Last week, I sold several of my non compos cards to a guy in England named Jack. He then contacted me, explaining that he’s a PhD student in Criminology, writing his thesis on serial killer culture, including “murderbilia.” He asked if I would be interested in answering some questions to help with his research, and at first I was like, “THIS IS A TRAP” because people never think I would ever have anything of worth to say. But even though I am a social shut-in when it comes to talking to strangers, I do have a lot to say on this topic and felt that this could be my chance to force my two cents into someone’s sweaty palm. I have always felt that my point of view on this topic might differ from other people who peddle wares emblazoned with murderer mugs. So I agreed and when he clarified that this was something he wanted to conduct via telephone like the olden days, I Googled him and found that he is a legit student from a real university and even has a blog chronicling his process. So I gave him my phone number and then proceeded to have slight heart palpitations for the next 16 hours, right up until the exact moment of his scheduled phone call because holy shit, talking on the phone, can you even imagine. This is much harder to do now that I don’t smoke anymore.
Thankfully, his docile British lilt calmed my nerves and I found myself bursting with things I wanted to talk about. I was trying really hard not to cut him off and interrupt him every 4.8 seconds, but this is a hot topic for me! Jack is actually a collector of serial killer souvenirs and has even traveled to the US in order to visit various museums on the topic, such as the Museum of Death in Hollywood, so it definitely relaxed me knowing that I was speaking with someone who definitely wasn’t judging me. (In fact, he said he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to send the cards he purchased from me because he wants to keep them for himself!)
Let me explain the origins of my cards, for those who don’t know.
It was December of 2006 and if you were ever on LiveJournal, you may have been dragged into numerous Christmas card exchanges. I was never really big on sending Xmas cards, but this particular year, I was like, “Yes. I will join this traditional holiday exercise in keeping the mail-humans busy.” But then you have to remember who I am. I’m not the type of person who could ever settle on running into Hallmark and buying a box of Thomas Kincaide Christmas cards. I’m an asshole and I wanted to do something asshole-y, send something that people wouldn’t expect. And what is one of the last things you’d expect to find with a poem about trimming a fucking Christmas tree?
The mugshot of a serial killer.
It seemed so stupid that it was perfect, you know? So I handmade all of these idiotic cards, cut out the heads of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, Albert Fish, wrote stupid poems and sayings on black card stock with silver gel pens…it was your basic crafting shit show. I had glitter glue every-fucking-where. It was even coming out in Chooch’s poop. (Probably.) But then a lot of the people I sent them to thought they were really funny and unique, plus it inspired dialogue about true crime and I learned that ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE have a sort of fascination with serial killers, not just assholes like me and, I don’t know, goths.
The funniest part to me is that some years prior to this, my grandma went on this kick where she wanted me to get a job writing greeting cards. I guess she saw something about it on a talk show, where there was some online Hallmark college, I don’t know. But I was just like, “Do you even KNOW me, woman?!” Like that would be something I’d enjoy as a career? But because every day is Opposite Day, I went and started making cards, my own way. I never told her about them, but if I had, say it with me, “oh honestly, Erin.”
So I started selling them on Etsy and to be honest, I was actually pretty surprised at how consistently they sold. I mean, not enough for me to quit my day job, but it’s just steady enough where it’s worth it. There’s a certain degree of shock value that comes with sending your mom a Lizzie Borden birthday card, I guess. And that’s what I would want if I were shopping for a greeting card. It’s provocative and controversial, which are things that I like, from the standpoint of a buyer and creator.
But the reason I was happy to talk to this Jack guy is because I wanted to specifically address the backlash. Because of course there has been backlash. When I first started making these, I stupidly thought it was pretty obvious that it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I’m not some deranged (well…) broad who is trying to have a prison wedding with the Son of Sam. I don’t think these killers are cool. I don’t idol worship them. I certainly don’t condone violence, which is why I generally include a disclaimer anytime I post about them here on my blog. It’s basically just the dark side of pop culture, and if I really try hard enough, I might even be able to argue that my cards are educational. Two years ago, I passed out my Valentines at work and when one of my co-workers got the Albert Fish one, she was inspired to Google him because she didn’t know who he was. Let’s just say she learned a lot that day.
But from time to time, I do get messages on Etsy, telling me that I’m a horrible person for making these cards and that I should burn in hell. You know, the usual. Everyone gets to have an opinion. It’s OK that people think what I’m doing is wrong. But, the way I see it, and this is what I told Jack, I feel like I’m not making light of someone losing their life. I’m not basing these cards around murder scenes or photos of slain victims. I’m making fun of the actual serial killer. I’m taking these sons of bitches and softening them with vivid colors, corny catchphrases, and cheesy poems for the ultimate juxtaposition. THEY are the ones I’m making light of. Not the victims. You raped and killed a bunch of women and think I’m going to revere you? Fuck that. You’re getting a party hat photo-shopped to your stupid head. Happy birthday, bitch.
Jack asked me why I think there even is a murder culture, and I guess aside from the serial killer sycophants out there, a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are drawn to what they don’t understand, and people like to be SCARED. I know for sure that when I read true crime books or watch the ID channel, I am terrified. I am paranoid when I’m walking alone in the dark, but I still love horror movies and Halloween and haunted houses. With true crime, you get that whole “stranger than fiction” element and as sick as it sounds, I think that it holds some perverse entertainment value. Whether we like it or not, it’s a the dirty underbelly of our culture: songs will be sung about it, TV dramas written about it, art drawn about it.
I guess you would think that this is all I do, read Murderpedia and toss popcorn into my face while watching serial killer documentaries. But it’s not! I might know a little more than the average person, but I’m no expert and I wouldn’t even say I’m obsessed with them. In fact, when Jack asked me about my own personal murderbilia collection, I just laughed because it doesn’t exist!
Well, except for my Lizzie Borden bobblehead…
Sometimes I wonder if my customers imagine me living in a cave lined with Charles Manson tapestries.
Jack asked me if I have considered branching out and making other serial killer merchandise, and I admitted that there was a brief moment I thought about making pendants, but I think that toes the line of the aforementioned idol worship and I don’t want to really cross over to that side. I did do a painting of some serial killers, but I think that’s mostly just because I like painting faces.
By the end of the interview, I was so hyped up on the subject that I kept stalling because I didn’t want the conversation to end. Who knew I had so much to say on the subject? I guess nearly a decade with my toe in these murky waters has afforded me a fair share of observations.
I’m not writing this today to try and say that I’m justified in what I do or that I’m right and everyone else needs to get over it. I just wanted to tell my side, to admit that I have occasional guilt (especially when someone lashes out, and I never argue back because those people are allowed to think that I’m a disgusting piece of shit for making these). Just last week, someone commented here on a random blog post just to tell me that I’m asshole (duh) for making a Green River Killer birthday card, something something, after everything he did to all of those women, blah blah, how could you. I actually deleted that comment simply because how about you don’t call me names on my own blog. But the irony to this is that the majority of my customers on Etsy are women. Yes, some women clearly have a sense of humor!
That being said, we’re working on a serial killer pop-up card. Party time! Going to Hell!