Tag: true crime

Sherlock Holmes Comes to Paris: True Crime and Private Detection in the Belle Époque

What’s the appeal of true crime? There’s the mystery to solve and the lure of thinking about violence from a safe distance. There’s also the desire to see justice done: one of the staples of true crime is a botched or mishandled police investigation. There are those who say they are wrongfully accused (Adnan Syed… Read more →

Fictional Detectives and Real-Life Forensic Science

On April 10, 1935, Lord Hugh Montague Trenchard, the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, invited policemen and politicians to celebrate the opening of the new Metropolitan Police Laboratory (MPL). The attendees, wrote a Times correspondent, “have been invited not just to see a collection of microscopes and test tubes, but to open the door to… Read more →

True Fake Crime

On April 1, 2019, news broke that Awkwafina and Ike Barinholtz are producing and starring in a movie named Crime After Crime, a comedy about true crime podcasting. Earlier this year, fictionalized true crime podcast The Angel of Vine, which featured Hollywood stars like Joe Manganiello, Constance Zimmer, and Alfred Molina, wrapped up its 10… Read more →

Louis “The Laughing Eel” Ross and the Road of No Return: Incarcerating the “Criminally Insane”

In 1921 a burglar called the “Laughing Eel” began serving a ten-year prison term, but it was 33 years before he got his freedom back. Like thousands of other incarcerated people with mental illnesses, Louis Ross was diagnosed as “criminally insane” and moved to a state hospital with a virtual life sentence. Despite his slippery… Read more →

Armchair Detectives and the Allure of Death in Miniature at the Smithsonian

It was one of the coldest January days in recent memory, but that didn’t seem to deter the crowds inside the Renwick Gallery of American Art in downtown Washington, D.C. As I entered the museum that afternoon in 2018, I ran into a dense crowd of people—all simply waiting to enter the museum’s blockbuster exhibit… Read more →

The Disappearance of Juliet Stuart Poyntz

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1937, telephone operators at the American Woman’s Association Clubhouse in Manhattan noted that a man with a deep voice called daily for one of the residents, Juliet Stuart Poyntz. Poyntz took the calls every time, until one morning in June when she spoke with her mysterious caller and… Read more →

Who Was the Original “Welfare Queen?”: Review of Josh Levin’s The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

How do you tell a story about a real-life, embodied individual who inspired a stereotype, without reducing her life to fit into the same trope you are trying to upend? How do you uncover the exception that proved the rule without reifying the label you acknowledge is pernicious? I’m not sure, and Josh Levin sure… Read more →

“The Inflamed Egotism of Women:” Emma Simpson and the Limits of the Unwritten Law

Let me just admit it now—I’ve never listened to Serial.Or, rather, I never finished listening. Sure, I started it—after all, I did have an iPod, internet access, and a pretty NPR-happy social circle in fall of 2014—but I stopped after episode 1. Whatever it was that drew in historic millions of listeners, prompting critics to… Read more →

Murder and Motherhood in 1950s Ireland: The Trial of Abortionist Mamie Cadden

On the evening of April 17, 1956, thirty-three-year-old Helen O. visited nurse Mamie Cadden at 17 Hume Street, Dublin, for what she likely thought would be a routine, if illegal, abortion.1 Helen O.’s death after the attempted abortion provoked a national controversy that complicated dominant constructions of motherhood and domesticity in mid-twentieth-century Ireland. In the… Read more →

Care Gone Wrong: Bad Moms, Fake Disabilities, and Imagined Illnesses

At first, it seemed impossible that Gypsy Rose Blancharde had murdered her mother. Dee Dee appeared to be her daughter’s most outspoken advocate. She was the strong and devoted caregiver that Gypsy Rose, who appeared far younger than her 23 years and spoke in a Minnie Mouse squeak, required. Or so it seemed. Dee Dee… Read more →