Monday, 25 February 2013

Carl Panzram - Serial Killer

A number of years ago , doing a course on Criminology, I had the chance to do a presentation on a killer or murder case.  Amongst the infamous chosen by my fellow students included David Copeland(London Bomber), A6 Murder, John Christie, Albert Fish, Donald Harvey, Beverley Allitt.  I chose the early American serial killer Carl Panzram, a man who claimed to have murdered twenty one people, including a young boy, and ultimately paid the supreme price for his crimes.

    Panzram was born into a German immigrant family and at a young age was involved in petty crime that seen him put into young offender institutions.  These institutions were run by violence and sadism that Panzram claimed that shaped his future and his intense hatred for authority.  He travelled around the country as a hobo, hopping on trains and "Riding the rails."  It was on one of these journeys that he says that he was gang raped by four other hobos.  As he grew older, Panzram took to carrying a gun fior protection and for robberies.  He also used the gun to force other hobos to submit to rape by himself.  He says that he chose men for his sexual outlets after contracting a venereal disease from a woman.  He decided that he should avoid the ladies after an extremely painful self-administered cure.

    During the next decade or two, from around 1910, he was jailed numerous times but used various names in different states.  Jeff Davis, Jefferson Rhodes, John O`Learie and others.  He started killing men whilst he had a boat moored in a harbour, and hired men to help with repairs, but mysteriously disappeared.  Again, in jail, under the name O`Learie, he was befriended by a kindly guard, Henry Lessor.  Whilst in solitary, he was given a pencil and a couple of sheets of paper and wrote his life story by moonlight.  Soon Lessor had a substantial collection of scribblings by Panzram, but the content was considered too horrific for publication.  Panzram murdered a prison guard and was sentenced to death.  He was hanged at Leavenworth Prison in September 1930 and virtually ran to the gallows as he deemed himself too evil to live.

    In 1970, a book about Panzram was finally written, incorporating the writings he gave to Lessor, and the two authors did in-depth research into his life and claims.  They were unable to disprove his claims, including working on a ship that docked in Glasgow and he found himself in Barlinnie Prison.  After release, he claims he made his way to Southampton and then to the continent.  He lies buried in the prison grounds, prison number 31614.