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Why Do We Love True Crime Stories?



When I am sitting quietly at my desk creating enchanting creatures or beautiful illustrations, one of the things I enjoy listening to are stories about real-life people committing heinous crimes. My fascination with true crime stories began in December 2001, right before I turned 13, after seeing news coverage of the Laci Peterson disappearance. The case’s twists and turns, with her husband’s suspicious behavior and his affair being revealed, had me on the edge of my seat. I even went as far as binge watching America’s Most Wanted, watching the various stories they share, hoping to help bring criminals to justice and find missing people. After writing two Write & Forge articles about true crime cases, many people asked me why I enjoy listening to these cases. Besides myself, my younger sister (who is a forensic science major) and my sister-in-law also enjoy these stories. We are part of a large statistic of true crime fans, consisting of 34% of the US population and 80% of its listeners being female. In addition, many female writers and content creators have also found success in the true crime genre, from Ann Rule, to Gillian Flynn, to the late Michelle McNamara. So why do so many listeners, especially women, enjoy these horrifying stories that actually happened to real people?


The first reason why people like these stories is simple: they are entertaining. People love the adrenaline rush of being scared. Take for example, watching a scary movie or doing something terrifying like skydiving. The fact that these stories actually happened in real life makes it even more terrifying and thrilling. These stories keep audiences on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next, how law enforcement will catch the killer(s), or if the story takes a crazy turn. There is a small sense of interactivity when listening to the story, going over clues and evidence, and hoping to solve the puzzle before the story concludes. 


The most thrilling moments are finding the critical clue, a secret affair being exposed, or the criminal turning out to be someone they did not expect. These cases have allowed them to become a very popular genre on podcasts, audiobooks, and streaming services. People should also not ignore the huge impact these stories had on various forms of entertainment, from crime shows like Law & Order, The Closer, and The Act to films like Foxcatcher, Monster, and most recently, Killers of the Flower Moon. They serve as inspiration for many intense stories and dynamic characters, such as Psycho, Gone Girl, Scream, Silence of the Lambs, and another recent example: May December. True crime stories can keep our brains active and are a great source of inspiration for nerve-wracking, thrilling, and thought-provoking stories.


Just like movies and video games, true crime stories create an escape from reality. People feel stressed with work and daily life, but these stories can help provide a sense of safety and comfort. They are grateful to be in a safe, stable environment rather than being stuck in jail or six feet under (as morbid as that sounds). They can also add a sense of community if the listener is going through the same thing as the victim, knowing they are not alone in the world and can connect them with others.


Psychologists state it is our natural human curiosity to wonder what others are thinking and what makes them go through daily life. Humans can study these criminals from a safe distance. Some people want to try to understand the perpetrators empathetically: What drove them to go that far? What happened to them that made them the way they are? (Fielder) True crime stories can also be useful if someone they are close to is displaying the same disturbing behavior as the perpetrator in the story. Then, they can get their loved one the help that they need quickly. People want to know what others are feeling and see how they can provide that help to those they love.


Now, many of you reading this article are wondering why is it predominantly women who are drawn to the true crime genre? Being attacked, kidnapped, and getting taken advantage of are common female fears. These stories provide women with the knowledge to pay attention to any red flags, stay safe, or what to do if they ever find themselves in a dangerous situation. There have been many stories of kids watching shows such as NCIS and using the knowledge they gained to get themselves out of kidnapping attempts and plant the evidence to help police catch the perpetrator quickly. Women often view the world as a dangerous place. These stories give women the confidence they need to face their fears, knowing they have the skills to get themselves out of trouble. 


So if you meet a woman who says she enjoys having a glass of wine while listening to My Favorite Murderer, binge watching NCIS, or reading In Cold Blood, don’t think of them as psychopaths who need a lot of help. Just think of them as someone who wants to look out for themselves and enjoys scary stories. These cases can also be very upsetting and can bring up traumatic events for some (especially since real people are involved), so it is important to know why you are listening to these real-life cases and doing so while maintaining a healthy mentality. If used safely and properly, true crime stories can be a great tool to help people cope with stress, inspire exciting stories, keep one’s brain active, teach survival skills, bring awareness to cases and flaws in the justice system, and to recognize more female creators. 


Work Cited


Fielder, Cara, Why Are We So Obsessed With True Crime?


Barth, F. Diane, Why Do We Love True Crime - And Is it Healthy For Us?

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