Hey Ferox, new calendar

DURHAM, Maine (Reuters) - April belongs to serial sex killer John Wayne Gacy, convicted of killing 33 young men and boys, while May is for Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate 17 men. June features Satanic worshiper and murderer Richard Ramirez.

The grisly 2007 Serial Killer Calendar produced by a Maine businessman depicts some of the world's most notorious murderers painted by "the vampire of Paris," Frenchman Nico Claux who himself served 7 years for murder.

Purple Inc., the Bangor, Maine-based

company that produced and distributes the calendar in speciality retailers and the Internet, said initial response has been so strong that the company is planning a sequel and a line of posters.

"A lot of people are titillated by serial killers," said Lana Wachniak, a sociology professor and associate dean of Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

"I call them serialphiles.' Some people want insight into that kind of depravity. Others get a kind of vicarious thrill. And others see it almost as a kind of talisman, a way to keep violence away," she said.

The artwork of America's most notorious killers -- ranging from pencil drawings by Charles Manson to a painting by executed serial killer John Wayne Gacy -- fetch hefty sums from collectors of so-called "murderabilia."

"It simulates in all of us a simple version of the dark side," said Kristopher T. Saunders, Purple's chief executive.

More than 30 states have so-called "Son of Sam" laws that require criminals to give money made on book, movie or other deals relating to their crimes to victims or the state.

Despite moral concerns often raised by families of victims of murderers, there's little to prevent entrepreneurs from selling murderabilia on the Internet or anywhere else.

In Massachusetts, a bill proposed by state Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian, a Democrat, would prevent criminals from excessively profiting from the sale of murderabilia that exploited their own notoriety.

But something like the Serial Killer Calendar, Koutoujian said, would be excluded since Claux's portraits are of other criminals. "This is an area of free speech and commerce," he said. "And you can't legislate taste or integrity."

'DISTURBING'

Still, the idea that murderers can profit from their marquee status offends many people.

"This is a horrible, disturbing calendar," said Christine Ward, executive director of the California-based Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau. The group was founded by the late mother of Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Charles Manson. Manson is featured on the calendar's January page.

"The last thing you want is somebody making a profit off the person who murdered your loved one," she said.

Sales of such products, she says, are painful to families of murder victims. "Something like this calendar -- created by someone whose crimes are just as heinous as the people he has painted -- is a reminder to families that what happened to their loved one doesn't matter. What does matter is that we live in a culture where these killers have been celebritised."

According to auction house Wachniak, the murderabilia market includes everything from sketches and paintings by Charles Manson and Gacy to the autographed 7th-grade yearbook of serial killer Ted Bundy.

It even includes dirt from the crawlspace in Gacy's home, where the remains of many of his victims were found.

The Internet has made it easier for people to locate and buy such items, said Wachniak. Internet auction house Ebay restricts murderabilia, and says it may "remove listings of items closely associated with individuals notorious for committing murderous acts within the last 100 years.

In March, it removed a listing for a black BMW apparently belonging to Columbine High School killer Dylan Klebold.

'INNER TORMENTS'

Saunders said Purple has sold 500 copies of the 3,000 limited edition calendar across six continents.

An initial printing of 3,000 is relatively small, said Russell Halperin, manager of product planning for Calendar Club, a chain of stores. But the Serial Killer Calendar's high-end price -- $25 compared to a more typical price of $12 to $18 -- makes it "somewhat significant", he said.

The calendars feature Claux' acrylic portraits, many based on police mug shots, overlaid with other paintings including John Wayne Gacy in a clown suit and quotes from the killers.

Claux himself appears in December, with the text: "He soon discovered that he could channel his dark fantasies into his paintings, finding a new way to express his inner torments."

Next up, Saunders said, are a 2008 Serial Killer Calendar and a line of posters in 2007, featuring not just serial killers but Claux portraits of the notorious -- from John Dillinger to Jesse James and the fictional Hannibal Lecter.

Like the 2007 calendar, they will be marketed on the Internet at the company's Web site, www.serialkillercalendar.com, and sold in speciality retailers such as horror shops and tattoo parlors.

"Understandably, some people are offended by it, but there's a lot of offensive speech out there," said Marjorie Heins, a fellow at the Brennan Centre for Justice at New York University Law School, referring to the calendar.

But "people who are interested in reading about crime and criminals have a right to do so," she said. "As a matter of both constitutional law and public policy, there is no real basis to stop this."

F**K. Wrong forum