By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Why does death row inspire the artist in killers? The world may never know.
John Wayne Gacy spent 14 years on death row, before his final adieu. His artwork, if not for his name could be attributed to a grade schooler. After his execution in 1994, his pieces have increased in value. However it is a narrow audience that wants artwork produced by a hand that killed, sometimes in the most vicious and sadistic ways.
Present day, there are approximately 2,000 to 2,500 of Gacy's pieces circulating in private collections and held by galleries.
Murderabilia is a term coined by Andy Kahan in 1999, for the sale of serial killer art. As a victim's advocate he has been a critic of what is estimated to be a $250,000 yearly business. Buyers range from everyday people to celebrities like Johnny Depp, Susan Sarandon and Marilyn Manson. Owning this art, brings the owner much closer to evil than just watching a TV show or reading about it.
Ryan Graveface who lives in Savannah Georgia, started collecting murderabilia for years before it became so popular. He occasionally exhibits them, and sell them for the right price. However, he claims his main money maker are items found on a satanic website he runs.
Competition in this marketplace is fierce and "cut-throat" no pun intended. William Harder who runs Murder Auction has developed personal relationships with many killers including Richard "The Night Stalker" Ramirez who he says became a close friend.
Harder says that several dealers pose as girls to get artwork from prisoners, and then turn around and sell them.
There are also fakes in the market since most buyers wouldn't know how to spot one.
In 1977, New York introduced the Son of Sam Laws to prevent murderers from making money on their own infamy. This has been adopted by 41 other states. In 1991, the US Supreme Court voted unanimously that Son of Sam laws violate the First Amendment.
GLEN EDWARD ROGERS
This murderer is known as The Cross Country Killer or The Casanova Killer. Rogers was convicted of two murders, but is a suspect in many others. He was scheduled for execution on February 14, 1999, and has appealed it twice, his last one being denied in 2011. He is presently on Florida's death row.
HENRY LEE LUCAS
Lucas (1936-2001) was known as The Confession Killer. He was the youngest of 9 children. His father lived in the home, but was a double amputee due to a train accident. He was also an alcoholic.
His mother prostituted herself and forced him to watch. If he didn't, she would beat him. She would make him cross dress in public so she could pimp him out to men and women. His father died in 1951, but the abuse continued.
As an adolescent he began an incestuous sexual relationship with a half brother, and engaged in bestiality.
In 1960, he stabbed his mother in the neck after an argument when she hit him with a broom. Even though this murder was believed to be his first, in 1984 he confessed to strangling Laura Burnsley, 17, in 1951 who had disappeared from a bus stop. He was 14 years old. He buried her in the woods.
Lucas was convicted of his mother's murder and two others dating to 1983, however during his incarceration he confessed to Texas Rangers and other law enforcement that he killed 600 other persons. Cold cases were closed based on his confession, many of which later proved to be false based on an investigation by the Dallas Times Herald that showed that it would have been impossible for him to have committed some of the crimes. A follow-up investigation by the Attorney General of Texas found he had lied about his participation in most of the murders.
He would be convicted of killing 11 people and received the death penalty for the muder of Debra Jackson. His death penalty was commuted to life in prison in 1998, and he died three years later from congestive heart failure.
DANNY ROLLING (1954-2006)
In 1990, he killed four University of Florida students, and one from Santa Fe College in four days. He was dubbed The Gainesville Ripper, and later would go on to confess to the murder of three people in Louisiana. He also attempted to kill his father in 1990, who had abused him as a child.
In 1991, he was charged with five counts of murder but four years would pass before he went to trial for the crimes. He was sentenced to death in 1994. He was executed by lethal injection on October, 25, 2006.
Sondra London who once was engaged to serial killer Gerard Schaefer, broke off this engagement to collaborate with Rolling on the book, The Making of a Serial Killer: The True Story of the Gainesville Murders in the Killer's Own Words. They would become engaged. During his years of imprisonment he wrote songs, poems and drew pictures.
OTTIS TOOLE (1947-1996)
Like his lover and co-conspirator Henry Lee Lucas, he committed his first murder at the age of 14. During his incarceration he confessed twice that he killed Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted. He would recant, but in 2008 DNA evidence proved he was the one who killed the boy.
He would be convicted of six counts of murder, and received two death sentences that were commuted to life imprisonment on appeal. He died in 1996, at age 49, from cirrhosis of the liver. His body went unclaimed and he was buried in the Florida State Prison cemetery.
Both of his parents were abusive and like Lucas his mother would cross dress him as a girl and call him Susan. He was sexually abused through incestuous relationships with close relatives, including his older sister. He said his maternal grandmother was a satanist who exposed him to satanic rituals in his youth, including grave robbery.
He had an IQ of 75, and he suffered from epilepsy. He was forced to have sex with a friend of his father when he was 5 years old, and he had a homosexual relationship when he was 10 with a neighbor who was 12. He prostituted himself as a teenager.
He drifted through the Southwestern United States and supported himself through panhandling and prostitution, where it's believed he committed several murders that until today are considered cold cases.
He returned to Jacksonville where he originated from, and met Henry Lee Lucas in 1976 at a soup kitchen. Toole claimed he committed 108 murders with Lucas, some ordered by a cult called "The Hands of Death."
HERBERT MULLIN (1947-2022)
Mullin was born on August 18, the anniversary of the devastating San Francisco earthquake that razed the city in 1906. He would give great significance to his birthdate when he committed his crimes.
He killed 13 people in California during the early 1970s, which he justified as the only way to prevent earthquakes. Since there seemed to be no pattern to the crimes, the police did not connect them as being perpetrated by the same person.
In 1973, he was convicted of two murders in the first degree, nine in the second degree and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. His requests for parole were denied eight times.
Mullin grew up in San Francisco, and when he was 16 he was voted Most Likely to Succeed by his classmates. It was around this time that he developed paranoid schizophrenic disorder. He would be commited to five mental hospitals, and by the time he was in his twenties his condition would be aggravated by the use of marijuana and LSD.
He believed the death of Americans in the Vietnam War had made enough blood sacrifices to nature, but with the end of the war he needed to start killing people so that he could stop an earthquake.
He went through his murder spree in four months.
His 1973 trial hinged more on whether he was legally sane, since he had admitted to all the murders.
He had an adjoining cell with serial killer Edmund Kemper who disliked him because he killed for no good reason.
Mullin died at age 75 from natural causes in 2022.
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