Making a Monster: Jesse Pomeroy, the Boy Murderer of 1870s Boston by Dawn KeetleyMaking a Monster: Jesse Pomeroy, the Boy Murderer of 1870s Boston by Dawn Keetley

Making a Monster: Jesse Pomeroy, the Boy Murderer of 1870s Boston

byDawn Keetley

Hardcover | August 3, 2017

Pricing and Purchase Info

$105.26 online 
$116.95 list price
Earn 526 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store

Out of stock online

Not available in stores


When twelve-year-old Jesse Pomeroy tortured seven small boys in the Boston area and then went on to brutally murder two other children, one of the most striking aspects of his case was his inability ever to answer the question of why he did what he did. Whether in court or in the newspapers, many experts tried to explain his horrible acts - and distance the rest of society from them. Despite those efforts, and attempts since, the mystery remains.

In this book, Dawn Keetley details the story of Pomeroy's crimes and the intense public outcry. She explores the two reigning theories at the time - that he was shaped before birth when his pregnant mother visited a slaughterhouse and that he imitated brutal acts found in popular dime novels. Keetley then thoughtfully offers a new theory: that Pomeroy was a psychopath who revealed our potential for brutality and tested societal efforts to manage behavior. The reaction to Pomeroy's acts, then and now, demonstrates the struggle to account for those aspects of human nature that remain beyond our ability to understand them.
Dawn Keetley is professor of English at Lehigh University and editor of "We're All Infected": Essays on AMC's The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human.
Title:Making a Monster: Jesse Pomeroy, the Boy Murderer of 1870s BostonFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:August 3, 2017Publisher:University of Massachusetts PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1625342721

ISBN - 13:9781625342720


Rated 5 out of 5 by from human monstrousness Review of /Making a Monster/ by Dawn Keetley I wrote the index for Dawn Keetley’s Making a Monster. I have rarely had an opportunity to index a book so well written and researched, that also touches my deepest professional interests and a most excruciating personal dilemma. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from an Ivy League university (1978), and an abiding interest in the free-will-determinism dilemma. In addition, a close family member (FM), an Iraqi vet, committed a crime which at times transformed them into a non-human monster in my eyes. Keetley’s book is a detailed examination of the motivations for the crimes of James Pomeroy, a twelve-year-old in nineteeth-century Boston, who tortured seven small boys and then went on to brutally murder two other children. Pomeroy himself could not answer the question of why he did what he did. His case raised fundamental questions about free will and responsibility. Keetley examines the explanations of newpapers, doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, psychologists, philosopers, teachers, novelists, scholars and Jessie’s acquaintances, with special emphasis on the role that the concept of “monstrousness” plays. The carefulness, insight and wisdom of Keetley’s book are stunning. If you are personally or professionally wrangling with those aspects of human nature that are incomprehensible, don’t miss this book. She does not come to the conclusion that Jesse was not a monster. Only that our feelings of monstrousness cover our ignorance and lack of control, and are thus not rational. In the end the reason we still do not understand Jesse’s crimes is because they are human and we know it. The same reason I do not understand my FM who committed a monstrous crime. We still don’t understand what it means to be human, but, if we follow Keetley’s lead, we will make progress. PS Keetley’s other books on what it means to be a human monster are also worth a look-see.
Date published: 2017-06-05

Editorial Reviews

"This is a rich and complex study. If there has been a more thoroughly researched or more effectively contextualized or more perceptive or more illuminating historical case study of an early psychopath or serial killer, I am not aware of it." - Daniel A. Cohen, author of Pillars of Salt, Monuments of Grace: New England Crime Literature and the Origins of American Popular Culture, 1674-1900