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