Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

by Stephen Williams, Steven Williams

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Perfect for fans of Making a Murderer and The People v. O. J. Simpson, Invisible Darkness is the story of one of the more bizarre cases in recent memory—killings so sensational that they prompted the Canadian government, in the interests of justice, to silence its national press and to lock foreign journalists out of the courts.

To all appearances, Paul and Karla Bernardo had a fairytale marriage: beautiful working-class girl weds bright upper-middle-class guy and they buy a fashionable dream house in the suburbs. But, bored with his straight, prestigious accounting job, Paul soon went freelance as an international smuggler. He also revealed his boredom with conventional sex—enough so that, one Christmas Eve, he persuaded his wife to drug her own sister and engage in a menage a trois, during which the sister died (a bungling coroner ruled her death accidental). The couple then upped the ante, kidnapping and imprisoning several high school girls for sexual marathons, which they videotaped before savagely murdering their captives. When the girls’ bodies were found, the police were stymied (although Paul had been accused of rape and given a DNA test that vanished for two years and only recently was linked to some fifty sexual-assault cases) until Karla tried to have her husband arrested for wife beating. During questioning, she confessed to the crimes and is now serving two concurrent twelve-year sentences for manslaughter in exchange for testifying against her husband, who was jailed for life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553568547
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/01/1997
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 532
Sales rank: 226,819
Product dimensions: 6.88(w) x 10.92(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

Stephen Williams is a Canadian investigative journalist and writer. His reputation was solidified by the continuing success of two books, Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka and Karla: A Pact with the Devil. Williams has been twice arrested for his writing, once in 1998 and again in 2003, criminally charged with more than one hundred counts of disobeying court orders and publication bans, twice put on trial over the eight-year period between 1998 and 2005, and twice exonerated. Williams has received the Hellman-Hammett Award from the Human Rights Watch, an award presented annually to journalists who have been prosecuted by totalitarian regimes such as China and Iran.

Read an Excerpt

At 7:30 A.M., Monday morning, March 8, 1993, Sister Josephine, a sixty-two-year-old Carmelite nun from Lindsay, Ontario, woke with a start from a tortured dream which inevitably was about her increasingly tenuous relationship with her beloved companion for life— Jesus Christ. The internal struggle between her sense of duty and her waning sense of self-worth seemed hopelessly lost, and her forty-year marriage to the Lord on the rocks. A semiretired teacher, unable to perform even the most menial tasks, she had become totally withdrawn. She had been diagnosed with endogenous depression and hospitalized a week and a half earlier. At least she knew where she was. She was in Room 802 on the psychiatric ward of Northwestern General Hospital in northern Toronto. As Sister Josephine woke up, she realized she was no longer alone.
A pretty young woman (or was she a girl?) with blond, cashmere hair and a provocatively flimsy nightgown was sitting on the bed opposite. She was wearing a set of headphones, rhythmically tapping the fingers of one hand on a fashion magazine to music only she could hear and painting her toenails pink with the other. A perfect angel, Sister Josephine thought, and smiled at her new companion. The nun would soon learn that her name was Karla—with a K. Karla, seeing the nun was awake, held up an enormous stuffed animal that was reclining on her pillow. “This is Bunky,” she said, with a friendliness and enthusiasm that the nun found refreshing. Sister Josephine only wished she was her old self and could show some spark of enthusiasm in return.
Dr. Arndt, her psychiatrist, had told her not to worry too much about her present state of dimmed awareness. It was not unusual for people undergoing electro-convulsive therapy—or “buzzing,” as he so irreverently called it—to be “out of it” for the first week or two. “Although it works faster than the drugs,” he said in his heavy Austrian accent, “it can be a bit discombobulating.”
Dr. Hans Arndt was the senior staff psychiatrist at Northwestern. With his accent, he could just as easily have been sent by central casting. At fifty-eight, Dr. Arndt was bald, bearded and bespectacled. A leading exponent of “buzzing,” known in lay terms as shock treatment, he was also one of those modern, pharmaceutical alchemists who concocted drug-induced “sleep therapies” that put patients out for at least three days at a stretch. Sister Josephine’s angel companion had just been awakened from such a therapy.
Dr. Arndt knew what was wrong with the nun, but he had not come to any conclusion about the mental health of Karla Homolka-Bernardo. As he had told her lawyer, George Walker, when he agreed to hospitalize her, “I don’t know if this girl is mad or just bad.”
On February 26, George Walker had first called Dr. Arndt’s colleague, psychologist Allan Long, and asked him urgently to organize a psychological and psychiatric evaluation for a new client. And so it came to pass that Dr. Long and his colleague Dr. Arndt arrived at Walker’s offices at 4:30 P.M. on March 3, 1993, to be introduced to this bizarre case. Dr. Arndt had no idea who Karla was—but then, again, he had learned not to be surprised by the chemistry of the human soul.
The truth was, Dr. Arndt found Niagara Falls fascinating. Historically speaking, the area wore its psychoses on its sleeve. It represented the best of nature and the worst of mankind—a coincidence of geographic purity pitted against the impurity of human behavior. It was the God-given inexhaustible supply of fresh water from the Great Lakes and the man-made ingenuity of an obscure Croatian engineer that had spawned cheap power at the turn of the century, which had in turn led to massive industrialization. That, in turn, had poisoned the land and the water—the minds would follow.
Like certain psychopathologies, Niagara Falls’s symptoms lay dormant, invisible for generations. It appealed to Dr. Arndt’s sense of irony that the nearby Love Canal was such a place and had a name that resonated a multiplicity of definitions.
George Walker’s law offices in Niagara Falls are in a gray-blue, two-story, aluminum-sided building on the corner of Victoria and Queen Streets directly across from DeMarco’s infamous pawnshop. Oddly, Walker had known Karla before the “mad murder publicity.” Karla had worked as a veterinary assistant at the Martindale Clinic in nearby St. Catharines, where Walker had taken Kelly, his cancer-riddled Dalmatian, for treatment. He remembered how tender she had been with his beloved pet. After the dog died, he kept its ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece in his living room.
Karla first put a call in for Kelly’s daddy in the late evening of February 9. She said she wanted to see Walker about a “domestic dispute.” Perhaps it was for the memory of Kelly that Walker agreed to see the “tender” vet’s assistant, who was; about to become a pariah. An appointment was set for Karla Homolka-Bernardo to come to see him at 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, February 11, 1993.
At first, Walker simply didn’t believe Karla’s story. It was too incredible. But after she confessed everything, in a relentless, strangely monotonic monologue, his disbelief was quickly replaced by the need for action. First thing to do—her confession in hand—was to start positioning the Attorney-General’s office. In return for immunity, Walker told them that Karla would be happy to betray her estranged husband, Paul Bernardo, and testify categorically that he had murdered Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.
Walker had a professional responsibility to determine whether or not Karla was sane enough to stand trial. But he wanted more than that; he wanted to turn this determination to his advantage. Walker knew that he needed a psychiatric game plan for Karla’s defense argument. Drs. Long and Arndt were meant as a stunning, preemptive strike. With astonishing good fortune, Walker would be able to move a chess piece first—and maybe capture the board.
Considering that Karla’s estranged husband, Paul Bernardo, had been arrested two weeks earlier, on February 17, and that police were now ransacking their matrimonial home, Walker knew he had to move quickly. Walker arranged for Karla to secretly meet the doctors who would deliver his psychiatric game plan. They met in the second-floor conference room of his office building at 4:30 P.M. on March 3. At first, when Karla arrived and sat self-consciously in front of the experienced psychiatrists, Walker wondered if they would find her credible.
With the power of a natural actress, Karla showed the doctors her wedding pictures. Dr. Arndt, looking to somehow grab her trust, said the wedding pictures looked more like a funeral.
“I fancy myself as a photographer and perhaps I see something that other people don’t,” the doctor said, with a forgiving, empathetic voice.
“My God,” said Karla with a shock of recognition, “everybody else just oohed and aahed and said how it looked like a storybook wedding.” Karla seemed dismayed—but only for a second. “But it really was my funeral. It really was.… Yes, that’s what it was.”
Dr. Arndt now had Karla in his power or—an argument could be offered—was it the other way around? It was Dr. Arndt’s opinion that Karla was in a lot of pain and needed to “spill”; an Arndtism for unburdening. Clearly she was able to instruct counsel and fit to stand trial. The opinion was clear. Karla should be hospitalized for a “total workup, comprehensive assessment and therapies.” Walker liked that. This scored him some time. And so it was agreed.
Karla’s mother, Dorothy, delivered her troubled daughter to Northwestern General Hospital on March 4 at 11:30 A.M. Karla was quickly admitted under her mother’s maiden name—Seger. This was a strategy, on the part of the hospital, to try and hide the fact of Karla’s admission. It was important that journalists not know about her movements. On the admission form Karla was described as a “twenty-two-year-old female patient with diagnosis of depression.”
It was Dr. Arndt’s idea to put Karla and the nun in the same room. Perhaps it appealed to his sense of irony. But above all he thought it might give the Good Sister some benefit—a startling jolt of reality. He had warned the hospital that he would be admitting someone who “might be having a high profile,” but he thought he would let Sister Josephine find out who Karla was on her own.

Customer Reviews

Invisible Darkness 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a true story of how evil is so much a part of the world in which we live because of deranged or possessed people--you decide. It is also the story of how the police force is not always there 'to protect and serve'; sometimes they are not even 'there'. The book is a compilation of facts that anyone could have thrown together. Steven Williams has done great research and is very knowledgeable about the subject, but his dismal style is long and drawn out. He could easily have eliminated 200 pages of irrelevant text. If you want a list of all the horrifying criminal activities of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka with the Canadian police force missing every clue along the way, then this book is for you. If you want a well-written story that gets to the point, then I suggest you pass on this one.
Kurtisdarby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very, very, very thorough book about this criminal couple. Great details about everyone's private lives: the killers themselves and the victims. Even the random girls Bernardo attacks are given short narratives that draw you in. Very good read but miserable at the same time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Both karla and paul are mentally ill. Karlas mom and dad had to have a clue of what was going on in their own basement. Are they that clueless! I hope karla has a crappy future. May she always think about what she did. At least that psyco paul will never be free.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poorly written, tons of grammatical errors, jumps around too much, and too much irrelevant information
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a crime novel or a novel period, this book is indecent and stomach churning. I didnt get far nor did I want to continue when I deleted this book, its horrid. I thought it was a crime novel its not, Frankly, its sick. Its a complete waste of money
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Wendy Eichers More than 1 year ago
For those of you that dont know, Karla Holmolka has been out of prison for several years. Someone tell me why this horrible woman was able to get out of jail when she helped her sick partner turned husband committ every single one of these crimes including murdering and raping and sodomizing her own 16 yr old sister! Those poor parents lost their innocent daughter and their other daughter is guilty for the crime. Ive read many true crime books but i dont think i have ever read such a horriffic story. So where is she now? Just watch your back!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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vicpf51 More than 1 year ago
Although i pretty much liked reading this book it is not well written. Too much attention was placed on the gruesome details. Paul Bernardo disappears at the end of the book and all the emphasis was placed on Karla. The author could of cut out about 100 pages and i would have gotten his message. Karla's interviews go on too long and Paul is nowhere to be seen or heard. It should also be update as Karla is now out of jail and married with a child. (!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RHale More than 1 year ago
DISGUSTING!!! Both the Writing and the Story Not worth the money or the time. I put it down less than halfway through and it is now residing in a landfill somewhere. The story itself was quite awful enough without the author's sophomoric descriptions and phrases. The subject matter being written about was so sensitive and brutal that the writer's clumsy handling of the story just turned this in to some bad B rated, soft-core porn novel. There are ways to convey messages about crawling in the gutter without actually crawling in the gutter. This story could have been told - every sick, evil and twisted detail brought to light - without using even half of the cruel, crude descriptive methods employed in this book. The people being written about are/were REAL HUMAN BEINGS. Every one of them (with the exception of Karla and Paul) deserved to have their stories told by someone that was capable of remembering that. I would NOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. If you're looking for sloppy, third rate storytelling by a crude horndog then this may be the book for you. If not, give it a miss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow i think thi was the most distubing and chilling book iv ever read and i cant believe i go to the same school paul went to and also my brother goes to tammys school i still cant bealive a killer a devil came from a quiete peace full community like ours but grew up to be a horrible devil. and i cant beleive karla got out in 12 years she should be locked up with that horrible man beacasue shes just the same but the book was very well written id defitnetly give it a 5 star the author took time and got word for word and those girls life had to cut short soo young.i took a great interest in this topic and it just made my cry knowing ppl like paul and karla can do to girls like me and how horrible it may have been.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book after the story broke that she was being released. I wanted to know what all the hype was about. After reading this book, I can now understand why the press was all over it. This book was extremely graphic and I recommend it to those wanting to know more about the sicko 'battered wife' and the 'deal with the devil'. I heard on the news that she met a nice man while she was in prison. She wants to marry him. Such a surprise that it's convict that's in prison for crimes against children. Good luck Canada!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Well written and fully fleshed out. The book meets its goal: to inform the world of what these two people did, and publicize the unbelievable fact that Karla will be back out soon. She may never kill again...but she shouldn't have the right to live among the free again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is another book, one of 4, written about Paul and Karla. Although this doesn't contain any interviews with any of their friends, you'll have to read 'Deadly Innocence' for those, it's still VERY informative. This book focuses mainly on Karla, while she's in the hospital after their arrests. Nevertheless, it's a very good book. You'll definitely want it if you have the others!