Befriend the WayBack Machine
Using Internet Archive to dig up a gem
A previous post mentioned a favorite true-crime website that was itself killed off.
The Crime Library had an advantage few blogs can hope for: corporate ownership. In other words, a total budget way larger than the $52.95 a year I pay Host Gator for True Crime Truant.
TruTV provided the Crime Library with editorial staff, IT people, and designers — who all got paid for their work. (What’s up with that?)
But what Corporate America gives, it can also take away.
Marginalized. According to a Reddit post by a former Crime Library editor, TruTV began to turn away from its true-crime roots and instead produce shows like Impractical Jokers.
The network got less comfortable with having serious murder-related subject matter as part of its brand, and gradually cut back on Crime Library’s resources until one day it sentenced the site to death.
It’s a shame because long-form true-crime pieces written for websites are in short supply.
Excavating. Fortunately, all the Crime Library content still exists online; it’s just a bit more work to dig it up. The Internet Archive makes it available via the WayBack Machine. Try following these steps:
1. Go to archive.org
2. In the “WayBackMachine” field at the top center of the page, type in “crimelibrary.com.” Hit return.
3. Wait patiently for it to load.
4. This is the step that can throw you off. You’ll see a horizontal time line of years above a month-by-month calendar. Scroll right to 2014, and click on it. Next, click on the blue circle around January 1 on the calendar.
5. It’ll take you to a Crime Library landing page with one or more promoted stories accompanied by photos; ignore this content. (It’s from the site’s later days, when corporate owners were pushing the editors to create lightweight items.)
6. On the righthand side of the page, use Categories to click through lists of older, more substantial pieces.
Some good ones:
• An American Tragedy: The Murder of Grace Brown tells the true story behind Theodore Dreiser’s novel An America Tragedy and the movie A Place in the Sun with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift: In 1906, a social-climbing young executive named Chester Gillette killed his pregnant working-class girlfriend, Grace Brown. The highly publicized trial was a precursor to the Lindbergh and OJ circuses.
• Dr. Jeff MacDonald is about the Mr. Everything That’s Great About America surgeon convicted of the 1970 murders of his wife and two small children. The story remains relevant because MacDonald still has advocates working to get him out of prison. Crime Library writer John Boston argues the case for his innocence, a none-too-popular stance since the book Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss pretty much locked him in as guilty in the minds of the public. But it’s definitely worth reading the Crime Library’s take on the matter, particularly since MacDonald does have a few heavy hitters, including New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm, on his side.
• John List, the accountant who executed his family in 1971, has never stopped fascinating true crime fans. He left a note explaining that he shot his mother, wife, daughter, and two sons to save their souls. Then he disappeared for two decades. His gigantic Victorian house in Westfield, New Jersey, remained empty, spooking neighborhood kids (scavenger hunts would require players to retrieve something from the property) and then mysteriously burning down. The Crime Library piece by Katherine Ramsland provides details I never read or saw anywhere else, including in the Forensic Files episode “The List Murders.”
Please leave a comment to let me know whether you find the WayBack Machine instructions useful — and whether you discover any other treasures in the Crime Library. There are surely many more to be recovered and reexamined. Cheers.— RR
True Crime Truant will be off for Christmas next week, back with a post on December 29.