Owning something collected from a crime scene or that was once owned by a famous murderer is the ultimate way to:
1. Keep your family and neighborhood children away from your house
2. Creep out your friends
3. Not get a second date
OR maybe find cool friends and the love of your life. Dean Martin was wrong, you are somebody when someone doesn’t love you, even if you have Ted Bundy’s Christmas card on your fridge.
Murderabilia is exactly what it sounds like- memorabilia collected from crime scenes and from the homes of murderers, personal effects, and artwork.
By far the famous pieces of murderabilia are the notorious Pogo the Clown paintings by everyone’s favorite KFC lovin’ serial killer, John Wayne Gacy.
Murderabilia is taking both true crime and trash vs. treasure to the extreme. While legal, the buying and selling of these items go hand in hand with the Son of Sam Law, which prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes such as selling stories to journalists and publishers.
Instead, these macabre collectibles are sold through dealer sites. eBay banned the sale of such items in 2001. The concept alone sounds like something only the most depraved can access via the dark web. Surprisingly (or not), a Google search will lead the curious to these sites. eBay banned the sale of such items in 2001. The concept alone sounds like something only the most depraved can access via the dark web. Surprisingly (or not), a Google search will lead the curious to these sites.
To collectors, murderabilia is owning a piece of history. While collecting these oddities borders on illicit and would raise some eyebrows in conversation, the sale of these items isn’t about making money for the sellers. Many of these sites will donate to victims and their families.
The concept is interesting and intriguing. However, as someone who runs a true crime blog, collecting these items is taking it too far and borders on serial/mass murder glorification and sympathizing (more on that later). These items belong in a museum, not in the creepiest living room display case of all time.
You’re probably better off still hoarding Beanie Babies.
Even the most seasoned true crime aficionados probably don’t know about the similar and possibly connected murders which occurred following the months after the killing of The Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short). I surely didn’t. Hollywood & Crime uncovers these horrific murders for a crime-hungry, twenty-first-century audience.
In this podcast series, host Tracy Pattin along with a team of talented actors tell the stories of these murdered women and the investigations into these crimes. Seventy plus years later these cases remain unsolved.
The podcast focuses on several different women: an heiress, a WWII flying nurse, a wife out for a good time who met a gruesome end, and the would-be actress with a seemingly bad reputation, The Black Dahlia. Yet, they all were murdered in a similar fashion around the same time. How did such different women with different paths meet the same end? We may never know.
If these crimes happened in 2017, or even 2007 (this January marked the seventy-year anniversary of The Black Dahlia murder), we would probably know the killer (or killers) due to DNA technology and a better understanding of crime scene contamination. This was a classic serial killer case before the term serial killer was even in the lexicon.
As I listened to these stories I wondered why don’t we know about these murders, which at the time were called The Werewolf Murders, like we do The Black Dahlia or other well-known crimes before the 1970’s? In my mind, the 70’s were terrifying and the epitome of all things serial killer. I’m not sure why these cases aren’t more talked about considering how sensationalized they were at the time. The podcast implies that The Black Dahlia murder was more reported and talked about than the others at the time-history proves that correct, which is why these other murders aren’t as well-known.
This podcast also mentions the theory that Elizabeth Short’s murderer was a woman. This theory is one I’ve come across in my years of looking up weirdness and murder on the Internet. I did a little research while writing this and wasn’t able to come up with much other than this post and a short Wikipedia entry. I thought it was interesting the police didn’t rule out the possibility of a female murderer. The podcast doesn’t discuss this for very long, but I’m glad they mentioned the theory.
I can’t say much more without giving anything away. Besides, Wondery does a much better job talking about murder than I do. Give it a listen on iTunes or here.
Running a little behind. Sometimes life happens and blogging doesn’t. Continuing on with the theme of vampire killers…
Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Dusseldorf was a German killer who committed a series of murders and sexual assaults in 1929.
Peter Kürten was from an abusive background and started killing small animals as a teen, classic serial killer behavior. He repeatedly ran away from home and lived on the streets with petty criminals. Later, Kürten claimed to have committed his first murder at age 9, when he drowned a friend. He also admitted to killing an 18-year-old girl in 1899 before his killing spree which earned him his nickname began.
In 1900, he was sentenced to a prison sentence for fraud and attempted murder. A short four years later, he was drafted into the German Army and deserted soon after. Around the same time he started setting fires for his own sexual excitement and was eventually arrested again for arson and robbery. He served another prison sentence from 1905 to 1913. Upon his release, he robbed a tavern where he murdered a nine-year-old girl by slashing her throat. Two months later, he killed another girl and several days later was arrested again for arson and burglary.
After this release, he moved in with his sister who introduced him to a woman named Auguste Scharf, who had been previously convicted of killing her husband. Its as a match made in murder heaven. They married two years later. Kürten was soon bored with marriage and started having an affair with two different housemaids. The two women reported him to the police, one claiming he raped her. Off to prison again…
He was out in six months under the condition to relocate to Dusseldorf. On February 2, 1929, Kürten stabbed an elderly woman 24 times and she survived. Five days later, he strangled a nine-year-old girl, stabbed her with scissors, and set her body on fire. Another week passed before he killed again. This time it was a male, who he stabbed 20 times. It should be noted here that the randomness of the victims is not normal, or conclusive with serial killer behavior, as most have a victim profile and M.O.
Between March to July 1929, he attempted to strangle four women. He did not kill again until August, when he raped, strangled, and stabbed a woman after a date. Kürten was still married at the time. Fearful his wife would see the blood, he buried her body and attempted to nail it to a tree. Three months later, he sent a letter to the police claiming responsibility for the murder. He also drew a map to her remains, which eventually led the police to the burial site.
He soon killed 5 people in two days, including a five-year-old girl. He attached her teenaged foster sister who survived and was able to give a description to the police. Around this time, is when he started sucking blood from victims. A month later, he killed 4 women in hammer attacks and attempted 2 more. The first victim survived, the second escaped because his hammer broke. In November 1929, he killed another five-year-old girl, with a pair of scissors. She would be his last victim.
During this time, the public was outraged the vicious killer had not yet been caught. The Düsseldorf Police received 13,000 letters in 1929 and had interviewed 9,000 people about the murders and attacks. Kürten had the infamous cooling off period and didn’t strike again until May 1930. This time, he picked up a young girl and attempted to rape and strangle her. She was able to get away when he released his grip on her throat.
The girl did not go to the police. This led to Kürten being caught by pure accident. The girl who escaped wrote a letter to her friend describing what happened. She addressed the letter incorrectly. A post office worker opened the letter, read it, reported it to the police. The police contacted the girl who led them to Kürten’s apartment where the attack at taken place. Kürten was caught t in the lobby of his apartmetn builidng. He confessed to police and to his wife that he was The Vampire of Dusseldorf.
After his arrest, Kürten was interviewed by a psychologist, who noted his acts were for sexual pleasure and he had a blood fetish. This information was the first psychological study conducted on a sexually-motivated killer. Kürten admitted to switching weapons in an attempt to throw off the police. He was declared sane and was able to stand trial. Kürten plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which did not work due to his earlier diagnosis. A jury found him guilty on April 22,1931 and he was sentenced to death. He tried to appeal, but it was denied. He was executed in July of that year by guillotine.
In the moments leading up to his death, he asked: “Tell me… after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
He probably died a happy man.
After his death, his head was mummified and is currently on display at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Wisconsin Dells.
This starts the first in a series of posts about female killers, which are a source of fascination, and are often more interesting than their male counterparts. Even with the abundance of violent female offenders, it is still difficult for many to stomach women can be just as evil (if not more so) than men. This reminds me of a quote by Louis CK:
When girls go wild, they show their tits to people. When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub.
Not all the time, but you know what I mean.
In the coming weeks, there will be plenty of women killing men, and a few drowning kids in a tub. Just giving everyone a fair warning.
The individual known by all the above names is the perpetrator in one of the most well-known unsolved serial killing, rape, and burglary sprees in America. Between 1976-1986, The East Area Rapist committed 12 murders, 45 rapes, and more than 120 burglaries in different areas of California east of Sacramento. Since June 2016, the F.B.I has been offering a $50,000 reward for the capture of the East Area Rapist.
What started as multiple burglaries, escalated to a ten-year reign of terror. His primary targets were women alone in suburban homes and later began attacking couples. His M.O. was to break into a home, wake up a couple by threatening them with a gun, force the female to tie up the male, rape the female, and eventually kill both. He was often known to stack dishes on the males back and claim if he heard them rattle, he’d kill everyone in the house. He would also stay in the house for hours, stealing coins, jewelry, and eating food from the victim’s refrigerators.
In Zodiac Killer fashion, he sent letters to the Sacramento Bee in December 1977 claiming his crimes and referring to himself as The East Area Rapist. In the same letter, he warned of another attack which he carried out. The letter includes a poem where he mentions Son of Sam. At the next crime scene, an essay about General Custer was found as well as a map of the neighborhood in which the crime took place in. The Zodiac Killer also referred to himself by his media nickname. Maybe E.A.R. was paying homage? We’ll never know. Although, writing to media outlets isn’t uncommon for serial killers of this magnitude.
He was also known to call victims before an attack. The super creepy audio below is a well-known recording which has made its way into many Internet list articles.
The crimes of the East Area Rapist theoretically stopped in 1986. All suspects have been cleared by DNA. The DNA of the killer is on file and has yet to match any in the F.B.I’s database. In 2002, Detective Larry Pool of the Orange County, California Sheriff’s Department visited death row inmates at San Quentin to collect DNA, believing the East Area Rapist had been arrested and sentenced for another violent crime. None of the samples collected were a match.
Currently, there are no concrete suspects.
Documentary filmmakers Rachel Mills and Joshua Zeman are back again for another murder-filled look into the darkest corners of America with The Killing Season. If you haven’t seen Rachel and Joshua’s other documentaries Cropsey and Killer Legends, stop whatever you’re doing and go find them. They are spectacular, creepy as hell, and two of my favorite documentaries. These guys are great. Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills could make a documentary about my own boring life and I’d watch it.
Their follow-up docuseries on A&E (thank you Arts and Entertainment Channel for taking a break from Duck Dynasty to air something actually important), explores the unsolved case of the Long Island Serial Killer a.k.a LISK as well as potentially connected murders in Atlantic City, Daytona Beach, and Oklahoma. Eventually, Josh and Rachel find themselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico investigating the West Mesa Murders.
What Rachel and Josh uncover is terrifying. The biggest takeaway from their research and findings is that the once headline-stealing phenomenon of serial killers are being overlooked by the current criminal justice system.
It’s true, we don’t hear about serial killers as much mass shootings, cybercrimes, and terrorist attacks, which are without a doubt the most prolific and troubling crimes in our society today. In a way, it makes sense for law enforcement to be more concerned about these crimes versus serial killings, considering they are the biggest criminal threat we face.
I once read an article about how society reflects crime trends (I don’t remember the name and I couldn’t find it). If you Google crime trends and society, there are numerous results. Anyway, I believe this article to be true. If you compare the troubled culture of the 1970’s, the excessive culture of the 1980’s, and the narcissistic social media obsessed culture of today, it makes sense how society can impact the types of crimes committed, mainly murders. Think of killers like BTK, who hid their double life in the shadows while appearing as upstanding and normal members of society. Then, compare him to people like James Holmes and Dylann Roof, who outwardly appeared to be “off”.
Today, the famed serial killers of the last century are treated like celebrities. We’re fascinated by their horrific acts because we feel so far removed from them, in reality we aren’t. We can’t comprehend that people could commit the horrific acts these serial killers did. The media has glorified them into American icons. While mass shooters could be anyone you see every day, and it’s something we don’t want to think about. The media doesn’t glorify them-we fear and pity them.
Another thing that comes into play when exploring the crimes in The Killing Season is victimology. If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to guess you’re familiar with the types of victims the “classic” serial killers chose-every day people in suburbia or certain types fitting their M.O. (such as John Wayne Gacy and boys and Ted Bundy and long-haired brunette women). While mass murderer can strike anyone at any time, if they aren’t mission driven in their act.
The serial killers explored in The Killing Season have a different type of victim, those who can’t be easily tracked. Mainly sex workers and drug addicts working and sometimes living on the street. Sadly, this is another reason why these killings often go over-looked, which is also mentioned numerous times in The Killing Season.
Much like technology, serial killers are evolving and the criminal justice needs to evolve, too and realize this is still a problem.
The precise definitions of serial, mass, and spree murders are a common misconception among those not versed in the technical terminology. Once I mentioned how James Holmes, the Aurora theatre shooter was not a serial killer and got a confused look. I don’t remember who I said this too. Without trying to sound like a know it all, I explained the difference. I probably did come across as a know it all *blushing, embarrassed emoji*.
Here’s a quick breakdown…
-The FBI defines a serial homicide offender as having committed 3 or more homicides over a period of time.
-Killings occur at separate events and places.
-Experiences a “cooling off” phase between crimes, unlike mass and spree homicides. This phase varies between 3 months to several years.
The “cooling off period” is one of the most important and defining characteristics of serial murders. This is what separates serial killings from spree and mass killings and is potentially what makes serial killings so difficult to solve because of the period of inactivity.
-All crimes have the same or a similar modus operandi. This includes weapons used, type of victim (sex, age, physical characteristics), and similar crime scene.
-Motives include revenge, sexual gratification, power/control, anger, criminal enterprise, and financial gain.
-Potential causes of serial homicide offending: mental illness (sociopathic and antisocial personality disorders), abuse, sexual dysfunction, past criminal behavior, biological, social, and environmental influences.
Before the term serial killer was coined in the 1970s, they were referred to as mass murderers. Now, the term has a different meaning and sadly something we are all too familiar with.
-Four or more murders at a single event at one time. Can include more than one assailant. Event lasts from a few minutes to several hours.
-Assailant usually commits suicide, is shot by police, or easily surrenders.
-Motivations include anger, frustration, mental illness, religion, gang activity, and cult associations.
-The offender usually commits a mass murder in order to complete a “mission”.
-The “mission” the mass homicide offender is carried out or “completed” based on one of the motives.
-Mass homicide offenders easily surrender due to the fact they view their killings as the completion of their “mission”.
-Victims can be random, family members, or members of a certain group, religion, ethnicity, or sex.
I explained this in my last post about Charles Manson and how the Manson Murders are actually spree killings instead of serial killings. Spree killings are completed at two or more locations with almost no time in between. However, killings that last for several days, hence the word spree, are still considered spree killings. Those who engage in spree killings are often motivated by rage and revenge. They often tend to target someone who betrayed them such as a former lover, boss, classmate, etc.
Fox, J. A., & Levin, J. (1998). Multiple homicide: Patterns of serial and mass murder. Crime and Justice, 407-455.