The Wilderness of Ruin by Roseanne Montillo tells the horrifying true story of America’s youngest serial killer. Back in the late 1800’s, Jesse Pomeroy terrorized the working-class neighborhoods of Boston. At the young age of 12, Jesse begins to target young children into trusting him and then he tortures and abuse them in the most wicked ways. In a few cases, the torture led to the death of these children. This is not a tale for the faint of heart.. It is a bit gruesome and technical in regards to the details of the case.
What makes this such a fascinating read is the history and the psychology that surrounds the case. This takes place during the Great Fire of Boston 1872 (which followed the Great Fire in Chicago) and how they city was left in ruins. It was in these ruins that Jesse became a heartless predator among the young. The history of the city and the fire was an interesting read for me. I have read a bit on the Great Fire in Chicago 1871, but I have not read anything on the fire that destroyed a good portion of Boston during the same time. The fire came to be known as Damrell’s Fire (after the fire chief). He was an intriguing fellow who had feared for the city of Boston after the events in Chicago. He researched what their city could do differently to prevent such a tragedy. He was ignored. And when the fire occurred in Boston and could not be stopped, Damrell was to blame.
Yet even more fascinating in this story is the psychology of the case. The term psychopathic tendencies had not yet been introduced until the 1880’s….almost ten years after Jesse Pomeroy had committed his crimes. Alienists (psychologists) and writers were quite intrigued by Jesse and his ability to disconnect himself from the atrocities that he committed. Roseanne Montillo researched the insane asylum and prison’s treatments of the inmates at this time. The practice of solitary confinement was incredible to me, and Jesse Pomeroy spent 58 years in prison and almost all of those years were in solitary confinement. Montillo delves into this topic in great detail.
The harrowing tale of murder was well researched and written. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history and psychology.