Carl Panzram under the alias "Jefferson Baldwin" in 1915
June 28, 1892
East Grand Forks, Minnesota
|Died||September 5, 1930 (aged 38)|
|Other names||Harry Panzram|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Criminal penalty||Death by hanging|
Span of crimes
|1915 (as accessory),|
1920 – June 20, 1929
|State(s)||Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kansas|
1908–1910, 1911, 1913–1915, 1918, 1923, 1923–1928;1928–1930
Carl Panzram (June 28, 1892 – September 5, 1930) was an American serial killer, rapist, arsonist, robber and burglar. In prison confessions and his autobiography, he claimed to have committed 21 murders, most of which could not be corroborated, and over 1,000 sodomies of boys and men. After a series of imprisonments and escapes, he was executed in 1930 for the murder of a prison employee at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
Early life 1892–1906
Born in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, the son of East Prussian immigrants Johann "John" and Matilda Panzram, Carl was raised on his family's farm with five siblings. Carl Panzram felt odd from a young age: by the age of five or six he was a liar and thief and claimed to become meaner the older he grew. In 1899 Panzram was in Juvenile Court on a charge of being drunk and disorderly; in 1903 Panzram was in County Jail for being drunk and incorrigible; In 1903, at the age of 11, he stole some cake, apples, and a revolver from a neighbor's home. Soon after, his parents sent him to the Minnesota State Training School, October 11, 1903. While there, he was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and raped by staff members in what attendees dubbed "The Painting House", because children would leave "painted" with bruises and blood. Panzram hated this place of torture so much that he decided to burn it down, and did so without detection on July 7, 1905. In January 1906, Panzram was reported to be paroled from Red Wing Training School after stealing money from his mother's pocketbook. By his teens, he was an alcoholic and was repeatedly in trouble with the authorities, often for burglary and theft. He ran away from home at the age of 14, in January 1906, to become a hobo on the rails. He often traveled via train cars; he later claimed that on one train he was gang raped by a group of hobos.
Criminal career 1907–1910
In 1907, at the age of 15, after getting drunk in a saloon in Montana, Panzram enlisted in the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter he was convicted of larceny and served a prison sentence from 1908 to 1910 at Fort Leavenworth's United States Disciplinary Barracks. Then-Secretary of War William Howard Taft approved the sentence. Panzram later claimed that any goodness left in him was smashed out during his Leavenworth imprisonment.
After his release and dishonorable discharge, Panzram resumed his career as a thief, stealing anything from bicycles to yachts, and was caught and imprisoned multiple times. He served time under his own name and various aliases in Fresno, California; Rusk, Texas; The Dalles, Oregon; Harrison, Idaho; Butte, Montana; Montana State Reform School in Miles City; Montana State Prison (as "Jeff Davis" and "Jefferson Rhodes"); Oregon State Prison ("Jefferson Baldwin"); Bridgeport, Connecticut ("John O'Leary"); Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York ("Jeff Baldwin"); Clinton Correctional Facility, New York ("John O'Leary"); and Washington, D.C. While incarcerated, Panzram frequently attacked officers and refused to follow their orders. The officerss retaliated, subjecting him to beatings and other punishments.
In his autobiography, Panzram wrote that he was "rage personified" and that he would often rape men whom he had robbed. He was noted for his large stature and great physical strength—due to years of hard labor at Leavenworth and other prisons—which aided him in overpowering most men he encountered. He also engaged in vandalism and arson. By his own admission, one of the few times he did not engage in criminal activities was when he was employed as a strikebreaker against union employees. On one occasion, he tried to sign aboard as a ship's steward on an Army transport vessel, but was discharged when he reported to work intoxicated.
Crime spree 1910–1918
Panzram claimed in his 1929 autobiography that after serving a short sentence at Rusk, Texas, he went to Juarez, Mexico in the winter of 1910 to try to enlist in the Federal Mexican Army; he then left on a train for Del Rio, Texas and got off in a small town 50 to 100 miles east of El Paso, Texas where about a mile south of that town he claimed to have abducted, assaulted, kicked, and strangled a man and then stole $35 from the victim.
In 1913, Panzram, aka Jack Allen, was arrested in The Dalles, Oregon for highway robbery, assault, and sodomy. He broke out of jail after 2–3 months. While he was on the run, he used the alias Jeff Davis. He was arrested in Harrison, Idaho but again he escaped from County jail. He was arrested in Chinook, Montana under the alias Jefferson Davis and sentenced to 1 year in prison for burglary to be served at the Montana State Prison. On April 27, 1913, Panzram, aka Jefferson Davis, was admitted to State Prison, Deer Lodge Montana. He escaped on November 13, 1913. Within a week he was arrested as Jeff Rhoades in Three Forks, Montana for burglary and returned to Deer Lodge for an additional year. He was released on March 3, 1915.
On June 1, 1915, Panzram burglarized a house in Astoria, Oregon, but was arrested soon after while attempting to sell some of the stolen items. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, to be served at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, where he arrived on June 24. Warden Harry Minto believed in harsh treatment of inmates, including beatings and isolation, among other disciplinary measures. Later, Panzram stated that he swore he "would never do that seven years and I defied the warden and all his officers to make me." Later that year, Panzram helped fellow inmate Otto Hooker escape from the prison. While attempting to evade recapture, Hooker killed Minto, marking Panzram's first known involvement in a murder, as an accessory before the fact.
Panzram was disciplined several times while at Salem, including 61 days in solitary confinement, before escaping on September 18, 1917. After two shootouts, he was recaptured and returned to the prison. On May 12, 1918, he escaped once again by sawing through the bars of his cell, and caught a freight train heading east. He began going by the name John O'Leary and shaved off his moustache. He would never return to the Northwest.
Murder spree 1920–1928
In August 1920, Panzram burglarized the New Haven, Connecticut home of William Howard Taft, whom he held responsible for his Leavenworth imprisonment. He stole a large amount of jewelry and bonds,[fn 1] as well as Taft's Colt M1911 .45 caliber handgun. He then began a murder spree that spanned eight years and multiple countries. With the money stolen from Taft he bought a yacht, the Akista. He lured sailors away from New York City bars, got them drunk, raped and shot them with Taft's pistol, then dumped their bodies near Execution Rocks Light in Long Island Sound. He claimed to have killed ten in all. The sailor murders ended only after the Akista ran aground and sank near Atlantic City, his last two potential victims escaping to parts unknown.
On October 26, 1920 Panzram, aka John O' Leary, was arrested in Stamford, Connecticut for burglary and possession of a loaded handgun; In 1921, he served 6 months in jail in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Panzram then caught a ship to Africa and landed in Luanda, Portuguese Angola. In 1921, Panzram was foreman of an oil rig in Angola, Africa. He later burned the rig down out of sheer meanness. He later claimed that while there, he raped and killed an 11- or 12-year-old boy. In his confession to this murder, he wrote: "His brains were coming out of his ears when I left him and he will never be any deader." He also claimed that he hired a boat with six rowers, shot the rowers with a German Luger pistol, and threw their bodies to the crocodiles.
After returning to the U.S., Panzram asserted that he raped and killed two small boys, beating one to death with a rock on July 18, 1922, in Salem, Massachusetts[fn 2] and strangling the other later that year near New Haven.[fn 3] Panzram claimed that, in June 1923, he shot a man with a .38 pistol he had stolen from a yacht which belonged to the police chief of New Rochelle, New York.
On June 29, 1923, Panzram, aka John O'Leary, was arrested in Nyack, New York. On July 9, 1923, Panzram tried to escape from jail; he later conned his lawyer by giving him ownership of a stolen boat in return for bail money. Panzram then skipped bail and the boat was confiscated by the police. On August 26, 1923, Panzram, again using the alias John O' Leary, was arrested in Larchmont, New York after breaking into a train depot. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. While in County jail, he confessed to being Jeff Baldwin wanted in Oregon.
On October 1923, Panzram was imprisoned at Clinton Prison, Dannemora New York. He was discharged in July 1928. He is alleged to have committed a murder in Baltimore, Maryland in the summer of 1928.
Last arrest imprisonment and confession
On August 30, 1928 Panzram was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland for a Washington D.C. burglary -stealing a radio and jewelry from the home of a dentist August 20, 1928. During his interrogation, he voluntarily confessed to killing three young boys - one in Salem, Massachusetts, one in Connecticut and a third in Philadelphia in August 1928. The 1928 Philadelphia victim was identified as Alexander Luszock, a 14-year-old newsboy;[fn 4] Panzram later wrote that he had also contemplated mass killings and other acts of mayhem, such as poisoning a city's water supply with arsenic, or scuttling a British warship in New York Harbor to provoke a war between the U.S. and the UK.
In light of his extensive criminal record, he received a 25-years-to-life sentence. Upon arriving at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary Inmate #31614, he warned the warden, "I'll kill the first man that bothers me", and was given a solitary job in the prison laundry room. On June 20, 1929, he beat the Prison laundry foreman Robert Warnke to death with an iron bar, and was sentenced to death. He refused to allow any appeals of his sentence. In response to offers from death penalty opponents and human rights activists to intervene, he wrote, "The only thanks you and your kind will ever get from me for your efforts on my behalf is that I wish you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it."
While on death row, Panzram was befriended by an officer named Henry Lesser (1902–1983)  who would give him money to buy cigarettes. Panzram was so astonished by this one act of kindness that after Lesser provided him with writing materials Panzram, while waiting his execution, wrote a detailed summary of his crimes and nihilistic philosophy. In this he made it quite clear that he did not repent in the least of all the robberies, murders, rapes, and arsons he had been involved in. It began with a straightforward statement:
In my lifetime 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 these things I am not in the least bit sorry.
Panzram was hanged on September 5, 1930. As officers attempted to place a black hood over his head, he allegedly spat in the executioner's face. When asked for any last words, he responded, "Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you're screwing around!" His grave, at the Leavenworth Penitentiary Cemetery, is marked only with his prison number, 31614.
In 1938, Karl Menninger wrote Man Against Himself, including writing about Panzram using the pen name of "John Smith," with Panzram Prison Number # 31614. Lesser preserved Panzram's letters and autobiographical manuscript, then spent the next four decades in search of a publisher willing to print the material. Finally, in 1970, it was released under the title Killer: A Journal of Murder. In 1996, the book formed the basis of a film of the same name, starring James Woods as Panzram and Robert Sean Leonard as Lesser. In 1980, Lesser donated Panzram's material to San Diego State University, where they are housed, as the "Carl Panzram papers," in the Malcolm A. Love Library. In 2012, filmmaker John Borowski released a documentary entitled Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance.
- Panzram claimed the jewelry and bonds were worth $40,000. Taft reported that his wife's jewelry was only worth a few thousand dollars.
- The Massachusetts victim was identified as Henry McMahon.
- New London Connecticut police announced in October 1928 that they were unable to corroborate Panzram's confession, but in August 1923, a crime scene consistent with Panzram's description was discovered near New Haven. The Connecticut Bridgeport Telegram published reports on the decomposed unknown victim remains being found on August 10 (p.1) and August 11, 1923 (p.10). Another report of the murdered victim appeared in the Connecticut newspaper "The Day". Allegedly the Connecticut victim was aged 16, and was the son or nephew of a Brooklyn New York policeman.
- Panzram's confession to killing a boy at Pier 28 on League island near Philadelphia in August 1928 was confirmed; but Boston police were unable to corroborate his other confession, the murder of a boy in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
- "Panzram Papers w/ DOB" (PDF).
- "Panzram Papers w/DOB" (PDF)
- "Carl panzram letter". www.bing.com. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
- Lesser, Henry. "Panzram Papers" (PDF). Special Collections & University Archives, Carl Panzram Papers, 1928-1980, Box 1, Folder 3: Typescript of Panzram Manuscript: Part I, Section 1, c. 1928-1930: San Diego State University. p. 11. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
- Annals of Crime
- The evening times., January 26, 1906, Image 5 (Grand Forks, N.D.)
- Gado, Mark. "Carl Panzram: Too Evil To Live, Part I". truTV. Archived from the original on December 17, 2008.
- (one version is that it was because Panzram tried to shoot a teacher; plot miscarried and he was thrown out of school.)
- Gaddis, Thomas E.; Long, James O. (1970). Killer: A Journal of Murder. Macmillan.
- "Carl Panzram". Serial Killer Calendar.
- "El Paso Evening Post Jan 2, 1929".p.9. Officials could not confirm Panzram claim.
- True Crime XL: Carl Panzram
- "Tells Police He Killed 2, Robbed Homes". The Republican-Journal. October 6, 1928. p. 1.
- Possible Confirmation[?] On August 20, 1920 the body of a unknown man was found in New York Bay off St Georges, Staten Island See "Found Man drowned in Bay". Staten Island Advance. August 20, 1920. p. 9.
- "yacht, the Akiska - Google Search". www.google.com. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
- "Carl Panzram mugshot - Bing images". www.bing.com. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
- True Crime XL; Carl Panzram
- "Man is Arrested as Slayer-Fiend". The Norwalk Hour. October 27, 1928. p. 1.
- "Women Identify Seamen in Death". The Pittsburgh Press. November 2, 1928. p. 28.
- "Says he Murdered Boy". The Montreal Gazette. CLVII (258). October 27, 1928. p. 16.
- "Confesses Three Murders". The Reading Eagle. November 3, 1928. p. 2.
- "John Doe near New Haven found August 1923". Ancestry.com. August 18, 2016.
- "Body of Murdered Man unidentified". The Day. August 10, 1923. p. 12.
- "Panzram Killed a Boy in New London". Lewiston Daily Sun. October 26, 1928. p. 1.
- "Panzram Gives Slaying Account". Lewiston Evening Journal. November 3, 1928. p. 10.
- Evening star, October 27, 1928, Page 2, Image 2
- Washington DC "Evening Star" September 1, 1928 accessed July 30, 2018
- Sept 2, 1928 Panzram Inmate #33379 mugshot Washington DC.
- "The Republican-journal. (Ogdensburg, N.Y.) 1916-1932, October 06, 1928, Image 1" (1928/10/06. "Headline: Tells Police He Killed two, Robbs Homes"). 6 October 1928.
- Luszock's surname is also given as Uszacke[?] or Lusszzock[?]. See Uszacke[? or [Lusszzock[?] see"The Norwalk Hour Oct 27, 1928 - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2017-08-08.[Panzram's confession to killing a boy at Pier 28 on League island near Philadelphia in August 1928 was confirmed ["Burglar at Taft's Admits Two Murders". Stevens Point Journal. October 8, 1928.]; but Boston police were unable to corroborate his other confession, the murder of a boy in Charlestown, MA.["Jump up ^ Syracuse New York Journal, October 6, 1928"]
- "Burglar at Taft's Admits Two Murders". Stevens Point Journal. October 8, 1928.
- Syracuse New York Journal, October 6, 1928
- "Corrections Employee Robert George Warnke". The Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
- Social Security Death Index : Henry Lesser, born 8 November 1902, died October 1983, SSN issued from District of Columbia, last residence and benefit to Los Angeles, California.
- California Death Index: Henry Philip Lesser born 8 November 1902 Massachusetts, died 27 October 1983 Los Angeles County.
- Panzram, C. (2002). Panzram: A Journal of Murder. Amok Press. ISBN 1878923145.
- Earley, Pete (1993). The Hot House. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-56023-9.
- Carl Panzram papers, 1928-1982 in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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