Dixie Peach: Scary Thrills

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Scary Thrills

My fascination with true crime stories began early.

By the summer of 1969 I was seven years old and was already an avid news watcher so I was right there to see Walter Cronkite tell of two mysterious, brutal nights of murder in Los Angeles and later on the capture and dramatic trial of Charles Manson and his followers. I don't claim that I understood it all but I distinctly remember seeing Manson's face on my TV and having it scare me.

Years later when I was eleven or twelve years old my friends and I would talk about the Manson murders and also talk about the Zodiac killer in San Francisco. The Zodiac killer seemed to be even scarier because while Charles Manson was creepy, he was at least in prison. No one had ever caught the Zodiac killer.

By the time I was thirteen my friends and I had begun to pass around a beat-up copy of Helter Skelter and we'd all report on how it was keeping us awake at night. By then the drama of Patty Hearst's kidnapping had become familiar news to us and we came to one conclusion: California can be one scary-ass place.

A few years later the Son of Sam killings started and I was fascinated by the twists of that case as well. Like the Zodiac killings from a decade before this one featured weird letters to the newspaper. It was almost surprising to find that the killer was some pasty white fat guy.

By then I began to read all sorts of books on famous true crime stories and even stories about lesser known but equally as scary murders. They were repulsive and fascinating to me at the same time. It's almost like riding a roller coaster. It's scares you and you dread screaming like a banshee but the fright it gives is somehow thrilling. You get close to the crime and search for any sort of meaning and motive without being too close. All of them - Black Dahlia, Lizzie Bordon, the Boston Strangler, Leopold and Loeb, the Clutter family, and so on still fascinate me.

It's hard to say that any one case is a "favorite" because it's hard to call any slaughter of a human being a "favorite" but I have read a lot of books about Jack the Ripper. Once when I was married the first time I had bought a new Ripper book that had lots of graphic photographs. I don't know why I would do such a thing but I began to read the book when my ex-husband was out of town for a week. I was never very comfortable with being home alone and the Ripper book wasn't helping. Late one evening while reading I decided to look at the photographs and too late realized my mistake. The photos frightened me so badly that I shut the book and threw it on the floor. Then I picked up the book and put it on the dresser on the other side of the room. The book and its horrible photographs was still to close to me so I moved it once again. In the end I couldn't bear to have the book anywhere near me so I took it into the garage and put it in a box up on a high shelf.

And I still slept with the lights on.

No matter how many sleepless nights they give me, I still read true crime stories. I've read virtually every story on Crime Library and many I've read more than once. This drives B crazy because many nights I'll stay up late reading about some really horrible murders and be completely engrossed in the tale and then jump a mile and shriek like a little girl when he calls my name and every time he says to me "Stop to read the creepy stories! They make you creepy too!".

I don't know if they make me "creepy too" but they do make my heart race a little. It's as close as I ever want to get to a real life crime - having it only as black and white print.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

my mom is an avid reader of true crime stories, too. she once told her boyfriend not to piss her off because armed with her knowledge from all her true crime novels, she knows about 84,000 ways to kill and dispose of a body. for serious.

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm visiting from Bloggers' Paradise.

I have always been fascinated by murder mysteries, mainly fictional, although I do enjoy the Cold Case Files on A&E.

5:35 AM  
Blogger Miz said...

You and my friend Kelli would like each other. For Christmas one year her Doctor boss gave her this huge book of murder stories. The book also went into detail about serial killers and their makeup and motives.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*lol* I've done that thing with the book too. :)

True crime mystery intrigues me too but I can only stand so much of it. Not long ago I watched "Brainstorm", the last movie Natalie Wood made before her death (murder?) and it prompted me to go looking to see if they found any new clues. The search landed me, innocently enough, on a site that listed the murder/suicides of famous people, with photos - a totally morbid and completely fascinating site. It was there I first learned about the Black Dahlia, and saw photographs of her too. Well, the pieces of her. They warned heavily before you got to the actual photos but still, if someone warns you that only makes you want to see it more.

Shortly after that I learned they'd made a movie about this horrible thing, and I had to go away from the computer for a while after that. Sleepless nights, I tell ya.

9:42 AM  
Blogger The DP said...

you freak me out...i stay up late and read The Doe Network...

7:54 PM  

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