Borf Books’ publication of this book has been taken over by St. Martin’s Press, with the publication of House of Evil, which you will find at bookstores, supermarkets, drug stores and discount stores, and on, for only $7.19 ($6.83, Kindle).

House of Evil is the same book. If you want this book now, and at a reasonable price, go to your favorite retailer in town or on line.

Because publication of this book has been taken over by St. Martin’s press, Borf Books can no longer sell it except as a collector's item; and we will need proof of your purchase of House of Evil, the St. Martin’s publication, before we can sell our publication to you. Please send us an e-mail if you want to purchase the second edition of The Indiana Torture Slaying as a collector’s item.

Borf Books
Box 413
Brownsville KY 42210


The original edition of this book, published in 1966
by Bee-Line Books, has been called
Perhaps the rarest true crime paperback
Mr. Mike’s True Crime Books

Movies, other books and plays on the case

John Waters’ favorite book!

News since republication in 1999

Hand crafted Excerpt

snapshot of Sylvia

Also from Borf Books:

Crime writers’ forum: What were the sexual implications of the Likens
murder? Which was the more heinous crime “The Indiana
Torture Slaying,” or “Helter Skelter”? Read what the author
and crime writer Denise Noe have to say on these questions.

Jenny Likens (Jennifer Faye Wade) died June 23, 2004, at the age of 54. Survivors included two children and a grandchild in addition to her husband, her father, her brother Danny, and her sister Dianna.

Leroy New died in September of 2005 at the age of 86. Johnny Baniszewski also died in 2005, at age 52. Coy Hubbard died in June of 2007 at age 56.

AGONY IN INDIANAPOLIS [publisher’s introduction to first edition, 1966]

Here, step by step – from the discovery of a pretty teen-ager’s
abused body through a long, agonizing trial – is the almost unbe-
lievable story of a woman and children whose sadism shocked the
In July of 1965, Mr. and Mrs. Lester
Likens of Indianapolis left their 16-year-
old daughter in the care of a total stranger
while they went on tour with a carnival.
In three months the girl was dead, the victim
of savage, extended brutality. The crime –
committed by a divorcee and a coterie
of sadistic children motivated by mob
psychology – shocked grizzled police
veterans as well as newspaper readers
from coast to coast and overseas.

The five-week trial of the divorcee and
four children – two of them her own – on
charges of first degree murder gave com-
placent Indiana citizens their most searing
courtroom drama in years.

Sylvia Likens
The murder of Sylvia Likens became an item of daily conversa-
tion as people read how she was beaten, burned, starved, scalded,
tattooed and branded until death mercifully stepped in. And the
name of the divorcee, Gertrude Baniszewski, alias Gertrude Wright,
came to rank alongside that of the Marquis de Sade.

In this book, written by a newspaperman who covered the trial,
the whole story is told in complete, shocking detail for the first time.

Hand crafted:

This edition of The Indiana Torture Slaying is a complete desk-
top publication – composed, printed and bound in our small offices
in Brownsville, Kentucky.

One reviewer – although he gave the book five stars – referred to
the printing as “home made,” and the cover as made of “construc-
tion paper. You can call it “home made,” or you can call it “hand
crafted”: Whichever, we have found a way to reproduce – eco-
nomically in a limited edition – a book that has been out of print yet
high in demand (but not in a mass market) for more than 30 years.

And because it is not printed in bulk – a typical press run is four
copies, and printing runs only slightly ahead of purchase orders –
slight additions and corrections can appear in later printings. And
any buyer who feels shorted by an earlier printing can get a free up-
date, as explained in the back of the book.

And the cover is not made of “construction paper”: It’s 80-lb.
red vellum, which costs us more than $40 a ream. It’s not “slick,”
but it’s a stock of higher quality than used in the binding of many
mass market paperbacks.


Two children – a boy and a girl in their early
teens – knelt over the motionless body of an-
other teen-age girl, trying to breathe life back
into her mangled, emaciated form. They were
trying to deny what was already, but for a few
last, labored breaths, a fact. A deputy prose-
cutor was later to call this death “the most ter-
rible crime ever committed in the state of Indi-

“She’s faking! She’s all right!” screeched
the haggard, panic-stricken woman standing
in the doorway.

The boy, a gangly 14-year-old whose
straight blond hair tended to slide over his
black horn-rimmed glasses, rushed the wo-
man back downstairs.

“Someone better call a doctor or somebody,“
his companion told him when he regained the
top of the stairs. Stephanie Baniszewski, 15
years old, had never looked more serious. A
glint of reproach in her eyes told Richard Hobbs
that she meant it.

He started back down, taking the last three
steps in one jump. Stephanie heard her mother,
the woman who had been forced downstairs, tell
Richard that the police were the ones to call.
The Hobbs boy, joined by the woman’s husky
12-year-old son Johnny, headed for the nearest
telephone – a pay phone at the Shell station a-
cross the corner. It was at twilight of what had
been a brisk October day, but the boys knew
they had no time to put on wraps before darting
across the busy one-way street. . . .

What Patrolman Melvin Dixon saw after he
entered the house was the long, thin body of a
teen-age girl stretched out on her back on a
mattress on the floor of the upstairs bedroom.
Although she wore sweater and slacks, her
midriff was exposed; and Dixon could plainly
see the words “I’M A PROSTITUTE AND
PROUD OF IT!” freshly carved on her belly.
Above that inscription, deeply branded into
her chest, was a large, curious “3. Her light
brown hair was shaggy, disheveled and cut
short. Her face was covered with sores, and
the left side of her face was discolored where
the skin had eroded. There were open sores
also around the markings on her abdomen, and
bruises. Dixon knew that she was dead. . . .

Other literary works on the case

The Sylvia Likens case has inspired at least five* other books, a
movie,  and  several  plays. The movie,  An American Crime,  o-
pened in January, 2007, at the Sundance Film Festival. Ellen Page
plays Sylvia Likens, and Catherine Keener  plays Gertrude Banis-
zewski. The plays include Hey Rube, by Janet McReynolds, of
Boulder, Colorado (and Jon-Benet Ramsey connections), produc-
ed in Denver in 1976; Communion, by Wayne Miller, produced
in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2010, and Down There, a second ef-
fort by Randy Sharp after 20 years, produced in New York in 20-

The books* are By Sanction of the Victim, a novel by Patte
Wheat (Major Books, Chatsworth, Calif., 1976); The Basement:
Meditations on a Human Sacrifice
, by Kate Millett (Simon &
Schuster, New York, 1979), including an imagined narrative by the
victim; The Girl Next Door, a novel by Jack Ketchum (Overlook,
Woodstock, Ga., 1989), The Punishment Game*, an alternation of
imagined narratives by Syliva and her sister, Jenny, by Lavnia Jew-
el  (Kindle, 2013),  and Sylvia: The Likens Trial,  by Forrest Bow-
man Jr.,  an attorney who represented two of the child defendants
(publisher not disclosed, apparently published by the author, 2014).
Millett also created sculpture on the theme, shown in a multimedia
exhibit at the Noho Gallery in LaGuardia Place,  New York,  early
in 1978 (and The Girl Next Door also has been made into a movie).

Another novel – Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ (whew! that’s
so ungrammatical we had a hard time  printing  it), by Mendal
Johnson (Crowell, N.Y., 1974) – may have been inspired by the
Likens case; but the author made no direct acknowledgment. A
similarity to Lord of the Flies is just as strong, maybe stronger.

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, The Basement, and The Girl
Next Door
all have received good reviews.

* All those asterisks are for Lavinia Jewel's  The  Punishment
   Game, which seems to be available as a “Kindle” only.  We’re
   not sure that qualifies as a “book”; and its customer reviews on are not very happy.  It's actually a flowing, interes-
   ting read, and it seems to give meaning to events previously con-
   sidered unfathomable; but's categorization of the
   work as “nonfiction” seems a bit of a fiction.

“Over hamburgers sold!”