Themed Set: Branded

Then there are those atrocities so striking that newsmen send them abroad under their own specially minted brand.

The Black Dahlia murder.

The Son of Sam.

The Babes in the Wood killings.

These will rarely be the trials we are drawn to because of celebrities who were famous before their brush with the law: the O.J. Simpson case needs no further qualifier; neither, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

No, these will generally be cases where the public meets the crime before it meets the criminal. As experts at evading detection, it’s no wonder so many serial killers — the Green River Killer; the Boston Strangler; Jack the Ripper — are far better known by their media alias than their Christian name.

But the queer phenomenon of this or that obscurity capturing by dint of some superlative malefaction a purchase on the public conscience — initiating a feedback cycle between performer, onlookers, and the hype men who hawk broadsides in the shadow of the gallows — is a venerable one. Our need to fix certain crimes as reference points in the firmament perhaps says a great deal more about we slack-jawed gawkers than than it does about the most atrocious manslayer.

One of the roles of brands is that they represent the world to us. They quite literally ‘label’ for us what might otherwise be an incredibly chaotic array of messages. Each brand does this job in basically the same way that a picture (a painting or a photograph) represents a particular part of the world to us.

-Thom Braun, Philosophy of Branding

For the remainder of this week, Executed Today remembers common crimes and criminals for whom such a brand stuck.

On this day..