The True-Crime Unhealthy Obsession Thread

I noticed in Dropzone’s thread that a few people mentioned being true-crime buffs. Not commiting them, I assume, but reading about them.

I prefer the ones old enough to be “historical,” so I don’t feel as guilty about any relatives still being alive . . . You know, Lizzie Borden, Wm. Desmond Taylor, the Benders (the killer family out west, not the robot), Winnie Ruth Judd. I love those TLC and A&E specials, though most of them use talent-free out-of-work summer stock actors to do “re-enactments,” which annoys the hell outta me.

So, what are your favorite true crimes? Who do you think actually did in the Bordens, Wm. Desmond Taylor, and the Black Dahlia?

In the Borden and Black Dahlia cases, I’m real glad the photographers used black-and-white film.

I used to think Bridget Sullivan done in the Bordens, but the more I read, it seems Lizzie actually was the guilty party (though I’m pretty sure she paid off Bridget to keep her mouth shut and dispose of some evidence).

As far as the poor Dahlia, that IS a puzzler. None of the books or teevee specials I’ve seen have been remotely believable—have you heard of that woman who thinks—seriously!—that Orson Welles did it?!

I’m a bit conflicted about the whole genre. I can understand the appeal - these cases are certainly sensational enough. All things being equal it seems a little exploitative and God knows that there’s enough gore, mayhem, and violence in today’s papers without dredging up disembowlments, cannibals, and unsolved murders from the past. I suppose the Black Dahlia case, the Jack the Ripper wave of butchery, and related examples of unsolved, particularly heinous crimes holds a fascination just because they’ve been unsolved for such a very long time and we all like to think that given enough time we can come up with a superior theory as to who killed Lizzey Borden’s father and stepmother. That being said, such crimes are not likely to be solved given the intervening time span and the incomplete information, distortions, and out and out bullshit that gets hoisted as fact. It seems a little like a gorey form of navel-gazing (if there is a navel still intact to be gazed upon).

I guess that I’m of an opinion that man’s inhumanity to man is self-evident enough - there’s little to be gained by pouring over crime scene photographs of the Black Dahlia’s severed torso, unless it leads you to treating your fellow man a little better.

My .02 on the subject.

See? I told you not to open those links!

I like to read Max Haines makes me happy. Not only does he produce compact little stories of true-crime, but does it in a matter-of-fact way that is entertaining and informative.

So, the next time I’m married by a seemingly rich man from Transylvania who wants to take me back to his manor, I will know that he really wants to stuff me into a barrel and keep me in a closet, all the while telling the local constable that the barrel is full of petrol, held in reserve for the lean times to come because of the war.

Ginger, Flamsterette_X, and Tisiphone? What is it about serial killers and Canadian women?

I’m a true crime buff. I love reading about serial killers and the like. Anything, from biographies to death row statistics to what they ate for thier last meal. I like to read the more recent case files.

There is no mystery as to why I like this shit. It’s simply morbid fasination.

And my favorite serial killer story would have to be Jeffery Dahmer. That man had balls! (Three or four sets in the freezer if I remember correctly.)

And btw, I am very normal.

Plnnr, I totally agree with you, it is a GUILTY pleasure, and I am NOT proud of scanning the True Crime section of the bookstore. But it is natural—must be, as so many people are interested in it! There must be some deep psychological reason for it, but I dunno what it is.

I prefer old-time murders, as I feel a lot guiltier when I remember that the relatives of Ted Bundy’s, Jeffrey Dahmer’s, etc., victims are still alive. And yes, I know full well that if my mother or sister had been chopped up by Lizzie Borden I wouldn’t think it was so “fascinating.”

That having been said . . . I kinda think Mary Miles Minter’s mother did in Wm. Desmond Taylor, that Lizzie Borden killed her pa and stepma, and that some unknown Cockney psycho was probably Jack the Ripper.

Well, there’s always Albert Fish for the serious “Eeewwww” factor. Creeps me out just thinking about him.

Yet I read about this stuff anyway.

BTW, Eve, there’s a boardgame I have whose premise is that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson travel through time to solve various unsolved crimes (usually murders). Oddly enough, I don’t remember if the Lizzie Borden case is in there, but I know the William Desmond Taylor case is.

Hey, Hey! True Crime.

I like the stuff too, but I find it hard to find book on a case I’m interested in written by an author I can stand. Ann Rule does nothing for me, although The Sranger Beside Me was OK.

I have also enjoyed Zodiac by Robert Graysmith, and The Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas. Not that I always agree with the author, mind you.

John Douglas’ book is notable 'cause it includes a chapter on the Borden case, the one I’m most interested in. Douglas is in the “Lizzie Did It” camp along with myself. I have read a couple of other views.

For instance - Arnold Brown, in his book Lizzie Borden: The Legend, the Truth, the Final Chapter argues that the murders were commited by Andrew’s illegitimate semi-retarded son. Not that I agree, but I thought the book was well written and set out the case pretty well.

I also remember having read a fictional novelization of the case that seemed to be heading towards the following conclusion - Lizzie was a repressed lesbian who killed her father and step-mother durring an out-of-body experience. I’m not entirely sure. The book was so bad I never finished it.

For a slim little tome on the case, I recomend Rick Geary’s A TREASURY OF VICTORIAN MURDER: THE BORDEN TRAGEDY

See Here:

Eve, James Ellroy has a good lead on a suspect in the Dahlia case. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the suspect’s name…if you’re more familiar with the case, it’s the old doctor who lived a few blocks from where the body was found.

Of course, Ellroy wrote a fictionalised account of the Dahlia case in The Black Dahlia, and studied his own link to true-crime (the unsolved murder of his mother) in My Dark Places.

I certainly didn’t mean to come off as dismissive or superior - I understand the visceral appeal (or is that the eviscerated appeal?).

My opinion was changed by the O. J. Simpson debacle (if that wasn’t fodder for a “true-crime” story then nothing is) and knowing that money was going to be made based on the sensationalizing of that whole miscarriage of justice (or, perhaps better stated, what I perceived to be a miscarriage of justice). Perhaps it is easier to put those feelings away when the events are a bit removed by time.

Me? I’m fascinated by beautiful women with statuesque figures, come-hither glances, and dark, smoldering eyes. I just happen to like mine all in one piece.

Duke—I saw James Ellroy talking about the Dahlia on TV. His whole theory is based on the fact that the doctor lived a few blocks from where the body was found, though—there is NO other evidence or real connection to the case. Sounds like he’s grasping at straws. John Gilmore had a better suspect—some drifter who later died in a fire—but I have read another Gilmore book, and he is SO full of shit that I automatically am suspicious of ANYTHING he says.

Lindy—Albert Fish. Ewwww is right. There is a book on him, I think by Harold Schecter.

Trion—Ann Rule used to be a somewhat decent writer, but she went foir the easy cash and signed a book-a-year contract and now churns it out like sausages.

I highly recommend Edmund Pearson, the Dominick Dunne of the 1920s. He was obsessed with Lizzie Borden, and there’s a chapter about her in every one of his books.

Hmm…maybe I should look into the historical ones so I don’t feel so guilty :slight_smile:

I really go for the forensic science aspect, so I love reading books like Dead Men Do Tell Tales and * Unnatural Death*. That way, sometimes you’re in the science section instead of True Crime.

The one that really gets to me is the case of Parker & Hulme, the two teenage girls who murdered Parker’s mother—the movie Heavenly Creatures is based on the saga and of course, writer Anne Perry was exposed as Juliet Hulme a few years ago.

Keep meaning to read more about Jack the Ripper—I heard Patricia Cornwell is coming out with a book about him.

My mother was obsessed with Raymond Burr, so I was forced to watch Perry Mason and Ironsides (along w/Alfred Hitchcock presents, then later on Columbo etc.)
and I ended up working in corrections.

Ann Rules, claim to fame, as far as I’m concerned is that she used to work with a serial killer and couldn’t tell until after he was caught. (yes, I know they’re very good at blending in, generally)

[sub] ok, so I like reading about the murders. does that make me a bad person?[/sub]

I apologize for this small hijack and will take an answer in email so as not to disturb the flow of this thread.

wring can you explain what you mean by that? I’m totally confused (most likely as a result of me being dense). If I understand what you wrote, you are saying that she worked with a person who she knew was killing people but that she couldn’t tell anyone until after this person was caught. How is that possible without her having been obstructing justice or at least without her being legally culpable in some way in the deaths of the victims she failed to prevent by telling someone what was going on? Was she a priest who heard about his murders during confession? I’m totally confused. Can you send me a link or something?

[sub]Now back to your regularly scheduled thread[/sub]

I can field that one—in the early 1970s, Ann Rule worked on a suicide hotline with Ted Bundy. The fact that Ted Bundy worked on a suicide hotline is funny enough: “Hello, suicide hotline. You want to kill yourself? What’s your adress? I’ll be right over!”

Ann also set her teenage daughter up on a blind date with that cute Mr. Bundy from work!!! She was safe enough, as Ted only killed strangers, but still, I imagine she needed a LOT of therapy later on. “Gee, Mom, THANKS for setting me up with TED BUNDY!”

In the mid 70s I worked at a place John Gacy used to cruise looking for victims. Part of me was incensed that he didn’t find me cute enough to kill as I was in pretty good shape back then. Another part decided that he had probably thought I looked like too tough a customer to tackle. I’ve chose that view. :smiley:

my wording was a bit vague, in retrospect.

“she couldn’t tell” in this case did not mean that she was forbidden from telling, it means ‘she didn’t realize’. She worked w/the guy IIRC, while they were looking for a guy named ‘Ted’ who drove a beige VW and was the last person seen w/two women who disappeared from Sammich Park (I remember far too much about this - probably really wrong about the spelling of the park). So, it doesn’t appear to have hit home with her Ted=Ted; beige VW = beige VW etc. But, to her (grudging) credit, it also didn’t apparently to hit home with much of anyone else that he knew at the time.