Some people collect stamps or coins, but for some reason, that's just not enough to keep them interested. So they do what any reasonable person would do: collect the most disgusting, creepiest things imaginable.
Louisiana mortician (and oldest ex-pal), Rick Staton, was a pioneer in selling murder doodles, and participated in the first art exhibits of famous serial killers' artwork.
Staton is considered by many to be the originator of the collectible craze, saying,
"the murderers' art is...
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Rick Staton was a nice guy. I liked the fact that he was a mortician AND was as obsessive back in the day as I have turned out to be--always frittering from one sub-menu of the Grindhouse to the other.
Rick's mail order co. (real mail, no internet then) was the first such company to bear the name, 'Grindhouse Graphics'--there have since been many imitators in his dotage.
O there are many stories I could tell.
I kinda wish I'd made the trip to visit JWG in prison with Rick and my bandmate, Donald Spicer--if for no other reason than for the Polaroids they snapped (just think if there had been a social network back then--that would have taken the Facebook Profile Pic Prix de Prison).
I'm proud to say that some time in the '90s (hazy) I conceived, organized and promoted, if not the first (Rick showed some Gacy's in Seattle with Tobias Allen, who later committed suicide, the year previous), at least, the most violent and well-attended Death Row Art Show, featuring Joe Coleman at the French Quarter art gallery where I held tenure as Director of INSANITY.
Barrister's Gallery was run by two Club Fed members and fueled by a generous supply of Babania, which smelled like banana peels and Vitamin C, but which was insufflated like it were the fountain of youth.
What Did the Charitable Organization say when offered 15% of the Art Show's GROSS? NO.
"Murderabilia" is what they call works of art produced by serial killers. Prison wardens encourage killers to pursue such creative outlets, it makes a guy more manageable while keeping a paintbrush in his shankin' hand. While behind bars famous psychopath John Wayne Gacy had art exhibitions, and was a leader for terrifying clown awareness.
Meanwhile cult leader and swastika enthusiast, Charles Manson spent his allotted arts and crafts time painting, sketching and making spiders out of yarn and string. In fact he scribbled down two pages of instructions on how to make a genuine Manson yarn spider, all in his native language of crazy.
Who would collect this?
There are no exact figures but the sale of murderabilia is hugely successful online with daily transactions at murder auction.com and DaisySeven.com, whose slogan "Where crime pays. Everyday," just barely beat out the alternative "For people who masturbate to CourtTV".
It should be noted that serial killers probably aren't concerned with sales mostly because of laws that prevent them from making any money. In 1977, a little doggy told David Berkowitz he could make a truckload of cash from a tell-all book, and publishers came running. These events lead to the formation of "Son of Sam laws," which prohibit a felon from profiting off their crimes, and preventing mediocre art school students from going on a killing spree. Also, a brief analysis of the works by the killers themselves shows no correlation between depravity and talent. It turns out a shitty painter will remain shitty even after disemboweling a hobo. For instance:
Above is an orgy skull dreamed up by Gacy when he got tired of painting clowns. Yes, it's a skull made of dongs. This is way scary, and not laughable or pathetic in the least.This depiction of a mermaid tickling a shark was miscarried into the world by killer Charles Ng, whose body count totaled over 25 people. He felt the compulsion to bring more suffering into the world and designed the poster for Jaws vs. SPLASH!.
*check back where you see the serial killer imprimatur for these and other tales of the art business and me.
Celebrities--is there nothing the public won't ravage them of? People rifle through their trash, reporters snap pictures of their genitals with telephoto lenses. What's left? How about owning an actual piece of a famous person? Of course, lopping off a finger or ear is still against the law, but you can still settle for a hunk of their hair.Who would collect this?
Everyone. In the last decade the number of serious hair collectors has skyrocketed from about 150 to over 2,000. Why? Well you already know there's no non-creepy answer to that question, but the interest seems to be tied to all the recent breakthroughs in DNA research, so people are collecting on the vague idea that they can clone themselves a celebrity some day. Seriously.
A few strands from JFK sold online for $205. The clump of hair pictured below is from Che Guevara, which sold for $100,000 in October 2007. You hear that? A damn commie socialist outsold John Fucking Kennedy. How about a little American pride in our fur trappings?
The leading hair dealers are Louis Mushro, a Michigan collector who deals on eBay, and John Reznikoff, who's the Guinness world record holder for his huge human hair collection (once again proving that it's not that hard to get into the Guinness Book of World Records). Reznikoff has pieces from Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon, Albert Einstein and even Abe Lincoln, complete with chunks of brain matter from his assassination. Hell, he even has some hair from the man who shot him (Wilkes Booth got clipped while being dragged from his burning barn hideout). So how do the still-living celebrities feel about this? Well, in 2005 Reznikoff struck a deal with Neil Armstrong's barber on some snippets, but when Armstrong heard of the transaction he tried to block it. His efforts failed, and Reznikoff donated several thousand dollars to his favorite charities as a consolation. Money he'll surely make back when he clones his spaceman army).
While behind bars famous psychopath John Wayne Gacy had art exhibitions and was a leader for terrifying clown awareness. Meanwhile cult leader and swastika ...
Introduced by John Wayne Gacy, Staton and Allen find a little too much pleasure in morbid discussions of body counts and crime scenes...