Author’s Note on Sources
A great deal of this story was captured on tape or recorded contemporaneously in notebooks and journals—by the killers before the murders, and by investigators, journalists, and researchers afterward. Much more was reconstructed or fleshed out from the memory of survivors. Anything in quotation marks was either captured on tape, recorded by me or other journalists or police investigators at the time, published in official documents, or, in the case of casual conversations, recalled by one or more of the speakers with a high degree of certainty. When the speaker was less sure about the wording, I used italics. I have abbreviated some exchanges without insertion of ellipses, and have corrected some grammatical errors. No dialogue was made up.
The same convention was applied to quotations from the killers, who wrote and taped themselves extensively. Their writings are reproduced here as written, with most of their idiosyncrasies intact.
Passages of this book suggesting their thoughts come primarily from their journals and videos. A multitude of corroborating sources were employed, including school assignments; conversations with friends, family members, and teachers; journals kept by key figures; and a slew of police records compiled before the murders, particularly summaries of their counseling sessions. I often used the killers’ thoughts verbatim from their journals, without quotation marks. Other feelings are summarized or paraphrased, but all originated with them. The killers left a few significant gaps in their thinking. I have attempted to fill them with the help of experts in criminal psychology who have spent years on the case. All conjectures about the killers’ thinking are labeled as such.
Actual names have been used, with one exception: the pseudonym Harriet was invented to identify a girl Dylan wrote about obsessively. For simplicity, minor characters are not named in the text. They are all identified in the expanded version of the endnotes online.
All times for the massacre are based on the Jefferson County sheriff’s report. Some of the victims’ family members, however, believe the attack began a few minutes later. The times used here provide a close approximation, and are accurate relative to one another.
I covered this story extensively as a journalist, beginning around noon on the day of the attack. The episodes recounted here are a blend of my contemporaneous reporting with nine years of research.