Every topic I have ever investigated I have been confronted by folklore. The longer the topic has been around and the more famous the topic has become the more it has evolved into a real life comic strip. It’s core followers are fans, and they don’t want the franchise changed. They can handle debunkers. They can handle rude scoffers trying to dismiss their topic (whichever it may be), but they don’t want a heretic. This is someone who believes in the kernel of truth but they come along and reintroduce the facts and change its history and therewith its present and future. No fan of Superman wants a writer coming along and changing his origins. No fan wants to be told that Superman is no longer from Krypton and Marlon Brando is not his father. The readers will hate you. The editors will fire you.
You may think that in real life pursuits this applies only to the wacko fringe, like UFO and BIGFOOT believers, the paranormal crowd and ghost hunters. But it doesn’t. Folklore sprouts not from the subject matter but from the lack of facts and from facts being obscured by theories. There is a great military maxim that says it all: “Strategy is easy, but logistics is difficult.” The civilian equivalent was said by Einstein: “Everything is possible in theory, but not every theory is possible.”
True Crime and Cold Case followers are sure they are untouched by the tendency to believe in folklore. They like a mystery like anybody else, but they like one that is assailable. One that can be solved. Something that doesn’t require going to the Himalayas looking for Yeti.
But folklore is not found in the object of one’s interest. It is created by generalities, by the easy strategy and theorizing that takes the place of the detailed approach of logistics. Theory takes the place of facts. The dossier becomes a collection of vignettes. Case histories become renditions of claims.
Hype and hyperbole dominate– that dreaded world where synthesis of hearsay creates the reality.
Jack the Ripper is steeped in folklore. With the advent of the WWW it has gotten worst. The simple fact that he wore a deerstalker hat has been lost. It was preserved as late as the centenary of the case, finding high profile in a TV documentary hosted by Peter Ustinov and being accurately portrayed in the movie staring Michael Caine.
At this time a new image for Jack the Ripper was being developed based on strategy and not logistics. Modern profiling said he must be a common sex killer. Ripperologists cast off the old image of the topper and selected the demented tavern dreg image. Yet none tried to explain how such a villain could get away wearing the hat of a country gentleman. Sherlock Holmes didn’t even wear one. Universal Studios has caused us to think he did. But a deerstalker was not a hat worn in an urban area in 1888. The Ripper would have stood out like a herring on a cupcake. Yet whoever he was, he put on the hat of a country hunter, stalked his game and ghostly faded away. He was seen only twice with a victim, and this just before, and each witness made mention of the deerstalker. Yet no one ever reported such a man strolling along the streets of an urban slum coming or going after a strike. No one has considered the symbolism in wearing a deerstalker before the fact, nor the probability he removed it after in order to fade back into the poor urban East End. What is the probability that a local, well known dreg could get away with this?
The same for the Zodiac Killer. Three independent witnesses heard his voice. It was that of a young man. A young man may imitate an old man’s voice, but an old man cannot imitate a young man’s voice. Footprint impressions confirmed he was a pudgy, heavy guy. Witnesses said he was under 6 foot. How many controversies have been created over suspects who don’t even come close to this description? Tall, lean Kjell Quale was accused in his 90s of having been The Zodiac. He had been 50 years old in 1969. A middle aged fat sausage-chewing wino was the subject of another “investigative” work. Most recently a mousy figure was accused by his son of having been Zodiac.
Strategy is indeed easy.
The cynics like to say that perception is reality. It isn’t. Reality is reality. Perception is what we make of it. The cynics’ motto– the core of modern S&M– is an invitation to create folklore.
When the facts become obscure, Cold Cases can go the same route as Bigfoot and UFOs.
We are now at the juncture of a new fiend entering the world of popular enthusiasm. We cannot let the crime spree of EAR/ONS, the ultimate Night Predator, enter the world of folklore. So far, we have one advantage. All folklore that has surrounded cold cases has revolved around flibbertigibbet suspects. The EAR/ONS crime spree has never had one, not by any meaning of the word in the genre.
Three books have been published, all self published, two by actual detectives on the case and one by a PI specializing in criminal psych. None had suspects. No one was accused.
My website is the center of EAR/ONS online and I have unwittingly become the lead independent investigator. I have turned in 3 POI, only one name is known. The formal investigation process is long, especially if Familial DNA is the only solution. It took 40 years, lots of books, lots of news, a famous movie with Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis, to finally make it acceptable for Boston PD to stalk DeSalvo’s nephew and get DNA off an Evian bottle.
Consider the potential gap that exists now in the EAR/ONS case and its solution, even if I am right in my POI. If this case soon ignites the newswires, how many books will be written by write-for-hire authors? How many will turn in their dead father? How much hype and hyperbole awaits us?
The whole EAR/ONS — Night Predator– community must make sure it doesn’t happen, and if it does that it is squarely challenged. Otherwise so much muck will be stirred up there will probably never be a solution.