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Carl Panzram: The Serial Killer Who Epitomized Evil

BY Bir Singh November 25, 2019
Carl Panzram

Mug shot of Carl Panzram. (Wikimedia Commons)

Evil is portrayed in myriad shades and description in stories, folklore, films and literature. It is a qualitative trait. Measuring it quantitatively, in terms of less and more, is not tenable. Evil is evil, and that’s it. Yet, could there be something like top-end evil? Or top-end villainy? If yes, then Carl Panzram, the serial killer, could be the answer. His gruesome and brutal ways defy description. Verily the vilest in human history, he didn’t fear God. Never regretted his treacherous trail. Seconds away from death, he spat on hangman’s face and bullied him for being so-damn-slow in hanging him.

A juvenile criminal at eight

Carl Panzram was born on 28th June 1892, at East Grand Forks, Minnesota, America. When he was just a growing child, his father ran away from family. Denied family care, he fell into bad company. When 8 years old, he was tried in Juvenile court for being drunk and delinquent. As he continued with his errant ways, he was sent to the Minnesota State Training School, a centre for reform and rehabilitation. There, he was beaten and raped by some staffers. That hardened him all the more. On 7th July 1905, he set the school on fire and ran away.

Sacked from army

When 15, he lied about his age to get enrolled in the army. Before long he was caught in an act of stealing and sacked. Simultaneously, he was sentenced to hard labour at Leavenworth. His prison sentence was signed by no less a person- William Howard, the then Secretary of War. Later on, when Howard retired as President of the United States, he had another brush with Carl. When he came out of Leavenworth prison, he was a hardened criminal who took vicarious delight in Vandalising the holy Church.

Inspired by the cruelty of Pascual Orozco

After discharge from prison in 1910, he went to Mexico and joined a rebel leader Pascual Orozco. He was privy to mass murder of prisoners by Orozco during Mexican revolution. The sight of this wholesale slaughter conditioned his attitude towards his future victims. With the passage of time he became more and more audacious, gruesome and unrelenting. He picked up the weak, the harmless, the unsuspecting, and killed them like a fun game.

Carl Panzram enjoyed revealing his own crimes

With none to fear, not even God, he went full steam, killing, raping and robbing. In between, he was arrested and jailed, but that was no deterrent. He was chillingly cool and collected in all his villainy. If it was not for his own revelations, we wouldn’t know about most of his crimes. Did he reveal all his misadventures? There is no way of verifying this. There may have been a lot more than what he divulged. The law of the land was generally oblivious to most of his orgies and blood baths.

Even the former president of America was robbed

In August 1920, he broke into the house of William Howard Taft, the former president of America. And came out with substantial money, and a Pistol, the personal weapon of the President. Cash money was used to purchase a Yacht. The watercraft was used for bootlegging, rapes and murder, and the victims were thrown in the sea.

Changed places to avoid arrest

Changing places, by design and default, he arrived at Angola and picked up the thread of serial crimes. Six men were killed and fed to crocodiles. Three boys were sodomised, and one of them murdered. And soon, it was time to move to a different location. His next ground, once again, was his birthplace, America.

Met his nemesis in a robbery case

On reaching America, Carl Panzram stole a boat and faked it as one he owned and destroyed it to escape police hunt. The Police finally nabbed him in 1928. He was arrested in connection with a robbery at Washington DC. Without fear, he not only accepted the crime in question, but went on to reveal the chain of his other crimes, for most of which he was never caught or questioned. His account seemed outlandish to the state officials, and the only cognizance they took was of his robbery at Washington DC. Accordingly, he was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. It’s while passing this sentence that his deeds got better of him. He battered a prison foreman to death and was officially convicted of murder. This single murder led, he was sentenced to be hanged to death.

Wrote his autobiography before walking to the gallows

During the time he waited for execution, a patronizing jail guard persuaded him to write his autobiography. He agreed and gave horrific details of crimes he committed as well as crimes he planned to commit but couldn’t. The details embodied in the book Panzram: A Journal of Murder are nauseatingly base. Like, his resolve to break all laws made by men, as well as God. Sadistic delight in killing the innocents. His idea of using rectum for carnal pleasures. His abhorrence of vaginal sex and obsession with anal intercourse. His derision for Jesus Christ. Wining and dining and then killing fellow revellers as they slept after the event. Cajoling a 12-year boy to an isolated spot, sodomising him, and then hitting him on head till his brain out from ears. The list is long.

Unrequited plans were equally gruesome

Then, there were crimes he wanted to commit, but couldn’t. Train robbery was one. A bomb was to be planted in the middle of a tunnel. It would blow the train and tunnel would cave in. Loads of sulphur and formaldehyde, strategically placed, would fumigate the passengers to death. For those who survived, Carl Panzram would be ready with his gun at the open end of tunnel, to shoot them dead. He also mooted blowing up a train station in New York and poisoning the water of village Dannemora. The weirdest of all plan was to trigger a war between Britain and the United States. He would somehow sink the British warships in American waters. And that was all required to begin the war. The money looted from train blasts was to be invested in stocks, which, in the event of a war, would go up, and make him a multimillionaire.

Killing, he said, was the only key to reforms

Utterly remorseless and incredibly wayward, Carl Panzram showed no emotion even in face of death. He rebuffed people who intervened to get his sentence commuted. Hanging, he told them, would be good for him. He lived and breathed rape, robbery and murder and remained defiant to the very end. He wished all his sympathizers had just one common neck, which he could grab, and kill them all in one stroke. That was his way of saying thanks to people who wished him well. He never believed in reform. To those who wanted to reform him, he said that the only way to reform people was to kill them.

Consistently cruel up to the end

The cold-blooded murder of 21, more than a hundred sodomy, thousands of robberies and arson; was no big deal for him. His 6 feet, 200 pounds body was a killing machine with brute power. His mind was focussed on death and destruction. Not only for the humans around, but also for his own self. No wonder, his last words to the hangman were, “Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”.

Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “Leonarda Cianciulli: The Ill-fated Correggio Killer who Made Soap and Cookies of Her Victims“.

Fact Analysis:
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