5 True Crime Relics That Are Bizarrely Preserved
People say that crime doesn’t pay. Immediately, we know that’s not true. Successful crime pays extremely well. Going to jail sucks, and being haunted by the guilt of a sin is a pain, but if the money wasn’t good, people wouldn’t be doing it. For writers who focus on true crime, the pros-and-cons list comes out looking even better: You get to capitalize on the morbid fascination and infamy, without the actual punishment looming over your head. So it’s unsurprising, if a little ghoulish, that true crime has become big business.
Is giving criminals our endless fascination something that’s the best course of action for a society? Probably not. It’s a curiosity none of us seem to be able to shake, though. Until we do, they’re going to continue to be documented ad nauseam, and even more viscerally, there will continue to be a market for the ickiest possible brand of memorabilia. Keeping evidence of crimes in a police lock-up is one thing. Finding them on eBay? That’s a little more questionable.
Here are five true crime relics that we probably didn’t need to keep around...
Ed Gein’s Cauldron
Even among serial killers, a gruesome bunch, Ed Gein and his crimes are particularly upsetting. All you really need to know is that he was part of the inspiration for both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface AND The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill to guess that he was up to some seriously fucked business. When he was finally caught, his house was filled with a Wayfair catalog’s worth of items made from corpses. Suits and masks made from skin were another bit of unwelcome craftsmanship uncovered at his home by police.
All this sounds like a good reason to burn the entire dwelling to the ground as soon as whatever evidence was legally necessary got bagged and tagged. But brains all work differently, and apparently, there’s some that want not only a souvenir, but one that was an essential part of Gein’s prep: his cast-iron cauldron. A cauldron? Really? We’re getting cartoonishly evil here. The killer crock pot that Gein used to hold entrails was sold at auction to professional ghost guy Zak Bagans for $2,800.
John Wayne Gacy’s Art
A lot of talk is made about the effect of making horrific crimes a quick path to fame. Sure, plenty of highly unpleasant killers are in it because their pee-pee is wired weird, but the fact that it’s a surefire clout generator isn’t discouraging anybody either. It feels like, at a base level, we should probably not be cool with child murder immediately skyrocketing the selling price of an amateur artist, like in the case of John Wayne Gacy.
Best known for his use of a clown costume to lure his victims and forever cement the nation’s coulrophobia, Gacy also apparently liked to unwind a la Bob Ross. Now, who are we to begrudge a man his hobbies? (Well, except for that main, murdery one.) If painting was keeping Gacy even slightly less insane, I applaud it. Where it starts to raise eyebrows is that to this day, people are still paying high prices for his art. His paintings have been auctioned for more than $12,000, an amount most artists would kill… well, let’s not use that idiom here. You’re telling me murder art is more valuable to you than a 2018 Honda Civic?
Night Stalker’s Windbreaker
The Night Stalker was, as Norm Macdonald would say, a real jerk. He committed over a dozen murders and sexual assaults across Southern California in the 1980s, and received 19 life sentences at his trial. You’d think we’d be fine letting his story end there, but apparently not. The interest is even darker considering he didn’t have quirks as strange as Gacy’s clown costumes or Gein’s grisly DIY projects. Just pure, unadulterated evil intentions.
Unfortunately, a whole lot of people seem devoted to keeping him a part of modern history. He got his own Netflix documentary, one that was a little glossier than even the true-crime community would prefer. Forget giving them attention, you should generally try not to give serial killers a shiny logo. Even that seems tasteful compared to the interest in his personal items, including a windbreaker he wore in prison, currently on sale for $15,000. That should be a thrift-store horror story, not an item sold at a premium.
Do I grasp the irony of writing about this on a site that is possibly still using the Unabomber as the default profile picture for new accounts? Yes. But at least we can claim that’s a joke, versus someone desperately wanting to own and shell out money for a genuine piece of the guy’s kit. Honestly, considering that he was a terrorist, you’d think the FBI would have an interest in shutting down his souvenir market.
Ted Kaczynski, the man in question, was famous for not only mail bombs but his manifesto taking on the evils of industrialization. Now, do I think the world is in a particularly peachy place? That’s a no. Unlike him, though, I’m just taking Zoloft about it. One thing I’m DEFINITELY not doing is paying out the nose to buy the typewriter he punched up his screed on.
Charles Manson’s Everything
There’s plenty of people who are less than enthused by the second-hand murder item market. One of those is Andy Kahan, who’s leading a legal fight to get the sale of what he calls “murderabilia” banned. According to him, possibly the number one offender is famous cult leader and killer-by-proxy Charles Manson. Through his time in prison, Manson and his “family” were all too happy to sell off pretty much anything he’d so much as breathed on, including locks of his hair, and make good money doing it.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.