From Heaven’s Gate to Manson to Pickton, the collection contains many dark artifacts with connections to high-profile killers and cultists
Some collect on stamps, others collect on action figures, then there are those who collect on handwritten letters from Charles Manson.
While the latter is a rarer fascination, objects associated with dark events may gather enough to get their own name: Murderbelia. It is in this area of collectibles that Vancouver local Robert Applewhite excels, and runs Canada’s largest for sale collection of murderbelia on his website Cult Collectables.
Applewhite developed the fascination as a “hardcore goth kid” in high school, but he did not sell Murderbelia in the beginning. Applewhite instead sold standard collectibles such as sports cards, Pokemon cards, action figures and retro games. It was when he began to follow his natural fascination with American cults like Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate that he started yet another collection.
“I realized there is not much to collect for this group,” Applewhite explained in a recent interview with Vancouver is amazing. “I want to take a closer look at this second group, just to have a coherent theme.”
From there, Apple White’s collection grew, eventually leading to a choice between keeping his day job and going full time selling killer bilia. The decision was made easier when eBay took an issue with his darker lists as some OJ Simpson-themed pogs. Not long after, Applewhite set up his website, which he was able to fill with his already significant collection.
While Cult Collectables still lists counterculture items and the horror genres, Applewhite says its sales over the past year have shifted to true crime items.
Applewhite says his collection is the largest available to the public, but he is convinced there are larger private collections in the country.
How do you find these things at all?
Applewhite says that when he sold regular collectibles, it involved a lot of frugality or buying large collections on Craigslist. With the killer bilia items, however, it is much more legwork, meeting with collectors from the US, making phone calls and doing lots of research.
Throughout his search, Applewhite says that his most valuable items always change as they are constantly being bought and sold. That said, there are a few elements that stand out among the rest.
“I have a couple of John Wayne Gacy paintings right now that I think are really nice because he did a lot of paintings when he was in jail,” Applewhite said. “They are not the rarest thing in the world, but they have in a way transcended beyond a true crime subculture into more of a pop culture thing.”
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As a result, some of Gacy’s paintings are currently on the market with price tags ranging from $ 1,500 to $ 5,500.
On the Cult Collectables website, some of the tallest ticket items include a signed photograph by Charles Manson, handwritten letters from Ted Bundy, and handprints by Robert Willie Pickton.
If at this point you have some moral dilemmas, you are not alone. Apple White’s various social media accounts, where he markets his products, raise concerns about offensive content.
Applewhite claims that collectors of war memorabilia trade in similar items, yet receive a fraction of the flag, but he understands the criticism.
“I definitely understand why people would have a problem or be bored,” he said. “I just do my best not to antagonize people or create conflicts with anyone.”
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Applewhite says, however, that more often than not, people will just find the items he sells creepy and not particularly offensive.
Occasionally, Applewhite is accused of glorifying these darker periods of history through its work.
“I can almost guarantee that a producer making a series about Ted Bundy on Netflix will make more money on that series than I will ever make my whole life selling these things and buying these things,” Applewhite said.
“Many people say in a way that the documentaries and the books have an educational aspect to them. And I understand that well, but these things do it in a way.”
As his collection has grown, Applewhite has been in talks with a private museum of genuine crime in the United States, which may have some of his works.
For more information, visit Cult Collectables or its social media accounts.