In early September, I attended HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis. Hosted by the magazine of the same name, it is a horror movie, television, and pop culture convention. A whole weekend full of all things horror!
It was at this convention that I met independent filmmaker/author John Borowski. I’m not a stalker or anything, but since I heard him lecture, I’ve picked up a book of his, watched two of his films, and have followed him on three forms of social media. Nope, not stalking.
If you are interested in true crime tales, you may already be familiar with Borowski’s work. He has written books and made films about Ed Gein, H.H. Holmes, and Albert Fish. I recently interviewed him via email, so other true crime geeks like myself could get to know him better:
What drew you into the true crime genre?
It was my love of horror films and the macabre that spurred my interest in true crime. Once I realized that serial killers existed, it was like reality horror! Many Hollywood monsters were also modeled after real people like Dracula was inspired by the story of Vlad the Impaler who impaled thousands of his victims and Leatherface was inspired by Ed Gein, who had women’s skin hanging in his barn which he was going to wear the next night and dance in the moonlight. It is true: reality is much more stranger than fiction and that is why we are seeing an uptick in interest in serial killers and their crimes.
Horror stories are fictional, but serial killers are not; they existed, they hurt real people. Why do you think so many people like true crime?
Everyone is interested in true crime. EVERYONE. Whether they admit it or not, they are most likely watching the news (which to me is more depressing than anything), watching true crime shows on TV or reading about serial killers in books. I find it interesting that females are the largest true crime demographic. I always wonder (and joke) if they are inquisitive or possibly planning how to get away with it themselves!
Of the serial killers you have researched so far, which one do you find the most interesting and why?
H.H. Holmes will continually fascinate me and everyone for the rest of eternity. He was an evil genius who designed a building to murder people and dispose of their remains. No one ever did that in the history of serial murder. It was as if Holmes literally laid the groundwork for all other serial killers to come. Trap doors, secret passageways, rooms that led nowhere, a torture chamber in the basement and gas lines leading to rooms were just some of Holmes’ horrific creations contained in the Murder Castle he designed and built.
Researching as deeply as you do has to wear you down. What do you do when you need a break from the gore and terror?
These stories are so deep that eventually they do affect me as I research every detail that I can, sometimes seeing, reading and hearing things I wish I didn’t. I am always looking over my shoulder now because of my knowledge of serial killers and the evil that people do! Once in awhile I have to take a break and play some Mario video games or watch Disney films as a way to de-stress over the awful acts of serial killers.
If you could interview any serial killer, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It depends on if we are talking about a serial killer who is alive or dead! A serial killer who is alive: Ed Kemper. He fascinates me and seems like he would have a wonderful conversation as well as be straightforward about his murders. A serial killer who is dead: I would love to have a beer with Carl Panzram. He is a straight shooter and tells it like it is. Sure he bullshitted some, but his views of people and the world are as real as any philosopher I have ever read.
There are a lot of true crime books and documentaries out there, especially on John Wayne Gacy and HH Holmes. How do you make yours fresh/better/different?
There are a lot of true crime films and documentaries out there in general. The issue is not many are very good. I put my heart, blood, money and soul into my films and feel that is what is communicated to the audience: my love for cinema. I am pretty much a one man band so my hands are in every part of the filmmaking process from development to final product. This is what the film industry has to return to: Trusting the auteur who has a singular vision. There are way too many cooks in the kitchen in filmmaking now. Watch some of the behind the scenes shots of the movie The Shining. There is literally 4-5 people on the set. I like to work with small crews and get things done efficiently, fast and well done.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Currently I am producing, writing and directing a feature documentary film titled The John Wayne Gacy Murders: Life and Death In Chicago. The film covers Gacy’s entire life but focusing on the people in Chicago who were involved with the case. The film is due out August 1 and will premiere in Chicago. My next book is Panzram at Leavenworth and focuses on the latter part of Panzram’s life in Leavenworth [Prison] and clears up many inaccuracies now known about Carl Panzram.
John keeps very busy! I am so grateful that he took the time to be interviewed. If you are interested in learning more about Borowski, you can visit his website. If you would like to find either his books or films (or both!) they are available on Amazon.