Make Your Own “In Case of Investigation: Discovery” File

by Deirdre Corley

I watch a lot of what can be described as“Murder Shows.” Dateline on ID, Snapped, On the Case With Paula Zahn, Cold Case Files — pretty much whatever’s on Investigation: Discover at any given time. If a nurse in Alabama murdered her husband using some obscure paralysis-inducing drug for insurance money, I want to know about it. (This happens more than you’d think.)

The problem with watching a lot of murder shows, though, is that you realize a lot of people who aren’t all that different from you are getting murdered all the time. Women in their 20s who just wanted to have a good time with their friends — until they were killed by some dude they went on a date with. And so, much like planning the details of your own imaginary wedding while sitting at someone else’s (“she shouldn’t have gone with colored table linens — gotta remember that”), you start to envision your own murder and its subsequent news coverage. How will they portray me? Middle class Irish girl from Long Island moves to the city and gets murdered while drunkenly stumbling home one night? Or sophisticated city girl gets stabbed before entering her super-cool apartment on the way home from a glamorous party? This is way too important to be left to chance, so I’m making a folder called “In Case of Investigation: Discovery” on my computer, just in case the murder show producers come knocking someday.

Step One — Photos: The victims’ families invariably provide the murder shows only two or three photos of the deceased, which are then cycled through the show over and over again, until the viewer has seen each photo at least 20 times over the course of an hour. These photos aren’t always flattering, or recent, so, first thing you want in your file is a dozen or so good photos of yourself. You wouldn’t let your family choose your Facebook profile picture, so why let them choose the photos that will represent you after your body is exhumed from a lake? Your photos should be recent, happy, and should play into the narrative you’d like to be remembered for. Are you an outdoorsy sort? That shot of you scaling a shear rock face in Alaska needs to be first and foremost among the selection. More of a big city glamour girl? Photos from rooftop cocktail parties, and that time you DJed your friends birthday party ought to do the job. Its a good idea to include at least a few photos of yourself with a baby, your grandparents, or a cute animal.

Step Two — Define your narrative: This part is important, because if you want the producers to say anything about you besides “She was young, beautiful, and had her whole life ahead of her,” you’re going to have to throw them something other than your long-forgotten MySpace page. First, make a Word document with a list of your hobbies, or even hobbies you plan on getting around to someday. (“She was a talented dancer, and was just starting to get good at the ukulele and southern French cooking.”) If you have some photos to back them up even better. Then, point out awards and achievements and list some things you want people to know about you — charity causes, places you’ve traveled, arts and entertainment preferences, any celebrities you might have slept with, that kind of thing. You can think of it as a sort of online dating profile, for the afterlife. This is also a good place to suggest likely suspects in your murder, if any.

Step Three — Suggest interview subjects: It’s possible your parents will be too upset to discuss your tragic end, in which case the producers are going to go sniffing around your circle of friends. If you don’t want that skank Melissa having the last word on your life and untimely death, now is the time to speak up, because you know that bitch is desperate to get on TV. Choose friends who know you well but aren’t stupid enough to mention that thing you did in college.

Step Four — Tell someone: Someone needs to know this exists and where it is, otherwise the whole thing is useless. You need a friend who’s media savvy and, if possible, as vain as you are, to avoid any judgement. If you have friends who are publicists or aspiring actors, these are going to be your best bets.

And that’s it, in four easy steps! The only downside to this is that after you’re dead, all your friends will all find out what a weird, morbid, narcissistic control freak you are. Oh, and the whole being-murdered thing.

Deirdre Corley is a writer and film festival programmer in Brooklyn who hopes she doesn’t get murdered, but can’t really rule it out.