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Marcus Parks is an easy laugher. We joke a lot during this conversation. That’s probably not what one would expect from one of the hosts of Last Podcast on the Left, which describes itself as “covering all the horrors our world has to offer both imagined and real.” But we all know reading about monsters does not a monster make, right? So why do it? Why take a deep dive into things that go murder, conspiracy theory, cult, and even fairies…in the night? What drives Marcus to stare into the abyss knowing that son of a bitch abyss almost always stares back?

Last Podcast on the Left (Side Stories!) will be at Death Becomes Us – A True Crime Festival, Friday, November 8. Get your tickets here!

Brightest Young Things: Why true crime?

Marcus Parks: The first time I remember being fascinated with actual true crime itself is when I inherited a big stack of Weekly World News from a great aunt. I was looking through it and it happened to contain the infamous Ted Bundy issue where they printed Ted Bundy’s post-execution picture.

BYT: The one where he was bald and just very clearly dead? That would not happen nowadays.

MP: Oh yes, extremely dead. Even back then it was a huge controversy. People were pissed about that but for me, that was my introduction into the true crime world. I actually cut the picture out and put it on my wall because the picture fascinated me so much. I was that sort of kid where my walls were covered in little clippings and things that I liked. I actually looked like a conspiracy theorist.

BYT: You probably didn’t understand who Ted Bundy was. Do you feel like it was the photo of a dead person that was more interesting to you or did you really understand who he was and what he had done?

MP: When I was a kid the other kids for some reason would call, when a kid was being weird, they would call him Jeffrey Dahmer.  We were all aware of Dahmer because we all had older brothers…our parents talked about it. It was just part of the cultural consciousness.

BYT: He was murdered with a dumbbell which is so ironic because that was his first murder weapon. Way to wrap that up neatly.

MP: Yes! So, that entire saga was known. I knew that people out there murdered other people and they did it in large numbers. I was also a huge horror movie fan at a young age so I was aware of murder. Not only that but the town that I come from is a dark, dark place. It’s a very small town in Texas and for a town as small as it was, less than 400 people, there was a lot of murder and suicide and mysterious deaths.

BYT: Have you ever looked into that? Maybe your town is cursed.

MP: It’s just an isolated Texas town because it’s the spirit of the West. The West really doesn’t get enough credit for being ridiculously bloody, even bloodier than we think it is. There are of course some myths about the good guys but murder was a very real thing.

BYT: I think laws came last to the West. The last thing to reach the West was any sort of law.

MP: And that spirit lived on in people. There was a kid who died from a Russian Roulette game gone bad.

BYT: Was there one that ever went well? Where’s the great ending…well I guess we went through the whole thing and we’ve been playing for an hour!

MP: We hit the timer! There was this other girl who was found floating in a water tank. Her car was parked nearby, the door was open, she had been half-eaten by snapping turtles. People talked about it constantly. They constantly talked about the snapping turtles. All that stuff definitely shaped me. Even my own family has crime and murder in it. There was a great, great uncle of mine killed by one of the guys who killed Bonnie and Clyde. We still have a gun with notch marks on it for every person that gun had killed. I have a schizophrenic cousin that killed a guy in Amarillo. I mean, I’m not gonna do this.

BYT: We’re gonna go on record and say Marcus Parks will not be killing anyone.

MP: But because of all that I come from a family with an extremely dark sense of humor. We’ve always talked about this stuff openly. There was a long time when I didn’t talk about this stuff because I hadn’t found my people yet. If I brought up any of this shit nobody wanted to talk about it, ever.

BYT: And now you get to do it for a living which is thrilling.

MP: Yeah! And that’s great. It’s perfect. So yeah this was something that didn’t happen pretty much until I found Ben and Henry [the other hosts of The Last Podcast on the Left].

BYT: When you think about your attraction to these things, why do you think that is? For me it’s that I have borderline personality disorder and I find comfort in reading about people who are similarly sick…but at least I am not doing what they are doing.

MP: I am actually somewhat similar. I’m bipolar and reading about these people you don’t feel as awful. At least I’m not that.

BYT: Was I just one non-hug away from being Jeffrey Dahmer or Aileen Wuornos who both had borderline? I think about this all the time.

MP: For me that feeling came when were doing our Columbine episode. Reading about Dylan Klebold in particular because Eric Harris was a pure sociopath…controlling, manipulative. I truly believe that if Eric Harris hadn’t gotten into Dylan Klebold’s brain, Dylan never would have done that. He was a depressed kid. He was easily led astray. He was malleable. And I was a lot like that. I read a lot of his journal entries and I thought “Oh that’s the exact same shit I used to write,” and I was super into video games…super into Marilyn Manson. Those guys are a year older than me? I was reading about Dylan Klebold and thought “Fuck, there but for the grace of God go I.” Who knows what could have happened.

It’s scary to face those things about yourself but when you study these people, at least what I’ve found, when you study these monsters you really learn things about yourself. You see so many times I’ve read about serial killers and the turns they made and you think, “Oh man, I could have made that turn. I chose a different direction.”

I think studying serial killers or cult leaders and followers, anything in that realm, it’s really studying the human condition. That’s what interests me the most about it.

BYT: Why do you think true crime has become so popular?

MP: I know it came to a complete surprise to us because we’ve been into this our whole lives and we’ve been doing the show for almost eight years. We kind of noticed this true crime world building around us and we kept tasking ourselves, “What is it? Why is this suddenly en vogue?” And I think part of it is it’s a dark world right now, no matter what your outlook is or what side you’re on…it’s dark.

I think when people live in dark times they look more towards dark subjects. I think they look more towards subjects that are darker than the life they live now to make themselves feel better. People are looking at bad things happening to people because it makes them feel better about the state of their lives. It’s not just a dark outlook. It’s not just politics. Life is extremely difficult for a lot of people out there right now. There is not much light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of people and I think they want something dark.

It’s not just true crime that’s having a resurgence it’s also horror movies. People are enjoying horror a lot now. It’s helpful for us to talk about this stuff. It’s helpful for us to examine these things. The more you examine them the more people see the root problems.

When people study serial killers and hear others talk about serial killers they start to think more seriously about the state of mental health in this country. When people get into cult leaders they start to think about how they might be manipulated by people in power, and not just people way up in power but their bosses or controlling partners. If we look at the dark side of things then that helps us to make the world a lighter place.