AS the Swinging Sixties roared to a turbulent end, a cunning and sadistic serial killer who would become known as the Cape Cod Vampire was wreaking havoc and sowing terror on the East Coast of the US.
The horrific crimes of Antone "Tony" Costa, whose believed to have butchered up to eight young women between 1966 and 1969, unfolded before the more infamous Manson family murders and served as a frightening precursor to the so-called "golden age" of serial killers.
Costa earned his vampirical moniker for the brutal way in which he mutilated his victims: some were dismembered, others were decapitated and a number had bite marks on their skin.
At least one of Costa's victims was found with organs missing and many of the women appeared to have been sexually abused after their deaths.
The handsome and charming 24-year-old hippie, who was also referred to as the Cape Cod Casanova, was only convicted of two of the murders but was suspected of killing as many as eight – three of whom have never been found.
Believing Costa's horrifying spree was ultimately overshadowed by a broader "dark period" in American history, true crime author Casey Sherman has revisited the murders in his new book, Helltown:The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer on Cape Cod.
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For Sherman, a Massachusetts native who grew up close to where the murders happened, Costa is one of the most vicious serial killers who ever lived.
"I've covered upwards to 50 homicides in my career as an investigative journalist and I've never seen anything this bad," Sherman told The US Sun.
"I really do believe it and I'm not overplaying this, but, to me, Tony Costa is the most vicious serial killer since Jack the Ripper.
"These women weren't just murdered, they were brutalized in the crime scene photos and looked like they had been attacked by a great white shark – not a human killer.
"That's how vicious these wounds were … pictures of their injuries still stick with me now as I'm talking."
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By the late 1960s, the hippy scene in Provincetown, Massachusetts, was in full flow, and at the center of it all was a 24-year-old divorced carpenter by the name of Tony Costa.
Known as Sire by the myriad of admiring young women that orbited around him, Costa's good looks and charisma initially protected him from suspicion when a number of girls started disappearing in the May of 1968.
However, Costa's luck would only last so long.
It all began with the disappearance of Sydney Monzon, who was last seen alive by her sister getting into a car with Costa, destination unknown.
Monzon vanished without a trace thereafter, although young people disappearing in the area wasn't uncommon at the time.
The 18-year-old was among nineteen teenagers to disappear from Provincetown in 1968.
The town was considered transient and it was believed Monzon had likely joined a caravan to embark on a drug-fueled trip to either California or Mexico.
Several months later, on September 10, another local teenager called Susan Perry also vanished into thin air.
Perry was a known acolyte of Costa's whom he often referred to as his "kid chick."
When investigators came by asking questions, Costa said the girl, like Monzon, had set off to start her life anew – this time somewhere in Europe.
It wasn't until the disappearances of Patricia Walsh and Mary Anne Wysocki — two women in their 20s who spent a weekend in Provincetown in January 1969 – that suspicions started to mount.
During their visit to the Cape, the woman had been staying at the same boarding house that Costa was living in.
Costa had even given the pair a ride into town on Jan.25, which is when the two women were last seen alive.
Walsh was a second-grade teacher and Wysocki was an education major at Rhode Island College.
When the two friends failed to turn up for work and school, police launched an investigation.
The day after they were last seen, an odd note was found tacked outside the door of the room where they'd been staying, which read: "We are checking out. Thank you for your many kindnesses."
Walsh's light blue Volkswagon was then found parked thirty feet inside a wooded area in the nearby town of Truro on February 2.
Curiously, the car had been left parked next to an area where Costa was known to grow Marijuana and stash his other drugs.
Referred to by Costa as his "garden", and located next to a graveyard, police began searching the area and on Feb. 8 found the mutilated remains of Susan Perry who had been missing for five months.
Perry's body had been cut up into eight pieces and her head decapitated. The young woman's breasts had also been cut off and her genitals mutilated.
A month later, Wysocki's head and torso were found in a nearby forest clearing. That sickening discovery was followed closely by the unearthing of Walsh's remains.
The two friends had been mutilated with a knife, though appeared to have died from gunshot wounds to their heads.
THE CAPE COD VAMPIRE
In Helltown, Sherman unsettlingly recounts how Costa shot the two women, before sexually assaulting their corpses and hanging them from a nearby tree.
As the women's lifeless and naked bodies were suspended in mid-air, he hacked away at them with a sharp blade he chillingly referred to as his "pig stabber".
According to Sherman, Costa carved from Walsh's sternum down to her public area, before "peeling her skin back like an open sweater" and amputating both of her legs.
He then cut Wysocki's body into five pieces, severed her head, and buried the two dismembered women in a shallow grave.
In that same grave, investigators would also later find the butchered corpse of Sidney Monzon.
News of the killings shocked and disturbed the otherwise quiet and idyllic seaside hamlets of Provincetown and Truro, Massachusetts.
Law enforcement did little to quell the panic, with District Attorney Edmund Dinis further fanning the flames during a press conference with the media.
During his statement, Dinis falsely stated that the "hearts of each girl had been removed from the bodies and were not in the graves."
He also disclosed that "each body was cut into as many parts as their are joints."
When asked by a reporter if the killer was a “Cape Cod vampire,” Dinis nodded his head. He also claimed that teethmarks and other signs of cannibalism had been found on the bodies.
A media frenzy ensued, and the legend of the Cape Cod Vampire was born.
Tony Costa was arrested for the four murders shortly after.
In addition to the deaths of the four women, he is suspected of killing two young women – Bonnie Williams and Diane Federoff – whom he had offered to drive from Pennsylvania to California in 1966.
The two women never made it to the Sunshine State and were never seen again, though Costa would later insist he had dropped them off.
During his time in California, police also believe he murdered his girlfriend Barbara Spaulding in 1968.
Spaulding left her child with relatives and vanished on the day that Costa left to return to Massachusetts. She was never seen again, and homicide detectives now believe that Costa murdered her.
Costa's eighth believed victim is Christine Gallant, who was killed on November 23, 1968, in her New York City apartment.
However, the serial killer was only tried for the deaths of Walsh and Wysocki.
He maintained his innocence in all the killings, blaming the crimes on both real-life acquaintances and an evil alter-ego he called Cory.
Costa was convicted for the murders of Walsh and Wysocki in May 1970 and sentenced to life in prison.
He would die four years later aged 29 after being found hanging inside his cell with a leather strap tied around his neck.
While his death was ruled a suicide, some experts believe Costa was actually murdered by a group of fellow inmates.
THE 'DEVIL INCARNATE'
Just months after the extent of Costa's horrendous crimes was realized, a cult leader by the name of Charles Manson was arrested on the other side of the country along with a group of his disciples after a series of murders in California.
Manson – who today is arguably one of the most infamous criminals in American history – relegated Costa's case from the front pages of every newspaper around the country, rendering him and – crucially – his victims almost forgotten, according to Sherman.
"Charles Manson sucked all the oxygen out of the room in 1969," said Sherman.
"And as you read the book you find out that Costa, when he's eventually captured, is very cognizant of this and a bit jealous of the infamy Charles Manson has created for himself.
"Costa wanted to be spoken about in the same breath as Manson, but quite frankly his murders were far more vicious than what the Manson family did.
"Costa was the living, breathing epitome of Norman Bates in Psycho."
During his research for Helltown, Sherman trawled through more than 2000 documents relating to the case, including a manuscript written by Costa about the murders which has never before been published.
Sherman uses that manuscript to get inside the mind of the killer at each murder scene, disclosing what his inner voice – or "Cory" – was apparently telling him as he carried out his depraved acts.
While in the manuscript Costa apparently blames Cory for the murders, Sherman said the manuscript makes it clear it's "Tony Costa he's talking about."
"This guy managed to create an alter ego for himself to commit the most heinous crimes possible and not only did I have the benefit of his manuscript and the reports, but I also had 12 hours of audio-taped conversations with Costa behind bars," Sherman explained of getting inside Costa's mind.
"I understand now how his victims were put at ease; he's very smart, very unassuming, and very intelligent.
"He was the last guy in the room that you would have to be concerned with, but ultimately he was the devil incarnate."
A HAUNTING PROCESS
Sherman, who has now written 15 books, called Helltown the most challenging and emotionally taxing project he's ever worked on.
"Reading police reports was one thing, but opening the files labeled 'autopsy' and 'crime scene photos' was another," he said.
"I've seen a lot of stuff in my career but I've never seen anything as brutal, vicious, and depraved as I've seen in those images.
"As I'm talking now, I see the head of Mary Anne Wysocki cut off and resting on a slab at the funeral parlor.
"That's very real to me," Sherman continued. "Those images continue to stay with me.
"That's why I dedicated the book to the memory of the victims because I never wanted to lose sight of the women that unfortunately got into Tony Costa's crosshairs and didn't survive."
Costa's murdering spree unfolded shortly before the dawning of what's now known as the "Golden Age of Serial Murder" which lasted from 1970 until 1999.
During that 29-year span, around 80% of all known American serial killers were in operation.
The reason behind this is manyfold — including everything from sociological shifts, to biology, to technology, to linguistics — but it makes Costa somewhat ahead of his time.
Sherman says the year 1969, and all the turbulent ongoings during its 12-month span, is almost a character in and of itself in Helltown.
"I look at 1969 much like I look at 2022 because it seems as though all hope is lost," Sherman said.
"The Summer of Love is a distant memory, the Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations are fresh in America's mind, and then you've got the DNC protests in Chicago, the inauguration of Nixon, the moon landing, Chappaquiddick, and so many other historical events before landing on the final exclamation point of the Manson murders.
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"1969 was the year of reckoning in American history, and I think so much happened during that time that ultimately Tony Costa's crimes were forgotten or overshadowed by other events."
Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod is available now.
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