On Myspace, Henderson calls himself a “Juggalo 4 life,” and his former girlfriend describes herself as a “Juggalette.” Juggalos are fans of one of horrorcore’s leading band, Detroit’s Insane Clown Posse.
Scientific studies have had mixed findings on whether listening to violent music leads to violent behavior.
But “individuals who are on the pathway to violence often surround themselves with violent music and literature,” said Special Agent Harry Trombitas of the FBI’s Columbus office. “These (musical) groups themselves are not causative, but they’re often enhancers.”
To listen to the lyrics of the Insane Clown Posse is to wallow in a foul pit of murder, misogyny and necrophilia, to play the role of Dresden in an attack of F-bombs.
The Detroit duo is filthy, disgusting and offensive. And that’s not all.
“They are huge,” said Dale Walton, manager of Gem City Records, “and kids love them.”
Take horror movies, rap, hip-hop, heavy metal and professional wrestling, put it in a blender and you’ve got horrorcore music as practiced by the Insane Clown Posse and other acts of Psychopathic Records. ICP fans call themselves Juggalos in much the same way as Grateful Dead fans are Deadheads. ICP and some fans wear “wicked clown” makeup and drench each other in Detroit-bottled Faygo soda at concerts.
“A lot of it is humorous and/or offensive,” said Gem City Records staffer Megan Springhart. “It’s just goofy rap with a lot of swearing and obscene language. I like some of their music, but it really attracts the derelict type.”
Horrorcore isn’t all face paint and Faygo. A number of fans across the nation have been linked to real-life violence as extreme as the genre’s lyrics. Earlier this month, Miamisburg police arrested Henderson, a self-proclaimed Juggalo on charges of aggravated murder in the stabbing of his stepfather, Charles Zan II.
Horrorcore is the latest musical genre to raise questions about how much life imitates art. Rock stars like Ozzy Osbourne, KISS and Marilyn Manson and rappers like Ice-T and NWA have previously come under fire. The shooters in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre were fans of hardcore music.
Psychopathic Records officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Nobody says groups like ICP, which performed in Columbus Thursday, Oct. 29, bear the responsibility when people commit violence, but some research does tie violent lyrics to aggressive thoughts and emotions.
A 2003 study of 500 college students published by the American Psychological Association found that students who listened to songs with violent lyrics — regardless of the performer or style of music — were more likely to assign aggressive meanings to words with multiple interpretations. Violent music increased listeners’ feelings of hostility and even humorous violent songs made listeners more aggressive.
Lead researcher Craig Anderson of Iowa State University said at the time that such thoughts can color a person’s real-life relationships “with an aggressive tint. One major conclusion from this and other research on violent entertainment media is that content matters.”
Others aren’t so sure. University of Dayton associate sociology professor Art Jipson noted that most horrorcore fans don’t commit violent acts, and doubts there’s a cause-and-effect connection between music and crime.
“Do we expect baby boomers to go out and see a red door and want to paint it black because of the Rolling Stones’ influence?” quipped Jipson, an expert in criminal justice and popular culture.
“There were a lot of attempts to make those connections in the 1980s with the Parents Music Resource Center and Tipper Gore,” he said, “but the literature doesn’t really support that.”
While horrorcore’s lyrics are disturbing, the music “is kind of an emotional release. It could be argued to be empowering,” Jipson said. He also said the lyrics are delivered with “a hint of irony. You have to ask yourself, how much of it is done with a wink and a nod?”
Jipson thinks people who link music to youth violence are “quite frankly looking at the wrong variable,” and factors like poor parenting and lack of supervision are more likely causes.
Trombitas of the FBI’s Columbus office said aggressive youths gravitate toward aggressive music, and it’s not surprising that some of them are violent. He said parents should be aware if their kids are becoming heavily involved in violent media. “It’s a sign, it’s a reinforcer, it’s an accelerant.”
Gem City Records sells Insane Clown Posse CDs and memorabilia, but it’s all under lock and key or displayed behind the counter. Otherwise, Walton said, “we might as well throw it out in the parking lot, because it’ll walk out of here real quick.”
Walton is no ICP fan, but he doesn’t think violent music causes people to do bad acts.
“No, I think it’s the person that does the bad act,” he said. “I think it can fuel the fire a little bit. I don’t think listening to an ICP record is going to make the average person go out and kill somebody.”