Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy

Murder, mayhem, and mystery: 12 real-life crimes that capture our imagination.

Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 6.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was okayish. I watched this short course as a break between more taxing courses, it was alright. It is by it's nature voyeuristic, speculative, salacious, gross etc. I'm sure lots of people will love it, but on reflection I should have punted for something else. At the end of the day a lot of unfortunate people suffering gruesome deaths & when facts stop & any number of theories start, my interest waned.
Date published: 2021-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting selection The presenter is very good and is largely sober-minded about the various crimes looked at. There are a few minor errors or possible errors here and there, eg from my understanding Manson was actually about 5'6" not 5'2", but for example here the presenter follows a much more reasonable approach to the Manson murders than other researchers. Relatedly there is some speculation with regard to say Zodiac but it is clear that this is meant to be speculative... although the approach is still reasonable and intriguing...
Date published: 2021-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating I found myself binging this course because it was so interesting and engrossing. Even cases I thought I knew held mysteries which were new to me. I highly recommend this course. Beware-it is addictive- if you find yourself having withdrawal symptoms I can also recommend his course on secret societies.
Date published: 2021-07-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but Interesting series. Objective, full of interesting facts until we get to Son of Sam. Suddenly we go down the rabbit hole of unproven conspiracies. Berkowitz's neighbor was named Sam, he owned the devil dog, and one of his sons matched a witnesses description (tall thin blond) yet Dr. Spence never points out eye witnesses are often unreliable and the description could thousands of New Yorkers. In later years one of the neighbor's sons committed suicide and the other killed in a "mysterious" auto accident. This leads Spence to speculate that a mysterious cult was cleaning up because in conspiracies all accidents are deemed mysterious and no one simply has mental problems ( though possibly being suspected of being an accomplice to a serial kill may lead to depression). Anyway up until then an entertaining course.
Date published: 2021-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very entertaining The lecturer can be a little "over the top" at times, but his course is fun to watch. It's entertaining, informative, amusing, and easy to follow.
Date published: 2021-06-23
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Overview

Delve into some of the most infamous, ghastly, and mysterious crimes of the last hundred-odd years in Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy. Taught by Professor Richard B. Spence of the University of Idaho, this enthralling course gives you a dozen case studies of murders most foul. From an intriguing Irish domestic murder to a world-shaking political assassination, survey some of the most heinous crimes in modern history.

About

Richard B. Spence
Richard B. Spence

A key theme is that human history, behavior and reality are governed not by what we know but by what we believe.

INSTITUTION

University of Idaho

Dr. Richard B. “Rick” Spence is Professor of History at the University of Idaho, where he has taught since 1986. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1981), and taught there as a visiting assistant professor from 1981 to 1985. His primary areas of study are modern Russian, modern European, Middle Eastern, and military history. Professor Spence’s research interests include espionage; occultism; anti-Semitism; and, of course, secret societies. His major published works include Boris Savinkov: Renegade on the Left (1991), Trust No One: The Secret World of Sidney Reilly (2002), Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult (2008), and Wall Street and the Russian Revolution, 1905-1925 (2017). He is the author of numerous articles in Revolutionary Russia, Intelligence and National Security, Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism, American Communist History, The Historian, and other journals. He has also contributed to New Dawn and other popular publications. His current projects include a book, American Spies in Revolutionary Russia, and articles on the mysterious literary figure, Arthur Cravan; the smuggling of Russian Imperial Jewels; and the deadly Eddystone munitions plant explosion of 1917. He has been a commentator/consultant for HISTORY®, the International Spy Museum, Radio Liberty, and has consulted for and been interviewed in documentaries produced by the Russian Cultural Foundation, Mamontov Productions, and other Russian media outlets. He is also a popular guest on radio shows and podcasts, having been interviewed more than 30 times since 2015 on such programs as The Other Side of Might, Midnight in the Desert, Leak Project, Esoteric Hollywood, and Truth Be Told. Professor Spence offers a number of special courses at the University of Idaho, including Conspiracies and Secret Societies in History, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, History of Terrorism, and The Occult in History. He has been recognized for his contributions to the University’s Honors, International Studies and Naval ROTC Programs, and has received teaching excellence awards from the university, alumni, and student body.

By This Expert

Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy

Trailer

A Murder That Almost Killed Hollywood

01: A Murder That Almost Killed Hollywood

Unsolved murders are as compelling as anything you might see in the movies. It is fitting then that our first “crime of the century” is the mysterious murder of a Hollywood director in 1922. William Desmond Taylor was not who he seemed to be, and his death continues to fascinate a century later.

27 min
The Deadly Irish Fairy Tale of 1895

02: The Deadly Irish Fairy Tale of 1895

The ghastly murder of Bridget Cleary in turn-of-the-century Ireland takes us into the mystery of human psychology. On the surface, it seems her husband, Michael, murdered her because he believed she was a “changeling” fairy in disguise. Could he really have believed that? Was he mad? Why else could have driven this murder?

26 min
The Sarajevo Conspiracy of 1914

03: The Sarajevo Conspiracy of 1914

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip was one of the most world-shaking events in the 20th century. Although the events are clear and well-known, the motivation behind the murder is rife with conspiracy. Dive into a cycle of mystery and violence in early 20th-century Sarajevo.

29 min
The Plot to Assassinate the Romanovs

04: The Plot to Assassinate the Romanovs

Shift your attention to another political conspiracy—the murder of the Russian Tsar Nicholas and other Romanovs at the hands of the Bolsheviks. For more than a century, the facts of this murder have been dissected and debated. As you will learn, time has added few facts but plenty of speculation and myth.

27 min
Three Serial Killers of Weimar Germany

05: Three Serial Killers of Weimar Germany

Weimar Republic Germany is a wrenching period to read about: a failed state, a political and economic roller coaster, and a psychologically traumatized era suffering a plague of madmen, sex fiends, and serial killers. Here, you will survey three Weimar-era murder cases: the sadistic Peter Kürten, the “butcher” Fritz Haarmann, and the unsolved Hinterkaifeck Murders.

28 min
American Nightmare: The Lindbergh Kidnapping

06: American Nightmare: The Lindbergh Kidnapping

Delve into one of the best-known and most debated murder cases in American history. Richard Hauptmann—dubbed “the most hated man in the world”—was executed for kidnapping and killing aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby, but did he act alone? Who received the ransom money? What exactly happened in 1932?

27 min
Murderous Maids: The Papin Sisters of France

07: Murderous Maids: The Papin Sisters of France

When it comes to murder, “why-dunnit” often can be more captivating than “who-dunnit.” Case in point is the murder of a well-to-do French woman and her daughter at the hands of two maids who were discovered cowering in the attic and covered in blood. What drove the Papin sisters to kill, and to kill so savagely?

27 min
The Moscow-to-Mexico Mission to Kill Trotsky

08: The Moscow-to-Mexico Mission to Kill Trotsky

As we have seen, political assassinations are rife with conspiracy, and often leave a flashing question mark in the history books. Here, you examine the murder of Leon Trotsky, a Soviet leader exiled in Mexico. What appears on the surface to be a seamless plot to kill a political rival owes much to chance, as well as Trotsky’s own stubborn nature.

29 min
California’s Zodiac Killer

09: California’s Zodiac Killer

More than 50 years later, the Zodiac case remains as cold as the chilly night this infamous serial killer slayed the first victims. Like an American Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac killer maintains a grip on our imagination because the killer might still be out there—somewhere. Review what we know about this captivating crime spree.

27 min
The Charles Manson Crime Family

10: The Charles Manson Crime Family

Despite countless books, films, and documentaries, the Manson murders still have unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries. Like so many crimes of the century, the question isn’t who, but why? Explore the information, and misinformation, about the Helter Skelter murders that ended the 1960s.

29 min
Son of Sam: New York’s Tabloid Terrorist

11: Son of Sam: New York’s Tabloid Terrorist

Step into the sweltering world of New York City in the 1970s, where social misfit David Berkowitz committed a series of murders, and then claimed he was possessed by an evil spirit and was part of a Satanic cult. Like the Manson murders and the Zodiac killer, the “Son of Sam” spree poses difficult questions about psychology and the nature of evil.

28 min
Italy’s Search for the Monster of Florence

12: Italy’s Search for the Monster of Florence

Round out your course with one final murder spree in the rolling hills of Tuscany. Over 18 years, Il Mostro di Firenze committed eight double homicides that remain unsolved today despite 100,000 men investigating and a dozen arrests over the years. Was this spree the product of one killer or many? What could have been the motivations?

28 min