All That Is Wicked is the perfect example of my ideal recipe for a true crime book. One-third I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, one-third Helter Skelter, and one-third Devil in the White City—I couldn’t put it down. I had never heard of the psychopathic and murderous Edward Rulloff, nor the proto-Mindhunters who attempted to understand him. This scintillating, spiraling, maddening journey had me transfixed from the very first page.
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and growing), in All That Is Wicked Kate Winkler Dawson draws on hundreds of source materials and never-before-shared historical documents to present one of the first glimpses into the mind of a serial killer—a century before the term was coined—through the scientists whose work would come to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.
About the Author
Kate Winkler Dawson is a seasoned documentary producer and crime historian whose work has appeared in The New York Times, WCBS News and ABC News Radio, PBS NewsHour, and Nightline. She is the creator of two hit podcasts: Tenfold More Wicked and Wicked Words. She is the author of American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI, Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City and is a professor of journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.
"Dawson seamlessly weaves in examples from the lives of more famous killers, like Ted Bundy, to draw parallels about what makes a serial killer tick. Meticulously researched and incredibly fascinating, true-crime fans will enjoy this look into a lesser-known killer and the men who studied him." —Booklist
“History lovers and true-crime addicts are sure to be mesmerized by All That Is Wicked.” —Shelf Awareness
“Kate Winkler Dawson has resurrected a forgotten saga of Gilded Age intrigue that would seem improbable if it were merely fiction: a murderer with a legendary brain, a disparate group of experts clamoring to analyze him, and a fascinating look into the origins of psychological profiling and its enduring influence on the criminal justice system. All That Is Wicked is ceaselessly engaging, gorgeously researched, and—true crime fan or not—impossible to put down. Warning: read it with all the lights on.” —Karen Abbott, author of The Ghosts of Eden Park
“Kate Winkler Dawson deftly excavates an obscure case of 19th century serial murder, raising the intriguing question of what we should do with criminals who are also assets to society. Using the Jekyll/Hyde duality as a frame, she guides us into the murky mind of a cruel and crafty predator generally seen only in fiction. All That is Wicked is a true crime tour de force.” —Katherine Ramsland, author of Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer
“Kate Winkler Dawson expertly tells the story of a 19th century psychopath sentenced to be hung in the gallows and the scramble by scientists and scholars who lobbied to save his life. The case is chilling and every true crime fan will be riveted by Kate’s master story telling of this unforgettable tale.” —Paul Holes, author of Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases
“Kate Winkler Dawson may already be your favorite podcaster. Her latest book, All That Is Wicked, is historical true crime writing at its best. All That Is Wicked tells the forgotten story of Edward Rulloff, one of the Gilded Age’s most notorious killers and gifted polymaths, a man whose apparent genius challenged prevailing theories of criminality. How could such a brilliant man, a man who appeared cultured and sane, be a murderer? That question confounded the journalists, academics, and scientists who paraded through his prison cell determined to unravel the mysteries of his remarkable mind. Winkler Dawson shows us how their attempts to penetrate the secrets of one nineteenth-century killer paved the way for the “mindhunters” of the modern era. In her engrossing retelling, Winkler Dawson forces the reader to consider the ultimate question, then and now: What makes a murderer?” —Cara Robertson, author of The Trial of Lizzie Borden
"All That Is Wicked is a deeply researched and riveting historical narrative about a cold-blooded murderer awaiting execution and the Gilded Age 'experts' who lobbied for his release. A chilling, real-life story of a cold-blooded psychopath who weaves his way into one family's world." —Esther Crain, author of The Gilded Age in New York
"Kate Winkler Dawson has produced yet another tour de force that will delight any reader enthralled by crimes of old. With literary flair and page-turning suspense, she paints a portrait of Gilded Age serial killer Edward Ruloff so vivid it will make your skin crawl. But All That is Wicked is also a fascinating dissection of the mind, helping us understand how psychopaths can manipulate everyone from victims and journalists to scholars and shrinks." —Joe Pompeo, Vanity Fair correspondent and author of Blood & Ink
“Kate Winkler Dawson uses her journalistic skills to great effect in All That Is Wicked, focusing her investigative talents on a true crime case from 19th-century America, and using it as an opportunity to explore the history of psychopathy. In doing so, she demonstrates that our fascination with what makes people kill is not a recent phenomenon. She compares the murderer Edward Rulloff to more modern offenders, searching for answers about his psyche just as 19th century experts did. In Winkler Dawson's case, however, she comes far closer to understanding Rulloff—a testament to her thoughtful and analytical approach to true crime.” —Nell Darby, criminologist and author of Sister Sleuths