Serial killers, the Kevin Bacon game, and just plain crazy people.

Hi, everybody. Finally have murdered the bug that had me feeling bleh for the last week, have actually gotten some sleep, at least, and have taken once more to my keyboard. The next chunk of Four Corners from Rotten Apple should be popping up in the next couple of days, as well as some stuff about some other awesome author associates of mine, but for today I felt like babbling about some of my recent reading material.

This last week, I’ve been digging into some “true crime” stuff. You know, the “Absolutely, Positively 100% True Things That We Can’t Prove But Want You To Believe Anyway” stripe. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. There’s always at least a nugget or two of truth in there, but the “poetic license” that is taken and the utterly insane leaps of logic used to get from Point A to Point B often obscure the point… and that’s long before you get into some of the utterly insane theories and rationales that end up being spouted. I’m going to call a couple specifically to the floor here. Bear down. It gets messy and ranty.

My daddy was a Scottish noble in hiding, a Cuban cabana boy, a traveling salesman, or Adolf Hitler’s grandson. But at least they weren’t all the same man. (Seriously, though. All of those have been fingered as possibilities.)

The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short. Fascinating case, really, and still has the power to trigger people’s “conspiracy buttons.” It’s really almost sad that this book is so well written, because it’s just batshit crazy. First off, we start recounting a woman having a (potentially unnecessary) hysterectomy, then mention her time in a mental institution, then discuss near-constant blackouts and signs of depression, hysteria and borderline schizophrenia (and how she’s always going on and off her meds), but then we’re told she’s “recovered” her childhood memories, and they say that not only did daddy kill Elizabeth Short (in front of her. Among other things.) he murdered a whole mess of other people, was constantly engaged in homo- and heterosexual affairs with literally dozens of people (plus finding time to diddle his children) and was part of prostitution scams with the mafia. Ohhhh-kay. Where to begin?

First, the whole recovered memories thing. Do I believe people can, willingly or subconsciously, repress their memories? Yes. Do I believe those memories can cause psychological scars or trauma, even years later? Yep. Do I believe that, if the pressure builds up enough, that those memories might be recalled, in whole or in party? Sure. “But Kaine!” I hear you say, “then what’s wrong with these repressed memories?”

Simple. Every single one of her repressed memories is about daddy killing someone or something, daddy raping someone or something, and mysteriously these memories only “appear” after being exposed to an aspect of that someone or something. “Oh, Daddy killed the Dahlia.” Kay. I can buy this – maybe – so far. Then we take her to a spot that has no significance whatsoever, and tell her that Ms. Short rented the place for a short time. “Oh, Daddy rented this place for Aunt Betty (the narrator’s name for the Dahlia), and we stayed here. Oh, and he made pornos. With me. And the Dahlia. And some Mexican guys.” … No. Just no. There’s worse in there, but the fact that her “memories” seem to come and go, and alter themselves as “facts” of the case are presented to her (which one can discover are not fact at all, but different individuals pet theories at best, and sometimes outright BS designed to trip her up, which she does all-too-willingly) and, my personal favorite, that every memory gets worse and worse, like Serbian FilmHuman Centipede and Hostel-level worse, well, that seals it for me.

My favorites? Okay, we start with her “memory” of being about a year old and daddy dangling his wing-wang in her face, mommy coming in and shouting “You can’t, it’s too big, it’ll kill her!” (Mind you, this is… sort of… believable. Maybe.) Then we escalate to daddy driving the car when our narrator is about four or so, and he runs over a pedestrian, deliberately. Then hops out of the car to brain the victim, hops back in and threatens our narrator into silence, drives off. Next he’s raping and beating a woman to death in front of his daughter. Then he’s banging Ms. Short (while the family is nowhere near Short’s supposed location, mind you; this book claims that daddy was dating Elizabeth off and on for some years, while he was married and had a steady woman on the side, plus was raping and killing all these other folks and having who knows how many affairs; dad was a busy guy.). Then he’s back to molesting the kids again, this time producing children with our narrator. A girl who is given up for adoption, and boy who’s murdered with a claw hammer. Then he’s grinding up Short’s miscarried fetus into sausage and arranging “dance parties” with the Dahlia’s corpse. Then he’s forcing his daughter to miscarry into a bathtub. And so on. And so on. It feels like every new “memory” has to top the last one on the atrocity scale, and starts to give off the reek of a Michael Bay “blockbuster.” “If we don’t have an explosion every 3.7 seconds, and every explosion is not bigger than the last, we’re doing it wrong!”

I just… ugh. I don’t know who killed the Dahlia. I don’t presume to know. I have my own suspicions as regards the eventual fate of her killer, but wouldn’t state it as fact or claim I know “the truth.” Then again, I don’t have handy repressed memories (that have only occasionally been borne out with fact or evidence) to fall back on. Too bad; I might have been able to make a million bucks (and play a long-standing game of “Dodge the Lawsuit” while at it), too.

Then, as regards the “evidence.” There isn’t any. It’s mostly supposition, and most of it plays the Kevin Bacon game. You know about that, right? You can connect any individual, place or thing to Kevin Bacon in a maximum of six hops. Multiple times through the text, we’re greeted with passages like “Short knew this guy. Who lived in this part of town. Which was thirty minutes away from this part of town. That part of town was frequented by this guy, who sometimes lived in this state, and that state is where daddy once had to buy a knife ostensibly purchased to dress deer!” (Usually they stop before they get to claiming that it proves that was the knife that cut her in half, but they’ll heavily imply it.) There are worse examples, but if one is going to consider that (even circumstantial) proof of wrongdoing, then I advise the police to come to my house immediately.

Why? Oh, well, I live in Carson City. And that’s only a few hours drive from an air force base where they were rumored to be housing alien skeletons. That base was mysteriously closed at the same time I took a road trip to an unknown location. I returned from that trip with a terrible sunburn, and we all know that alien skeletons are radioactive and radioactivity promotes sunburn, so I must have gone and broken into that base! Come at me bro.

Anyway. Enough about that mess. On to the next one.

Every time I see this author’s name, I laugh. Can’t help it.

This one’s about the “Vampire Clan Killings.” Everyone above the age of 18 or so probably remembers seeing it all over the news (and if they were below the age of 18 at the time, were probably questioned quite stringently about if they possessed any Vampire games or why they had black fingernail polish.) It’s reasonably well-written, though a trifle more fictionalized than one might care for. But it quickly falls into the pop-culture trap of heaping blame on whatever things the killer was into, rather than positing the person as being mentally unbalanced to start with.

So, let me get this straight. A kid claims he’s actually the incarnation of a 500-year old vampire, that he’s immortal, that he’s the Antichrist, that he astrally projects into Hell to sit on his throne whenever he feels like it. The kid is almost ridiculously promiscuous, siring several children with several different mothers. He “initiates” people into his cult of personality by encouraging them to drink his blood, have astral and physical sex with him and thinks it’s cool to essentially kidnap three friends, drop in on another and use her to attempt to kidnap two more, killing three people in the process. But we’re to assume he’d have been totally sane if he hadn’t been playing that naughty Vampire: The Masquerade or reading those silly Anne Rice novels.

Sure he would have. And Columbine wouldn’t have happened if those guys hadn’t been playing Doom. And this kid would totally not have tried to rape his mother before shooting her twenty times if he hadn’t been playing Call of Duty.

Something that everyone seems unwilling to discuss is that crazy people be crazy, yo. That’s not to say that the things around them can’t influence the expression of that insanity, but were’s the “tell all” books about the thousands of folks who played V:tM (or it’s successors) or read every bit of The Vampire Chronicles, some of them taking their fandom to LARPing, dressing like their favorite characters or adopting their names and mannerisms, or even drinking blood as a social or sexual rite… who don’t go out and kill, kidnap or rape anybody? You can say they’re already taking it too far, sure… but they’re not committing crimes. And how does one explain sociopaths, psychopaths and criminals from times before there was mass media, video games, role-playing, and the “decline of civilization and social mores” to blame? Some folks are just plain nuts, unwilling or unable to accept reality and consequences for actions, says me.

(That’s before you even get into the fact that most of these pop-culture psychos have arbitrarily lifted their fantasy rules from a multitude of sources and have most of the definitions and actions “wrong,” if one is claiming that they committed their crimes to emulate a given thing, mind you. But that’s a whole other story.)

I suspect I’ve babbled enough; time to turn the reigns over to the public at large! What do you think? What is it about our society that says we can’t just call people crazy? Why is it everything must be atrocity-upon-atrocity, steadily increasing in volume, instead of plain fact? How is it that “fact” so quickly becomes twisted and sensationalized, warped over the years until it would become completely the opposite of the truth in only a generation or two?

Anyways… for now… peace out.

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7 responses to “Serial killers, the Kevin Bacon game, and just plain crazy people.

  1. Lol Kaine, where to begin indeed! I don’t need to read these books now as your reviews were entertainment enough. I particularly enjoyed your reflections on The Black Dahlia. 😀 You’ve now got me wondering about how many crimes I could be nicked for by association! There’s certainly a lot going on in that book. I wonder if daddy had any redeeming qualities at all.

    I must admit, the subject of violent video games makes me uncomfortable and I think that vulnerable children (and adults too) could be influenced by the ideas and images in them. What scares me even more is that such young children are being given dangerous weapons for their birthdays (re: your link). I can’t get my head round that. Is there any acceptable reason for giving a five year old child a working rifle for his birthday?

    I also wanted to let you know that I now have a copy of Danse Macabre, purchase from a second-hand book shop on a drive-out yesterday (for someone who abhors violence, I seem to be drawn to the macabre!).

    • As regards Ms. Knowlton’s daddy, there doesn’t seem to be anything redeeming in him at all. Pretty much marked at birth as an evil deviant, if the text is to be believed.

      So far as violence in games (or any other media) goes, like I said; I think it can certainly influence the direction psychosis takes, but I’m exceptionally wary about claiming a causal relationship. And so far as that other link goes… yeah. I… I got nothin’. I suppose there may be an argument about self-defense or sport/hunting or “no knowledge is evil, only the application” in there somewhere, but I suspect anybody who’s willing to attempt to rape their mother and then shoot her twenty times must have had some signs of being “a trifle off,” and handing them a weapon, under any circumstances, just sounds like a terrible idea to me.

      And as for the last; I thought there were some interesting things in Danse Macabre – his suggested reading list explains quite a lot, and the reprints of some of his earliest work were entertaining – but overall it just felt… too scholarly. Dry. To me it almost felt like someone came through when he was done and removed all the “King-isms,” retaining the substance but not the soul. On Writing felt like an attempt to express similar ideas – with the addition of roughly thirty years of additional experience and maturity – without a hacked edit job or an attempt to screen out “unprofessional” attitudes. Still good stuff.

      And I think everyone, regardless of their personal beliefs, has at least a little bit of a chillseeker in them; nothing wrong with feeding the monster once in a while… so long as it doesn’t involve a murder-spree afterwards… XD

      • ‘I suspect anybody who’s willing to attempt to rape their mother and then shoot her twenty times must have had some signs of being “a trifle off,” and handing them a weapon, under any circumstances, just sounds like a terrible idea to me.’

        Yes, I agree with that, Kaine. There would be something in the person to begin with.

        I loved On Writing, I’ll let you know what I think of Danse Macabre when I’ve read it … I’m still part-way through The Stand.

  2. I always had a cold, dead place in my heart for The Stand. It’s not quite ‘Salem’s Lot in my hit-parade, but there’s a lot of characters in there who stand out to me (and who I identify with a little much.) Hmm. Maybe I need to go hunt down the long rant about Harold and Larry that I did on Facebook ages ago, repost it.

    • There are so many characters in The Stand that I’m having a bit of a job placing them sometimes, but I’m still enjoying it.

      Please, please repost the Harold and Larry rant! 😀

      • Very well. By popular fan request, I suppose I shall. XD
        And there are indeed a ton of characters, but as the book winds on, a lot of them fall by the wayside; really there’s only about 12-15 who are of real importance, with the rest serving mostly as diversions or “plot aids” for those main folks, so it gets easier as time goes by.

  3. Pingback: Book(s) of the (Last Few) Days | Insomnia, Nightmares and General Madness

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