Selling Your Soul (Murderabilia)

When does something cross the line and become an unhealthy obsession – and where should we draw the line for what can be sold online?  

For those who do not know, murderabilia is collectables relating to serial killers, murders, and other violent crimes. For instance, it could be letters written by a murderer, drawings, a car that once belonged to a murderer, etc. Some of the more questionable collectables would include a lock of hair, crime scene photos, dirt from the grave of a diseased murderer, and in some cases possible murder weapons. Someone once told me that if you are determined then you can find anything on the internet and for the right price you can most certainly get your hands on it. Although disturbing, I think this is true in this case.

While there are few laws restricting the sale of murderabilia and it in itself is not illegal, it has been the subject of some controversy over the last decade. In 2001, Ebay banned the sale of offensive items including murderabilia on it’s website and since then, more and more websites have been created to cater to this specific demand. Perhaps what some might find the most disturbing is that these websites are not exactly hidden and hard to access, but actually just a mouse click away – in fact, I was able to find a good handful of them just by doing a quick google search. Some of the websites did look somewhat questionable mostly due to the gory designs and how each item was presented, while others just looked like any other online store.

The reason why many are calling for a ban on murderabilia is because: “Murderabilia has a profitable market that has made millions off mundane items like dirt from the Cleveland strangler’s home or even a half-eaten bag of Reese’s Pieces from Charles Manson” (HLNtv.com, 2013). In other words, the people who are selling these items are making a profit off of crime – or criminals who committed horrific crimes. Others argue that this business is causing victims’ families immense pain, others say that the demand for murderabilia and selling of such, is glorifying murderers and lastly, many wonder who would go to these websites, purchase an item, and what their intent are.

Last year, I went to and purchased something from a murderabilia website. I purchased the psychological profile of Ed Gein which was written in 1957. The twenty-five-page document was fairly cheap compared to many of the other items and in my opinion, it was one of the less ‘gruesome’ items for sale. I purchased it out of curiosity, interest, and for research purposes, although the latter may be more of an excuse rather than a reason. I do not consider myself a sick and twisted person, although that is how the media portrays people, who buy murderabilia. Furthermore, the thought how this business affects the families of the victims pains me, it was not something I had considered, before I made my purchase and honestly, it is the main reason why, I am not sure exactly where I stand on murderabilia. Should it be illegal to sell something that once belonged to, or something closely related to, a person who committed a murder? Should we draw a line and where should the line be drawn? Or would something like this actually just target harmless people with a dark interest and determine that they are not allowed to have a certain interest and cannot spend their own money on an item because of it’s association to a certain person?

I am very interested in hearing what you think, so please leave a comment below, telling me your thoughts on the subject.

 

Original photo: Paul Murphy.

Bott, M. (2015). ‘Murderabilia’ collector defends hobby, website in spite of criticism by victims’ families. ABC10. Retrieved from http://legacy.abc10.com/story/news/investigations/2015/04/03/murderabilia-collector-sells-true-crime-items-from-serial-killers/25274359/

HLNtv.com. (2013). The fight against murderabilia. Retrieved from http://www.hlntv.com/video/2013/05/31/murder-memorabilia-serial-killers-andy-kahan

 

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12 Comments

  1. That’s the first time I heard about the topic and it is a controversial one but I think as long as you don’t look for really sensitive stuff and not showing it off around I think it’s ok to do so, although with certain items one could question authenticity of such objects. Definitely something I should think a bit more about. Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m curious as to what you mean by “showing it off?” Do you mean that it shouldn’t be displayed in the person’s home or that the person just shouldn’t talk about it (or brag about it depending on how you see it)? And thank you so much for the comment, I really appreciate it!

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      • I meant that as long as the act of “bragging” isn’t involving people who might be related to the case, it’s ok to collect that stuff. I think.

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  2. This is an interesting topic and one I hadn’t really thought about before. It’s nothing I’d be interested in buying, though I can see the value of something like Ed Gein’s psychological profile, especially for research purposes. In that same sense, I could also understand the interest in historical items — say something that belonged to Billy the Kid or Bonnie and Clyde. Perhaps some kind of time limitation could be imposed, so people couldn’t profit off those crimes that are still relatively recent. Thanks for the interesting post.

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  3. I myself have no interest in such things. All I hear about is the “free market” world we live in. Yet, legally, we can only purchase what they allow us to purchase. This isn’t a “free market”. So, in truth, the free market is nothing but a lie, but one can obtain most anything they want through the free market of the black market. Rules and regulations simply free up another market that does’t profit the society.

    That’s the market view on the subject. As for the ethical and moral concepts, this is up to the person. Some people might not care if it affects the family. They simply want the items. People like you question your own motives and make your decision based upon your own conscience.

    Great story! Well written! Both sides are presented well.

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  4. Good subject! I have on occasion obtained such things,, not half eaten candy…gross, but crime scene photos and transcripts.as well as other artifacts. All for research purposes. I don’t think it is any different from collecting war memorabilia. Somebody had to die there too. Go to museums and you’ll see quite a bit of it. Bonnie and Clyde’s car, John Wilkes Booth’s weapon…There will always be a market for oddities and bizarre items. I don’t know why someone would want anything that was owned by a murderer or serial killer, even if you are doing research. Get the paperwork, not the Reese’s candy. Thanks!

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  5. I’m really glad you bring the less talked about subjects here. I agree with another poster that in many ways the items are like artifacts or research items but some people do have a gross interest in feeling a connect to the crime or people involved for whatever reason. The people affected by crimes are not inclined to want these items. Just like a soldier coming home from a brutal war doesn’t usually watch war movies for entertainment. I don’t think it should go as far as making it all illegal due to the research arena that would be affected but it definitely isn’t for me.

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  6. I think it’s fine and human nature to be curious about anything that strays so far from the norm as serial killers. I would love to read the psychological profile or at least the best parts of it. You should post them!

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  7. I think that the murderabilia market in itself is fine. I see a problem only if 1) the murderer gets money out of those deals 2) the buyer has an obsession which is borderline with sociopath behaviour, in which case, this might be pushing the boundaries of sanity too far. Instigation to emulate.

    Nice read!

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  8. An interesting debate. One one hand it can be argued that forbidding it would take away a little bit of our freedom, but on the other hand it can be argued that it is a small loss in comparison to the potential pain it would bring the family of whoever has been murdered. I personally think some sales should be legal, but there should be drawn a line – for example hair of the murdered.

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  9. I don’t think it should be restricted unless the murderer is somehow profiting, which I don’t think they are. The only time I would have a problem with it or be freaked out by someone buying that sort of thing is if they got a sort of sick pleasure out of it, reveling in the bloodshed surrounding it, or using it to fuel them on to heinous acts of their own.
    I worked as an intern for a woman who did a documentary on women who fall in love with and marry serial killers. You can watch the trailer here, http://www.serialkillergroupies.com/ I helped her write a book (which isn’t yet published) that expands on the documentary, and I learned a lot of weird stuff, so murderabilia doesn’t seem overly strange to me. I’m really not surprised.

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