Carl Panzram — a tattooed, 6-foot-tall giant of a man with cold gray eyes — stowed away on a ship bound for Angola around 1920 to work as a merchant seaman. After arriving in Lobito Bay, he hired a half-dozen local guides for a crocodile-hunting expedition. But Panzram had other prey on his mind. As their canoe wended its way down the river, he shot each crew member dead before feeding their corpses to the hungry crocodiles lurking below.
That was just one of many crimes, including 23 murders and more than 1,000 rapes of young boys and men, Panzram admitted to committing. Unlike charming and cunning serial killers Ted Bundy or Rodney Alcala, Panzram remained brutally honest. “For all of these things, I am not the least bit sorry,” he seethed in his autobiography, penned from his prison cell. “I hate the whole damned human race including myself.”
But could he really be that bad? Yes, at least according to experts who have studied him and found that the roots of his evil could be traced back to his childhood. Minnesota, Panzram’s father abandoned his family when he was about 7 years old, ands he received ruthless beatings from his older brothers. In 1898, Panzram landed in a reform school called Red Wing for a string of burglaries. Red Wing schooled Panzram in sadism, punishing him with beatings and rapes.
In 1907, he was sent to Leavenworth for three years for burglary. Between 1913 to 1918 he spent time in Montana's Penitentiary as well as Oregon's from which he escaped in 1918 after being sentenced to seven years. He assaulted and seriously injured a guard when breaking out.
Between these two stretches in the pen, he spent years sleeping on freight trains. During one ride in a boxcar, he was gang raped by transients — leaving him “a sadder, sicker but wiser boy,” Panzram wrote. In 1915, he traveled through Idaho, California and other states along the Columbia River, burning and burglarizing buildings and raping countless young men and boys.
Not long after escaping in 1918, while in n New York, he hired sailors to work on a yacht bought with his robbery bounty, he would get them drunk, rape them and shoot them dead. One by one he would dump their rock-weighted bodies in to Long Island Sound — all 10 of them.
Soon after, he set sail for Angola, raping and killing a young boy before the crocodile-hunting expedition. About a year later, he hid aboard a Lisbon-bound ship, only to find that the police there were on the lookout for him, aware of his crimes in Africa. So, soon after, he stowed away on a ship to the U.S.
He then started a stretch at Sing-Sing prison; he was transferred to Clinton Prison where he made another escape attempt in 1924. He was paroled in July, 1928. Within three months he was arrested in Washington D.C. again burglaries, which is when he started to confess to murders.
In October 1928, he admitted to killing three boys. He choked an 11-year-old the year before at Pier 88 in Philadelphia. The second was the murder of a 12-year-old that had occurred near to Boston in 1920. He strangled that boy with his belt. The third was in Connecticut, which he also strangled to death. The authorities did not believe him, thinking that he was lying in order to be executed and killed, however they made discovered many similarities between his description and the actual murder of the boy which made them believe that it might be true. He had sodomized all three boys before killing them.
Due to his confession the remains of the boy he had killed in Philadelphia shortly after being paroled was exhumed and identified. He had been buried in a pauper's grave, as only his skeletal remains had been found in a field.
In November 1928, Panzram was sentenced to 25 years at a Washington D.C. prison for his initial arrest which was burglary. A 26-year-old prison guard Henry Lesser handed him a dollar to buy food and cigarettes. Over time, the two became friends. Each day, Lesser slipped him a pencil and a few sheets of paper, convincing him to write his life story.
In the meantime authorities in the three jurisdictions where he claimed to have killed the boys were preparing charges against him for their murders. In January 1929, he confessed to the murder of a man in Texas. According to the El Paso Evening Post, He described the murder in a letter to the sheriff there in this manner,
I killed the man, his name I do not know. I took his money, tied his feet together with a belt, tied his hands and then trussed his hands and feet together behind his back with a suspender. I tied him to a mesquite bush and kicked his head off and strangled him until he stopped wriggling. Whether he was ever found or if he is stilled tied to that tree I don't know.
In February Panzram was transferred to Leavenworth Prison. Four months later he crushed laundry foreman Robert Warnke’s skull with a flat iron.
He was sentenced to death, and he refused to ask for executive clemency. His hanging was to be the first one in Kansas after forty years. Panzram got the death he craved in September 1930. “Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard!” he seethed at the executioner — “rage personified,” as he referred to himself, until the end. “I could kill 10 men while you’re fooling around!”
Lesser kept Panzram’s writings, but publishers weren’t comfortable with the graphic manuscript until 1970, when it was published as Killer: A Journal of Murder.
Source - Ozy
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer