It’s after hours at Absolute Bakery & Cafe in Mancos, but the business is far from empty. A group of women have gathered here on a Sunday evening to sip wine and cider while holding pieces of paper containing hand-scribbled notes. They’ve come here to laugh. They’ve come to tell stories. And they’ve come to chat about murder.
These are the Mancos Murderinos, though their members are certainly not restricted to just Mancos. These papers they’re holding? They’re the tales of true crime each member has brought with them, stories they plan to relay to the rest of the group.
“We just kinda wing right into it most of the time,” Melissa Blaine said to the newcomers, as the group settles into their seats.
This group, and thousands of other groups like it across the world, sprouted up as a result of the true crime/comedy podcast My Favorite Murder, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. In each weekly episode, the two women from Los Angeles select a true crime story that they share with each other. Inevitably, the conversation heads down rabbit holes ranging from the backlog of rape kits to how the hosts themselves encountered potentially dangerous, similar situations to those experienced by the subjects of their stories. The show debuted at #25 on the iTunes podcast charts and peaked at #3 on April 27, 2018.
The show has resonated with thousands of fans – mostly women – across the globe. For many, the podcast has normalized their interest in true crime, along with struggles with mental health and addiction, which both hosts speak openly about in reference to their own lives.
“One of my favorite things about the podcast is the camaraderie that seems to blossom from it. It’s like all us murderinos, near or far, have this one common denominator and unspoken bond,” said Hanna Marshall, a member of the Mancos group. “I think the honesty and openness that Georgia and Karen exhibit in each and every episode gives confidence to us listeners that we can all be ourselves and not ever have to apologize for that.”
Now, you may be asking, “Isn’t that a little macabre to have a club dedicated to murder, let alone an entire podcast?” Or, “Isn’t it disrespectful to victims to mix murder and comedy together?”
“It’s not ‘favorite,’ like, I love this murder,” Hardstark said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “It’s the one I really want to talk to you about, because it’s so insane.”
Hardstark and Kilgariff dissect the misogyny and racism that play a role in many of the stories they tell, such as the murder of sex workers, whose deaths were – and are – often given less attention by police and the media. The hosts are careful to paint victims and survivors empathetically, while trying not to hold the perpetrators of the crimes on any kind of pedestal. They tow the tricky line of using true crime as a source of entertainment. But for many fans of the show and true crime followers, the fascination runs much deeper than entertainment – to write it off as an interest akin to keeping up with Real Housewives is missing the bigger picture.
Many women feel that to know more about the inner workings of a murderer’s brain and how their crimes took place is to arm themselves with knowledge in the hopes that they might not befall the same tragic ends.
“I’ve had anxiety my whole life and I think in a lot of ways it causes you to over-analyze and over-prepare,” Hardstark said in the interview. “Yes, the world is super fucked up. I don’t have the capacity to lie to myself and say it’s not. ... So [getting into true crime] is kind of like, here are the basic things you can do, to arm yourself with information. You’re doing your due diligence. And that kind of calms my anxiety – as does pills.”
Still, immersing ones self into true crime isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some of the details of horrible crimes can be brutal. During the Mancos meet up, the shared stories are met with cringes, shaking heads, and murmurs of incredulity. At the center of the group are several candles meant to provide a little light to the dark subject matter. The members dedicate the lit candles to victims of their stories – a small offering of condolences for their sufferings.
“I do think that true crime is a love or hate thing. You gotta have the stomach for it,” Marshall said. “For me, I don’t take pleasure in hearing all the awful things that psychopaths and serial killers do, but I am so fascinated by the reasoning behind why they do what they do. How different everyone’s brains are wired, but also, how similar some are, too.”
Eventually, the conversation at Absolute Bakery wraps up. In true murderino form, as members begin to leave, the women call out the show’s infamous sign-off, almost as a protective chant over one another.
“Stay sexy!” the members call out to one another. “And don’t get murdered!”