“Murderabilia” is defined as collectibles related to murders, murderers, or other violent crimes. And despite the obviously morbid nature of the industry, it’s a booming business. Some prized “murderabilia” might include crime scene photos, or perhaps something owned by a famous serial killer. But sometimes, these items can be a bit more creative. That’s because many famous killers had other hobbies besides murdering people, and in some of these cases, their hobbies were of the artistic variety.
Artists often have the reputation of being ‘tortured’, an idea that suggests they’re beleaguered by the pressures of their creative spirit. But what if an artist externalised that pain in more than just their work? The artists we’re discussing here were not just tortured; they were responsible for the torture of countless others.
Some of the art work produced by these killers was actually pretty good. But don’t take our word for it; see for yourself, as we present you the impressive art work created by 8 infamous killers.
8. Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas was a serial killer convicted of killing 11 – though he confessed to more than 600 (that number was later brought down to about 350 or so). His first murder victim was his own mother, who he claimed he killed in self-defense. The courts ruled otherwise and sentenced him to 20-40 years, but due to overcrowding in the prison system, he was released after serving only 10 years of his term. And that’s when his killing spree began. In 1983, he was arrested and charged with killing two women, and later confessed. Lucas later claimed that police brought about his confession by stripping him naked, denying him bedding, and not allowing him to contact an attorney. After the confession though, his murderous claims became more and more outlandish. He told tales about being part of a cannibalistic satanic cult, and that he killed Jimmy Hoffa.
Throughout his time in prison, Lucas painted. Some of these paintings are creepy, while others are actually, and surprisingly, soft and pretty, like the one seen above.
7. Wayne Lo
When you mention school shootings, the first one that comes to mind is probably Columbine, but seven years prior, Wayne Lo walked into Simon’s Rock College of Bard on December 14, 1992 and killed one student and a professor and injured four others before surrendering to the police.
Lo was a violinist and played in the Billings Symphony beginning in high school. He also attended the Aspen Music Festival and studied under Dorothy Delay. In 1991, he was accepted into Simon’s Rock and given the W.E.B DuBois minority scholarship. Just a year later, he would go on a shooting rampage because he reportedly could not adjust to the liberal environment of the school. His conservative views were deemed racist, homophobic, and anti-semitic by his fellow students. He is currently serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
From prison, Wayne Lo sells his artwork from his own website, SkidLo.net. There are paintings, drawings, and embroidered art for people to purchase, but that isn’t the most surprising part. The surprising part is that the proceeds from the sales are donated to The Galen Gibson Fund which was set up in the name of one of his victims. His artwork has also been displayed in prominent galleries, and is at the Hyaena Gallery in California.
6. Arthur Shawcross
Arthur Shawcross is known as the Genesee River Killer. Originally convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering two children, he was paroled after 14 1/2 years in prison. And in 1988, he started killing again – primarily prostitutes of the area. In all, he was convicted of 11 murders with a 12th not officially charged to him. He’s talked about not only killing his victims, but also mutilating and cannibalizing them.
While serving time in prison for the murders, his arts and crafts privileges were suspended after it was discovered that he was selling his artwork, signed by him, on eBay. He would mail the art to others who received a fee to auction the items for him. This was considered against the rules, however, since the Department of Correctional Services prohibits prisoners from conducting any type of business activity while incarcerated – though his actions didn’t break the state’s “Son of Sam” law because he was not officially benefiting from his crimes.
5. The Kray Twins
Twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie are considered the foremost perpetrators of organized crime in London during the 1950s and 1960s. They were bosses of a gang known as “The Firm” that was involved in various crimes including armed robberies, assaults and murders.
In their time, they were celebrities in their own right due to being prominent nightclub owners, and they mixed with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, along with various politicians of the day. They were convicted in 1969 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2012, some of their prison artwork was auctioned off and managed to bring in a total of $26,500 for 40 different pieces.
4. Charles Ng
Charles Ng and his partner-in-crime Leonard Lake are believed to have been responsible for 11-25 deaths that involved the torture and rape of their victims that included women, men, and even babies. They even videotaped some of their brutal exploits, creating snuff films of their crimes. Lake killed himself with cyanide when arrested, but Ng is was sentenced to death. He currently sits on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California.
While in prison, Ng has taken a correspondence course in art, and murder memorabilia site, Dark Vomit, has auctioned off several of his origami butterflies.
3. Jodi Arias
Jodi Arias has been charged with killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander on June 4, 2008. The murder was gruesome; Alexander was stabbed multiple times, suffered a gunshot to the head and had his throat slit. At the trial, she claims she killed him in self-defense, but in May 2013, she was convicted of first-degree murder.
In 2013, some of Arias’ artwork was sold on eBay by her brother. He claimed that the profits went towards covering the family’s travel expenses to the trial as well as providing better food for Arias while in jail. Some of her pieces sold for as low as $100, others upwards of $1000 and they range from drawings of babies’ hands and feet to portraits of 1950s celebrities like Grace Kelly. In addition to art, Arias is apparently an accomplished singer as well. In 2010, she won the Inmate Idol contest held at her jail, with the prize being a holiday dinner.
2. Perry Smith
Perry Smith is one of the two killers that Truman Capote wrote about for the book, In Cold Blood. Smith met up with Richard Hickock in prison, and once they were released, the two carried out a scheme to rob a family they thought had a lot of money. When they found no money at hand, they murdered the entire family, including the children, by slitting the father’s throat and shooting the others in the head.
During his research for In Cold Blood, Capote eventually befriended Smith. While Capote denies that they were anything but friends, there have been rumors to suggest that perhaps something more formed between the two of them.
Smith may have only had a grade-school education, but he held a strong interest in art, literature, and music. He read and wrote poems while on death row, and painted portraits for other inmates from photos of their families; he also painted religious portraits like the one above.
1. Adolf Hitler
Hitler is now a name synonymous with evil. No one on this list comes anywhere near the death counts attributed to Hitler during the Holocaust. He systematically slaughtered approximately 6 million Jews and millions of other victims during his reign, leaving almost no words to describe the scale of the atrocities he committed against humanity.
But odd, incongruous stories about Hitler’s personal life have long been the subject of rumour, urban legend and debate. One thing we know for sure is that Hitler was an accomplished artist. In fact, Hitler was a student of the fine arts and studied music, opera, painting, sculpture, and architecture. In Mein Kampf, he describes how he wanted to become a professional artist, but his dreams were destroyed when he was rejected twice from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He would later peddle postcards featuring scenes of Vienna, and he even continued producing artwork while fighting on the front lines of World War I. It’s believed that he created between 2000-3000 drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings throughout his life.