Monster Murderabilia

When we visited the Crime Museum in Washington, DC, a couple weeks ago, there was a room containing various items that once belonged to serial killers. The most objects on display once belonged to John Wayne Gacy, a monster who killed 33 young men and boys in the Chicago area. He was sentenced to death and was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994. Purportedly his last words were “kiss my ass.”

On display was an autographed photo of Gacy dressed as Pogo the Clown, a character he often portrayed to entertain children.

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The most personal article in the collection was his black wallet. I laughed at the Playboy Club Executive Key. That seemed to be in its own slot for easy access, unlike the cards encased in plastic. The explanation to the right of the wallet lists the contents, but fails to include the Playboy card in its list.

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John Wayne Gacy was a husband, father, business owner, and by all appearances, just a regular guy. On exhibit is the leather jacket that he was wearing when he was arrested.

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Gacy performed for children as two clowns, Pogo and the lesser-known Patches. He was given the moniker of Killer Clown following his arrest. On display were two clown suits, one for each character.

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Between the suits was a self-portrait of Gacy as his alter ego, Pogo the Clown. It appears the killer painted it in 1983.

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Gacy was fond of creating artwork, and housed in the museum is a case containing his paint set used to create his pieces.

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Next to the paint set sits a typewriter that the murderer used to write a book about himself.

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As a true crime fan, the serial killer section was one of my favorite areas of the museum. It’s criminal that the museum will be closing at the end of this month.

Ted Bundy’s Beetle

When I was a kid I wanted my own Herbie the Love Bug from the classic Disney movie starring the recently-deceased Dean Jones. Now that I’m an adult fascinated by true crime, I would much prefer its macabre cousin, the 1968 Beetle once owned by serial killer Ted Bundy.

The killer’s car can be found on display in the lobby of the Crime & Punishment Museum, located on 7th Street in Washington, DC. If you want to see it, you’ll have to hurry. The museum is closing September 30. (The fact that it’s closing is a crime. I very much enjoyed our time spent there).

When I heard the museum had this car, I had to make the trip. Although I was excited to tour all the exhibits, the Beetle was the draw for me. It took about two hours to reach the museum, but we spent over 40 minutes of quality time taking photos of the little Volkswagen.

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I am by no means an authority on Ted Bundy. I’ve listened to a few podcasts about him, and at the time of our visit I was reading Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me. Ironically, I had just finished the part where Carol DaRonch escaped from the Beetle, and became one of the few Bundy survivors.

Observing the exterior, it appears the Beetle’s best (and fortunately, worst) days are behind it. Its paint is showing a bit of rust over an undiscernible hue. I can’t be sure what color it is, it’s not exactly white, off white, tan, or yellow. It has a sunroof. The windshield is cracked, its corner adorned with an inspection sticker that indicates it was next due to be inspected in April 1976. Ted Bundy was arrested in 1975. I noticed the Beetle had a jack underneath it in the front and in the back. I had never been this close to a Volkswagen Beetle before. Ted Bundy stood nearly six feet tall, how did he fit in this thing?

April 1976 Inspection Sticker

April 1976 Inspection Sticker

If the exterior needed some work, the interior was a lost cause. The first thing that’s noticeable is the missing passenger seat. It’s chilling to say the least. Bundy would remove the seat, stowing it either in the back seat or trunk. The killer removed the seat in order to transport victims without them being seen. When he was arrested, police found the passenger seat in the back seat. The missing seat was not seen during our visit. The trunk wasn’t open, so I can’t say with certainty that the seat no longer exists.

Missing Passenger Seat

Missing Passenger Seat

View from Driver's Window Across Car

View from Driver’s Window Across Car

It was in this car that police found suspicious items that pointed to burglary including a ski mask and crowbar. Later authorities would learn the horrors behind the unusual objects found in the vehicle.

Back Seat of Beetle

Back Seat of Beetle

While out on bail, Bundy cleaned his car and sold it. He was later put in a police lineup, the outcome of which led to him being charged with kidnapping and attempted murder. This prompted officials to further investigate the Beetle. Once they had possession of it, evidence was found linking victims to the vehicle.

As fascinating as it was to see this small, yet integral piece of sinister American history in person, I had my own moment of silence for the victims. As I stood at the passenger door, I thought about Carol DaRonch, and her struggle inside the car with the killer. She was able to escape the madman, but so many others took their last ride in this seemingly innocuous little car.

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Ted Bundy died in Florida’s electric chair on January 24, 1989. My heart goes out to everyone affected by his horrible crimes.

Traffic Trouble

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I think anyone would agree that traffic stinks. It’s worse if you live on a busy road. Having grown up in the town, I knew our street was heavily traveled when we bought our house. Traffic can be a  nightmare. That I can deal with, but what I can’t deal with is the increasing rudeness of the commuters.

School is back in session, and with it even more harried drivers clog the residential areas. The first day of school caused traffic to back up past my house starting at 7:00 a.m. It’s not just the added school traffic that causes the problem. Because my street is a main road, whenever there is an accident on four major highways, I can count on everyone getting off at my exit, cars backed up as far as the eye can see.

Because this is almost a daily occurrence, my car is backed into the driveway every night because going forward I need to go left, and good luck trying to back out into the line of traffic. No matter what time of night I attempt to back in the driveway for the morning, there is always someone on the road and in my way.

In the morning, I set out to turn left. My turn signal is always on. Some days people are courteous and let me in, maybe they realize how hard it is to live on a street that’s so busy. I like to think that sometimes.

Other times, I am confronted by the nastiest humans. Many mornings I get the one finger salute for having the audacity to want to come out of my driveway. Newsflash, I live here, you don’t. I also didn’t tell you to get off the highway and onto my street.

Some mornings people yell at me. A lot. Did I mention this is a two-lane street, with one going in each direction? It’s rare that I have to block one lane to get across, but if need be, it will happen. One guy started screaming because I blocked his way. I have no sympathy. Try having people block your driveway every day. They see me on the way out and pull up purposely so I can’t get out.

My favorite was the woman who motioned to me that I shouldn’t be turning left, that I should go the other way. It was all I could do to stay in the car.

One thing predictable about me is that I am unpredictable. Sometimes I respond finger to finger, tirade to tirade. I might instead laugh at their displeasure, which aggravates them even more. Sometimes I will beep and wave, thanks for nothing, jerk.

I’m not sure why the driveway hassle every day. It’s like letting me in front of them would somehow delay their commute, because they’re going nowhere fast in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We own two of our three vehicles outright, so I can justify unleashing the crazy when provoked. The local police tell me it’s illegal to block driveways, so all I have to do is record license plates to ruin someone’s day. Can’t we all just get along?

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Paws Come With Claws

Ozzy

Ozzy

One of my cats was admitted to the veterinary hospital for what would become a lifetime of tummy troubles. I visited him on my lunch break, and he greeted me with enthusiasm. I can’t say that about his neighbor, a young kitten, eyes glazed with pain, bandages covering bloody paws, its pitiful cries audible over the background noise of a busy practice. The tag on the cage read “onychectomy.”

Onychectomy is the medical term for declawing. Look at your fingers. Imagine each being severed at the first joint below the fingertips. That is akin to declawing a cat. It’s an amputation, the end result the same, no matter which method is used to perform the procedure.

Many people are unaware what declaw surgery entails. They assume if their vet operates it must be safe. There was a time when a new kitten or cat was brought to the vet to be sterilized and declawed, one anesthesia, and one vet bill. It was thought to be easier on the cat and the wallet. Onychectomy is tough on young kittens and even worse for adult cats.

Veterinary medicine has evolved since then. Many vets will no longer offer the surgery at all, and in some European countries the practice is illegal. There are some vets who will declaw all four paws, but that is unusual. Most people do not remove the back nails.

Even if you intend to keep your cat inside, accidents can happen and kitty may make a dash out the door. This is more dangerous for a cat without claws, as their main defense against predators has been taken from them.

You may run into issues with your newly declawed cat once it is released from the vet. Some may turn to biting. Others may refuse to use the litter box because they don’t like the feel of the litter on their mutilated paws. Shelters receive cats with these problems as a result of declaw surgery and they are often euthanized. If you couldn’t handle the issues resulting from your decision to declaw, why would anyone else? Cats can also live for many years with no issues from the surgery. Keep in mind that like humans, skin on cat paws gets thin as they age. Kitty may stop using the litterbox all of a sudden, refusing to defecate in the proper place because their paws hurt when they try to cover their mess. Instead they will seek other locations to do their business, none of which will make their owner happy. I had this problem with one of my cats a couple years before we lost her this June at age 17.

If you opt to keep kitty’s claws, how do you protect your stuff? First, be sure your cat has plenty of scratching toys and cat trees to climb. This will keep them entertained and less likely to use your furniture for scratching. It is important to trim your cat’s nails regularly. At the shelter we recommend trimming front claws every two weeks and back claws just a couple times a year. If you have the patience, soft nail caps can be put on each nail. I haven’t used them, but I’ve heard they work well.

Declawing is a personal decision. Some shelters will not adopt a cat to someone who plans to declaw. Instead they will approve the potential pet parent for a declawed cat, a cat who has already had their claws removed before entering the shelter.

As for me, I apologized to my kitty with the tummy trouble. He was the last cat I ever had declawed. I have adopted two cats with claws from the shelter, and years after they came home, I still have intact furniture. Cats both with and without claws can live together harmoniously in a household. Please discuss declawing alternatives with your veterinarian before making the decision to declaw your cat. Remember, choosing onychectomy, and the possible consequences as a result, are irreversible.