Murder and Pop Culture

The following article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the subject. 

We’re going to look at how some of the most notorious killers in history have infiltrated pop culture.

Murder in Comics

Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes are well known.  He murdered seventeen men over the course thirteen years.

Mr. Dahmer’s crimes were absolutely heinous.  He tried to create a zombie out of victims by drilling a hole in their heads and injecting hydrochloric acid or boiling water into their frontal lobes.  After his victims died, Dahmer performed acts of necrophilia on them and cannibalized them.

After his conviction, Dahmer was beaten to death while imprisoned at Columbia Correctional Institution.

Here’s the pop culture part: John Backderf (known by his pen name Derf) created a comic about Jeffrey Dahamer.  It is titled My Friend Dahmer.  Yes.  Derf knew Dahmer.

Jeffrey Dahmer and John Backderf’/Derf were classmates in middle school and in high school.   Derf began working on the comics after Dahmer’s death in 1994.

The first Dahmer story appeared in this comic

The first Dahmer story appeared in 1997 in Zero Zero #18 from Fantagraphics Books.  Derf had plans for a 100-page graphic novel, but he couldn’t find a publisher.  In 2002, Derf published a shorter (24 page) version of My Friend Dahmer.

The 2002 version of My Friend Dahmer

According to Derf’s website, the graphic novel version of My Friend Dahmer will be published by Abrams Comicarts in March 2012.  The cover looks really neat.  Click here to pre-order.

Murder in Music

Charles Manson is another celebrity criminal.  In short, Manson had a “family” of followers with whom he conspired to murder several people.  Interestingly, Manson’s motive for the murders was to instigate a race war, which he called  Helter Skelter.

Manson believed this race war would be the end of the world.  He had elaborate plans to hide out in Death Valley with his “family” while the war waged.  When it ended, he would emerge as a leader and rule the world.  Click here to read more about Helter Skelter.

Charles Manson entered pop culture as a singer-songwriter.  Yes.  Really.

Manson and his “family” befriended Dennis Wilson–of The Beach Boys–after Wilson picked up two female Manson “family” members hitchhiking.  Wilson probably regretted it after the Manson family moved into his house and lived at his expense for some time, costing him somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Manson performed his songs for Dennis Wilson, who was initially impressed.  A recording contract did not materialize, though, and Manson was bitter about it.  The Beach Boys ended up recording a Charles Manson song–“Cease to Exist” was reworked as “Never Learn Not to Love.”

Listen to the Beach Boys perform “Never Learn Not to Love.”

After Manson was charged with the Tate/LaBianca murders, commercial recordings of his music were released.  Click here to download your copy. Manson’s songs have been recorded by Guns ‘n’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, and White Zombie.

Listen to Charles Manson sing “Cease to Exist”

I may be a jerk for admitting this, but I like Charles Manson’s version better than I like the Beach Boys’ version.

Murder by the Book

The Collector is a novel by John Fowles. It was published in 1963.  It is still in print and available for purchase.

Short summary (from

The Collector is the story of the abduction and imprisonment of Miranda Grey by Frederick Clegg, told first from his point of view, and then from hers by means of a diary she has kept, with a return in the last few pages to Clegg’s narration of her illness and death.

The book–unfortunately–been adopted by some very nasty people as “inspiration.”

Serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng based the kidnapping, rape, and torture of two women on the story in The Collector. The two are believed to have murdered at least twenty-five people. Learn more about their crimes here.

Christopher Wilder’s Wanted Poster

Christopher Wilder–aka The Beauty Queen Killer–had a copy of The Collector in his possession when he killed himself to escape capture by police. Learn more about him here.

courtesy of

The Collector was made into a movie in 1965. It starred Terrence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.

Robert Berdella–The Kansas City Butcher–raped, tortured and killed at least six men. He claimed the film version of The Collector as his inspiration. Learn more about him here.

Watch the trailer for the film version of The Collector:

Murder as inspiration for Movies:

Ed Gein was a Wisconsin graverobber and murderer. He influenced the creation of three infamous movie killers–Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. Learn more about Gein here.

Danny Rolling–The Gainesville Ripper–murdered five students in Gainesville, Florida between 1989 and 1990. He was known for decapitating and mutilating his victims’ bodies. After his arrest, Rolling confessed to an additional triple murder in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Screenwriter Kevin Williamson was inspired to write the screenplay for Scream after watching coverage of Rolling’s crimes on TV.

Watch the Scream trailer:


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