Since 2016, Jenn Carpenter has led tours across mid-Michigan for Demented Mitten Tours, authored the book “Haunted Lansing,” started the Michigan true crime podcast “So Dead,” and most recently, on Oct. 16th, opened the true crime and paranormal bookstore Deadtime Stories in Lansing.
While Carpenter has brought her projects to life over the past four years, she said that she has always been interested in true crime.
“It’s just always something I’ve been fascinated with,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter is not alone in her fascination with true crime. In recent years, the true crime genre has exploded in popularity. Numerous true crime centered books, docuseries and podcasts have cropped up across platforms of all kind.
In 2005, Apple incorporated podcasts into iTunes. This attempt to make podcasts mainstream started with a library of just 3,000 podcasts. In 2019, Apple gave true crime its own category in its app devoted to podcasts. Now, in 2020 there are over 3,000 podcasts in the true crime category alone.
Human biology freshman Sydni Nikolai is a listener of this popular genre of podcasts.
“My friends make fun of me all the time because I only listen to true crime podcasts when I’m in my car driving somewhere. I listen to multiple hours probably a week. … It’s so interesting to me,” Nikolai said.
While podcasts have gained popularity over the past few years, true crime has been prevalent in other forms long before today.
“I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, but before that, when I was a kid, I grew up in the ‘90s, so it was “Rescue 911” and “Unsolved Mysteries” and “America’s Most Wanted” every weekend … and now there are entire channels devoted to true crime,” Carpenter said.
Like Carpenter, history education junior Sophia Bird said it’s hard to pinpoint a specific time when she became interested in true crime.
“I feel I’ve always been kind of fascinated by the topic,” Bird said.
For both Bird and Nikolai, the psychological aspect of true crime is what is most interesting to them.
“I think it’s really fascinating trying to figure out the psychology behind why people do these horrifying things,” Bird said. "As someone who would consider themselves relatively normal on the scale of being a human being, it’s fascinating to try and figure out why people do these things and what causes them to do it.”
“It’s the psychology behind what had to be done to lead someone to do something this horrific,” Nikolai said of her interest in the crime genre.
Many people consider women to make up the majority of the audience for true crime content. The hosts of the popular true crime podcast “Wine and Crime” reported that their podcast draws over 500,000 downloads per month, and that 85% of their audience is women.
Amanda Vicary is a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University.
“My research suggests that women are drawn to true crime because of the information they can learn from it,” Vicary said in a Spotify article.
Bird and Nikolai both agree that their fascination with true crime might be connected to a need to be informed about crimes that happen to other women.
“There are these horrifying things that can happen, and I feel like it can almost be better to be prepared for the worst in some cases and just understand warning signs,” Bird said.
"Honestly, I think it’s kind of informational because I think a lot of the time these crimes are subjected towards women and you can feel really helpless and I like to think that learning about these crimes would make me — if I was ever ... put in a situation like that — I could react in a way that somebody didn’t previously," Nikolai said. "It gives you an awareness as a woman."
In all of Carpenter's different true crime endeavors, she has seen first hand how many women share this interest in true crime.
“I would say, through all of the work I do I definitely (see) disproportionately, it is women that are really into the true crime,” Carpenter said.
There might be some downsides that come with a fascination with true crime. The topics spoken about can be extremely heavy, and for Bird, this can take a toll.
“There have been some podcast episodes that I’ve listened to that I haven’t been able to go all the way through just because there’s been really disturbing things in them, and so you get to the point to where you’re like ‘I can’t listen to this anymore. I need to take a break,’" Bird said. "There’s definitely been times where I’ve had to tell myself ‘Let’s listen to something else and watch something not as dark and depressing just because it is a really heavy topic."
Carpenter has many projects in her life involving true crime, so she knows how important it is to take a step back from the content.
“I think you definitely have to keep in mind the heaviness and the humanity of what you’re reading about, listening to, learning about,” Carpenter said. “These were real people. These are real things, and it will weigh on you. It does weigh very heavily on you, so it’s important for there to be a balance.”
Carpenter achieves this balance by making an effort to take in lighthearted content in addition to her normal true crime content.
“I watch a lot of comedy,” Carpenter said. “I think with anything, everything is best in moderation, so should you turn off your true crime podcast and turn it right to the ID channel and then when you go to bed be reading a true crime book, maybe you need a little break in there somewhere … because it does weigh on you.”
In her latest true crime centered project, Carpenter is bringing her interest in true crime to the Lansing community. Her new store Deadtime Stories opened just two weeks ago, on Oct. 16.
She describes the Deadtime Stories as a bookstore filled with paranormal, horror and true crime related books. A lot of these books are from local authors and have a connection to Michigan.
“I’m happy to support local authors,” Carpenter said. “I’m happy to be able to share these stories, not just the books but the stories about why that’s a good book for you and help people find the right books.”
The store is new and is still finding its niche market in the Lansing area. But, through her other true crime related projects and the current fascination around true crime, Carpenter knows that there is a market in the area for a store like Deadtime Stories.
“There’s a darkness to everything in the store,” Carpenter said.
Deadtime Stories is located at 1219 Turner in Lansing's Old Town and is in the lower level of Thrift Which. The store is open Fridays and Saturdays from 12-7 p.m. and on Sundays from 12-5 p.m.
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