Jun 17, 2012

Murderabilia & Serial Killer Groupies

There is a lot of noise made about the phenomenon of "murderabilia" trade on the Internet. Murderabilia is exactly what its gimmicky name is supposed to sound like, memorabilia of murders -- artifacts or products connected with serial killers. You can buy letters from David Berkowitz, clown paintings by John Wayne Gacy, Ed Gein's mother's crucifix (a pretty high-end item). Not to mention the trading cards and action figures. I agree, it's grisly and sick and should not be allowed, but the element of deviance and perversity is probably what fuels it in the first place, and so making a show of being offended will not stop it. But anyway. I discovered something far more interesting and sick than murderabilia: there are people who become penpals with serial killers. I just spend the last hour reading a lot of threads and blogs from teenage girls who write letters to serial killers in jail -- keeping up multiple correspondences at once, complaining about how their parents freaked so they had to get their own P.O. box, delighted in the anecdotes of the whole thing. Here are a few samples: 

freedomlovinggypsy: "I actually wrote to a few. I wrote to Charlie Manson, and trust me...You don't really want to write to him. His letters are all jibberish and sloppy and almost impossible to read!! Then I wrote to David Berkowitz, and he kept sending me pamphlets about getting saved and preaching to me! And I wrote Richard Ramirez, and he was so obsessed with the damn devil it was unreal..He asked me if I was willing to sell my soul to get anything I wanted..Yeah, ok..Like, it really worked for him...lol! And I wrote to one, I can't remember what his name was. But he sent me a letter telling me what to do! Like, he told me to come to California, and bring money, and rent a hotel, and come and see him, and marry him!! Insane in the brain....that one was...I know alot of serial killes are psychopath but I really think some of them are just insane."

Lysosome: "I used to write to Richard Ramirez when I was 16-20, he was nice, told me to get an education and that Im sweet and should sort my life out and not end up in prison lol. I really liked him I told him I wanted to chop his wifes feet off and he was cool about it. he's a nice guy :-). Obsessed with the Devil, wanted rude pix of me, blah blah blah. Asked me if I was mad? haha."

ursulabear: "kemper is my favorite! pleasepleaseplease adress please!"

Serialthriller187 (one of the few boys on the forum): "My current pen pals are: Roy Norris, Phillip Jablonski, and Jack Owen Spillman III. I am waiting letters from 5-10 others. I have thousands of addresses. It's not 'risky' writing to any of these people at all, People are paranoid. If one is on death row, or life without parole, or life without change of parole. They rarely get released, If so, The feds watch their every move. Kemper won't write. You won't get a reply." 

And my absolute favorite, from dogbeith: "i am fascinating by serial killers becuse thay are so deffrent then other human beings but i do not want to talk to them or write letters to them cus thay murder human beings"

I've been mired in serial killer research for at least a year now... and a few of my friends have said that they've had episodes of this same intellectual compulsion (often coinciding with a bout of depression). So I understand the fascination, and I certainly understand trying to see inside the minds of these psychopathic people. Edmund Kemper is possibly the most flagrantly, fantastically fucked-up individual I have ever heard of, and the serial killer case that I have been most engrossed by. Apparently, he has this hard-to-get reputation among serial killer groupies/penpals. He's selective, choosy. 

Celebrity serial killer culture really makes me cringe internally, but I come into contact with it a lot as I'm researching this stuff. The fans, the people who absolutely relish it... for instance, someone made a MySpace page for Kemper: 

There are YouTube accounts that are much worse... people who make tribute videos to Ted Bundy, or write comments gushing over the minutiae of serial killers' lives. There are also streams of Tumblr pages to wade through... Kemper is being used for memes and banners, just like every other famous face known to American culture (for notoriousness and notoriety alike). 

(By the way, these pictures might not make complete sense if you don't know the story of his case, but you still get some idea of the horror in the facts behind it. Here's my favorite documentary about him, from the TV series Born to Kill?, if you're curious [and I love it when you're curious]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoqJXLaLq-M&feature=plcp). 

It's really good to be able to joke about this kind of thing, actually -- cannibalism, murder, necrophilia, psychopathy, mutilation. If it retains the untouchability of a taboo, it just gives the crisis more power and, by extension, the killer a more powerful status. They are sad, fucked-up individuals with sad, fucked-up lives. For a country galvanized by reality TV train-wrecks, exposes about hoarders and beauty competition mothers, this is exactly the brand of entertainment and intellectual manna that we're accustomed to. It seems natural that serial killers are a widespread obsession, a national mascot (what a revolting-idea-ringing-true THAT is!). 

I've thought about Edmund Kemper quite a lot -- far more than is healthy. I came up with some psychological insights into his case about a month ago, after watching every single shred of video about him on YouTube and reading everything I could find in the weirdest, darkest corners of the Internet. I want to post it sometime soon, but it's not ready yet. It sleeps inside my journal, fruits of a very late night on YouTube and the slow, gestating, timed release of a really well-structured revelation.

By the way, I found it:

Edmund Emil Kemper III, #B52453
P.O.B. 2000
Vacaville, CA 95696

I'm just not sure what I'm going to do with it.


    and thank you for putting that address.
    I am so tempted to send a message too, but its a bit scary, too.
    and I'm really happy you know who Edmund Kemper is in the first place =).

  2. You should write a book, Truman Capote-like, about this stuff!

  3. Zelda's fascinated with serial killers, too.

  4. Cringe is right. The fact that they're all chicks is sort of why I hate saying I'm a female, you know?

  5. From what I understand, Ed no longer responds to mail. It's possible that he makes exceptions. I still write to him anyway, as I think it's probably nice for him to hear from people as long as they have something intelligent or interesting to share. If I can provide him entertainment or make him think for a few minutes, that's more than enough reward for me. If anything, he would really appreciate funds being donated to his commissary. He doesn't make much money in the prison, and with him being 69 now, I'm sure his energy and abilities are limited. For the record, I am no groupie, and my letters do not consist of fawning over him or telling him how romantically obsessed I am with him. His childhood really resonates with the similarities in mind, and I really enjoy sharing interesting things with him, whether it's information regarding my upbringing and family, psychological hangups and intimacy issues, or even just cool little quotes, lyrics, or pictures that I think he'd get a kick out of. What he doesn't appreciate is people using him as a catalyst to make money off of him by selling letters full of personal information and conversations online. He's a human, and people often forget that he's had nothing but time to think about what he's done and where that anger and pain stemmed from.