The number one show in America right now is Ryan Murphy’s take on the saga of Jeffrey Dahmer with Evan Peters portraying the “Wisconsin Cannibal” that captured the headlines as well as our morbid curiosity in the early 1990s. It's no secret; people like to be titillated.  They like to be shown the kind of things that we are not supposed to want to watch but often cannot help it.  So naturally, this concept lends itself to the collecting world as well.

If you know Mr. Murphy’s work, it isn’t much of a departure from what he has become famous for.  And how the man that brought the world “Glee” churns out televised gore faster than Quicksilver is a whole other puzzler (you can, in fact, right now watch three currently broadcasted Murphy chillers at once along with “American Horror Story” in their eleventh season and “The Watcher” on Netflix). The point is that Murphy knows what people like. 

I remember first hearing about collecting things relating to the real-life macabre in high school. 

Serial killer trading cards became a thing in the late 80s and early 90s and were instantly controversial.  I remember a kid in my grade had them.  He was just the kind of kid that you could imagine having them.  He kept to himself.  Everybody knew him but he didn’t have a lot of friends.  And he had the kind of parents that would let him have access to this sort of thing, or at least not care one way or another. 

I say none of this to judge.  I consider myself a substantially well-adjusted human adult, and one of my highest levels of interest on an entertainment level is my serial killers. Give me all the true crime and Ted Bundy docs you can muster.  They are fascinating.  I eat them up like…well, I shan't say, but I know I’m not the only one.  Many are drawn to it.  Is Freddy Krueger scary?  Hell no.  Michael Myers is great fun to watch and movies like “Hereditary” that push the edge of modern horror are incredibly compelling, but I wouldn’t say that they frighten me.  The fact that men named Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy lived on this planet, breathing oxygen just like I do, and did what they did makes anything else look like “Sesame Street.”

It only makes sense that people would want to capitalize on and collect this dark corner of society.  Is it ethical?  That’s for each person to decide.  This debate touches every corner of the counterculture.  There are some that believe people do not have the right to profit from the tidbits of life that, for some, were the most horrific moments imaginable. 

Can a person or company turn something so sinister into something marketable?  It’s a slippery slope, more so than other controversial topics like pornography.  People might not agree with the publishings of Bob Guccione or Larry Flynt, but to my knowledge, no one was brutally murdered to spurn its creation. 

To many, turning serial killer comic books and trading cards into a collectible normalizes it which gives it acceptance. 

Hey, I’ll trade you a Charles Manson for a Richard Ramirez!  They’re not Batman or Pete Rose, they’re the most horrible individuals to share our collective humanity.  Even Newman on “Seinfeld” still had Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz’s mailbag (he took over his route) to use as collateral for Kramer.  These things have value, but what of the value of the collector? I have no answers to whether or not it’s moral, but I do consider the survivors of these inhumanities and how it must make them feel.  The path to empathy is always a righteous one.

Recently, some of the belongings of Jeffrey Dahmer from the end of his life were auctioned.  His Bible ($10,000), prison correspondences ($8,000), and floppy disks with court documents used in his trial ($400) are just straight up for sale as well.  Hell, someone bought his urn for $250,000.  That means you could have owned the receptacle that contained Jeff himself (or what was left of him) for a quarter of a million dollars, and someone did.  Right now, that canister is sitting on someone’s mantle next to their JV wrestling trophy. 

In the real story (spoiler alert) a Wisconsin businessman with no connection to the case bought all of Dahmer’s possessions from his apartment and had them destroyed to spare the families of these items becoming valuable.  The twist here is that he raised over four hundred thousand dollars to have them destroyed because some of the VICTIMS’ families were looking to auction them off to compensate for their grief with a little green. 

Money creates a moral ambiguity that muddles the lines of what is acceptable and makes accountability a treacherous endeavor to undertake.  At this aforementioned auction,  his glasses from his final days went for $150,000.  They were the ones that everybody in the 1970s seemed to wear, but Jeff was still rocking them in the ’90s.  No one said he was a trendsetter, but it is a fact that this Halloween, because of the Netflix series, Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer is one of the hottest costumes on eBay. 

Why on eBay? 

Because outlets like Spirit and Party City refuse to carry anything associated with him or other serial killers.  Could they make tons of dough?  Totally, but their refusal is a statement. A statement that decrees that this kind of collecting and celebration of evil must stay in the dark recesses of the internet or the shadiest comic book shops and conventions you know, and that’s probably where they should stay.

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*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.