Hate Made Flesh
The large man climbed the thirteen steps, the last set of stairs he would ever climb, to the tall platform. The man looked out upon the crowd gathered to see his last moments. None of the faces looked upset. The hate filled man with two US Marshals at his side, began to curse the crowd and the whole human race. The man took his place at the center of the platform above the trap door that would swing open in a few short moments. The Marshals started to place a black hood over the man's head and the man hissed at them "Hurry up you bastard, I could kill ten men while you're fooling around!” and then spit in one of their faces. They slipped the hood over his head and then the noose. Without delay they released the trap door and Carl Panzram, one of America's worst serial killers, fell to his death on September 5, 1930.
Carl Panzram was born on June 28, 1891 in northern Minnesota. He was the son of two German immigrants. He had five brothers and one sister. He spent his first years of his life on the family farm. After his father walked out on the family, Panzram was seven at the time, he often took beatings from his older brothers for everything that he did wrong. Panzram was caught for his first crime when he was eleven. He broke in to a neighbor's house and stole everything that he could. His brothers found out and they beat him until he passed out. He was arrested for the crime and sent to the Minnesota State Training School.
The Minnesota State Training School was in town of Red Wing near the Mississippi River. It had roughly 300 inmates between the ages of ten and twenty. The conditions there were appalling. Panzram was beaten frequently there because he had difficulties reading. He learned here to hate Christianity here because he was forced to learn about it and felt the Christians were hypocrites. This is also where Panzram first learned about sodomy. In 1905 Panzram burnt down a wing of the training school as revenge for the pain he experienced. He was not caught for this. He learned at Red Wing how to say the right things to the guards and the parole board, a skill that would serve him through his life, and was released later that year.
When Carl returned home he had trouble dealing with his family even more then before he left. He learned to hate his mother and the rest of his family. Here he decided how he would live his life. He decided that he would kill and destroy everything and everyone he could as revenge for the pain he had endured. At the age of 14 he ran away from home and became a hobo riding the rails.
Shortly after running away he found himself in a boxcar with four men. They said to him that they would buy him food and clothes if he would do a "favor" for them. He refused and they gang raped him despite his pleas for mercy. He barley survived the attack and said that this killed any last bit of goodness that was in him.
Shortly after that, Panzram was again locked up for burglary. He was sentenced to spend a year at Montana State Reform School in Miles City. He was assigned a job working at the wood shop in the prison. While working there he beat one of the guards over the head with a large block of wood when he had his back turned to Panzram. For this, Panzram received several beatings. He decided to break out. In 1907 he and fellow inmate, Jimmie Benson, broke out of the reform school and traveled together for a short time, burning churches everywhere they went. They headed west but split up when they reached the city of Fargo.
In December of 1907, Panzram was in Helena, Montana. When he was in a local bar, he heard an army recruiter speak and decided to lie about his age and enlist. He went to Fort William Henry Harrison for boot camp. On his first day he was charged with insubordination and was jailed. In April 1908, he broke into the quartermaster's building and stole clothing and went AWOL. He was caught by military police. He was court maritaled and dishonorably discharged and sentenced to spend three years in military jail. Future president William Howard Taft, who was Secretary of War at the time approved his sentence. Oddly this would not be the last time the two would come in contact. In jail he was sentenced to hard labor and to carry a fifty pound iron ball chained to his leg. He became bigger and bigger. By the time he was released in 1910 much stronger and more dangerous then before.
For the next few years, Panzram drifted across Kansas, Texas, through the Southwest and into California. He was arrested several times using the name Jeff Baldwin for burglary, vagrancy, arson and robbery. He escaped from jails in Texas and Oregon. He would set fire to everything that he could and when he could find no buildings he would light the grass of the prairies or the woods on fire. He would rob homes looking for guns and would spend all the money he could afford on bullets. He would shoot every animal he saw and would take shots at windows of houses. He then spent time in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Utah riding the rails leaving a huge trail of destruction but he managed to always stay one step ahead of the authorities.
He would also rape every chance he got. “Whenever I met one that wasn't too rusty looking I would make him raise his hands and drop his pants. I wasn't very particular either. I rode them old and young, tall and short, white and black. It made no difference to me at all except that they were human beings,” he would say later when recalling his life.
He would spend more time in and out of prison over the next years. Raping as many men as he possibly could, when he was in jail and even when he was not. In 1918 he headed to the east coast raping and burning along the way.
In the summer of 1920, Panzram was in New Haven, Connecticut. He went our every night looking for victims. He would look for people to mug, boys to rape and houses to burglarize. In August, he found a large three story home that would pay him well. It was the Home of William H. Taft the man who had approved his sentence years before. Panzram waited in the home but the former President did not return to his home. Panzram left with loot worth $3,000 and a .45 Colt automatic. He traveled to Manhattan and sold the goods and bought a yacht named the Akista. He sailed back to Connecticut stopping to rob boats along the way.
He would dock in New Haven and formulated a plan. “Then I figured it would be a good plan to hire a few sailors to work for me, get them out to my yacht, get them drunk, commit sodomy on them, rob them and then kill them. This I done.” He would recall. The plan worked perfectly he would travel the streets at night and would hire one or two men who he would take back to his boat then get them drunk, sodomize them, then murder them and dump their bodies into the ocean. He killed many men this way. He claimed to have done it once about every two days for three weeks. He then was going to sail to New Jersey but on the way the boat crashed on some rocks and was destroyed. Panzram swam to shore.
He stowed away on a ship that took him to Angola, a Portuguese colony in west Africa. There he killed and 11-year-old boy by bashing his head in with a rock. “His brains were coming out of his ears when I left him and he will never be any deader.” He hired six natives to take him into the jungle to hunt crocodiles. He took them up the river and shot all six of them in the back of their heads. Then he fed their bodies to the crocodiles. Many people saw him hire the men so he headed back to America.
He was in Salem, Massachusetts when he met a eleven year old boy. Panzram asked him how old he was and what he was doing. The boy told him that he was running an errand for his aunt. Panzram asked him if he would like to make some money. The boy said yes. Panzram convinced the boy to take a trolley ride to a empty part of the town. Panzram grabbed him and told him that he was going to kill him. He spent three hours with the boy. He committed sodomy on him six times. Panzram then beat his head in with a rock and stuffed his throat with pages of a magazine. He threw him in some bushes and then left town.
Later when Panzram was in New London, he saw a young Jewish boy begging for money. He took him at knife point into the woods and raped him with the knife to the boy's throat. Panzram then strangled the boy with his own belt and then raped him again after he was dead. Then he left the boy in some bushes. The boy was never identified.
Panzram was finally arrested in Baltimore for burglary. When he was in prison he made a startling confession to all of his crimes. He wrote over 20,000 words describing his life and why he did the things he did. He claimed to have killed twenty-two people and that if he was let out he would gladly kill another twenty-two . At the trial he acted as his own attorney. It took only 45 minuets for the jury to arrive at a verdict of guilty and Panzram was sentenced to death.
“You will find that I have consistently followed one idea through all my life, I preyed upon the weak, the harmless and the unsuspecting." - Carl Panzram