Mostly conducted on the internet, it is a ghoulish trade in items sometimes described as "murderabilia". Last week a federal appeals court judge ruled that all material the government has that belonged to the "Unabomber", Theodore Kaczynski, jailed for life in 1998, must be sold to the highest bidder.
Kaczynski's bombing spree of nearly two decades, from 1978 to 1995, left three dead and 23 wounded. But the court said the Unabomber's belongings, which include journals and a draft autobiography, should be sold because all the proceeds would go to his victims and their families.
There are at least five websites that hold homicide-related auctions. Most, like www.murderauction.com, came into being after eBay, banned trade in such items on its pages. An auction aficionado, Tod Bohannon, told the Los Angeles Times Kaczynski's journals could fetch $1,000 (£500) apiece. His hairbrush is worth $500, he said.
The victims have seen little of the $15m they were ordered to be paid in compensation for suffering, but an assistant US attorney, Ana Maria Martel, said: "Victims were horrified at the thought we would be selling Kaczynski's property like a celebrity. Selling this as if he was John Kennedy instead of Ted Kaczynski, it was very offensive to them."Reuse content