Murder memorabilia on auction in New York

Posted by: EndGame

Murder memorabilia on auction in New York - 06/22/05 04:52 AM

Want to own a section of white picket fence from the grassy knoll in Dallas where President John F. Kennedy's assassin may have stood?

That rotting fence and other ghoulish items related to infamous deaths are part of a sale of Americana at New York auction house that specializes in sports and pop culture memorabilia.

Among about 2,000 movie, rock n' roll and sports-related items in the June 23-24 auction, are a handful of lots with morbid associations.

They include a business card with a hand written note by convicted wife-killer Scott Peterson, whose trial and death sentence drew nationwide attention, and a framed newswire photograph of Jack Ruby assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald.

The promotional material from Leland's auction house says of the fence: "For JFK conspiracy buffs, it ... offers a chance to find clues about the still unexplained events in Dallas that dark day."

As of Monday, bids for the fence, conducted online, had reached $5,500 for the portion of fence. The Peterson business card had a $665.50 bid, but was expected to fetch a few thousand dollars before the auction closes, according to Leland's. The Ruby photo was bid at $175.

"I try to stay away from ghoulish for ghoulish sake," said Josh Evans, 43, founder of Leland's, based on Long Island, New York. "I think there is a difference between selling a real document and then selling something that is bizarre or in bad taste."

Merle Allin, a New Jersey-based collector who has bought and sold serial-killer artwork since 1989, said the popularity of real crime TV shows combined with people's obsession with death and celebrity has spurred demand for murder memorabilia.

"Everyone wants to own a piece of a celebrity or someone that's infamous," he said. "There is no question, American culture is death obsessed."

Naftali Berrill, a forensic psychologist and professor at Manhattan's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said some people develop an emotional connection to infamous crimes, in part because of media coverage of high-profile cases.

"All this stuff is in bad taste, but that's what our culture has become," Berrill said.

Two items that were slated to be part of the auction were considered by some to be in bad taste, notably a piece of metal and a propeller from the 1972 plane crash that killed former professional baseball player Roberto Clemente.

Clemente's heirs threatened legal action if the lots weren't pulled, prompting the return of the piece of metal to its owner and the donation of the propeller to a museum.

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