Also worth noting is that Pomeroy's mother finally left his father in August, 1871, four months before Pomeroy tortured his first (known) victim.

72 Alford, C. Fred., What Evil Means to Us (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997)Google Scholar, 52, 43–44, 55.

73 Alford's claim about identifying with the predator in order to avoid being the victim fits with studies that illuminate centrality of control to the serial murderer. “Control,” as Picart and Greek put it, “refers to the way in which the offender keeps the world he creates with the victim true to his fantasy.” “Like a primordial god, the killer, in his total control of the victim, is an object of dread.” The killer becomes the object of dread rather than allowing himself to feel dread. Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart and Cecil Greek, “The Compulsions of Real/Reel Serial Killers and Vampires: Toward a Gothic Criminology,” in Picart and Greek, eds., Monsters In and Among Us: Toward a Gothic Criminology (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007), 227–55, 251, 252.

74 Schechter, Fiend, 232–40. I contacted Schechter by email about the location of these letters, which he was unable to provide, and then I asked if he could provide me with copies, a request to which he never responded. Moffatt discusses the theory that Pomeroy's father was “a heavy drinker and was physically abusive to both boys and his wife,” a claim he bases on Mark Gribben's influential web article on, “Jesse Harding Pomeroy,” retrieved from on 11 March, 2011. Gribben writes, “A trip behind the outhouse to the young Pomeroy children meant a savage beating that often ended in bloodshed. Charles Pomeroy would strip his children naked before a beating, somehow helping Jesse forge a link between sexual satisfaction, pain and punishment. Jesse would later recreate his father's abuse on his young victims.” Schechter is the only secondary source on Pomeroy that Gribben cites. Davis discusses Pomeroy in her book on child murderers and she asserts, too, that Pomeroy's father constantly beat him: “Jesse ran away from home to escape further pain but was found by his father each time and punished. There was a strong humiliating element to these sessions, with Thomas Pomeroy making Jesse strip before taking him out to the woodshed and hitting him until he bled.” She concludes that the boy turned to violence against others in his desperation “to be the victimizer rather than the victim” – adding that no one, at the time, “made the connection between Jesse being victimized by his father and then going on to victimize other boys” (Davis, Children Who Kill, 22, 30). It's unclear where Davis gets her material since she does not cite a source – but she talks about Pomeroy's first victim as “Billy Paine” (which Gribben does too), and Schechter's book is the only place where Billy Paine is mentioned (see Schechter, Fiend, 15–16). Davis is certainly right that no one at the time claimed that Thomas Pomeroy's abuse caused his son's sadistic violence; although, while it is true that late nineteenth-century Americans did not consider childhood trauma such a clear cause of crime as we do, I would suggest that in this instance it is less because they were simply blind to such an explanation than because they had no evidence of abuse.

75 “Jesse Pomeroy's Mother,” New York Times, 13 May 1878, 8.

76 Schechter, Fiend, 238–9; Ramsland, The Human Predator, 121.

77 For a chilling description of Pomeroy's appearance, see “The Child Murder,” Boston Globe.

78 Alford, 59, original emphasis.

79 Schechter discusses the dime-novel theory in Fiend, suggesting that the cheap fiction was merely a scapegoat: we are “still putting the blame on violent popular entertainment,” he writes (at 99). His book Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment (New York: St. Martin's, 2005) is a defense of violent entertainment, from the dime novel to the present – and he takes issue with most theories of causality. In a review article about Fiend, White, Diane, “Into the Heart of Darkness, Crime by Crime, Author Harold Schechter Unearths the Roots of Evil,” Boston Globe, 12 Dec. 2000Google Scholar, claims that “Schechter wanted to write a book about Pomeroy to make the point that children committing murder is not a new phenomenon. He has no patience with moralizers who condemn popular culture as an instigator of juvenile crime. His research into serial killers persuades him that extreme abuse in childhood is more likely than violent entertainment to produce psychopathic killers.” Schechter obviously found what he wanted to find.

80 Alford, 87.

81 Ibid., 115.

82 Alford, 114–15, argues that “our culture lacks sufficiently rich and complex roles … within storylines,” continuing that in “the absence of sufficiently rich and differentiated roles, individuals lack the capacity to express their dread in narratives.”

83 Hammond, William Alexander, “Morbid Impulse,” in Papers Read before the Medico-Legal Society of New York (New York: Medico-Legal Society of New York, 1882), 429, 443, 439–40Google Scholar, original emphasis.

84 Prichard, James Cowles, A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind (New York: Arno, 1973Google Scholar; first published Philadelphia: Haswell, Barrington, and Haswell, 1837), 278.

85 Ray, Isaac, Mental Hygiene (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1863), 170Google Scholar. Both Hammond and Prichard (at 279) cite the earlier work of Esquirol.

86 Both in the late nineteenth century and today, scholars note that the propensity to imitate is much more powerful in children. Significantly, of William Hammond's many examples of individuals suffering from an imitative impulse, most are women or, like Pomeroy, children: a six-year-old child who strangled his brother because he was copying a Punchinello show, as well as six cases of women who were compelled to imitate the infamous Henriette Cornier, who herself had the inexplicable impulse to kill a child in her care. Hammond, 445. Indeed, Hammond writes, “Imitation is of more force when the intellect is less fully developed. Even in the normal condition we find it more strongly exercised in children and women than in adult men.” For children, “actual disease,” such as chorea or stammering, can be acquired through imitation. Hammond, 444. And Susan Hurley, “Applying the Science of Imitation to the Imitation of Violence,” in Susan Hurley and Nick Chater, eds., Perspectives on Imitation: From Neuroscience to Social Science, Volume II, Imitation, Human Development, and Culture (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2005), 380–85, 382, writes that the “underlying default tendency to imitate is poorly inhibited in children.” Similarly, L. Rowell Huesmann, “Imitation and the Effects of Observing Media Violence on Behavior,” in ibid. 257–66, 266, comments that the general public “does not understand the neuro-physiological basis of imitation or the powerful role imitation plays in forming the adult self out of a child's experiences.”

87 Huesmann, 262.

88 Hurley, 383, 381.

89 Bracher, Mark, “How to Teach for Social Justice: Lessons from Uncle Tom's Cabin and Cognitive Science,” College English, 71 (2009), 363–88Google Scholar; Bracher, , “Teaching for Social Justice: Reeducating the Emotions through Literary Study,” Journal of Advanced Composition, 26, 3–4 (2006), 463512Google Scholar. Leyton, Hunting Humans, 359.

90 Badger, The Indian Spy, 75, 77, 79.

91 Badger, The Border Renegade, 83–4.

92 St. John, Queen of the Woods, 81–2.

93 Dearborn, Andrew, The White Serpent, The Shawnee Scourge; or, Indian Heart, the Renegade (New York: Beadle, 1870)Google Scholar, 62, 63.

94 In what is perhaps the prototypical frontier romance, Buffalo Bill, serialized in 1869 to 1870, the writer describes a scene of foreclosed torture: “Hasty was the meal that was taken, for there was something more gratifying to savage minds in preparation; something to come off which aroused their wild passions to a frenzy of anticipation. The Indians gloated in imagination over the pleasure of dancing around the stake of torture and seeing victims writhe in the death-agony unmercifully prolonged. The white men, full of hate and malice, were worse a thousand times than the red fiends, for they had known good through civilization, and were evil from their own wicked inclinations and not through ignorance.” Ned Buntline, Buffalo Bill, The King of the Border Men, serialized 23 Dec. 1869–3 March 1870, ed. William Roba (Davenport, IA: Service, 1987), 74. However, the prisoner is rescued in the nick of time (at 76). This scene discloses how central this logic of anticipation/foreclosure is to the dime novel, and how anticipation intensifies the pleasure in the prospect of torture.

95 St. John, Queen of the Woods, 30.

96 Ressler, Robert K., and Shachtman, Tom, Whoever Fights Monsters (New York: St. Martin's, 1992), 33Google Scholar. I want to thank Jean Murley for pointing out this argument of Ressler's to me at a panel we were on together at the Annual American Studies Association Conference in San Antonio, Nov. 2010.

97 More recently, Warwick, Alexandra, “The Scene of the Crime: Inventing the Serial Killer,” Social & Legal Studies, 15 (2006), 552–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar, has also noted the parallel between serial fiction and serial murder: “If the serial killer is recognized, defined (even self-defined) by the action of repeating murders, then the writers and readers of true and fictional crime narratives are similarly serial” (556). And this seriality, this “circular set of citations” (557), is, in the case of serial murder and the logic of dime novels, driven by the failure of consummation, which propels an already immanent compulsion to repeat.

98 Ressler, 33.

99 “The Child Murder,” Boston Herald.

100 Fisher, “Limited Responsibility,” 535.