Serial Killer Memorabilia For Sale
On Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service announced that it was auctioning 60 lots of possessions seized from Ted Kaczynski’s Montana cabin after his 1996 arrest, including the original handwritten and typewritten versions of his infamous “Unabom Manifesto,” his typewriters, shoes, diaries and thousands of books. The proceeds from the sale, which runs from May 18 to June 2, will go to four of his victims and their families. Last year they were awarded $15 million in compensation, a ruling Kaczynski, whose 20-year terror spree killed three people and injured and maimed 23 others, bitterly tried to block on the grounds that it violated his First Amendment rights.
John Wayne Gacy, the man who raped, tortured and killed 33 young men on a horrifying six-year spree, has no similar word of protest about his possessions; he was executed in 1994. And if your shopping taste runs less to dirty shoes and sunglasses and more to scary clowns, a Las Vegas gallery is exhibiting and selling off his works in an exhibition called ” Multiples: The Artwork of John Wayne Gacy.” Gacy, who famously developed a painting hobby while on death row, cranked out dozens of canvases in his last years, from disturbing skulls to portraits of Elvis and Charles Manson to greeting card-ready flowers and birds.
Starting this month and running through September, the Arts Factory is offering his works for between $2,000 and $12,000 apiece, promising that proceeds from the exhibit, “according to the wishes of the executor of Gacy’s art portfolio,” will go to “the community at large, including the Contemporary Arts Center, 18b Arts District and the National Center for Victims of Crime.” But as CNN reported Friday on the “controversial serial killer’s paintings” (as opposed to, say, those of a beloved serial killer), the National Center for Victims of Crime wants none of it. The advocacy group sent a cease-and-desist letter to the gallery. But owner Westly Myles told KTNV this week, “I see it as an opportunity to help from something that was bad.”
So which is it? Crude exploitation or making lemonade out of senseless crime? The Gacy exhibition’s press materials ponder, “Can we resist the impulse to attribute these inanimate objects, these oil paintings, to evil? Is the gallery a temple in which only those deemed worthy should be displayed, or is it, rather, a courtroom, a place all artists are equally qualified to be judged?” Hitler was an artist too; it’s just not the first of his job titles that springs to mind when you say his name.
The uneasy part of both auctions is the horrible fascination they evoke. The Unabomber auction’s Flickr set alone is hauntingly sad and strangely artistic — like a grimly beautiful Irving Penn tableau. And while Gacy’s work would hardly make it to the MoMA on its own merits, with the right representation and if you didn’t know the artist, it could still probably fetch a pretty penny at a downtown gallery.
There is always the question of why someone would want to own anything connected to these monsters. I even wonder why.
I guess for some it is simply a shock value / conversation piece.
To some it could be owing a piece of history, no matter how dark.
Some could raise themselves by looking into a part of the abyss that they know they would never enter.
Then there those that are fascinated by the horror of the monster on the wall blending the fantasy into the reality.
Regardless of why someone would want to buy Murderabilia there is a greater question.
I have written about Murderabilia before and I even posted a poll about it but I wonder if where the proceeds of the sale goes makes a difference. The Marshals are giving all proceeds to the victims and the Gacy art show will go to different charities. Does that make it alright?
In my opinion if the proceeds go to victims or charities then sell what you want. I don’t want it, but if it can help others then so be it.
I also wonder how the U.S. Marshal’s sale affects the laws that U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is trying to pass banning all sales of murderabilia.
Cornyn, R-Austin, is expected to announce today — with Mayor Annise Parker at City Hall — the introduction of federal legislation that would ban online sales of such items by making it illegal for prisoners, or another person on their behalf, to mail items to be sold in interstate commerce. The bill aims to remove the financial incentive for prisoners to sell murderabilia and allows victims to recover damages and legal fees from violators.
I am against criminals profiting from their crimes at the same time I am not sure where the line should be drawn. There are so many gray areas.
If a serial killer has children can the mother of those children auction things to support the kids?
If a person writes to a prisoner and later wants to sell the letters is that alright? What if while corresponding with the prisoner they sent money? Does that count as the prisoner gaining a profit?
(Side note; how different is this from a reporter or author bringing food, soda or snacks to a prisoner?)
There are many sites where one can buy murderabilia if they so choose. Some of the sellers admit that part of the money goes to the criminal and others say that all the criminal gets is attention and correspondence. Some give to victim’s groups and others do not.
The question is,
When, if ever, is it alright to buy or sale murderabilia?