We reacted right away when Columbine happened, spinning every stray hair of a rumor into a tapestry of explanation. A crisis like that draws us in, makes us nearer to the now. It rattles us where we are usually numb. It reorients our world for a time. We stare down humanity, searching every eye to find either a brother or a monster. People are a mix of those things, but we want an either/or. A definitive separator feels good, draws a clear line between monsters and humans.

We all think we have full autonomy and sovereignty over our thoughts and actions. Sure, we have the hardware of our DNA, we are shaped by our upbringing and experiences, we are inspired by our heroes, and seek figures of wisdom to help us fumble our way through life – We learn from each other, we seek community, we share and grow. But, when it comes down to dire situations, someone couldn’t possibly “wash” our brains clean and fill it with new thoughts that go against our best interests and core values! That’s what it feels like, but psychological experiments like the 1961 Milgram study have proven that we aren’t always in control of our actions when we’re told what to do by an authority figure we trust.

The baffling events of early 2013 in a fabled L.A. hotel are one of many inspirations for American Horror Story: Hotel, and an upcoming horror film called The Bringing. While the details of the case drove intense speculation about possible paranormal elements to a young woman’s death, the reality is more of lonely despair.

The first episode of Fargo, Season 2 involves Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blomquist, a butcher’s wife who lets her denial of reality wrap them both up in a dizzying coverup. Some of the details of this darkly comedic scenario are inspired by a true events from over a decade ago.

“I’m dying for a drink,” Mike Malloy said as she stumbled into Tony Marino’s speakeasy in the Bronx. He looked a little more worn than before. Each murder attempt took a bit out of him, but being hit by a taxi had so far done the most damage. He was still thirsty, though, and the drinks just kept coming.

The human experience is rife with darkness and horror. When most people encounter gross violence or monstrosities depicted in art, they may be shaken, sickened, intrigued and/or become desensitized to it, but a homocidal person may connect in a more sinister way not only to disturbing art, but to seemingly unrelated things. Art effects people, but it doesn’t cause people to kill people, or to commit crimes, and the artist isn’t to blame for actions people take after they encounter theart. That’s what I think, at least, but writer John Grisham once very publicly stated that he believed this wasn’t the case. He thought Oliver Stone, and practically everyone involved with the making and distribution of Natural Born Killers, should be help responsible for the deaths of people killed by “copycat” murderers. He argued that people can be “under the influence” of art to a degree where the artist should be held accountable. When art imitates life, and life imitates art right back, who’s really to blame?