Rob 'Em, Rape 'Em, Kill 'Em

Carl Panzram Mugshot After the law finally caught up with Panzram for good, he found himself in Dannemora, a dead-end prison for incorrigibles in Clinton, New York. In his first few months there, he kept up a steady pace, as he made a time bomb; tried to burn down the shops; tried to club another inmate to death; broke both legs and ankles, fractured his spine and ruptured himself in an attempt to drop 30 feet to freedom; and finally was thrown out of the hospital for trying to sodomize another prisoner "to see if my sexual organs were still in good order."

Discharged from prison in New York in June of 1928, he was imprisoned in Washington, D.C. by late summer. Upon being found sawing his bars, he was pinioned by a rope to a post 18 inches around and nine feet high, so that only his toes could touch the floor. Virtually crucified, he was suspended in that agonizing position all night. Bellowing curses at his mother for bringing him into this world, Panzram swore to kill her and everything human.

By dawn of the next night of torture, the hate-crazed prisoner was openly boasting of murders in Boston, New Haven and Philadelphia.

Harry Lesser, a sensitive young Jewish guard, saw Panzram dragged back to his isolation cell, covered in bruises and dried blood, and unexpectedly felt angry and ashamed. He took pity on the tormented man and took steps to befriend him. As he began to gain Panzram's trust, Lesser was surprised to uncover in Panzram a sophisticated thinker, a reader of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, or as Dr. Benjamin Karpman would say, "a mass murderer who clearly expressed a philosophy of hate." Panzram had found a friend. He resolved to put his life story on paper, to answer all of the guard's questions and then to leave him to do what he wished with the manuscript.

After conviction on a burglary charge, Panzram was transferred to the federal pen at Leavenworth. While there, he kept in touch with Lesser by letter, and Lesser soon had enough material to submit a sample to H.L. Mencken. Thanking him, the famous editor returned the manuscript, assuring Lesser that no magazine or publisher would ever handle it, and concluding, "I can't recall reading anything more shocking."

In June of 1929, Panzram bludgeoned a prison employee to death, and his autobiographical project was abruptly terminated. At his murder trial in 1930, Panzram told the judge that he didn't need a lawyer, he wanted to plead guilty and let the state prove its case unhindered. Upon due consideration, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang on September 5, 1930. Panzram was pleased, and admonished the Society for the Abolishment of Capital Punishment for trying to save his life:

"I prefer to die that way, and if I have a soul and if that soul should burn in Hell for a million years, still I prefer that to a lingering, agonizing death in some prison dungeon or a padded cell in a mad house... The only thanks you or 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... I have no desire to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people who try to reform me, and I believe that the only way to reform people is to kill 'em. My motto is: 'Rob 'em all, rape 'em all, kill 'em all!'

Panzram's execution went as scheduled. Striding briskly and willfully up to a gibbet specially constructed to hoist his powerful 210-pound frame, he spotted two priests. "Are there any Bible-backed cocksuckers in here?" he roared, and the clergymen fled aghast.

Asked by the hangman if he wanted to make a last statement, he snapped, "Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you're fooling around!"


Reform School | A Little Sodomy | Incendiary Commentary
The Murder Business | Rob 'Em, Rape 'Em, Kill 'Em | Panzram in Prison