JonBenet Ramsey And A Nation of Amateur Web Sleuths

August 17th, 2006 by Alex

The big news of today, obviously - the question of whether it should be the big news of the day is probably best left for another forum, but I’m gonna go ahead and say no - is the arrest of John Mark Karr, who has confessed to killing child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey almost 10 years ago.

If you’ve never delved into the world of crimeblogging before, now’s a good - that is, particularly interesting - time to do it. I used to do some crime reporting, and became intimately acquainted with some of the crime blogs and bulletin boards and their users and let me tell you: it’s a whole different, totally unexpected, world out there.

The really interesting thing about this, from a SMITH perspective, is that this isn’t personal media - and yet it is. The crime bloggers and patrons of the crime bulletin boards become deeply intertwined with the facts of the cases they’re discussing, making the victims almost a part of their lives, sometimes even becoming involved in the case. Most of these people never met, let alone lived in the same state as, the victims they’re discussing, and yet you’ll see sentiments in their bulletin board signatures like this:

“Personally, I think people who immerse
themselves in this case on the Internet are disturbed individuals who must
not have much of a life and are to be pitied.” Lin Wood April 15th 2003

Demand a special prosecutor in the JonBenet Ramsey case.

(That’s from the owner of the most prominent crime bulletin board, Websleuths, which I’ll get into later. Much more after the jump.)

Now, all that description probably makes these people sound a little creepy, and there is a distinctly macabre element to the whole thing, but most of them are not creepy, really. Actually, there are some who are better investigators than your average reporter, or even your average detective.

Steve Huff, who runs and Huff’s Crime Blog, and who I’ve dealt with a fair amount, is one of the really good ones. He does sometimes jump to conclusions and have a few larger theories that don’t ultimately pan out, but he also has a knack for finding information, especially on the Internet, that others never would. He put up a post on the case yesterday that he’s been updating through the day today. Here’s one excerpt that goes more to the personal, rather than investigative, aspect of his work:

This update has no news, just an anecdote of sorts — I never realized how some of the things I write about dig into my subconscious until today. I had a remarkably vivid dream about this case. In it, I was told about a storage shed John Karr maintained somewhere in Georgia (disclaimer: this was ONLY a dream. Don’t read anything more into it than that), and my wife and I went to find it. It was actually a large attic room over someone’s garage, and it was filled with things Karr himself had made. He’d not only made collages of images with photos of himself and JonBenet, he’d kept journals and written poems.

The dream did eventually spiral into typically surreal imagery, involving being attacked by a child wearing a Frankenstein costume, but when I awoke, I was struck by both how clear the dream was and by just how rarely I do dream about crimes that make it into my blogging.

I think in this instance, even if Karr is a nut trying to inject himself into the investigation, his arrest still brought home to me the truly eerie scenario of an intruder murdering JonBenet Ramsey. Consider the reality, if Karr is telling the truth — he would have had to slip silently into the home, yet still seem non-threatening to JonBenet — enough to sit down and snack on fruit and have some tea. The thought of this wraith-like, strangely effeminate man flitting about the maze-like Ramsey home in the dark is incredibly chilling, in particular to any parent of a young child.

In summary, I would prefer my dreams go back to being about benign things like aliens wearing Revolutionary War-era Hessian uniforms, as dreams like the one I had this morning cling a bit longer after waking.

I have enough trouble going to sleep in the first place.

Now, on to Websleuths. I’m not going to excerpt anything, as I think the discussion on that board needs to be read in context of the ongoing conversation that it is, but here are a couple interesting threads from Websleuths on the Ramsey case:

Welcome to our new readers

Members’ Theories

Separating FACT From Fiction