You're Wrong About

Kitty Genovese and “Bystander Apathy”

June 20, 2019 You're Wrong About
You're Wrong About
Kitty Genovese and “Bystander Apathy”
Show Notes Transcript

“Once you tell a story incorrectly once, you can’t control where it goes.” Sarah tells Mike how The New York Times turned a suburban murder into an urban legend. Digressions include Billy Joel, the World’s Fair and “Ferngully.” This episode marks a triumphant return to Long Island and an unexpected celebration of Pride Month.

Continue reading →

Support us:
Subscribe on Patreon
Donate on Paypal
Buy cute merch

Where to find us:
Sarah's other show, Why Are Dads
Mike's other show, Maintenance Phase

Support the show

Sarah: I don't know. I mean, I do hate every aspect of straight culture because it's all a heteronormative prison, but I don't hate the prisoners.

Mike: Welcome to You’re Wrong About, the podcast that depressingly will never run out of social misconceptions to debunk. 

Sarah: You had a little poem going there for a second. I want to stick with that. Welcome to you're wrong about the podcast that we'll never run out of depressing things to debunk.

Mike: which to shout.

Sarah:  About which to shout. Yeah, there it is. Good. It rhymes so it's technically a jingle.

Mike:  I am Michael Hobbes. I'm a reporter for the Huffington Post.

Sarah:  I am Sarah Marshall and I'm working on a book about the Satanic Panic. 

Mike: And if you would like to support our show until we run out of things to debunk, you can support us at patreon.com/you’rewrongabout. And today we're talking about Kitty Genovese, Genovese. I am extremely excited for this one because I am a total blank slate. I literally didn't know her name before you told me. And all I know is the little story that we always use as a metaphor for urban decay, that apparently, she was killed in the courtyard of a building where everybody could see it and nobody called the cops. 

Sarah: That's the story. 

Mike: That's literally all I know. I don't know who she was or who killed her or what aspects of that story are not true. I am yours.

Sarah: Hooray. All right. Climb on the magic carpet. Do you have any sense of when this happened?

Mike:  I was thinking about this last night and thinking like, was it the 1890s or was it like the 1960s? I can't even place this in geologic time. 

Sarah: Do you know what city it is? 

Mike: New York city. 

Sarah: It's in New York. Yeah. This is a story about a real life woman who became a metaphor. And this happened in New York City in 1964. And it happened in Queens. Is that surprising? 

Mike: No, I mean, I said, oh, because it seemed like you needed a reaction, but  that's a part of New York that I've never been to.

Sarah:  To me, the first interesting thing in placing this geographically is that it happened in Kew gardens, which was known at the time as a very safe, quiet, almost suburban neighborhood, at a time in New York, when fears about New York city, both outside the city and within it were focused on the fact that the crime rates were rising, the murder rates were rising. There was a sense that people were living packed into unnaturally close confinement with each other. And the way that people who reflect on Kitty Genovese murder today, tend to put it is that this was a story that went viral to the extent that something could have gone viral in 1964. Yeah.

Mike: Before we had viruses. 

Sarah: So to me, the first, the interesting thing about Kitty Genovese is murder, and we're going to start with the myth first, is that Kitty Genovese is murdered on March 13th, 1964. It receives a little bit of coverage. There's an initial New York Times story that’s in the tabloids. It's ah, another murder. And then two weeks later on March 27th, the New York Times runs a front page story whose headline is “37 Who Saw Murder, Didn't Call the Police, Apathy in Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector.” And then the article immediately goes on to say that 38 witnesses didn't call the police. So from the beginning, there was some hint that this had perhaps not been fact checked to the degree that it deserved.

Mike: That’s interesting, so the myth of the apathy came first. 

Sarah: Yeah. And it's the murder becomes worth thinking about because it illustrates something bigger than it itself. And the story starts, “For more than half an hour, 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stock and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens. Twice, the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault. One witness called after the woman was dead. This was two weeks ago today, but assistant chief inspector Frederick M Loosen, in charge of the boroughs detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations, is still shocked. He can give a matter of fact recitation of many murders, but the Kew Garden slaying baffles him. Not because it is a murder, but because the ‘good people’ failed to call the police.”

Mike:  Ooh, this is such Sarah bait. You've got all of these dichotomies, right? We've got the grizzled inspector who can't believe the callousness of the society. We've also got this binary of the evil murderer and the good people who wouldn't prevent it.

 Sarah: We have a whole bunch of binaries. We have this very neat, little paint palette. We have our red, and our yellow, and our green, and our blue, and now we're going to mush them all up and we're going to make turquoise, and pink, and we're going to make all the colors.

Mike:  Because the world is mauve.

Sarah: So, I mean, hearing that account, what would you imagine is potentially more complicated than the way it's painted there? 

Mike: I don't know if this would have occurred to me at the time, but knowing what we know now, the idea that nobody called the cops seems pretty far-fetched, actually. People will call the cops when their neighbor is practicing the trumpet.

Sarah: People call the cops about whales.

Mike: I mean, people call the cops about earthquakes. It seems weird that nobody would have called the cops. 

Sarah: You know who loves calling the cops? People who aren't afraid of the cops, because one of the things that the New York Times did not talk about is it Kitty Genovese was a lesbian. And the primary witness to her murder was a homosexual, as we said at the time.

Mike: Is this a pride month episode, Sarah?

Sarah: Kind of, because there's nothing to be proud of here. Next week we are doing Stonewall. This is one of our, ‘why Stonewall needed to happen’ episodes, I think. So this is the section of the New York Times article about Carl Ross, who was the final witness to Kitty Genovese’s murder, and who was a friend of hers, and who was gay. The New York Times says, “It was 3:50 by the time the police received their first call from a man who was a neighbor of Ms. Genovese. In two minutes, they were at the scene. The man explained that he had called the police after much deliberation. He had found a friend in Nassau County for advice, and then he had crossed the roof of the building to the apartment of the elderly woman to get her to make the call. ‘I didn't want to get involved’, he sheepishly told the police.” 

And this is the line that becomes synonymous with the problem in the neighbors, the problem in New York, the problem with humanity, maybe, that people use this crime as an excuse to talk about. That this man said, ‘I didn't want to get involved’. That we have lost the ability to care so deeply that we see someone being murdered and we say, ‘I didn't want to get involved’. The tone that it takes on in the years and decades following is, ‘eh’. I didn't feel like it. How does this affect me? 

Mike: Like he's sitting there with his legs crossed with a cigarette, just doesn't bother me, whatever. I'm just going to go back to watching Judge Judy. That's the scene that that quote evokes.

Sarah: Yeah. And Carl Ross, shortly after the murder, leaves New York and then basically disappears. And this is his legacy in society. The six word statement, ‘I didn't want to get involved’. Which you can really hear in whatever tone you imagine it would have been said in, or maybe are afraid that you yourself would have put it.

Mike: I also think that thing where the cops show up two minutes later is total bullshit. Knowing what I know about the cops in 1964, two minutes? I don't know, man. 

Sarah: Well, so what else did we not yet have a 1964 that we now take for granted as emergency technology?

Mike: Oh, cell phones. 

Sarah: That, and we didn't have 911 yet.

Mike: Wait, we didn't have 911.

Sarah: Yeah. 911 was invented, partly because of the outcry over Kitty Genovese’s murder. People were like, we should really have one number that people can call and get the police.

Mike:  I mean, I guess 911 had to be invented at some point, but I didn't know it was that late.

Sarah:  Yeah, no. At the time you had to call an operator and get your local precinct, or if you had your precinct number, you could call them. So it would take more than two minutes to get a call in to the police, I think at that time. Yeah. It's weird to think about.

Mike: It's also the extent to which you just assume that everything in the world has always been there at whatever time you're born. And then throughout your adulthood, you have to basically go back and realize all of the things in your childhood that were completely socially constructed and invented like 10 minutes before you were born.

Sarah: Right. And that there was a reason that it occurred to people that it should be easier to call for help. 

Mike: Yeah. So what's the real story? So who, who is Kitty? What is this entire event before it becomes a myth?

Sarah: So I want to start with a story about Kitty. So at the time of her death, Kitty was living with a woman named Mary Anne Zielonko, who she had met at what was called a girl bar. 

Mike: Oh, a girl bar.

Sarah: Called the Swing Rendezvous. So one night in 1963, Mary Anne is at the swing rendezvous and she meets- Kitty was just so cute. She meets this woman named Kitty, and Kitty says, don't I know you from somewhere? And Marry Anne is like, “No.” And Kitty says, “I think I do, I'm Kitty”. She's a cool cucumber, I am led to believe. And so she and Mary Anne dance, and then they lose each other in the crowd. And then weeks later, March 17th, 1963, Kitty figures out where Mary Anne lives and goes to her apartment and leaves a note on the door that says, “I'll call you at seven, the phone across the street.”

Mike: Oh my God. 

Sarah: Isn’t that… that’s game? 

Mike: Yeah. This is game before there was negging. That was back when you went for it. That's terrific. 

Sarah: Yeah. Kitty at the time was 27. She grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American family. She was named the ‘class cut up’ in her yearbook when she graduated. And her family moves to Connecticut after she graduates high school and wants her to come with, and she's like, no, I'm going to stay in New York. And she starts working as a bartender, which is what she's doing at the time of her death. She's a bar manager and also a really well-liked bartender. She's described by her coworkers and customers as a kind of person who can cut off a patron and do so in such a charming way that they will still leave her a good tip.

Mike: Oh, nice. So she's assertive and funny and charming. 

Sarah: Right? What I find myself thinking about the most is that she was out there and brave and looking for love at a time when her existence was criminalized. It's hard to remember that there was all of this light in the dark ages, that there were still these brazen romances. And I don't know, that love was still stronger than fear, at least at times. 

And so on the next date, after Kitty calls Mary Anne on the payphone, they go to the Seven Steps, which is a famous, not a girl bar, but girl and boy bar. And they drank and they danced. And what Mary Anne says when she's interviewed for a book called Kitty Genovese, by Kevin Cook, that comes out 50 years after the murder, what Mary Anne says is “sometimes you meet a person and you just know.” 

Mike: I mean, should we talk about the social construction of lesbians in the 1960s?

Sarah:  Yes, please. 

Mike: Maybe it is because maybe it is because I'm doing all this Stonewall reading, but there is something interesting about like the way that the experience of homosexual women and homosexual men is so different because society finds homosexual men so much more threatening. It has to crack down on any displays of public affection by men at all. And yet men also have more societal power to change their circumstances than women. Women can get away with dancing in a bar together or holding hands on the subway a little bit and people just go, oh, they're close friends, it's not that big of a deal. But then on the other hand, when it comes to a political movement of lesbians, there's much more of a sense of oh, the girls want rights. Isn't that cute? And it doesn't really go anywhere. Right? It feels like it's this weird double bind for lesbians at the time, where in some ways they're better off in some ways they're worse off than gay men.

Sarah: Yeah. Or that gay men have both the trauma and the privilege of inspiring fear in society, maybe. I've been reading about just the way the police were targeting gay New Yorkers and gay bars. And specifically in 1964, there was an initiative by the mayor at the time to clear the city of homosexuals, basically because the World's Fair was happening. And people from all over the world were going to be coming to New York and they couldn't possibly be- it was like cleaning up graffiti. They were like, we have to rid the city of deviance. And then I was reading about how the NYPD and police departments across America, not just in New York at all, how the NYPD was cracking down, trying to figure out how to clear the city of gay people and he would, as a cop, go into a gay bar and sometimes flirt with someone for two or three hours in order to get them to go off and hook up with you. And then you would arrest them.

Mike: Unbelievably inefficient. That's how you can tell someone's a cop, that they talked to you for two hours before trying to hook up with you. That's about an hour and 54 minutes longer than I've ever seen it in an actual gay bar. 

Sarah: They're like, so what do you think about the Yankees? Okay, so this is from a 2015 dissertation by Anna Levosky, that was for a history doctorate at Harvard called, Queer Expertise: Urban Policing and the Construction of Public Knowledge about Homosexuality. Lebowski writes “In 1962, Arielle Master’s study, the Homosexual Revolution reported that the vice squad standard operating procedure was to send officers who quote had been given formal instruction in common gay mannerisms to the bars in order to lure in homosexual patrons. In bars across the nation, plain clothes officers behave as swishily as they know how to help facilitate arrests. A decoy could pursue a patron into the late hours of the night, trying to extract an offer from a timid partner or to convince a wary customer of his own sexual intentions.”

Mike:  This just shows how little the cops understand about the gay community, because the gay community is extremely misogynistic, and a lot of gay men are anti that swishy stuff because it reminds them of women and they're all assholes misogynists. 

Sarah: Oh my God. This study is written in the fifties and sixties of these scholarly texts on ‘the homosexual holds a cigarette like this, the homosexual walks like that,’ it's like they're studying lemurs. Here's another great Levosky quote, “From California to New York, officer's drilled peep holes opening directly onto public toilet stalls. In one laboratory in Los Angeles, officer's stationed in an adjacent chamber could walk the length of the men's room alternating among a line of eye holes to watch acts of oral sex in the stalls opposite the wall. In New York, an officer hid in the pipe chamber of the west f4th Street subway station watched for lascivious conduct among errant commuters through a set of openings in the wall.”

Mike: You've got to be kidding me.

Sarah:  It's just, I'm sorry. Did the police just want an excuse to experience their own sexualities?

Mike: Yeah. I'm going to need to watch 13 more hours of gay sex before I make any more arrests.

Sarah:  Like officer Cunningham, suiting up leaving Mag and the kids at home being like, well, got to go watch gay men through a wall for another eight hours. I'm really saving the city from itself. 

Mike: Although what's really interesting about this is that oftentimes when we talk about like the gay bars or gay rights movement, gay, whatever, we often kind of leave out lesbians, right? We're sort of using that as a shorthand for gay men, when straight society finds gay male sex much more disgusting and much more threatening than lesbians. The weird thing about these sorts of like vice squads and stuff, are they doing that at lesbian bars?

Sarah: So at the bars that Kitty and Mary Anne went to, the cops would raid the bar and basically come looking for a handout. And what would happen was you would be hanging out dancing, and then there would be a warning system where a red light would flash, and you would scatter and stop dancing with each other. And then the cops would come, and they would look for sex acts. Some of them would just take their handouts and then go, and some would harass the patrons for a while, because that was also  one of the perks of being a cop raiding queer establishments. 

And this is why I think I find it so, well not amazing because people have always been doing this, but this is, I think what makes me really love Kitty and feel like I have a sense of her as a human being. That in this climate of shakedowns and humiliation and beatings and having your entire identity be criminalized, she is just on the make. She sees a woman she likes and goes for it and is not living in an attitude of furtive secrecy or shame. And her family is not going to disown her, but they do not want to hear about it. And she just does not seem to have been cowed or humiliated into hating her identity. She's living her life, essentially, which seems like it was really hard to do.

Mike:  Yeah. I always wish there were a way to go back and give medals of honor to everybody who did that back then. Because the amount of confidence that it took to do that is really unfathomable now.

Sarah: Yeah. That there were people even within that culture who were just-

Mike: The payphone next door, give me a jingle.

Sarah: Be there at seven, I don't know. She's just like such a little Bruce Springsteen, right. And it also helps that the photo that we all know of her, if you have an image of Kitty Genovese in your head, is a mugshot. I mean, I feel like there's something kind of great about that being the photo that history chose of her. Like her staring down the camera with this attitude of, I’d do it again coppers.”

Mike:  Yes. It's funny. I was Googling this the other day so I could tweet a photo of her, and it was very clearly a mugshot. And I guess in my head, I was like, well, she's associated with a crime, so she must've been arrested. But obviously there's no way she would have been arrested for her own murder. So what is the mugshot from?

Sarah: I feel like being arrested for your own murder is metaphorically what happens to women in America. But she was busted for taking bets for horse racing when she was working as a bartender. She placed a $9 bet on a horse race for a patron who was an undercover cop. And because her name was Genovese, that was the name of a famous mafioso in New York at the time, so she may have received a lot of extra pressure because she had the same name as a mafia family.

Mike: This is so intersectional. We're throwing Italian-American bias into all of this.

Sarah: I know, this really is Sarah bait. So Kitty and Mary Anne meet. Kitty leaves a note on her door a couple of weeks later. Mary Anne goes to the payphone and Kitty calls her. They go to the bar, they go home together, they go to bed together. And in the morning, Mary Anne says that they knew that they wanted to live together. 

Mike: I'm trying not to make a lesbian joke. 

Sarah: I know, I can feel it.

Mike:  I have so many great lesbians in my life. 

Sarah: We are alive because of the lesbians in our lives. And we still make jokes about them. And it's just that you have to make fun of the people who are making better choices than you. And so they move in together. They moved to Kew Gardens Queens, which is a very safe residential neighborhood kind of away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So their anniversary is March 17th, that's the night of the payphone call. And Kitty is murdered on March 13th, the following year. 

Mike: Oh, they weren't even together a year. 

Sarah: And so Mary Anne is not welcome, basically, by Kitty's family. Like she's Kitty's friend. And when the police come, she's like, “I'm Kitty’s roommate”. Having to lie about the nature of your relationship to someone you just lost seems so awful.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, that's why this stuff matters, right? The minute something bad happens in your life, the status of your partner really matters, right? It's not your fucking roommate. As your romantic partner, they have rights. And this is the whole thing. This is why I like gay rights.

Sarah: Yeah. And your roommate doesn't get to decide what happens to your body, and your roommate doesn't get to visit you in the hospital, and your roommate is not in your obituary. You just get erased. And your roommate is not mentioned in the sensationalistic New York Times article about your murder.

Mike: Right. Of course.

Sarah: Mary Anne is nowhere in there. Kitty’s lesbianism is nowhere in there. That is ignored and scrubbed from the record for decades. So the way this happens, from Mary Anne's perspective, is Kitty is managing a bar. She works these very long double shifts. So she gets off work after midnight and then she goes and has a meal with a platonic male friend. And she gets in her red Fiat and she drives home. And because there's never really that much parking in the neighborhood, she parks at the LIRR station, where commuters can leave their cars for when they go into the city, and she starts walking home. And a guy named Winston Mosley, who the police will apprehend a few days later, Winston Mosley is black, and he specifically tells the police that he goes out looking for a white woman to kill. 

And there's something also very interesting about how the New York Times, at a time when America and New York City was feeling very anxious about the civil rights movement, you can run the story about a white woman murdered by a black man and not even let on that this is the exemplary murder that you've chosen to talk about. And that this is part of what will appeal to your readers, too. And this is also part of what will confirm their fears, because the 38 good citizens who didn't call the police, I think, are also code for the 38 white citizens. And that the safe neighborhood needs to be protected from this encroachment of the dangerous outside element. And that will only work if people call the cops all the time.

Mike:  Yeah. It's the perfect tabloid murder, right? Because it's a stranger danger murder, somebody you didn't know, which we know are very rare. But you've got the racial targeting, which also is a thing that white people say happens much more than it actually happens. And you've also got the young, attractive, white female who's been murdered.

Sarah: And we don’t know is a lesbian, so we can feel perfectly fine feeling bad.

Mike: And you can erase all of the inconvenient stuff about how she lives with her girlfriend and she's a lesbian. You don't have to put that stuff in the paper. You can put the stuff in the paper that fulfills all of these little narrative chapters.

Sarah: Yeah. In 1964, there were 636 murders in New York City. And this is the one, this is the only one, that we remember. When there's one crime lifted up out of a field of hundreds, it's not because it's the worst. It's not because it's the most indicative of the kinds of crime, the kinds of murders that are happening in New York city. It's not the most brutal, because Winston Moseley, in fact very shortly before he murdered Kitty, had murdered a black woman. And no one ever talks about that or remembers it. And he had killed her in arguably an even more violent fashion than the way he killed Kitty. 

So his first victim, Annie Mae Johnson, has been completely erased from public memory. And Kitty is the one that we remember because, if there were 636 murders in New York City in 1964, then the media and the public and the police have the chance to highlight the one that most embodies the fears and anxieties and prejudices of the dominant culture. And this is the one that gets chosen. 

Mike: So what's the actual murder? What takes place? 

Sarah: One of the aspects that it really didn't occur to me to think through until I was doing this research is the time at which it took place. This is shortly after three in the morning. How in the world are there going to be 38 people just up and awake.

Mike: Yeah, wait a minute. In my head, it was at like 9:00 PM when everybody would have been sort of watching TV.

Sarah: Because that's when 38 people would have been reasonably able to notice something happening on the street outside. The way the story is told to us, the 38 is what sticks with you and that's what we're hammered in by the headline. And then by the quickie book that was published by the author of that story later that year, that's just incongruent at 3:00 and 4:00 AM. And so you forget that part.

Mike:  Even the term witnesses implies that you saw something and did nothing. But it sounds like a lot of people may have heard something, out of your window you heard some sort of cry, but if you're asleep and something wakes you up, you're not lucidly being like, that must've been a woman in danger. You’re like whatever, I heard a thing and now I'm going back to sleep.

Sarah:  Right. Most of the people on the street are asleep. And the problem is not that they're in this densely populated urban neighborhood where there would be more of a chance of people being awake, businesses being open, the kind of safety that a city provides. They're in a very residential part of Queens. And so there weren't that many people around, the streets were empty.

Mike: So he kills her on the street, not in a courtyard, not in a back area?

Sarah: Yeah. She parks her car. She gets out of her car and starts walking home. He parks his car and starts following her down this residential street and stabs her outside of a bar. 

Mike: Just runs up to her and stabs her?

Sarah:  Yeah. And punches her lung, which is what ultimately kills her. So he stabs her. She screams. According to some witness accounts, she says, “My God, I've been stabbed”. And it's also dark. The sodium lights that we have in cities that were put in New York City by Mayor Lindsay, that was because of Kitty's murder. It was a dark street where this happened. So the things that we think would have helped people make the story go differently at the time were the things that were brought into our lives because of the way things went. 

Mike: So this isn't a situation where she's screaming for minutes.

Sarah: You can't really scream that well when your lung has been punctured. So she screams. Someone opens the window and shouts, “Leave that girl alone”.

Mike:  So somebody was awake.

Sarah: Or woke up enough to have the wherewithal to do that. And Winston Mosley fleas. And also what people who heard something said at the time was that this was near a pub. And in 1964, even more so than today, it wasn't considered really that problematic to beat your wife or your girlfriend. And so what a lot of people said was that they heard something, and it was outside a bar, and that made them think that it was a domestic dispute. Which they thought of as none of their business. You can't assault a woman who you don't know if you're a man, but if she's your wife or your girlfriend, then that's like your job. 

Mike: Yeah. Because it's weird that the whole thing gets put into this frame of like city dwellers, urban apathy, people in cities are so impersonal. When another interpretation is oh, everyone just thought it was domestic abuse and was like ‘shruggies’. Which one is worse? 

Sarah: Urban apathy or like suburban apathy, which is really much more than this, is based on where it happened. So there's a police call box in front of this bar where she seems to have been heading. Because she noticed someone was following her, she started running. But some people have also argued, maybe she wasn't going to call the police, maybe she was trying to get into the bar, and she maybe would have if it hadn't been closed. 

So a guy named Joseph Fink, who works as the assistant super of the apartment building across from the building where Kitty is first attacked, is sitting in the lobby and he has the clearest view of anyone of the first attack. And he can see that it's a stabbing. He sees the shine of the knife's blade, is what he says later. And the police say, “Well, how do you react to that?” He says, “I thought about going downstairs to get my baseball bat”, and then instead he just goes to the basement to take a nap. So this is not a story where no one was apathetic.

Mike: So it wasn't that 38 people suck, it's just that one dude sucks. 

Sarah: Yeah. I think this, to me, is like the only person in the story who unambiguously sucks. Because he's at his job fully awake, fully conscious, has the best view of what's going on, sees that there's a knife and doesn't call the police and doesn't do anything about it.

 But the assistant superbad guy is in the New York Times, this one guy in Queens sucks. That's a Daily News headline. That's not a New York Times headline. 

Mike: Also among the 600 plus murders in New York city that year, I imagine there's probably a sucky person in many of those murders or some significant portion of those murders.

Sarah: Right. This was not the only murder in New York City where a bystander could have done something and didn't. And also, I can't blame someone for thinking about going to get as bad and then not doing it. I would not intervene in a knifing, I don't think. I've never been given the opportunity to know what I would do, but I really, I think I would be lying to myself if I said, oh yeah, for sure. I would definitely go get my bat and go. I do have a really big rolling pin in my car that could potentially be good for that.

Mike: I mean, I think I know you well enough to know that you would not go take a nap. I think that's the critical element here. 

Sarah: I think most of humanity is somewhere in the uncomfortable middle between bat getting a nap, too. Many years later, a guy who's now a retired cop and at the time was a teenager comes forward and says, actually my father called the police early in the attack and nothing happened. So conveniently left out of the New York Times narrative is that someone did call the police early on and the police didn't respond to the call.

Mike: What? Do you believe him, or do you think he’s ret-conning it?

Sarah: I mean, you can't verify these things 50 years after the fact, but I don't think that either is more or less plausible than the other. I think it's perfectly likely that he would have called the police and that the call would have not been given a high priority. I mean, if you're calling and saying a man is attacking a woman outside of a bar, and she's screaming, I can say the police are not taking that seriously based on the climate of the time. And also there's another person who calls the police, but who doesn't speak very good English, she's a French speaking flight attendant. And so she gets flustered when they start kind of aggressively questioning her about what she's seen and heard, and she freaks out and hangs up. Another thing to talk about is that the police in New York City in the sixties were notoriously ineffectual and corrupt. People don't trust the police very much in 1960s New York, not even white people. New Yorkers right later on about everyone got their apartment broken into, everyone had stuff stolen from them, everyone was used to petty crime on the street and the police we're not going to help you with that. You were a drop in a bucket and the police were potentially going to make more problems for you than they were going to solve.

Mike: Right. So again, we get the story of apathy, but there's also the apathy that's created by ineffective cops. If you've called them before and they haven't come three times, maybe you're not calling them because you just don't expect them to do anything.

Sarah:  Right. Or you expect them to come and abuse you based on the category of human that you are, or you reasonably expect them to come if you call about something that they determined to be a domestic dispute, which they find to be a waste of their time. And then they give you a hard time about it and you  just made a hard time for yourself and not solved anything. So, the whole tone of the New York Times article is like why did no one call the police? If only they called the police, then the police would have come, and everything would've been fine. And yeah, within that kind of binary narrative that you've created, the neighborhood is the problem. If only they had availed themselves of the completely reliable and trustworthy and knight in shining armor of the New York city police, then everything would have been fine.

Mike: Any defensive system, right. It's like those people that are like, well, how did you end up homeless? Didn't you apply for welfare? I don't understand. Why didn't you just apply for welfare? And it's do you know how fucking hard it is to get welfare? Do you know what the paperwork is? Do you know how much documentation you have to have? That it takes months? It's not as easy as picking up the phone hello welfare, I would like you. People don't know that these systems are broken down and they're just like, well, why didn't you do the obvious thing? Well, the obvious thing doesn't actually work.

Sarah: Right. And I think that when we  tell these stories, it allows those of us who have not been on any side of this position to reinforce our own belief, which  it's hard to blame people for wanting to believe that these systems work, that the welfare system works, the police work. If people had called the police, then everything would have worked out because the police are the one non-problematic aspect of this story, and it's all about the badness of the neighbors and the neighborhood. There's something else going on too in the sixties, this is brewing before the story happens. I think the way that news stories and viral news stories work is that there's some, there's a conversation that we really want to have. It's like when you're talking with your friend, and you really want to talk about your own stuff and you're waiting very clumsily for a point of entry. And they're like, I think I might go to the container store this weekend and you're like, oh, I was dumped in a container store and I'm still not over it. When you're just waiting to get into a game of double Dutch you're just like, when can we talk about urban apathy? 

And this was the little catalyst for this conversation that everyone was champing at the bit trying to have, because part of it was white anxiety over civil rights, white flight to the suburbs, the way major American cities were run infrastructurally, traumatized a lot of their citizens and kind of force people to live in poverty and created petty crime as a means of survival for citizens who've been kept out of any more meaningful form of making a living. I think that the story that white America really wanted to spin in the sixties and that Kitty Genovese’s murder allowed us to spin was one where cities are bad, and they make people bad. And there is this new kind of person who some sociologists reflecting on the murder called homourbanis, who has been corrupted and damaged by city life to the extent that they just are completely apathetic and amoral and anti-social. It's not that the people in power are allocating funds badly or that the police department is full of corruption, but that people are turning bad and there's nothing we can do about it. And the problem is that people are becoming evil and it's not something that people in power can possibly fix.

Mike: Right. Right. It's also a great driver of defunding cities, right? That the suburbs come to be seen as the default and sort of what everybody should be doing. 

Sarah: Yeah. Then all the white people, all the people with the means to flee can flee and leave everyone who can't get out to just die in a fire. Which of course, New York was the most visible part of that whole American narrative that we were telling ourselves. And the weird glee that the rest of America felt when New York City was going bankrupt in the seventies and smoke was drifting in over the World Series game because the Bronx was burning. I think that the rest of America was looking at New York kind of starting at the time of Kitty Genovese’s murder and then through the next 20 years kind of rubbing its hands together and being like, see: cities don't work, just abandon ship. I mean, Billy Joel wrote about all that. 

Mike: How did I know that was coming. 3,2,1 Billy Joel.

Sarah: The reason that these stories become as big as they do is not because there's something that is so compelling about the actual events, it's because there's something that allows us to validate the fears and anxieties we want to validate, that we're looking for excuses to validate.

Mike:  Yeah. Yeah. It's like the primordial ooze, the earliest life drifting out of this pond of just random shit. And then eventually it takes form, and it takes the form of these myths that we start to tell ourselves.

Sarah:  Yeah. Like the thing and Ferngully

Mike: But we haven't even gotten to the gay hero who finally calls the cops. How does all that happen? 

Sarah: Well, it's rough. So let me show you a picture of the street where the first attack occurred. And by the way, the New York Times, as we may recall, says that she was attacked three times. It wasn't three times. It was twice. 

Mike: She was attacked again? What? 

Sarah: Yeah, there's two attacks. So let me show you the street.

Mike: Oh, it's like a two story building. It's just a bunch of stores with one apartment above them.

Sarah: Yeah. It's businesses and then apartments on the second story. 

Mike: What the hell? Okay. 

Sarah: There's not a population density here. It's really more of a long island crime than a New York city crime. Once again, it's like our show is like in Jurassic Park where we’re  and we're back in the car again. And we're back on Long Island.

Mike: This happens at a  fucking strip mall, and it gets called an urban America problem. 

Sarah: Right? The image we have in our heads is the building where Sharon Stone lives in Sliver or something. And so there's the initial attack in the street. And then someone opens the window and says, “Leave that girl alone”, and Winston Mosley flees. But with great presence of mind, moves his car from where he has parked it. He moved his car in the middle of a murder he was committing, what the fuck? He's a paradoxical guy. 

When he goes to trial and then every interview and interaction that anyone who has with him and talks publicly about it has, he's very calm and describing what he has done and why he thinks he did it. And he appears to have been very cool about this whole murder as he was committing it. So he moves his car, and he changes hats so that he will not be recognized as the initial assailant. And then he tries to find her again. 

Kitty, in the meantime, with this punctured lung kind of already beginning to suffocate, already having a hard time, has walked around the corner and to the other side of the buildings on the street, which is where the entrance to her apartment is. And she starts trying doors to vestibules to try and just get in and hide. The first one, she tries one open, the second one opens, and she goes in and collapses on the stairwell, which leads to her friend, Carl Ross’ apartment. And that's where Winston Mosley finds her. And Mosley catches up with her and starts stabbing her again. Carl Ross, who is in his apartment quite drunk, hears it and opens the door and sees them.

Mike: Oh my God. Fuck. Yeah. 

Sarah: He closes the door and is terrified. And that's when he calls his friend in Nassau County, who advises him not to call the police. And then he calls a friend who tells him to come over to her apartment. So he climbs out of his apartment and onto the roof and then into hers, and then calls a neighbor of Kitty and Mary Anne’s named Sophie Furour, finally, who is like, “For God's sake, call the police”.

Mike:  Jesus. Wow. 

Sarah: And I just still don't know what to make of that. Cause again, I've never had a friend of mine being stabbed to death outside my front door. I have no way of guessing how I would behave. I know that I would be scared. I can imagine not wanting to call the police as a gay man. I can imagine I've had the experience of like when something catastrophic happens, you know literally what's going on, but you can't absorb it as real. You almost feel if you deny that it's really happening, then maybe it won't be.

Mike: There's this weird freezing effect.

Sarah: Yeah. And I can imagine being drunk and scared and just closing the door and not knowing what to do and it's, I think it's not an apathy thing. I think it's a bravery thing. What comes across to me is that he was scared, not that he didn't care. I think that there are emotions bigger than for altruism and compassion and that fear can be bigger than anything. I don't think that it's like a lack of emotion. I think there’s more going on rather than too little.

Mike: It has to be, because he obviously didn't close the door and then make a sandwich. He closed the door and called his friend. He was clearly extremely upset, but didn't know what to do, it sounds like. Oh, that's awful though. So it was feet away from him. Ugh.

Sarah:  And Winston Mosley sees the door open and sees it close and decides that this guy's not going to intervene and he's going to keep going.

Mike: Oh fuck. Oh, that's even worse. Jesus. That's really chilling. 

Sarah: Yeah. And stabbed her and sexually assaulted. 

Mike: Oh, fuck. Really? 

Sarah: Yeah. Which is also not such a part of the public memory. And at the bottom of everything, feel like there's something that to me doesn't sit right about making a murder emblematic of anything. Because then the person disappears and the awfulness of what they experienced disappears. This is not like she was sacrificed so that New Yorkers could have a moral reckoning about themselves and realize they needed to call the cops more. I think that we take the realities of a crime more seriously if we just let it be what it is and not stand in for anything else. 

Mike: Because the crime is so horrific.

Sarah: Yeah. And the way that Kevin Cook ends his book, which I love that he did this, is that Carl calls Kitty's neighbors, Sophie, and she's the one who tells him to call the police. And she is a young housewife and mother who is a neighbor of Kitty and Mary Anne's, and she, just knowing that someone is stabbing Kitty and not knowing that the killer is gone and not knowing that she isn't putting herself in danger, runs to the building and runs into the stairwell and is with Kitty and is holding her as she's dying. This was a story about a very brave young mom, also. This isn't ‘everyone was apathetic’, this isn't 38 people reclining comfortably and watching the neighbor be stabbed to death. A lot of people heard or saw a little of something and didn't respond as heroically as we like to think that we could. And one person seems to have really sucked. And one person got really scared. And one person did something amazing.

Mike: So the whole spectrum of responses to something like that.

Sarah: Right. It's not like, all these people behave the same way, and it was terrible. It's like you had  a neighborhood of humans and they showed all of the responses that humans can show.

Mike: Good, bad, and chicken shit. 

Sarah: And so what Kevin Cook makes a big point about at the end of his book is that Kitty Genovese did not die alone. She died in the arms of her friend, of someone who was brave enough to rush blindly into the scene of her murder. 

Mike: Yeah, that’s lovely.

Sarah: Yeah, this is also a story about the love and bravery of women being erased. Because then the next morning, Mary Anne wakes up and finds out that her girlfriend has been murdered. And the police have her as their prime suspect for the first couple of days because they grill her and get her to admit that she and Kitty were lesbians. And the police were like, well, as we all know, sexual deviants are more prone to commit murders. And so obviously lesbians just love killing people.

Mike: Jesus fucking, but Carl saw the attack. Didn't Carl tell them it was a dude attacker?

Sarah: So the police wake Mary Anne up at 4:00 to tell her that Kitty is on her way to the hospital. It doesn't look good. She dies on the way to the hospital. So Carl Ross comes over to Mary Anne's to keep her company after she's woken up, and they sit there drinking vodka at four in the morning and he doesn't tell her that he saw what he saw.

Mike:  I mean, yeah. I don't know. It's chicken shit, but it seems human.

Sarah: Yeah. You just have to really teach people to not murder each other. I feel like that's my... yeah. Yes. So the police, when they start questioning Mary Anne, they get her to tell them that they're lesbians. And what she says later is “I was upset with myself for revealing that. I've always regretted it. What right did they have to know?” They're asking, what was their sex life like? What sexual positions did they use? Because that’s relevant, right? Yes. 

Mike: I mean, that's the whole thing with gayness is that you see this a lot in accounts of East Germany as well, that it's well, if you lie about your homosexuality, you must be lying about all this other stuff. Right. They catch you in this completely unrelated lie. And then they're like, well, we've got a liar on our hands, ladies and gentlemen, and then they just don't trust anything else that you say.

Sarah:  Yeah. And now you have an excuse to just run rough shots over their rights in an investigation too. Yeah. And so one of the detectives says about that line of questioning quote, “One of the most common motives for murder is jealousy. It's also our experience that homosexual romance produced more jealousy by far than quote, straight romances. More jealousy means more chance for violence. Women in fact can be more possessive toward their lovers than men.”

Mike: That's like some Mars Venus shit. That's super cheap pop psychology.

Sarah:  Men are like rubber bands and women are murderers. 

Mike: Jesus. So there's no evidence whatsoever, but they have to question her anyway. 

Sarah: Yeah. And then they decided that she must've been having an affair with this guy who she had hung out with for a bit after she got off work that night, and clearly, she was having an affair and that's why her lesbian lover murdered her. This is what the NYPD’s top minds are coming up with. 

Mike: Yeah. This is a woman who's in a same-sex relationship, so she's obviously in love with a dude.

Sarah:  Yes. Right? All lesbians are murderers and they're also not really lesbians, they're just waiting to meet the right guy at which point, presumably, they'll also stop being murderers. I guess. Also Mary Anne's friends stopped talking to her because they're all paranoid about the police harassing them as well and having their phones tapped and stuff. So this comes in and breaks up the community that they're a part of. 

Mike: So when she needs social support the most, it becomes impossible.

Sarah: Yeah. And I just think that the degree to which the police had made themselves the enemies of queer New Yorkers, I just think that's such a big part of this. Even if you know that it's a violent crime, you need to report it. If these are people that you only see in the context of them harassing you and shaking you down and treating you as something less than human, then I think that would make it so much harder to make that call and to quote get involved. 

Mike: But then all of this is before the New York Times article with the apathy stuff comes out. This is where it's basically just like an anonymous murder, was on page 31 or whatever of the newspaper. This is not a media circus. 

Sarah: No, no one really cares. It's just another lesbian knifing.

Mike:  It's one of the two murders that happen every day. Right?

Sarah:  I mean yeah. And so pretty soon after the murder, Carl Ross skips town and he is also the first person arrested. The police want to question Mary Anne. They tell him to screw off. They don't like him, maybe he's swishy and they don't like that. And he, of course being quite drunk, is not in the most friendly of moods. And so they kick him out of Mary Anne's apartment and tell him to go fly a kite. And so he goes down and kicks the door really hard, and they arrest him for disorderly conduct. Which is also the charge that you apply to people being gay in public or in private. The way that Winston Mosley gets arrested is that five days later he is stealing a TV, which he is in the habit of doing. He will break into a neighbor's house, he lives in Ozone Park which is a neighborhood of Queens ,and takes TVs and then brings them to his dad who sells them for him. And a neighbor sees him and thinks, this doesn't seem right, I'm going to call the police.

Mike:  So the case of urban apathy gets solved by urban snitching. That's a real story here. 

Sarah: Yes. And so he gets arrested, the police start questioning him. And then one thing that the police noticed, because witnesses did notice this and tell the police about it is that there was a white Corvair at the crime scene. And Winston Mosley was loading his new TV into his white Corvair. And so they start questioning him about Kitty's murder and he starts talking pretty easily about it. And so he tells the police that he took the brown wallet that Mary Anne had given Kitty for Christmas the year before, and took $49 out of it and then threw the wallet into the weeds by the building where he worked, where the police went to find it. So he confesses convincingly to the murder.

Mike: Wild. So they just ask and he's like, yep. I did it?

Sarah:  Sometimes people just seem to really want to confess, don't they. He's just like, yes. 

Mike: I mean, this is weird behavior, but it's also less weird than murdering another person. So I guess it's in keeping with what we know about him so far.

Sarah: You can also see that we're at this interesting moment in popular and legal understandings of what criminal insanity is or could be, because his lawyer, Sydney Sparrow, which is a great name. He says, it's proof that he's insane that he's able to talk so calmly about committing this murder and committing this sexual assault. Only an insane person could be so calm about all of this. This is proof that there's something wrong with him. Healthy people aren't like this. 

Mike: But then isn't that's just an argument for every single murder, basically. I mean, that would get like 97% of murderers off the hook.

Sarah: Well, Michael, I would be fine with that. It's not off the hook, right? The question is, are you a healthy person to be in society? No. Are you unhealthy for society because you can actively choose between doing good and doing bad or because there's something broken inside of you, and we need to protect other people from you until we don't have to anymore? These are two different things. And we currently do the first one and that's, to me, the whole philosophy of criminal justice is that, if you did violence to someone, and especially if you committed the kind of stranger assault and murder of a woman that we hold up as the emblematic type of violent crime in America, even though it isn't, then you must have consciously and rationally made that choice, and therefore we're going to punish you. And I think that the idea that you can rationally choose to murder someone really doesn't make sense to me. In 1964, it seems like we hadn't quite landed on that as the animating philosophy behind our legal system. Killing someone is a choice that you can freely make, and it is a choice that you can sanely make. 

So yeah he confesses very easily. And then he confesses to the murder of Annie Mae Johnson, who's 24 and a black housewife. And then he confesses to a murder that someone else has also confessed to already. And that it doesn't seem he committed. And this is how the story gets to the New York Times, because one of the New York Times editors is having lunch with the police commissioner who spends most of their lunch talking about how anxious he is about civil rights. And he says, the weirdest thing happened, this guy confessed to a murder that someone else also confessed to. And this is how the New York Times gets turned on to Kitty Genovese. And this is how it becomes front page news. 

Mike: So he pitched the New York Times a story, basically. That's like my entire inbox.

Sarah: Right. And it's why the cops come off so well in the story as we know it. Possibly because they controlled the narrative from the beginning. 

Mike: It's like a PR flack or something. I will arrange this whole story for you. 

Sarah: It is, it's like what the exorcist did for the Catholic church. And the reason that it is written that 38 witnesses saw and heard Kitty being murdered and did nothing is that there are 38 police reports.

Mike: What?

Sarah:  That doesn't reflect the number of people that the police talked to, it certainly doesn't reflect the number of witnesses to the crime. 

Mike: So it’s a completely arbitrary number of pieces of paper they have.

Sarah:  It's the number of pieces of paper.

Mike:  It's not even as sophisticated as counting the number of windows that would have looked on the murder. 

Sarah: Yeah. That would have been more reflective. That would be like the number of units or something. So it was just the police’s version of it. It’s the version that we know. And it's the version where everything would have been fine if people had called them. And it was the fault of these apathetic New Yorkers. If only they always just pick up the phone and call their good friends, the police. 

Mike: Is there any evidence in the actual story that they interviewed any of the names? Okay. So from the New York Times piece, “A housewife knowingly, if quite casual, said, ‘We thought it was a lover's quarrel’. A husband and wife both said, ‘Frankly, we were afraid’. They seemed aware of the fact that events might have been different. A distraught woman wiping her hands in her apron said, I didn't want my husband to get involved.”

Mike: Wow. So these are people that saw the first attack. The fact that nobody says it was 3:30 seems like the most important detail of this.

Sarah: Right. And again, I will give you this first sentence, “This crackerjack lead, for more than half an hour, 38 respectable law-abiding citizens in Queens watch to kill her stock and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”

Mike:  Yeah. That's bad, Sarah. That's bad.

Sarah: So it wasn’t 38 citizens. They didn't watch him stalk her. No one saw the entire event. You can't really watch something you can't see that well. 

Mike: And you can't watch something that happened when you’re fucking asleep. 

Sarah: And most of them, if not everyone, but Joseph Fink didn't know it was a stabbing. And there weren't three attacks. So there's at least 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 errors in this one sentence.

Mike: Did you read this on the New York Times' website? I want to know if there's a correction upended. 

Sarah: Yes, there is. Yeah. I will read it to you. “Editor's note, October 12, 2016, 52 years later reporting by the Times and others has called into question the significant elements of this account. Subsequent Times coverage includes a review of the case on the 40th anniversary, the obituary of the killer, an essay and video on the case, and a Times insider.” 

Mike: Okay. Yeah. So they're leaving it up to preserve for historical memory.

Sarah:  But once again, and this is why my life is a bouillabaisse of anxiety, once you tell a story incorrectly once, you can't control where it goes. And so the ‘38 witnesses watched and did nothing’ version is in sociology textbooks. This is in the Kaplan prep book for the GRE.

Mike: Still?

Sarah:  Yes. Everyone knows 38 people watched Kitty Genovese be murdered, anyway, this inspired some important research into bystander apathy. Let's talk about that. It's not even the point of the section. It's just that this is  cemented in the public mind. And it actually inspired studies on the effect of bystander apathy and what gets termed the ‘bystander effect’, which researchers later conduct studies suggesting that people are less likely to intervene if they think that there are enough other people around to have already intervened or have already called the police or done something when there is something dangerous. 

Mike: I have been a bystander and that has been my response. I've been at car accidents, and you sort of, you pull up, you stop and you look at them and you're like,  there are five other people helping this person you ask, does anybody need anything? And then you're like, it's handled. Someone's doing it. 

Sarah: And again, why are we so eager to say that this is apathy when it is also just as likely insecurity where you're like, I don't think I would be helpful. I don't know that I would know what to do. I think in the end, making it a story about bystander apathy is a way for the city of New York to make it about itself, right? It's not about this woman who was murdered in this terrible way.

Mike: This dope ass lesbian.

Sarah:  It's not about this amazing lesbian who we should have around today to give us tips on flirting and you don't have to just sit with the pain and the pointlessness of her not being with us anymore, because if you can make her murder into a parable, then it does have a point it's to teach us all to call the police more often.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So what happens to Mosley? Is he sentenced? 

Sarah: Yeah, he is tried and convicted. So Winston Moseley was sent to Attica in 1968. There's no delicate way to put this. He gets a can from the commissary, and he rams it into his rectum so far that the doctors at the prison cannot remove it. And they have to take him to the hospital where he escapes.

Mike:  Holy shit. 

Sarah: Which is impressive.

Mike: Dedication. Wow. He really wanted to bounce. 

Sarah: So he escapes, he finds a vacant house near the hospital in Buffalo. The phone is still working. And so he calls a cleaning service and has a maid sent there. And when the maid shows up, he rapes her.

Mike: No fucking way. Holy shit. 

Sarah: And the maid is afraid to call the police, presumably because she's black. But she finds out the name of the homeowner and calls and says, there's something funny going on in that house. And so the homeowner, Janet Coolaga, calls the police and asks them to send someone over to take a look at the ‘something funny’. And the officer on duty says, “No, there's a shift change coming up, we don't have time to send anyone right now. Call back later. We'll send someone then”. She decides not to wait, and she and her husband go over to the house and Mosley ties them up and rapes her. 

Mike: Are you fucking kidding me? What? This keeps getting worse.

Sarah:  Yeah. And then he goes and holds some other people hostage in a different house. 

Mike: This guy  really is like the thing that stranger danger was invented for. 

Sarah: Yeah. You can see why he's the ideal criminal at the center of the ideal story. He is holding the people in this other house hostage. He lets one of the women inside go. She goes, calls her husband, her husband calls the FBI, and the FBI comes and Moseley tells him that when he was a kid, he had wanted to be an FBI agent. And as the FBI agent is negotiating with Moseley, a TV reporter calls the house where this FBI negotiation is happening and says, will you be done in time for us to do the evening news? Is this wrapping up or what? And Mosley gives himself up and they finish in time for the news, I think.

Mike: A happy ending, finally. What a lovely ending. Somebody got their B roll in time for 5:30.

Sarah:  Yeah. The only redemption that we can possibly get from any of this is that someone gets a good story out of it. And so he's taken back to prison and died in 2016. When he was petitioning for parole, this is to me like the textbook definition of chutzpah. At one point he was like, yes, I committed a terrible crime, but I've reformed myself. And think of all the awareness that people have now that they would not have had without the murder that I committed.

Mike: I raised awareness of the badness of murder. That's his case? That's like the bus driver who told Rosa Parks to sit in the back being like, think of all I did for the Civil Rights movement. You were the antagonist, you were the bad thing that happened to create whatever awareness there was.

Sarah: If those cops haven't raided Stonewall, then would gay pride have even existed, right? Can’t we thank the NYPD for everything in the end?

Mike: Thanks to the real heroes. So what do we make of this? What are our lessons? 

Sarah: I don't know. I think that we turned Kitty Genovese’s life and death into a ghost story that would encourage us to flee back to the old ways, back into the arms of the police, back into the arms of the establishment, back into the world as it had always been, where you could reasonably think that a man was assaulting a woman and as long as he knew her personally, then it was fine. We used a story about what was wrong with the society that we already had to make us feel afraid of that society changing in any real way and go even deeper into the behaviors and the traditions that helped it occur in the first place. Once again, society figured out that it was sick and decided that the antidote was more poison.

Mike: Well, didn't we also talk about in the urban legends episode, how urban legends in all societies, across the globe happen at times of social upheaval and happen at times when there's the updated society versus the traditional society. And this was one where there were all these anxieties about societies changing, the nature of cities is changing, and so this is why the story got repeated. I mean, there's lots of front page newspaper stories. This one landed because there were all these existing anxieties.

 I mean, I think also if we make a story into a parable about what's wrong with society, and if we want a story to be either about heroism or villainy, then we just lose track of all of the actual humanity within this, which is that people were scared. People were confused. People were asleep. Some people called the police or tried to. Some people didn't. And that there was, also within this, a woman who lost her lover and was treated with contempt and suspicion by the people who were supposed to help her. And that there was a woman who was freely and bravely living her life and who didn't get to continue doing it. And that there was a woman who ran, unthinkingly, into a violent and terrifying situation so that she could comfort her friend. This is also a story that has erased women. 

Mike: The story has fucking heroes in it. Legitimate, real, gay angels. 

Sarah: This was even a straight lady. Sometimes straight people can even behave well.

Mike:  Ooh, that's off brand for us. We're going to have  to edit that. Even straight people.

Sarah: Even straight people are capable of prosocial behavior at times. 

Mike: That's our message for pride.

Sarah:  Yeah. So this is a story about Kitty and Mary Anne and Sophie. And in every story that we think that we know extremely well, there are probably women and probably lesbians who no one has thought to pay attention to or listened to the experiences of because they don't conform to the parable that we're trying to tell to fit the needs of white American masculinity and mainstream society. And let's go talk to them now.

Mike: Find the kick-ass lesbians.