Charles Siebert is the author of three critically acclaimed memoirs—The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals, A Man After His Own Heart, and Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year—as well as the novel Angus and the children's book The Secret World of Whales. A poet, journalist, essayist, and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, he has written for The New Yorker, Harper's, Vanity Fair, and National Geographic.
The Zanesville Zoo Massacre, One Year Later
It was a story everyone heard and no one understood: nearly fifty lions, tigers, and bears shot dead by police one evening near a home in Zanesville, Ohio. The eccentric owner, Terry Thompson, had taken his own life, having first smeared his body with chicken blood and released some of the animals from their cages. When police arrived on the scene, his half-nude, dismembered corpse was being feasted upon by some of the tigers he had loved as "children." One year later, the full story of this tragedy is finally being told.
In Rough Beasts, Charles Siebert shares the perspective of the animals’ caretaker, John Moore, who until now has remained silent about the incident. One of the first on the scene, Moore helplessly witnessed the deaths of nearly all of the animals he had helped rear, many of whom were friendly toward people and had been defanged and declawed. His testimony helps clarify some of the strange backstory that preceded that fateful night. Terry Thompson was a charismatic and obsessive Vietnam veteran, whose war record is now called into question by Siebert’s investigation. How did his purchase of one lion cub for his beloved wife, Marian, lead to the creation of this large—and by all accounts chaotic and filthy—menagerie? Was it a testament to his renegade nature or a sign of mental illness? Why did he kill himself? Might his death have been staged, a conspiracy by the government to take away his "pets"?
Siebert’s gripping tale also confronts the issue of exotic animal smuggling—the third most profitable trafficking trade in the world. With so many species in danger of extinction, are men like Thompson modern-day Noahs or misguided and dangerous zealots? Could someone have prevented the sinking of this leaking ark?
Praise for Rough Beasts:
Charles Siebert's Rough Beasts is sad, moving and oftentimes terrifying, and his careful analysis tells us as much about what's exotic as it does about ourselves."—Robert Sullivan, author of Rats and My American Revolution