True, Detective, And Confessions Magazines: The Magazines And I. Chapter 8, Part 3.

June 21, 2021

True, Detective, and Confessions Magazines … is the 8th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter eight, part three.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.


Maybe we’re all a little bit obsessed with “true crime” stories. Just look at TV shows like 48 Hours or Dateline NBC. People have watched and kept them on the air for years. But when it comes to “true” crime magazines, especially of the March 1953 era, there was one for every taste. True Cases Of Women In Crime was published by a company called Special Magazines Inc. The March 1953 issue had the illustrated cover of a very voluptuous redhead behind bars, smoking a cigarette and being questioned by police. 

Inside the magazine is a disclaimer that reads: The illustrations on the following pages of this magazine were all specially posed by professional models, and it goes on to list the page numbers. The magazine is filled with ads and stories such as “She was fair, she was French, she was deadly.” This magazine is one among many that took the idea of “true crime” and possibly exploited it a bit.


Beginning in 1922, True Confessions was a Fawcett Publication targeted at young women. During the 1930s, the magazine climbed to a circulation of two million with a readership of females between the ages of 20 and 35. With True Confessions, Fawcett was in direct competition with Bernarr MacFadden who had such titles as True Story and True Romance in his repertoire of titles, and Hillman Periodicals that had Real Story and Real Confessions. These “true” confession magazines soon felt a bit of a slump by 1949 due to the new comic book trend that hit.

The March 1953 issue of True Confessions had the cover story line of “Rendezvous With Shame – A Story For Every Wife Who Feels Love-Starved.” The magazine had special features and a section on “Your Home,” with articles such as Adventures in Food and If Father’s Been Away. It was a magazine that supplied fantasy and adventure for women in the 1950s .


True Crime Detective magazine was a digest-sized magazine that was published quarterly by Casebook Publications, a division of Mercury Publications which published The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The magazine never made it to a monthly frequency and was not one of the most popular of its time, due (according to its publishers) to the lack of diversity in the crimes the magazine presented. Most were murders with no recognition given to lesser crimes. That being said, the magazine folded after one year in publication. 

The spring 1953 issue had stories such as The Truth About Lizzie Borden and Death and the Farmer’s Daughter, with a few others thrown in. There were no ads (save one for the magazine itself) and no pictures. The magazine didn’t exactly follow the blueprint of the other “True Crime” magazines and definitely paid the ultimate price. 


Another MacFadden title, True Detective (formerly True Detective Mysteries) was a true crime magazine that was published from 1924 to 1995. During its heyday, it sparked many copycats and was an extremely popular read with fans. It started out focusing on mystery fiction, but also mixed it up a little with some non-fiction crime stories. The non-fiction became so important to the magazine, gradually the fiction was phased out and it became True Detective, and the one that all imitators were held up to. 

The April 1953 issue had a cover story called Beauty and the Corpse – She Inspired Me To Violent Passion and Violent Death. And with a tagline that read: The Authentic Magazine of Crime Detection, the other stories in that issue were just as dramatic-sounding: Redhead and the Torture Slayer and Manhattan Gun Battle to name a few. These magazines were definitely a bit campy, but an integral part of publishing history nonetheless.


Born in 1919, True Story was the first of the confessions magazines and carried the subtitle  Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction. It was a prominent title in Bernarr Macfadden’s publishing empire of Physical Culture, True DetectiveTrue RomancesDream WorldTrue Ghost StoriesPhotoplay and the tabloid New York GraphicTrue Story had a circulation of two million by the time 1929 rolled around, with most of the stories sent in by readers, purported to be true, only to be rewritten by staffers at the company. Eventually however, submissions by professional freelancers were being used or issues were completely staff-written. 

By the 1950s, the magazine was focusing on a younger female audience with stories reflecting teenaged girls and their choices in life. The March 1953 issue had a young lady on the cover, smiling, with cover lines above her head that read: Jail Bait – Story of a Teen Temptress, I Was Wedding Ring Crazy, and Are You Satisfied With Your Husband – Vital Facts About Ideal Marriage. The magazine was filled with ads of all kinds, from hair color to Q-Tips, it was clear MacFadden didn’t discriminate. With over 140 pages, the magazine was a dream-come-true for anyone starving for wild love stories and a serious shopping passion. It was possibly ahead of its time.

After a dose of “truth” magazine style, next up, we take a look at romance and love in the magazines of March 1953. It was a totally different ballgame then as you will soon see…

So, get ready for Chapter Nine – Romance and Love in March 1953.

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