Monday, August 03, 2009

sleep tight!

I've never spent a great deal of time analyzing why I'm so fascinated with all that is creepy. Although I think the SF Weekly's Benjamin Wachs hit the nail on the head when he told me my obsession with serial killers stems from my trying to control fear with knowledge. 
Or something like that. 
Anyway, I know exactly when it started, this need to explore and catalog the macabre. In 8th Grade, we were assigned to report on a famous Californian and a girl in my class named Jennifer presented Charles Manson. 
Jennifer, who due to a speech problem pronounced her own name "Jennifuh", was obviously not the sharpest knife (heh) in the drawer as Charles Manson wasn't from California. But she had left her extensive research, a lone copy of "Helter Skelter" lying around and I spent the next month sitting against the wall of the playground reading it again and again. As with any non-fiction book, I spend an inordinate amount of time gazing at the included photos. I vividly remember the shots of the crime scenes in which the sprawled dead bodies of the victims had been whited out. I'd force myself to look at each photo, memorizing not just the blinding white arms and legs and torso and head shapes, but the lamp in the background or spots of blood on a pillow. 
It was horrible and yet, I could not put that book down. 
The Tate Murders happened around 12:30am, so needless to say, I couldn't get to sleep until well after that. And once summer came, I'd stare at the calendar dreading the approaching August. Because obviously, August is when people in wooden houses on top of hills get murdered by crazy hippies. 
And I lived in a wooden house on the top of a hill. 
I would sit up in the TV Room long after my parents and brother had gone to bed and watch our VHS copy of Home Alone. I'd start at 11 and around 3 I'd finally fall asleep. That's at least 2 viewings of Home Alone nightly. I can't begin to describe to you the sheer terror I experienced night after night, convinced I'd be stabbed to death at any moment. I wondered when, you know? How old would I be? Would I die a virgin? Would I feel anything after the first stab? Who would find us? How many people would attend my memorial service? 
The whole thing was exhausting. 
But I survived that first August. And I survived a chance viewing of a Manson interview which I stumbled upon while Home Alone. This, I'd decided, was yet another sign of my impending bloody death. Into high school, my Tate-LaBianca obsession continued and after one anxious morning staring out the window just thinking about it, I marched into the school library and started looking for a copy of Helter Skelter. 
It was then I discovered true crime books. I must have blown off that entire week, spending trenchcoat-mafia-esque hours in the library learning all about Richard Speck and John List. Particularly interested in British murders, finding them somehow classier and perhaps more terrifying, I dove into the gory details of Jack the Ripper and the West Family, worming my way around the world dismemberment by dismemberment. 
I guess Benjamin is right. Knowing every single detail of every single horrific crime somehow makes me less terrified at the sound of a twig cracking outside the TV Room window. And now, why, I can recite Albert Fish's letters and can sing the last song Aileen Wuornos heard before she was put to death. 
But Manson...I'll always be the most afraid of Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders of early-August, 1969. 
Which brings me to my spooky, creepy, long-winded point. 
This weekend is the 40th Anniversary of the Manson Family Murders. And a knot is already forming in my stomach. While I'll be spending the weekend up in wine country with the Missus, I can promise you she'll be kept awake until the wee hours listening to gory detail after gory detail. 
Unless, of course, there's a VCR in our hotel room. In which case, we'll be watching Home Alone...

*For my friends in the creepy community, Los Angeles Magazine did a FABULOUS feature on the 40th Anniversary which you should read and then call me to chat about. This is like one of those fantastic Esquire articles my brother re-reads on airplanes. It'll take you ages, but my God, is it a page-turner...

7 comments:

Leslie said...

Oh lady, I can empathize out the ying yang here. I'm well known for my impressive true crime library that has been carefully cultivated from many trips to this terrifying underground used book store in Chicago from back when I lived there with cats everywhere and unorganized stacks. For someone who thinks they are going to die almost daily I can't believe I had no problem being in there.

It's definitely controlling fear with knowledge. I always say that I NEED to know what the worst thing out there is and I have to look at it and then the anxiety is relieved a little. My true crime obsession is on the same level with having seen hours of youtube videos of large parasites being extracted from the human body.

Did you know that one of my best friends is the niece of one of the Manson murder victims? I like that anecdote more than she does.

Here are my favorite crime reading topics you've probably been all over already:

1. Lindbergh Baby/Bruno Hauptmann

2. Black Dahlia

3. JonBenet

4. Cleveland Torso Murders

5. West Memphis 3

6. John Robertson- the original internet predator

7. Brookie Lee West, bad bitch

8. Eddie Lee Sexton and family

9. Lizzie Borden

10. Local Nashville/Tennessee crimes I remember ongoing from childhood such as Marcia Trimble and Janet March- the location of whose body is the subject of much bickering speculation

As per usual, I've said way more than necessary

Seana said...

I'm reading a novel about a seriel killer that might interest you (fiction is not really your style, I know, but I thought maybe...). "Sworn to Silence" by Linda Castillo.

Melissa said...

Oh dear...THIS should be interesting...

David said...

Yikes, I didn't realize the 40th anniversary was coming up. I live in LA, but I'll be staying far, far away from the Hills (shudder) for the duration...although I don't know where the LaBianca's lived.

The Lizzie Borden case is the most interesting true crime story. A real, impeccable whodunit complete with maid, wicked stepmother, spinster daughters, stingy miser, inheritance, multiple victims, possible child abuse, Victorian morality, poison, a hot summer day, an axe, media frenzy, high-powered attorneys, and an acquittal. The only thing missing from that one is a butler.

What happened to the Bordens in their home, in the middle of the day no less, still terrifies me. Personally, I think it was that weird uncle. Alibi was way too detailed, he argued with the victim the night before, AND he was trained as a butcher? Hmmm...

David said...

Oh, and the List case is fascinatingly awful too. What a horrid, horrid man.

Anonymous said...

I share your appetitie -- and since that's redundant to the convo here I'll just pass on that John Waters just published a 5 part series on Huffington Post about his friend Leslie Van Houten and why she should be paroled. The series started before the Squeaky announcement and I believe part 5 just posted today.

Enjoy!

lindamelinda said...

Ann Rule rules as far as true crime writers, in my book anyway. If you havent read Dead By Sunset, you should. You wont be able to put it down. Brad Cunningham is the reincarnation of the devil himself, handsome, charming, suave, and pure evil. He is alot like Ted Bundy.