Of Dolls and Murder

Susan Marks

Death has become a major player on the public stage and in the media since the 70s. Serial killers have been transformed into larger than life popular culture celebrities through the news and entertainment industry, and so has our fascination with the macabre.

Exaggerated depictions of killers and crime scenes in shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have blurred fact and fiction. As a result, real-life killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and fictional ones like Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter have become interchangeable in the minds of many people.

When you bring up the name of an infamous killer such as Jack the Ripper with a group of individuals, it is clear that his murders are a hot topic. And for some, their demeanor actually becomes joyful when discussing his crimes. It’s like how many of us are drawn to stare at a car accident that we encounter when driving along a highway. Why is that? Of Dolls and Murder is a haunting collection of dollhouse crime scenes that explores our universal fascination with murder and death.

Before forensics, DNA, and CSI we had dollhouses – an incredible collection of miniature crime scenes, known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Created by crime-fighting grandmother Frances Glessner Lee back in 30/40s, she created the Nutshells with the intention of helping homicide detectives hone their investigative skills. These surreal dollhouses reveal a dystopic and disturbing slice of domestic life with doll corpses representing actual murder victims, or perhaps something that just looks like death. Despite all the advances in forensics, the Nutshells are still a critical component today when training new detectives.

Watch as Of Dolls and Murder, explores the dioramas, the woman who created them, and their relationship to modern day forensics. From the iconic CSI television show to the Body Farm and criminally minded college students, legendary filmmaker and true crime aficionado, John Waters narrate the tiny world of big time murder.

1 Comments Add Yours

  1. What a contribution Frances Glessner Lee made to forensic science. This was a very informative and well-done documentary.

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