Every True Crime Has A Story To Tell
Professor Plum. In the Conservatory. With the Candlestick. Or was it Miss Scarlet who may have had a motive? Hmm.
When we were kids, my siblings and I always loved to gather around our kitchen table for family game night, which most of the time meant breaking out one of our favorite board games — Classic Clue. After all, what kid doesn’t love to solve a great murder mystery? We all loved the handy checklist to track our clues and the mini confidential case file, but what I loved best about that game were those teeny tiny murder weapons, imagining how they could be used to do harm.
Time after time, we as amateur detectives had the task of using the process of elimination to solve the mystery of the perpetual victim’s demise the within the walls of his own mansion. And believe it or not, according to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the game of Clue offers 324 possible murder scenario combinations of potential murderers, weapons, and locations, so it’s never the same game twice. A classic whodunit that always kept us guessing.
But playing a board game as a kid is just a segue to an interest in examining a real-life crime story. Fast-forward a few years and what was once a childhood fantasy of becoming a rookie crime solver met reality TV. All around the television dial and up and down the aisles at the bookstore, fans are never at a loss for material dedicated to solving more complicated crimes — murder recreations, cold case documentaries and dramatic courtroom showdowns took crime solving to the next level. These days, those of us who were once intrigued by the mystery of the simple premise of Clue may now gravitate to the uber-popular non-fiction genre of true crime, examining an actual crime and the actions of those involved. In the majority of cases, these true crimes include the investigation of murders and are presented in many forms, including an endless variety of podcasts discussing the criminal mind, the victims, as well as how these tragic tales shape society at large. Face it, it’s a guilty pleasure and it’s hard to look away!
I recently became familiar with a huge online community (or possibly a secret society) in which members pride themselves on sharing a common fascination — some may even say obsession — with true crime.
Hey Murderinos, “Stay Sexy, Don’t Get Murdered.”
Once considered a niche interest, the soaring popularity of the addictive podcast ‘My Favorite Murder,’ with an astounding 10 million downloads a month, has proven that the genre is going mainstream, even though it may be something listeners may not freely admit publicly…
‘My Favorite Murder’ is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who come out in droves for their sold-out shows worldwide. Aside from being avid true crime enthusiasts, Karen Kilgariff is a stand-up comedian and television writer and Georgia Hardstark is a writer and host for the Cooking Channel. — myfavoritemurder.com
On each of their chatty weekly episodes, these irreverent hosts each share the gory details of one tale of murder that fascinates them with the other, and the audience, with a few life lessons thrown in, like what NOT to do to survive in a perilous situation —
“Be aware of your surroundings.”
“Pepper spray first, ask questions later.”
“Nothing good ever happens to women alone in a forest.”
“It’s okay to not be nice to the creepy guy at the bar.”
With an emphasis on self-defense and vigilance, it’s all about empowering fans to face their fears. And with over 327K+ podcast followers now in tow on social media, mainly women, these hilarious hosts are constantly engaged with their community, keeping them on their toes and constantly looking over their shoulder.
Book Exchanges Help Share the Love of a Good Crime Story
I was fortunate enough to learn more about this community from one of their own, Carly Jerome, a long-time Elfster user, who hosts regular online secret santa book exchanges with group members to share their common interest, spread a little generosity and get to know one another.
“MFM stands for ‘My Favorite Murder,’ which is a podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark,” Carly explains. “Fans of the podcast refer to themselves as Murderinos. The podcast started in January 2016, and I started listening shortly thereafter. I first found out about MFM from my alumni group — [grinnellplans], which is also the group that hosted the first Elfster exchange I participated in!”
“I digress. There is a tight-knit community on social media that’s evolved into separate interest groups. There are groups on Facebook for your location, television interest, arts and crafts, films — you name it and it probably exists. These offshoots are a great way to connect you to other people you may not have been able to meet — folks that have a similar interest as you. Unfortunately, there is not one overall MFM Facebook group — the original imploded as these things often do when they get too big. Currently, the group I am most active in with year-round gift exchanges is the MFM Book Club, which currently has over 10,000 members on Facebook,” she adds.
One way Carly has found to bring the community together is by hosting an online gift exchange.
“I find the Elfster exchanges, for the most part, bring people together,” she says. “Everyone is excited to see what everyone else received. It allows people to share books that are near and dear to their heart, be creative in their gifting, or simply bring a smile to the person they were paired with.”
“Personally, I almost always include a copy of The Princess Bride by William Goldman, regardless of what the theme is or whether or not the person I was paired with had it in their wish list,” Carly adds. “It’s my favorite book as an adult — it’s so wonderful and magical, and different enough from the movie on which it was based. I like to be able to share that part of me, even though the person I’m paired with is unaware that’s why they’re receiving the book.”
And how did these sneaky Gift Exchanges come about for the MFM Book Club?
“I decided to do an online exchange with the MFM Book Club after participating and organizing several Elfster exchanges. It seemed only natural to share something we all loved — books — with each other,” she says. “There was a little bit of interest, which has only grown since that first exchange.”
And Carly is quite an experienced elf! “My first foray into Elfster was in 2012, when my undergraduate alumni group — called Grinnell Plans — decided to do a Secret Santa Gift Exchange,” she explains. “I have participated in that exchange annually since then — it’s a great group. In 2016, I decided to host my own gift exchange with another alumni group I’m part of, and it sort of grew from there. The next year, I was hosting four exchanges, and participating in many others.”
“In 2018, I decided to try hosting a MFM Book Club exchange within the group. The people that participated really enjoyed it, and posted photos to the Facebook group, which created interest in having semi-regular exchanges,” she says. “We’re currently on our fifth exchange!”
When participants sign up to be part of her Gift Exchanges, Carly has clear expectations set out in advance: “Basically, if you sign up, send something. If you sign up, and something comes up that prevents you from participating, let me know ASAP so I can make sure the person you were paired with gets a gift. I try to make sure that every single person that participates receives something, even if it’s small.”
“Participants are able to get to know each other a bit better based on what they receive and what they wish for,” she explains. “You get a feel for the person’s preferences based on their [Elfster] wish list or Goodreads account. You also get to know the person who is sending you things. They will often send a note with some sort of explanation of what you received. Many participants post thanks both on Elfster and within the Facebook group, which usually creates a discussion about the books or items themselves.”
Generous Gifts From A Secret Friend
And of course, we love to hear the stories of how the simple act of a Gift Exchange can help turn strangers into grateful friends!
“There are some great gifts out there that have been given in the exchanges I’ve organized,” Carly says. “It’s hard to pick a favorite though — I love seeing all the thank you notes being posted!”
“One of my favorites that I’ve seen was someone who gifted the Slytherin editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as well as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This person did a little web sleuthing, and found that they were in the same Harry Potter MFM Facebook group, learned the person they were paired with was a huge Potter fan and also from the Slytherin Hogwarts House, and surprised them with these two books,” she explains. “They went above and beyond, which is always important. Other favorites include seeing people gifting items that were created by Murderinos — such as artwork and crafts. It’s a community supporting each other.”
“One of my favorite gifts that I received was probably the box of books I got from the MFM Book Club’s Galentine’s Book Exchange that I organized. In my wish list for this exchange, I had asked for an assortment of trashy romance novels — perfect for Galentine’s!” Carly says. “I received that and so much more! On each book was a handwritten note from the person who had been paired with me. Each note explained why they picked the book, or their first impressions of the book — it was perfect. It was unique and special, and it was great knowing that someone took that extra time to personalize a gift.”
And what is the best part of facilitating these personal connections for the members of her community?
“Overall, I think these exchanges are great for folks across the board — regardless of whatever group I’m organizing an exchange for. They let you learn more about other people, and share a part of yourself in the process (if you want to, that is). They bring the community closer together, and get everyone chatting about what they each received,” she explains. “That’s not to say there are drawbacks. There’s always at least one person who goes MIA — never ships their gift, and doesn’t respond to e-mails checking in. That’s always frustrating, but in those cases, I just send the person they were paired with something — usually small — so they can enjoy the exchange along with everyone else. I know most exchanges don’t do this — it certainly isn’t cheap — but I think it’s worthwhile for the betterment of the Exchange and our online community as a whole. You just have to make sure that person who went MIA never participates again (which is fairly easy to do within Elfster).”
“We’re already planning our fifth MFM Book Club exchange!” she adds. “And I’ve already planned to host the half dozen or so annual exchanges in the winter of 2019. A few rotten apples hasn’t spoiled the bunch.”
Organizers all over the world are busy not only connecting like-minded gifters, but building community through these acts of generosity using our platform. We love to highlight their work and dedication, so we hope putting a “spotlight” on individuals in our Community Spotlight posts inspire you! The Elves would love to share your own community’s Elfster success stories too! Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.