In the movie Hannibal, Barney (Frankie Faison) sells “memorabilia” of Hannibal Lecter, such as the infamous restraint mask and other things. Surprisingly enough, this practice isn’t limited to grisly horror movies.
It’s called “murderabilia.” The amount of money involved may not be large, but the effect certainly is. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, a 470-page manuscript handwritten by recently executed serial killer Danny Rolling, who killed five University of Florida students in 1990, is expected to fetch $3700. Charles Manson’s “artwork” can fetch up to $650. For a painting by John Wayne Gacy – who killed at least 33 young men, according to Crime Magazine – the bidding will start at almost $1,000.
The families of those slain by the “collectible” killers are understandably disgusted.
“This is what he wanted from the crime,” Dianna Hoyt, whose stepdaughter was murdered by Rolling in Gainesville, told the Sentinel. “He wanted to become famous.”
The popular online auction website ebay.com banned the practice in May, 2001, but the collectors of “murderabilia” believe it is their right to collect and own anything they please, provided they aren’t hurting anyone.
“Of course people are going to be against it.” I understand that,” Merle Allen, a 39-year-old bass guitarist told the Sentinel. “But I have a right to collect what I want and to be into what I want. … I’m not promoting people going out and killing people.” Allen is right – at least technically.
If Hoyt is accurate about the motives of the man who killed her stepdaughter – and generally accepted psychological thinking says she is – then the collection of serial killer memorabilia certainly gives serial killers like Rolling solace as they sit on death row.
The law is responding. According to the Sentinel, “In 1998, a Florida judge ruled that money earned from accounts of Rolling’s crimes, including the book The Making of a Serial Killer by Rolling and Sondra London, had to be turned over to the state.”
Trade in the memorabilia of murderers is a ghoulish practice, and it should be outlawed. These are murderers, not artists. The victims are people, not social hierarchies or generally accepted principles of art. Quite frankly, the families of murder victims are more valuable to this society than the few thousands of dollars made in trading the stock of serial killers. Whether it is by life imprisonment or lethal injection, the lives of killers – as well their personal effects and the memories of them – should be made as forfeit as possible.