Torture Mom by Ryan Green

Torture Mom by Ryan Green

Torture Mom by Ryan Green


In July 1965, teenagers Sylvia and Jenny Likens were left in the temporary care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a middle-aged single mother and her seven children.

The Baniszewski household was overrun with children. There were few rules and ample freedom. Sadly, the environment created a dangerous hierarchy of social Darwinism where the strong preyed on the weak.

What transpired in the following three months was both riveting and chilling.

In October 1965, the body of Sylvia Likens was found in the basement of the Baniszewski home, where she had been imprisoned. She was starved, beaten, burned and had the words “I am a prostitute and proud of it” carved into her stomach.

Gertrude Baniszewski oversaw and facilitated the torture and eventual murder of Sylvia Likens. While she played an active role in Sylvia's death, the majority of the abuse was carried out by her children and other neighbourhood youths.

The case shocked the entire nation and would later be described as “The single worst crime perpetuated against an individual in Indiana's history

I thoroughly enjoy this sort of book. It's a page turner. The pace is fast and you want to find out what happens as quickly as you can. It's descriptive and not full of too much technical jargon. The characters are written to make you hate them, understandably. And, boy, do you hate them. Especially when after each gruesome incident you remember that this is a true story. That these awful things happened to actual people and it's not some fictional story. A poor girl suffered and ultimately died at the hands of someone who was meant to be caring for her.

Sometimes I wonder if it's risky, writing these horrific incidents in this way, almost allowing the reader to forget that it is a true story. It makes it easy to disassociate where really, we should focus more on the horrible, horrible crimes that went on. But maybe this allows for us to remember poor Sylvia Likens easier and keeps her in our minds longer than if we read it in long, factual and boring contexts. After each awful event you think to yourself “oh my god, that's horrible” and then you also think “oh my god, this happened to some poor girl”

If you're always looking for something to read that pushes your horror boundaries then I highly recommend this book. Its disgusting, it;s interesting, but it's also real.



Back to blog