Category: Onlooker

BLOTTER | July 26: Cult Properties, Hell Houses, and the Restless Dead

Over three successive days in 1997, members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide, with 15 dying the first day, 15 more the next, and the final 9 ascending to what they hoped was an extra-terrestrial spacecraft on March 26. During each of these suicidal waves, the dwindling number of members would do what they could to clean up after those who’d died that day. There was no one left to clean up after the final group. Eventually the bodies were discovered and in the following weeks, police, pundits and armchair psychologists struggled to make sense of what...

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BLOTTER | JULY 20: Tarantino, Manson, Erol Morris, and H. H. Holmes

Whether it’s true, there’s something about the depths of summer that makes it seem like a time violent crimes are more likely to happen. It’s hot, everyone’s on edge and out much later than they should be. Zodiac, Manson, Wonderland—and of course every fictional summer camp in a horror movie ever. It makes a kind of sense. Later on, I’ll mention one of my favorite memoirs, written by a woman tangentially related to one of these infamous crimes. It’ll make for good summer reading if you’re in need of that. Now, onto the links. FILM:            You’ve probably heard and,...

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“My story is a love story”: New York’s Lonely Hearts Murders, Part II

The story ends with Raymond Fernandez. When we last checked in on the pair, Raymond and his lover, Martha Beck, had moved in together. Raymond had confessed his scam; he regularly lured women he’d found through lonely hearts ads back to his place where he robbed them. But he’d not yet advanced to killing. That wouldn’t come until Martha entered the picture. Women who met Raymond and his “sister” first began disappearing in 1949. * It’s possible their first murders were accidental, the work of criminals who didn’t really know what they were doing.  Of course, that doesn’t excuse...

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BLOTTER | Ava DuVernay, Satanic Panic, and My Dentist’s Murder Trial

BLOTTER | JULY 11 Hi! Hello. It’s time for your Thursday roundup of all things true crime across page, pod, and screen to see you through the weekend. This week’s links are a healthy mix of the good (Ava DuVernay doing her thing), bad (1970’s Satanic Panic actually panning out), and the ugly (a family that lost two sons to the same police department). Also as an 80s baby forced to amuse myself at my grandparents’ house for hours pre-internet, I loved whenever I could get my hands on some Reader’s Digest survival stories.  Before you click that link,...

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“My story is a love story”: New York’s Lonely Hearts Murders

The story begins with Martha Beck. Born in Florida in 1920, her childhood was lonely and difficult. The social isolation she felt because of her obesity—much rarer then than today—made its first painful inroads there, and it was a problem that would dog her throughout her life. The cruelty of the outside world even followed her home. When she told her mother that her brother had been molesting her, instead of intervening, Martha’s mother beat her and blamed her for her own victimization. Martha left home. What followed were years of fits and starts. A career in nursing fizzled...

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Blotter | Truman Capote, A Fugitive Hunter, and Oscar-Nominated True Crime

Hello! Thanks to everyone who read AE’s first go at some original true crime coverage earlier this week. If you haven’t taken a look, the story of Sarah Fox’s unsolved murder is both confounding and complex, and I hope worth a few minutes of your time. I’ll be back Tuesday with something new. In the meantime, I have plenty of links to true crime across page, pod, and screen(s) to hold you till then: TV Dust to dust, book to movie to TV reboot. The True Story Behind Capote’s In Cold Blood Is Coming to TV. The description of...

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Blotter | The Unsolved Disappearance of Sarah Fox

On May 24, 2004, a rented school bus made its way from the Pennsauken, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia, to Inwood, a neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island of Manhattan. The bus was filled with family, friends, and strangers who just wanted to help, to do something for Sarah. Five days earlier, Sarah put on her sneakers, loaded a CD into her Discman and told her roommate she was going for a run—something she did often. This time she never returned. * At the time of her disappearance, Sarah Fox was a 21-year old student...

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BLOTTER | June 22

Hi, out there. I have a roundup busting at the seams to see you through the weekend. All links have been quality-tested by me under the harshest conditions to ensure their quality. Let’s do things list-style today, huh? Podcasts First up: A man serving a life sentence for murder decided to pass some time by listening to a podcast. He heard a voice he thought he recognized. He was right. Need something a bit different to try? Archive 81 is a “found footage” podcast that describes itself as being “about horror, cities, and the subconscious.” Oh, and if you...

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BLOTTER | JUNE 20, 2017

Welcome back to your twice-weekly rundown of all things true crime (at least as they relate to page, pod, and screen). We’re going to do something a bit different today. We’ll be taking a closer look at links of interest related to England’s infamous Moors Murders. One of the perpetrators, Ian Brady, died in prison last month at 79. His accomplice, Myra Hindley, has been dead since 2002. With that tangible link to those horrific crimes now gone, it’s worth another look at how the murders affected England then and now. Here are some links of note: • Al-Jazeera...

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BLOTTER | JUNE 14, 2017

Hi, all. I have links, lists, and longreads to see you through the weekend, starting with The New York Times and their true crime summer reading picks. If you’re looking for crime of the fictional kind, they have that, too. Movies more your thing? Lately they are for me. Oxygen has a list of 10 true crime classics from the 80s, including I Know My First Name is Steven, which was responsible for a fair share of my middle school nightmares. As you may or may not remember, Steven’s brother later went on to become a serial killer. The...

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BLOTTER | JUNE 12, 2017

Hi, guys! [said sheepishly] Last week’s summer Friday turned into a week-long break from the crime scene on Audiences Everywhere, but I never stopped collecting links 4 U. In the meantime, I also had jury duty, and likely sensing my deep expertise in all things crime, I never got called to a case, but did enjoy a full day of reading and relaxing in the surprisingly well-appointed courthouse for Brooklyn (they have charging stations). But back to those links. In further proof that interest in true crime just keeps getting more meta, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office recently...

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BLOTTER | JUNE 1, 2017

Happy June! This is our twentieth installment of Blotter—thanks for reading—so we’re going to try and pack a lot in. Deep breath, here goes: In podcasts, Forbes talked with Maria Konnikova, host of the excellent show The Grift, about the screwy mental distortion of interviewing the most convincing liars in the game. I just began listening to They Walk Among Us, a UK podcast about some of Britain’s most intriguing cases and I’m hooked, if you need a new show. Also, be sure to look for AE’s Becky Belzile on Pop Culture Case Study this week, talking Patty Jenkins’ Monster,...

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BLOTTER | MAY 30

Welcome back from the long weekend! I hope yours was restful and that your highlights are starting to come in nicely and that the AC in the movie theater was ice cold. Me, I’m writing this before Memorial Day but I’ll be reading Po Bronson’s What Should I Do With My Life?—A.K.A.  the book on every June bookstore endcap—on my break, so I’m sure I will have everything figured out by the time you’re reading this. But on to crime that isn’t my professional life. This week, The Intercept told the bizarre story of a documentary made about the...

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BLOTTER | MAY 25

How’s your day going? Slowly? The long weekend (at least in the States) is almost here. Patience. I’ve got some true crime links to pass the time. A VICE roundup of the fall TV shows they’re excited about is entitled “All the Dumb TV Shows I’m Going to Watch This Fall” and includes Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, which, same. We’ve seen film as a form of advocacy before, but few filmmakers have had as much success garnering attention for the wrongly convicted as Shawn Rech. Here’s a fascinating profile from XY about his work, his...

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The Keepers Elevates the True Crime Documentary by Challenging the Trope of Victimhood

True crime, as a genre, gets a bad rap. It’s wholly deserved. I say this as both a fan, and a person who writes about it critically on a weekly basis. I’m constantly on the lookout for the latest news of any projects that fall into the sometimes-nebulous category of “true crime.” It’s harder than it seems. Is a news report of a crime in of itself “true crime?” Semantically, yes. Realistically, no. I subscribe to a Google News Alert for the phrase. Here are the headlines for some recent results: “Colorado Man Allegedly Kills 4-Year-Old Nephew with Axe”...

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