Warning: Today's topic is disturbing if not outright disgusting. Feel free to peek through your fingers while reading about this backwater of crime, a surprisingly profitable one.
This is how today's article came about. A friend and classmate wrote:
I've been curious why sometimes, when I've finished a task and have time at the computer, stuff about serial killers occasionally catches my eye, as did this article.
I was happy to find on p. 2 a possible explanation for something that hasn't fully made sense to me. The study was interesting.
I haven't seen any of this type of subject in any of the writing you've sent me, so it may not be of interest to you, but I figure you may share my curiosity about it.
Shopping to Die For
The topic is 'murderabilia', the collecting of artifacts from the worst of crimes and criminals. Arguably, we writers profit from crime through entertainment, albeit indirectly, but I like to think we explore the concepts of evil, inspect it through different prisms, help understanding and perhaps heal rents in the human condition.
Of further concern to me is building the egos of serial killers and mass murderers. Bundy, Dana Gray, and the BTK killer clearly fed off public attention as if publicity was mother's milk for their dark souls.
Understandably, victims' families often oppose the sale of murder artifacts, encompassing even the art and writings of serial killers. Although bills have been presented to the Senate, one of the largest sellers of murderabilia is… the federal government.
If we outlaw artifacts, where does the slippery slope end? Collecting religious relics is odd enough, but fixating on the hair, bones, and nail clippings of criminals is outright ghoulish. Yet should we end the practice? If the Serial Killer Trivia Game is banned, would Madame Tussaud's be next? Serial Killer Magazine? Or Martha Stewart? Or murder mysteries?
What is the point of murderabilia? The Slate article suggests ownership imbues magical qualities of the original possessor. This derives from earlier witchcraft and religious ceremonies in which relics are thought to offer power and control.
But Is It Art?
I don't object to the distribution of writings and artwork. I've seen intricate art from imprisoned gang members that stand on their own merits, ars gratia artis. But ordinary criminals don't have the cachet and notoriety of the worst killers.
I've not heard of ongoing research, but study may reveal insights into criminal psychology. Clown paintings are scary enough, but John Wayne Gacy's clowns are waaaay eerie even if you don't count those with skeletons and skulls.
If you think the topic might make an intriguing topic for a story, you're not alone. A movie titled Murderabilia produced by Michael Usry, Ryan Roy, and David Matthews stars Tracy Miller as a collector, Opie Cooper as a shopkeeper, and Kevin Broughton as the accused.
Marketplace of the Macabre
Before signing off, here are marketplaces that dabble in the grisly, grotesque, and gruesome.
• Ghouls Like Us
• Murder Auction
• Red Rum Autographs
• Serial Killer Central
• Serial Killer Magazine
• Serial Killer's Ink
— and —
• The US Government