Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Carl Panzram's recipe for a sadistic serial killer

joão pestana

The reason I'm fascinated by deviant minds and individuals is because we learn very little — if anything at all — by observing what is the standard. Only by studying the unusual can one hope to understand what are the underlying mechanics. The story I bring can be true or a fiction of Panzram's constructed alter ego. Nonetheless, it offers an incredible insight into the construction of an individual.
In my life time I have murdered 21 human beings. I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and last but not least I have committed sodomy on more than 1 000 male human beings. For all of these things I am not the least bit sorry. I have no conscience so that does not worry me. I don’t believe in Man, God nor devil. I hate the whole damed human race including myself.
Fear not, for those words were written by Carl Panzram, as in figure 1, while at the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth in Kansas where he would end up killing Robert Warnke with an iron bar. For this crime, Panzram would finally receive the death penalty he wished — his own way of suicide. The sentence was carried in September, 1930.

Figure 1 — One of the papers where Carl Panzram wrote his autobiography and confession.

The story begins in 1891 when Carl Panzram (figure 2) is born to a couple of german immigrants in the state of Minnesota. His father abandoned the family when he was 8 years old and by the time he was 11, he was sent to a reform school for stealing from his neighbour. He graduated after two years and about that moment he had the following to say.
After serving about 2 years there I was pronounced by the parole board to be a nice, clean boy of good morals, as pure as lily (...) I had been taught by christians how to be a hypocrite and I had learned more about stealing, lying, hating, burning and killing. I had learned that a boy's penus could be use for something besides to urinate with and that a rectum could be use for other purposes than crepitating. (...) I made up my mind that I would rob, burn, destroy and kill every where I went and everybody I could as long as I lived. That’s the way I was reformed in the Minnesota State Training School.
He was young and poor and so he learned how to ride and sleep on freight trains. On one of his travels, he recalls being gang raped by a group of transients he had invited to share the box he found. He was again raped when he tried to beg for food near a group of stray people in some mid-west town, but they got him intoxicated on whiskey and he only found what had happened when regained consciousness. I'll try and let him tell most of the story, because for a man without proper education I do believe he writes remarkably well.
I cried, I begged and pleaded for mercy, pity, and sympathy, but nothing I could say or do could sway them from their purpose. I left that box a sadder, sicker, but wiser boy. (...) These two experiences taught me several lessons. Lesson that I have never forgotten. I did not want to learn these lessons but I found out that it isn’t what one wants in this world that one gets. (...) Another lesson I learned at that time was that there were a lot of very nice things in this world. Among them were Whisky and Sodomy. But it depended on who and how they were used. I have used plenty of both since then but I have received more pleasure off of them since than I did those first times.
From then on he proceeds to live his life according to his motto "rob 'em all, rape 'em all and kill 'em all." By 1910, he had already tried the army and failed — he got imprisoned in military facilities for insubordination. This is when he claimed that no more goodness remained within him. He succeeded in robbing the house of the then secretary of war and future president William Howard Taft that had previously approved his army sentence.

Figure 2 — A portrait of Carl Panzram.

From the spoils of the robbery, Panzram was able to purchase a yacht which marked the beginning of his killing spree. He started by hiring sailors as his crew which he intoxicated with alcohol in order to be able to sodomize, rob and kill them. He then proceeded to spread his legacy across different countries in Europe and Africa. While at the latter, he would target a very young boy around the age of 11.
He was looking for something. He found it too. I took him out to a gravel pit about one quarter miles away. I left him there, but first committed sodomy on him and then killed him. His brains were coming out of his ears when I left him, and he will never be any deader.
He finally returns to the United States where he spends most of his time incarcerated in different institutions. While at the Washington DC district jail, he befriended a young prison guard by the name of Henry Lesser — the only man in the world Panzram didn't want to kill — who insisted on him to write his life story and provided the writing materials.
You know that I spent several years in one of those places when I was a boy and the so called training that I received while there is mainly the cause of my being the degenerate beast that I am today. I have thought about that system of training young boys for all of my life and I know that the whole system is wrong. That system of beating goodness, religion and Jesus into boys in the 99 times out of 100 has the direct opposite effect of taking all of the goodness, kindness and love out of them and then replacing those with hate, envy, deceit, tyranny and every other kind of meanness there is.
Now that you know the story you may feel pity, anger, a mixture of both or even a whole panoply of feelings. You do have an opinion — at least, that's what I hope I induced upon you. We can analyse Panzram's life in different ways.

He may have been genetically predisposed to violent behaviour, had very high testosterone production or suffer from such a thing as the Klüver–Bucy syndrome. Some men are just pure evil psychopaths and nothing can be done to either alter or prevent their criminal tendencies. The question remains as what if not? What if we are really born blank canvas that can be painted anywhere from an ugly draft to a long admired masterpiece?
Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard. I could hang a dozen men while you're fooling around.
Those were the last words that Carl Panzram offered humanity before he hanged. It's not possible to account for the veracity of all the crimes he claims to have committed. Maybe he was only a scared little boy who realised how fragile he was and no one ever vowed for him so he constructed his own strong and unforgiving alter ego to take vengeance upon the society he visioned as an entity who wronged him. Maybe he admitted and exaggerated his crimes to increase the inspired fear on others. Either way, it remains an almost unbelievable story of this personification of nihilism.