The tragedy & cowardice of Jeffrey Dahmer

Right: the book cover for “My Friend Dahmer” by Derf Backderf. Left: Jeffrey Dahmer’s 1991 mugshot.

True crime books are a dime a dozen (no shade – I love reading them), but “My Friend Dahmer” by Derf Backderf is one-in-a-million. It’s a graphic memoir, the final version of which was published in 2012, about John “Derf” Backderf’s high school friendship with future serial killer and isolated teenager Jeffrey Dahmer. He describes the surreal experience of going to school with an infamous murderer that most people, thankfully, will never know.

(Quick background: for those unfamiliar with Dahmer and the details of his killings, he is also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal. Dahmer’s known victims are 17 men between the ages of 14-32, killed in the window of 1978 – 1991. In addition to murder, he engaged in rape, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism. He was eventually sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment and was murdered in prison in 1994. More here and here.)

Backderf recalls he and his friends bringing Dahmer into their circle and includes drawings from his actual high school sketchbook of Dahmer. Dahmer was actually a prominent figure in Backderf’s early art, including fliers for student government and the yearbook. However, Derf does mention being cautious of spending time with Dahmer outside of school and getting an odd vibe from him. They had similar lives on the surface, Backderf notes – but only on the surface. Derf had a typical suburban life with “comically trivial” worries. Dahmer and Backderf had nearly opposite home lives.

A flier drawn by Backderf in 1977 that featured Dahmer as a “celebrity spokesperson.”

It is rare we get a glimpse into such a horrific human being. Backderf paints – draws, actually – a picture of a “tragic figure, but not a sympathetic one.” The Dahmer Backderf knew was tormented, had a tumultuous family life (Backderf had little contact with his parents but suspected neither had a close bond with Dahmer and the parents did have a nasty divorce) and engaged in heavy binge drinking. He seemed to completely lack empathy but was also an intelligent kid with a lot of potential.

Backderf includes an anecdote of a class field trip to Washington, D.C. during which Dahmer somehow got himself and a few others students on a private tour of Vice President Walter Mondale’s office. It is clear that Dahmer’s descent wasn’t, as Backderf puts it, “a straight line down,” but rather many contributing factors going poorly at just the wrong time. He had brains, he was clever and he could be charming when he wanted to. But his demons were stronger than all of that.

The graphic memoir includes many revelations into Dahmer’s late childhood and teenage years. He struggled with being homosexual and the feelings of shame it brought upon him, as well as urges to have sex with corpses. He dealt with his emerging sexuality and homicidal urges by becoming an alcoholic, since he had no one to turn to for help or support.

At one point, Backderf addresses that people often ask him why he didn’t say something about Dahmer or try to get him help. He wrote, “You have to remember, it was 1976. You never “narced” on a classmate. It simply wasn’t done. Besides, my friends I and, we were just clueless small-town kids, wrapped up in our own lives. And none of us really had a hint about what was really going on in his head. A better question is… where were all the damn adults?”

Backderf speculates that if just one adult at their school had done anything about Dahmer’s odd behavior, he might not have ended up killing people. He would probably have still had a fairly lonely life, but nothing as horrifying as what ended up happening.

One of Dahmer’s fake fits.

One of the most disturbing elements to Dahmer’s young personality was a set of mannerisms and gestures he cultivated by imitating someone with cerebral palsy. He faked slurred speech, spasms and epileptic fits. The story Backderf and his friends were told by a classmate was that Dahmer’s mother had an interior decorator with cerebral palsy or a similar disease. Dahmer echoed that sentiment at one point, but later on, Backderf learned that the act was actually derived from Dahmer’s mother.

Joyce Dahmer had many mental health problems and had spent several period of time in mental hospitals. She took multiple prescriptions, sometimes twenty at a time, and would plunge into a deep, pill-fueled depression. The drugs would also cause her to go into shaking fits that Dahmer would then imitate among his classmates.

When I read about Dahmer, my main question is always why he never sought psychological help, especially with his family history. I suspect that Dahmer felt the stigma of therapy and didn’t want to be even more of a “freak” and his parents might not have paid enough attention to him to realize that something was seriously off and he wasn’t just acting like a typical teenage jerk.

In his author’s note, Backderf eloquently writes, “The premise of this book is that Dahmer was a tragic figure, but that only applies up until the moment he was killed… More than anything, he was a coward… Dahmer was also driven by selfishness and didn’t care about anything other than his own obsessive needs. His perverse sexuality was constructed entirely of dominance and total control… Cowardice and selfishness – these were to the two main themes of Jeff Dahmer’s life. We can excuse those things, perhaps, in a fifteen-year-old kid, but these were central parts of adult Dahmer as well. And because of his fear and selfish sexual hunger, this perverse wretch spread his misery to dozens of people who still mourn the loss of his seventeen victims.”

Backderf has a comprehensive list of sources at the end of his novel, including FBI files requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Not all of the stories in the book are firsthand accounts from Backderf, but they are all accurate, with the exception of a few rumors that were widely known in their hometown. “My Friend Dahmer” is not only a work of art and a memoir, it is also a piece of heavily researched journalism. The journalist in me has a special appreciation for that facet of this story.

The upcoming film adaptation of the same name stars Ross Lynch, a likeable Disney star, as Jeffrey Dahmer. This casting received an enthusiastic thumbs up from Backderf in Rolling Stone magazine last July: “”You’re uncomfortable because it’s so familiar,” says Backderf on the phone from San Diego Comic-Con where he’s promoting his new graphic novel Trashed. “What I hear over and over is ‘Oh, I knew a guy just like Dahmer.'””

What are your thoughts and feelings on Jeffrey Dahmer? Will you be seeing the film?


Murder, psychopathic tendencies, necrophilia and more. Neat-o!

When watching “The Witness,” I was shocked to learn that Kitty Genovese’s murderer, Winston Moseley, had a larger reign of terror than just her senseless stabbing. In the film, they gloss over the other horrible things Moseley did because the focus of the story is Kitty. But when I heard he managed to escape prison and attack more people, I had to know more.

At the time “The Witness” was filmed, Moseley was still alive but declined to even meet Kitty Genovese’s brother, Bill. He passed away at the age of 81 in March 2016 as one of the longest serving inmates in New York’s prison system.

This is what The New York Times wrote in their article about his death:

“Mr. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates.

Moseley in 1964

Moseley in 1964

His life behind bars had been relatively eventful. Mr. Moseley was condemned to die in the electric chair, but in 1967, two years after New York State abolished most capital punishments, he won an appeal that reduced his sentence to an indeterminate life term. While at Attica Correctional Facility, in 1968, he escaped while on a hospital visit to Buffalo, raped a woman and held hostages at gunpoint before being recaptured. He joined in the 1971 Attica uprising; earned a college degree in 1977; and was rejected 18 times at parole hearings, the last time in 2015.”

Quite an impressive resume for a disgusting killer. At his trial, Moseley “initially pleaded not guilty, but his attorney later changed Moseley’s plea to not guilty by reason of insanity… Moseley’s attorney called him to testify in hopes that Moseley’s testimony would convince the jury that he was “a schizophrenic personality and legally insane.”

In “The Witness,” it is also mentioned that while behind bars, Moseley completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology. In 1977, he published an Op-Ed in The New York Times expressing regret, agony and “perpetual torment.” He ended his Op-Ed with this statement:

“The man who killed Kitty Genovese in Queens in 1964 is no more. He was also destroyed in that calamity and its aftermath. Another vastly different individual has emerged, a Winston Moseley intent and determined to do constructive, not destructive things.

Today I’m a man who wants to be an asset to society, not a liability to it.”

At the time he murdered Kitty Genovese, Moseley was a married father of two and had no official criminal record. But when he was arrested for Kitty’s murder (mid-burglary, no less), he also confessed to two other murders: Annie Mae Johnson and Barbara Kralik. He had sexually assaulted both women as well.

Annie Mae Johnson was a 24-year-old housewife whom Moseley shot, then burned to death in her home in February 1964, a few weeks before he killed Genovese. Barbara Kralik was 15 years old. Moseley stabbed her in her parents’ Springfield Gardens home in July 1963. Despite knowing intimate details of the murders that were unknown to the public, he wasn’t tried for either one.

Even when he was imprisoned, Moseley wasn’t done. In March 1968, Moseley was transported from prison to a hospital in Buffalo, New York to be treated for a self-inflicted injury. He attacked the correction officer who was taking him back to prison, stole his gun and escaped. He hid in an empty house for three days until the daughter of the owner and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Kulaga, came to check on the house. Moseley held them hostage for an hour and raped Mrs. Kulaga before fleeing the scene in their car. Mrs. Kulaga reported giving Moseley her “car keys, registration and a picture of her children” and was terrified he would go their permanent residence and kill their children.

Moseley bound and gagged the husband and raped the wife, but the Kulagas said despite being brutal, Moseley was also kind. When Mr. Kulaga requested a strand of rosary beads be placed in his hands, Moseley obliged. I don’t know why you would ever use the word “kind” to describe someone who raped your wife, but to each his own.

After leaving the Kulagas, Moseley broke into another house and took a woman and her daughter hostage for two hours. They were released unharmed. No one died at his hands during his escape stint. He was recaptured by the FBI and received two 15-year sentences that would run concurrently with his life sentence from killing Kitty Genovese.

Even after all that, at his parole hearing in 1984, Moseley claimed he didn’t mean to murder Kitty and considered her murder nothing more than a mugging. He also decided to play the victim and told the parole board that his notoriety made him a lifelong victim, which in his mind was somehow worse than the “one-minute affair” Kitty Genovese and other victims suffered.

Even though that sounds like a perfectly legitimate argument (NOT), he was not granted parole. He was also not granted parole at subsequent hearings.

Good riddance, Winston Moseley. You were one creepy dude.

— Caroline

If you see something, please say something. It could save someone.

Hello everyone,

Never fear, I didn’t get murdered, I was just on vacation. I’m back and hoping to update this blog a couple times a month when I get the chance to indulge in some true crime/murder media. I have a busy schedule and nothing relaxes me more at the end of a long day like a true crime documentary or television show.

Speaking of which, I have a short review of a documentary I recently watched on Netflix and cannot recommend enough.

“The Witness” (2015) is an incredibly moving documentary centered around the firsthand account of Bill Genovese, brother of famous stabbing victim Kitty Genovese, trying to get to get closer to his sister by getting to the bottom of her death.

Although the man who murdered Kitty Genovese, Winston Moseley, confessed and was imprisoned for the crime, Bill was young at the time of Kitty’s death and therefore wasn’t told many details of the case. His choice to dredge up the past, which many of his family members do not fully agree with, is born out of a desire to know more about his sister. Bill was 16 years old when Kitty died and said that at that age, he felt Kitty was the only one who understood him. However, his search for the truth about her murder reveals that he didn’t understand much about her life or death.

Bill Genovese is the perfect hero of this story. His desperate need to be closer to his sister and understand why the reported 38 witnesses to her attack didn’t do more to help is chilling right down to the bone. He himself is no stranger to tragedy, having lost both his legs in Vietnam. The apathy towards his sister’s murder is part of what inspired him to enlist in the Marines and go to Vietnam in the first place, which is doubly tragic.

This crime is where the idea of “the bystander effect” (also called “Genovese syndrome”) originated. Popularized by social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley, there are two main components: the perceived diffusion of responsibility (onlookers are more likely to intervene if there are few or no other witnesses) and social influence (when the individuals in a group monitor the behavior of those around them to determine how to act). We see it in society constantly, from the smaller (but still critical) scale of children being bullied in school to murders like Kitty’s.

Without spoiling the documentary too much, the heartbreaking ending left me feeling determined to never be a bystander and I hope it does the same for the rest of you.

Kitty Genovese

Kitty Genovese

In learning about Kitty’s death, Bill seeks to also learn more about her life. He talks to some of her friends from high school and work who saw her more mischievous and independent side. Through them, he learns she was a lesbian and her “roommate” was actually her lover, and that she was a barmaid who loved to be “one of the boys.” Bill even gets the chance to talk to Kitty’s former lover and roommate on the phone. The heart wrenching call is played in the film but her face is not shown, giving viewers the opportunity to hear from another person who loved Kitty.

I have no doubt that if my sibling was brutally murdered, I would do what Bill did: never stop trying to make sense of it and find answers, even when I knew there were no more answers left to be found.

Have you seen “The Witness”? Do you have any true crime documentary recommendations?

— Caroline

P.S. – Keep an eye out for a post later this week that goes in depth on Kitty Genovese’s monstrous killer, Winston Moseley.

The Civilian Squad

As I’ve mentioned before, this blog was originally created for a college course. My final project in the class was to create a website that connects with my blog. I thought about it a lot  and decided I wanted to create a resource for true crime fanatics to do something about crime, not just derive entertainment from it, because in the end, fascinating murders are still tragedies. I made a post a few weeks ago about my intentions and now the site is officially up and running.

The mission of THE CIVILIAN SQUAD is for true crime enthusiasts to help make a difference, whether it be through blood donation, volunteering or lessening domestic violence. Visit the website to learn more about all the ways you can get involved and please leave a comment below if you have a site or resource you want me to considering including on The Civilian Squad website.

— Caroline

Missing persons, murder, oh my!

Before I begin working on my final project, I wanted to analyze two websites that work to achieve similar goals to myself. If you’re a bonafide true crime fanatic, these sites are probably familiar to you.


Started in 1999, The DOE Network (named for Jane/John Doe, the name given to an unidentified victim) was founded with the goal of “assisting investigating agencies in bringing closure to national and international cold cases concerning Missing & Unidentified Persons. It is our mission to give the nameless back their names and return the missing to their families.” It is a volunteer organization with a fascinating history. It is very thorough; you can choose to view the unidentified case files in chronological order or by geographic location, and the missing case files by chronological order, location and alphabetically by name. You can also submit new cases and case updates if someone you know has gone missing.

The process for identifying someone or trying to make a match is very complex, there are strict rules and multiple checkpoints throughout the process so nothing is submitted to law enforcement without merit. In an interview with National Public Radio in 2008, founder Todd Matthews did state that law enforcement agents can get annoyed when they receive an influx of information on cases. However, The DOE Network produces impressive results. As of October 2016, The DOE Network has assisted in solving 73 cases.

The site also links to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, the North American Missing Persons Network and Project EDAN in the case that The DOE Network is not able to help people with their cases.

The new media elements on the site that are the most effective are the viewer counter, the above links to sites/projects with similar goals to The DOE Network, their comprehensive “Contact” page and the overall site design. It is very easy to navigate and is truly a wealth of information. The DOE Network also has Facebook and Twitter pages. The Twitter page is very basic and could be more interactive (half the tweets are just links to the Facebook) but the Facebook page is managed very well.

I hope to echo the effectiveness and organization of The DOE Network with my final project and maybe create Facebook and Twitter pages. The main thing I will doing differently is that The DOE Network focuses on nameless and missing people, and I want my site to be about helping out even if the name of victim is known.


In Reference to Murder is a blog and index site that describes itself as a “…reference site for writers, readers and fans of mystery and crime fiction…” with “…over 3,000 links on a wide variety of topics that I hope will be useful for information, research, news and entertainment.” While the purpose of the site is mainly for entertainment, creation of content and education, there is also a lot of statistics/facts/research that can be helpful to both a writer and a civilian investigator. For example, it has a “True Crime” section that links to The DOE Network, has information about how people can help solve cold cases and statistics on crime from places with the Bureau of Justice and the FBI.

The site has a very basic page layout and is not extremely organized – each page is just a list of links with short descriptions and many of the links lead to the same page, so you have to scroll to find the section you are interested in. When I clicked on “Statistics,” it led me to the “True Crime” section and I had to scroll to the bottom of the page to find what I was looking for. There are also no visuals and the text is very plain. The same font is used throughout the exception of the title on the home page. Overall, the website could use a major facelift. It has so much to offer, but guests could easily get bored looking through it.

It is also connected to a blog that has a very outdated and ineffective design. It looks like a 14-year-old’s first blog and even though the posts are recent, it looks like no one has touched it since 2009. The blog does link to the Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts of the blog’s creator and has an email newsletter you can sign up for. However, there are no social accounts specifically for the site and its content.

All of the resources on this website are extremely helpful and I will be incorporating many of them on my own site, so I am thankful for such a large database. However, I hope to make my site more interactive and visually appealing. I also do not plan on linking my personal social accounts on my site or including any information for people intending to write fiction.

Do you know of any sites similar to these? Please comment.

— Caroline

Cracking down on cold cases

Murder is fascinating. Serial killers are fascinating. It’s difficult to not be curious about what makes people do such awful things.

However, when we get caught up in the stories of the strangest murders or prolific serial killers, we forget that these stories only exist because people lost their lives. Families lost sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. In quite a few cases, the killer become famous and the victims are forgotten. For example, the Zodiac Killer. I could tell you many details of that case, but not a single victim’s name. Or in the case of Amanda Knox, who I discussed in my last blog post. Her roommate, Meredith Kercher, is rarely mentioned when Knox’s infamous case comes up. People forget that no matter how gruesome the killing was, how suspicious Knox and her boyfriend seemed at the time, a young woman was still dead.

It’s no secret that there are more missing persons, rape and murder cases than there are law enforcement officers. Resources and manpower have a limit and the longer the case goes unsolved, the harder it is to find new information.

For my final project in the class this blog was created for, I want to create a resource that enables true crime fanatics like myself to not only listen to these stories and derive entertainment from them, but also do something about the problem. Just like with any problem in society, there are things we can do, no matter how small. Turning off the water when you brush your teeth helps conserve water and the more people who do it, the more water is conserved. Who’s to say that small acts, like reporting suspicious behavior or donating blood can’t help catch criminals or aide victims and their families?

I will create this resource through a Wix site and include hyperlinks to other websites that share the same goal: to unfreeze some of the many cold cases and help those suffering from the repercussions of these terrible crimes. I may also create a Facebook and/or Twitter page to further the reach of this project.

As fascinating as it is, the world needs less death and more compassion.

I will post an update here when the site is up and running. If you have any suggestions or resources to recommend I add to my project, feel free to comment below.

— Caroline

What happens in Perugia never stays in Perugia



Even before the release of the Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox was a household name. Her case is polarizing and most people have a strong opinion on her innocence or guilt. I was personally captivated by the documentary and it changed my view, as it did for many others. On Storify, I created a narrative of public opinion of Knox’s guilt (or lack thereof) before and after the release of the documentary, as well as some of the reactions to it. 

I want to make sure to mention Meredith Kercher, who is not a household name, but should be. The country knows Amanda Knox, but rarely can someone name her roommate who tragically lost her life. No matter if you believe Knox is guilty or innocent, there was a victim in all of this. Meredith Kercher was British student, age 21, who was found dead in the apartment she shared with Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy on November 1, 2007. Rudy Guede was found guilty and charged for her murder, but has never confessed. His final sentence was 16 years in prison, making his release date 2024.


Apparently, a candlestick is a very uncommon murder weapon

One of the ways I’ve fostered my love for true crime and murder mysteries over the years is with the classic board game Clue.

The rules are both simple and complicated: play detective and find out the circumstances of a murder – the what, where and culprit. You may discover by the end that you are the murderer.

Photo from Deviantart.

Photo from Deviantart.

You need at least three and as many as six players. Each person gets a character with a distinctive personality and motive for killing the host of the dinner party they’re attending. Mrs. White is my personal favorite because in the version my family owns, her onetime special power during the game is to make a prediction in a room she isn’t currently in. To make a suggestion, you have to be in the room in question. You can’t say it was Colonel Mustard in the dining room with the knife if you’re in the hallway. Everyone’s a suspect, even yourself.

The cards are divided into three categories: weapons, rooms and suspects. The objects and rooms and people all exist within the mansion – outside elements are not considered. The suspect has to be one of the six remaining party-goers. There are only nine rooms and nine possible weapons (in the most updated version) in the house.

Unlike real life, the choices are random. You don’t guess that the murder weapon was poison because of a toxicology screening done on the dead body, or that it took place in the living room because of carpet fibers on the body. There are no forensics, just the motivation to get it right first and win.

Luckily, cards for players to track their predictions are provided with the game materials. It’s tough to track all the different suggestions being thrown around even with notes. I write the initial of whomever showed me a card next to it on my paper so I can try to get them to show me different cards every time, but it’s hard to manipulate that. Getting other players to help you eliminate weapons, rooms and suspects is the closest thing the game has to interrogation.

In my family, this game is taken very seriously. Alliances shift, people try to get a peek at cards players are showing each other and my grandmother will flat-out cheat while claiming she’s using the “South American rules.” My father takes meticulous notes on every suggestion people make and tries to catch someone in a lie. It’s common practice in our house to make a suggestion with a weapon, room or suspect we have the card for, in order to draw answers out of others.

As the game goes on and players become closer to uncovering the truth, tensions start to run high. People are making wild, sometimes baseless suggestions in acts of desperation. It becomes a race to see who can nail down at least two of the components first. If you know the murderer and the weapon and have a pretty good idea of the room it took place in, you want to get to the room with the Case File (in most versions, the basement or the pool).

This isn’t unlike the real world of high-profile crime. With major cases with a lot of media attention, like Amanda Knox, every time a piece of evidence turn up, people press harder for answers and anyone with even a bit of authority claim that they have uncovered the truth. Media outlets waste no time in publishing headlines like “NEW EVIDENCE UNCOVERED — ALL SIGNS POINT TO KNOX AS THE CULPRIT” or “EVIDENCE UNCOVERS THE BLOODTHIRSTY TENDENCIES OF AMANDA KNOX TEN YEARS LATER.”

The question is, does the game trivialize murder and make it into a game? Killing someone in real life holds extremely serious consequences, but in Clue, once the murderer is exposed, the game ends. Nothing else happens. The game play of Clue simplifies horrific acts into who, what and where.

In this video, real investigators joke that Clue should contain DNA evidence and surveillance cameras, things that didn’t exist in 1949 when the game was first created. They also highlight the similarities and differences between real crime-solving and Clue.

— Caroline

Sweet baby angels in the woods

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this in a blog post before, or if I have, it’s been only briefly touched on, but this is actually for a college class. Most of my blog posts have been assignments, although I do hope to continue this blog when the semester ends. We were allowed to pick whatever topic we chose – my topic is pretty different from the rest of my classmates’.

This week’s assignment was to edit a Wikipedia page. Obviously, I wanted the page to be related to murder. At my professor’s suggestion, I took a look through the “stubs” category, which are unfinished Wikipedia pages with minimal information. I went straight to the crime stub and quickly found a stub that caught my eye: “Babes in the Wood murders (Wild Park).”

There are two crime stubs titled “Babes in the Wood,” but I chose this one because the other, while similar in style and equally tragic, was older and would be more difficult to learn more about and research. Unfortunately, young children turning up dead in parks is common enough that “Babes in the Wood” has turned into a subcategory of sorts for murder. The one I chose was about two young girls found in a park by their homes in Britain in the the last 1980s. It remains unsolved.

The victims, Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows (right). Photo from The Argus.

The victims, Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows (right). Photo from The Argus.

The Babes in the Wood murders in Wild Park had minimal information, so I scoured the internet for any extra details on the case. The most recent item on the Wikipedia page was that an unnamed man had be arrested in connection to the murders in May 2016, but I was unable to find any more information on this man and why he was arrested after all this time.

I had never contributed to a Wikipedia page before, but in middle school I had friends who would joke about inserting pop culture references into pages about World War 2. The point of the assignment was to add something truthful to the page that furthered the discussion. I googled the case and combed articles for anything that wasn’t on the Wikipedia page. I found that one of the father of one of the girls had been arrested over 20 years after the murders for sexual assault unrelated to the murders, but evidence of sexual assault was allegedly present on that girl’s body. I added that bit of information in, along with the day the girls went missing and were discovered (previously, only the month and year were on the page).

Editing a page is shockingly simple. Wikipedia is very user-friendly and makes it very easy to add internal hyperlinks, citations and more. I barely had to read any of the tutorials to figure it out. Or maybe I’m just a fast learner.

Working on this assignment really got this case under my skin and I want to do more research into it. The process was really exciting and made me feel like some of my favorite murder media content creators, like the women of My Favorite Murder or the guys from Buzzfeed Unsolved. I’m also a bit of a research nerd – when I want to know about something, I go to the far reaches of the internet. I’m inspired to go through more crime stubs and try to expand on more unsolved cases. Maybe I’ll even solve and get a movie made about me. Or not. A girl can dream.

— Caroline

Stay sexy and don’t get murdered

Social media is my lifeblood. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, you name it. I’m addicted to it the way many people are hooked on coffee or heroin. Facebook is by far my most private social media account because I was raised on the “you can’t trust people on the internet, they could have fake pictures and names” rhetoric that arose in the early 2000s after teenage girls were getting catfished by gross old men. So many of the stories of children getting murdered start with the child trusting an adult they don’t know simply because they are an adult. My parents, like most, taught me to never talk to strangers, both in person and on the internet.

I didn’t have a Facebook account for most of high school and made one a few months before graduation to stay connected with soon-to-be former classmates. I’ve since deleted most of them since I don’t really care about them getting engaged to their football player boyfriends in Idaho or turning into uninformed morons once they were legally allowed to vote.

Like most people (I hope), I’ve never accepted a Facebook friend request from someone I don’t personally know. Facebook proved to be invaluable before entering college: I could message my roommates and talk to them months before move-in day (Spoiler alert: They seemed like nice girls. They were not.) or chat up students in my major in our “Class of 2017” group. My first year of Facebook I posted a lot statuses that I thought were funny or shared my favorite music. Then I started to become more passive, only uploading photos and sharing articles. I used Facebook more for groups than it’s intended purpose. A group for my dorm building, a group for a club I rarely went to, a group for the school newspaper staff.

But my favorite Facebook is the My Favorite Murder group.

The "My Favorite Murder" podcast cover

The “My Favorite Murder” podcast cover

I’ve probably mentioned the My Favorite Murder podcast in every post so far, but I just love it so much. I listen to each new episode the day it comes out and I’m still working through a few of the old episodes that came out before I started listening. During one episode, the two women who host the podcast, Karen and Georgia, said they had created a Facebook group for listeners, which they have dubbed “muderinos,” to share stories and hometown murders, since they get sent more stories than they have time for on their podcast.

I immediately went to Facebook and requested access to the group. It’s a small community of about 58,000 people and a treasure trove of creepy murder stories, personal stories about why people are fascinated with murder and how happy they are that this group exists, and memes with funny quotes from the podcast. My favorite quote is “You’re in a cult. Call your dad.” People sign their posts with “SSDGM” which is an abbreviation of the podcast’s signature sendoff, “Remember: stay sexy and don’t get murdered. Byeeee!”

I love indulging my obsession and seeing how many people share the same excitement for murder. When I finish an episode of the podcast, I can go to the Facebook group and continue the conversation with my fellow muderinos. I’ve never joined a Facebook group full of strangers but for some reason, joining this one didn’t feel weird. There are group moderators and a set of rules, like “Don’t say negative things about other podcasts,” and “Don’t share any graphic photos without a warning.” The other group members are all very honest and genuine – there is no fear of judgement, because it’s a safe haven for us to talk about a weird obsession we all share that most people who judge us for.

I also feel more connected to the subject matter and I’m inclined to expand my knowledge of true crime more now that I’m in this group. I try to read all the articles the other muderinos share and comment with my thoughts. If there are already a lot of comments I agree with, I’ll reply to those comments and start conversations. It’s fascinating to see the theories others have and how different people interpret evidence different ways. It really enriches my learning experience to not just read an article about a serial killer, but have an in-depth discussion with people who come from different backgrounds.

Ten years ago, talking to strangers online often made you into a cautionary tale, but now it is a lot more safe and secure. Unless I get murdered by someone else in the group, which would be some pretty twisted poetic justice.

— Caroline