Friday, March 3, 2017
Hello friends. I will be moving all of the bios from this blog to another: Serial Killer Central.
This site will now combine more full and detailed articles as well as these shorter biographies. I will be taking down this blog in about a month, so please follow me on the other blog. For more information, I can be contacted at Menschenleer@gmail.com. Thank you.
This site will now combine more full and detailed articles as well as these shorter biographies. I will be taking down this blog in about a month, so please follow me on the other blog. For more information, I can be contacted at Menschenleer@gmail.com. Thank you.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Thursday, May 20, 2010
A new secret article will be appearing shortly on this page tentatively called "Hell Hath No Fury Like A Mother". Look for it when it is released!
*This article is now available on a separate blog entitled "Serial Killer Central" and can be viewed immediately. This will also be appearing in Serial Killer Magazine (possibly issue 9), so look out!*
This article contains descriptive content. Please be aware of this before viewing it.
*This article is now available on a separate blog entitled "Serial Killer Central" and can be viewed immediately. This will also be appearing in Serial Killer Magazine (possibly issue 9), so look out!*
This article contains descriptive content. Please be aware of this before viewing it.
Monday, May 10, 2010
1924 held America enthralled when two wealthy teenage boys remorselessly bludgeoned an innocent young child to death in the backseat of a car. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were led into a Chicago courtroom to learn their fate, all the while laughing and smiling as the media, astonished, snapped photographs. Reminiscent of a movie premier, Leopold and Loeb strolled about like dapper stars, wearing expensive tailored suits and enjoying the hysterical outpour of emotion brought by the public. Leopold and Loeb had the means and the makings to become exceptional and educated citizens, but chose an amoral existence based upon violence and sex. It was the trial of the century, leaving an angry mob screaming for the death penalty.
A symptom of psychosis such as a paranoid notion imparted from one person to another is a unique psychiatric condition known as a Folie à deux, a madness shared by two. This can be broken down into subsets, one of which is known as a Folie imposée. One dominant person’s delusion may activate the paranoia of a subordinate second party, influencing them to follow a particular irrational belief they would not have otherwise perceived on their own. A classic example of this disorder was shared by Colorado teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in which Harris, the aggressor, passed on the same delusion on to his friend, Klebold, leading to a twenty minute shooting spree that claimed the lives of thirteen fellow high school students.
Richard Loeb, considered to be the mastermind and attacker in the 1924 murder, shared his delusions and dementia with his lover, Nathan Leopold. The two believed themselves to be significantly superior to others and lived without consequence in a world of money and power.
Nathan F. Leopold Jr., born in 1904, was brought up in a wealthy and privileged Jewish neighborhood in Kenwood, Illinois. Exceptionally intelligent, with an IQ of 200, he spoke his first words at four months old and was able to breeze through advanced courses in school. As a child, Leopold was lonely and withdrawn, already labeled as an outsider because of his amazing intelligence and mature mental acuity, which set him apart from his peers. This was only made worse by his own superiority towards others, an alienating quality inherent in him from the very beginning. Finding himself unable to relate well to others, Leopold threw himself into his schoolwork, studying botany and learning over ten languages. As a young man, he became quite accomplished as an expert ornithologist and often lectured at Harvard University.
Leopold was a clearly small individual, documented as 5’5”even as an adult. This could be attributed to the assumption that Leopold suffered from glandular abnormalities, that affected his stature, sex drive, self-esteem, thick eyelids, pouting lips, his bulging eyes and blunt facial features. He was under no circumstances unattractive, but rather odd looking with an asymmetrical face and grey evasive eyes. Not considered classically handsome, this certainly affected his shyness around others. Leopold was very much unhappy with his outward appearance and this was clear throughout his adolescence. Leopold made up for his low physical opinion of himself by being condescending towards others and pointing out their intellectual short comings.
A favorite subject of Leopold’s was Frederick Nietzsche, whom he personally idolized and revered. He was especially keen to follow the idea of Nietzsche’s Superman, a man so superincumbent in the world that he is above all moral codes. Leopold considered himself exempt from ordinary laws and untouchable to the rest of society.
What would be Leopold’s largest downfall was his meeting of Richard A. Loeb in 1920.
Born in 1905, Richard Loeb was the son of a wealthy Sears & Roebucks vice president. Brought up by a controlling and domineering governess who pushed him in his studies and never let him falter, Loeb immersed himself in school and excelled quickly. By the time he was 17, he had already graduated from high school and was the youngest person in history to have completed college at the University of Michigan. Loeb was seen as an outstanding pupil and perfect son, but there was another side to his personality, a much darker side.
Leopold and Loeb met at the University of Chicago in 1920, studying law and history. Affectionately using the names "Dickie" (Loeb) and "Babe" (Leopold), the pair used every opportunity to spend time together during the four years they spent at college. The pair were inseparable companions from the beginning, each finding something in each other they wanted. It was a master-slave relationship, with Leopold playing the role of the slave to the contemptuous and arrogant Loeb.
Nathan Leopold had finally found a friend in which to confide in and was so truly magnetized by this new relationship, he began to fall in love with and worship Richard Loeb. In all his lonely years in school and the constant taunting of his peers, Nathan was now friends with a popular and impossibly attractive boy who was near equal in his superiority and maturity. Richard Loeb was delighted to have such flattery imposed upon him and reveled in the sycophancy that Nathan smothered him with. Loeb had much regard and interest from girls and fraternity brothers, but his ego was so large, he allowed Leopold to grovel at his feet, a task Leopold happily obliged.
Loeb preferred dancing and nightlife to Leopold’s bird watching and constant studying, but the intellectual bond between the two remained unchanged. Although their interests diverged in many ways, each thought they were Nietszchian Supermen and refused to acknowledge the opinions and thoughts of others.
Leopold and Loeb began a sexual relationship sometime in 1920, although both still dated women to project an image of normalcy. Richard Loeb was reportedly impotent and indifferent to sex, claiming that it was something he could live without. He appeared to be sexually ambiguous, lying about many affairs with women, but sleeping with Leopold. Nathan Leopold was sexually stimulated at his partner’s passivity and played the aggressor in the liaison. This did not deter Loeb from calling the shots in the relationship, leaving Leopold as the willing participant. From the moment they met, Leopold bowed down to Loeb’s intelligence and sexual appeal. Leopold claimed to be obsessed with what he termed Loeb’s “enigmatic charm and sparkling personality”.
However, not everyone shared this observation. Loeb’s sophistication and wit was often seen by peers and friends as unusual, reckless, immature and condescending. In addition to Richard Loeb’s mental instability, he may have been clinically defined as a psychopath and manic depressive. Loeb was manipulative to nearly everyone including Leopold. Sharing common traits of such brutal murderers as Kenneth Bianchi, Ted Bundy, and cult leader Jim Jones, Loeb was also violent, thieving, remorseless, and above all tactless. Loeb, a heavy drinker by age 15, suffered from wild mood swings and reportedly was seriously considering suicide before having met Leopold.
Richard Loeb was labeled “a tricky fellow” by Nathan Leopold, who for the rest of life, could never fully understand Richard’s actions or emotions. Nathan claimed that Richard was often malevolent and rough with him, but was also tender and delicate at other times. He never seemed to be on an even keel, and never let anyone else get as close as Nathan. Even then, Nathan still felt shut out. The more Nathan wanted, the less Richard would give. This was a disastrous relationship, but both boys claimed it was the most important in their lives.
Engrossed with reading detective novels and true crime books, Loeb decided to begin his career of crime in 1921, adopting Leopold as a partner. Nathan Leopold, however, was less interested in crime than he was in being with Richard Loeb, whom he wanted to spend every waking moment with. The crimes involved breaking windows and setting small fires, among other things. The game was to get as close to the crimes as possible without getting caught. Loeb loved this game and relished the attention given by Leopold, who played the part of the willing accomplice without question. Loeb found another way to play his game by using his good looks and charisma to his advantage. Loeb wanted to keep Leopold interested in his crimes by setting a bizarre pact, one in which both young men would benefit.
Instigated by Loeb, once a crime was committed by the pair, a date and time would be sealed for sexual relations. This was to solve the problem of discretion by planning the events in advance. It was also to bond both Leopold and Loeb to the crimes.
The plan was flawed, however, due to Loeb’s constant unwillingness to complete a crime. He dreamed of perfect heists, but lacked the ability to finish what he had started. This angered Leopold, who would lie in wait for his end of the pact to come to fruition, which proved to be impossible and frustrating. Leopold and Loeb often quarreled. Neither would back down from the pact they had made and both were beginning to resent each other. Leopold even once considered murdering Loeb over a breached New Year’s Eve plan. Tensions were running high in the relationship with neither fulfilling their end of the bargain.
In late 1921, the first real complication began. Hamlin Buchman, an employee on the Loeb estate, caught the pair in a compromising situation. Loeb was caught sleeping in Leopold’s bed one night after the two went drinking. This apparently happened quite often because of Loeb’s increasing drinking problem at the age of 16. Gossip of their sexualities and unnatural closeness started to engulf Leopold and Loeb’s college dorm at the University of Michigan. When Loeb’s pledged fraternity Zeta Beta Tau heard the rumors, he was warned to stay away from Leopold. The two never discussed ending their friendship or stopping their sexual pact over this recent homosexual discovery by others. Perhaps it was the risk that kept them together. Perhaps neither could imagine losing the other over something they were unwilling to deny. To keep their sexual arrangement intact, the two agreed to prevent the humiliating gossip by inviting a watchful chaperone to all subsequent public functions.
Enraged and shamed, Loeb then proposed a new crime to which Leopold, the usual accomplice and follower, would readily agree to. The murder of gossiper Hamlin Buchman was to take place on a boat in Lake Michigan. Leopold and Loeb planned to capsize the boat, leaving Buchman to drown in the water. To their disappointment, Buchman was able to swim to shore unharmed. This uncommitted crime would fuel a rage between Leopold and Loeb. Buchman’s survival infuriated Loeb in that he had not taken a human life. Leopold shared this disappointment with his side of the bargain still unfulfilled.
By November 1923, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were getting restless. A real thrill was needed to sate Loeb, who was now dealing in petty theft and vandalism. Leopold, drawn all the more closer to Loeb, would help design a new crime that would finally unite the two in blood. A real murder to commit in which they would never be apprehended would be arranged. Ransom money would be involved, but the real reason was set forth by Loeb. He wanted to commit the perfect crime, something fulfilling and exhilarating. Something that would keep Leopold bound to him forever.
The true motive is speculative. However, it has been proposed that Loeb’s real intension was to pay off a mountain of gambling debts. He also wanted a credible way to blackmail Leopold of their crimes if needed. Leopold’s insistence from the beginning was that he wanted to please Loeb and would do anything he asked, even commit murder. Both Leopold and Loeb seemed to believe that this act would bind them together for the rest of their lives. Killing had become a romanticized topic and it had completely consumed them.
Six months of meticulous planning for the murder was in order. This was to be the perfect crime, one in which it would be impossible for anyone to catch them; a crime for the Nietszchian Superman. The initial plan had been that Leopold and Loeb would each hold the end of a rope around the neck of the victim and pull, so that each would have to share in the guilt and the blame. Loeb knew he could commit the murder. Leopold knew he could commit the murder for Loeb.
Leopold and Loeb were able to steal a typewriter from Leopold’s own fraternity for the ransom note and a chisel was bought for the purpose of bludgeoning the victim. By May 1924, the plan was set in motion. Leopold and Loeb had no particular victim in mind for the murder. The only requirement was that it had to be a young boy willing to come close to Leopold’s automobile.
The green Willys-Knight automobile was rented under the false name Morton D. Ballard by Leopold while Loeb set up fake hotel addresses under the same name. The hotel was set up for Leopold and Loeb to receive mail should a nosy investigator come looking for the fictionalized Morton D. Ballard. All that was needed in the very end was a victim. This would turn out to be 14 year old Bobby Franks, who knew Richard Loeb through mutual acquaintances. He was walking home alone from school around five o’clock May 21, 1924, when a friendly voice called him over to a car. That voice would belong to Richard Loeb. Once in the car, the trio drove south on Ellis Avenue while a hand was cupped over Bobby Franks mouth to stifle any outcry. Bobby was then beaten over the head with the blunt end of a chisel. When the boy continued to struggle, panic ensued and a cloth was stuffed into the boy’s mouth. Bobby Franks died of suffocation soon after.
It has been disputed who was actually driving the car and who committed the murder in the backseat. Both Leopold and Loeb accused each other of the heinous crime. Most evidence points to Loeb as the killer of Bobby Franks. His confession was thought to be motivated by his wish to avoid hurting his mother and embarrassing his family. It has also been noted in Loeb’s own words that he had to calm down a shaking and frantic Leopold who could only repeat over and over, “This is terrible. This is terrible. This is terrible.”
Waiting until the cover of night, Leopold and Loeb drove the rented car from Chicago, Illinois to the Indiana state line where they disposed of the body. They stripped the boy nude and poured hydrochloric acid over the face and body to hinder identification. After stuffing Bobby Franks lifeless body into a drainage culvert face first, Leopold gathered the discarded clothing from the ground, unknowingly dropping his glasses into the marsh near the body.
Arriving back in Chicago, Leopold phoned Mrs. Franks to let her know that Bobby had been kidnapped, but was unharmed. He informed her further instructions would follow and hung up. Leopold and Loeb disposed of the bloody chisel and cleaned the rented car. The typewriter used for the ransom note was thrown into a river and Bobby Franks clothes were later incinerated in Loeb’s basement. They sent the ransom note special delivery and then retired for the night. The note was simply addressed to Dear sir, and signed by another alias, George Johnson.
The ransom letter had been carefully written, but Mr. Franks failed to follow the instructions and the plan was deserted as soon as the newspaper reported a body found the very next day. Also printed in the paper was an article featuring information on Leopold’s forgotten glasses. Unremarkable in most ways, the glasses were a common prescription and frame except for a rare tiny hinge mechanism of which only three people had purchased in Illinois in the past year. Leopold was one of the three.
After being contacted by investigators, Leopold and Loeb both claimed to be entertaining two unidentified women the night of Bobby Franks disappearance. Leopold and Loeb had carefully put together what they thought was an airtight alibi. Each question was answered the same during both separate interrogations. Leopold’s glasses were the one thing they could not answer for. Leopold claimed to be bird watching in the area several days before the murder, which happened to be true. But when the investigators tried to get Leopold to physically show them how he could have dropped them, Leopold was left speechless. When the unearthed typewriter was found to belong to Leopold who wrote his school papers with it, Loeb then confessed followed by Leopold. Both corroborated each other’s stories, except for the detail of who killed Bobby Franks. Each implicated the other.
Leopold pleaded with Loeb to admit to the killing, but Loeb would only concede to having been driving the car at the time of the murder. The story was unraveling, and Leopold now felt the same loneliness he’d felt before having met Loeb. His partner in crime and in life was deserting him.
Regardless of whom the actual perpetrator was, Leopold and Loeb were callously cold when it came to admitting to involvement in the murder. Both calmly confessed to planning the crime, yet neither would take the blame for young Bobby Franks death. Each admitted that the murder was done purely for the thrill. Leopold justified the killing as a simple experiment, while Loeb stated, “This thing will be the making of me. I'll spend a few years in jail and I'll be released. I'll come out to a new life”.
The court hearing lasted just over one month with the famous Clarence Darrow defending Leopold and Loeb. The pair felt that a lengthy court trial would only further embarrass their families so they chose to plead not guilty, hoping to be hanged. Both boys made another pact with each other that they would die together after the trial for their crime. Clarence Darrow was not only openly against the death penalty but also knew that a guilty plea would help Leopold and Loeb avoid a jury trial. Media sensationalism had enraged the public and a jury trial would surely have been devastating to their case. Leopold and Loeb relented and decided to plead guilty under the advice of their attorney.
With over a hundred witnesses testifying, including psychiatrists, friends, and family, Leopold and Loeb were branded as egotistical and nihilistic adolescents. The two sat side by side, inappropriately laughing and exchanging hushed comments throughout the hearing. Leopold was reported to have been completely fascinated with the trial, leaning forward, nodding, and having much to say to his attorney during rests. Loeb, on the other hand, was uninterested and appeared bored for most of the trial, even yawning and smiling at the prosecution.
A passionate and tearful twelve hour long speech was given by Darrow in which he pleaded for his clients lives by saying, “I am pleading for the future; I am pleading for a time when hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men. When we can learn by reason and judgment and understanding and faith that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of man.”
Darrow argued that physical environment attributed directly towards the murderers actions. He concluded that it was rational for Leopold and Loeb to follow a Nietzschian philosophy taught by their university. Darrow further went on to say about the death penalty that an eye for an eye execution was inhuman and barbaric. With psychiatric testimony introduced in the hearing, the defense argued that mental disease should be considered in the sentencing even without an insanity plea. It was suggested that Leopold and Loeb suffered from impaired judgment, claiming both young men could not distinguish right from wrong.
In September 1924, Leopold and Loeb were sentenced to life in prison with ninety-nine years for kidnapping. The age of the boys was taken into account (Leopold, 19, and Loeb, 18) citing that they were too immature to understand the true magnitude of their actions. The judge, John R. Caverly, believed that life in prison was a worse punishment than the death penalty. Both Leopold and Loeb agreed with him.
Cold blooded killers was the name given to them in society, but in prison, Leopold and Loeb were model prisoners who taught classes to their fellow inmates and participated in many other prison activities. A library was expanded and school curriculum changed in the time Leopold and Loeb spent at Joliet Prison. Some years after his imprisonment, Leopold was to be transferred to another prison in Illinois. So determined were they to remain in prison together, that Leopold planned an elaborate ruse for Loeb to mercilessly break his leg with a wooden stool in the cafeteria. The reason for this was so that Leopold could plead with the warden in the infirmary to reconsider transferring him. The transfer never was carried out.
Richard Loeb was known to receive a generous monthly allowance from his family, which he gave to the other inmates, including another prisoner, James Day, as a bribe not to harm him. When the warden cut Loeb's allowance, Day was angered by this and threatened Loeb. After being followed in the shower, James Day gave Richard Loeb fifty-eight straight razor slashes to his body claiming that Loeb had tried to force sexual relations with him. Loeb was severely wounded with self defense marks on his arms and hands, and his throat was cut from behind, suggesting Day was the initial attacker. Day had no cuts or scratches on his body. He was also known to sexually attack other prisoners that crossed him in any way. Leopold was rushed to Loeb’s side while he was being treated for his razor wounds. Tenderly leaning over, Loeb's last words to Leopold were, "I think I'm going to make it..." Leopold's lover, best friend, and accomplice, Loeb, finally succumbed to his blood loss, shortly thereafter.
Leopold was allowed to stay after the time of death was called. He alone washed Loeb’s blood caked body and mourned the loss of his friend in the infirmary for over an hour. Without the companionship Richard Loeb had offered, Nathan Leopold was once again alone in the world and nothing could console him. Being alone was Nathan’s biggest fear, and losing Richard was the most painful feeling he had ever experienced.
Day was found not guilty of the murder of Loeb. It is suggested that Day was acquitted because of Loeb's former crime to Bobby Franks. A sadistic reporter was famous for his quote in the Chicago Times by saying that Loeb deserved what he got.
Destroyed by Richard Loeb’s death, Nathan was deeply depressed and bitter at being left all alone again in his life. Leopold was so distraught without Loeb that he was reported to have screamed for hours in his cell until he was taken to a psychiatric hospital for an undisclosed time period. He spent several years being specially escorted by guards and was not given a cell mate under the circumstance that Nathan, too, may be victim to a shower slashing. Nathan then experienced remorse for his crimes, and began to dream of life outside of prison.
Paroled from prison in 1956, Leopold married and spent the rest of his life in Puerto Rico as an x-ray technician and avid bird watcher. He died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-six. Before his death, Leopold told a friend that he regretted deeply what had occurred but never admitted to killing Bobby Franks. Though remorseless as a teenager, Leopold felt enormous guilt in the past quarter century, citing that “remorse has been my constant companion. It is never out of my mind.” Leopold wrote several books before his death, one of which was an autobiography. Abandoning atheism, he rejoined the Jewish church and believed that helping others was a way to help himself cope with his overwhelming guilt. Despite his feelings of regret, Nathan Leopold was quoted to still be madly in love with Richard Loeb and kept a framed photograph of him on his bedroom mantle until his death in 1971.
For more information, visit me. Also visit the following link to see crime photos and pictures of Leopold and Loeb: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=20439&id=100000130682826&saved#!/album.php?aid=20439&id=100000130682826
Friday, April 30, 2010
“Just you wait, it won’t be long. The man in black will soon be here. With cleaver’s blade so true. He’ll make mincemeat out of you! YOU’RE OUT!” A small girl points to one of her friends standing in a circle around her. This is the initial scene captured in the German Fritz Lang film, “M”. The girl will later find herself as prey for a local sadist. Peter Lorre, in his first leading role, plays a man named Hans Beckert. He is a child murderer who claims to be afflicted with terrible blackouts that hinder him from remembering his crimes.
We don’t know much about Hans Beckert in the film. We assume that he is wealthy and that he may be well educated. He seems to be lonely and disassociated with the rest of society due to mental illness. We are not told if he is originally from Berlin, if he had any childhood trauma, if he mutilated small animals (like many serial killers), or if he had any possible early head injuries suggesting mental abnormalities. What we do know is that Beckert is a murderer and pedophile of small children.
Beckert appears to be a man in his late twenties to early thirties with juvenile messy dark hair and enormous sorrowful eyes set far apart near his frowning brows. His considerably round face and thick bags under his eyes contribute to his oddly fascinating face. With a pudgy frame and dapper clothing, he is presented as a normal and innocent Berlin citizen, with no hint of delusion or dementia. Beckert is never seen with another person in the film, always alone and roaming the streets aimlessly. Children seem to be his only friends, and those, he annihilates after treating them to candy and a walk in the park.
Today, psychologists would have much to say about Beckert’s frightening behavior, but psychological profiling did not exist until the 1940’s. Hans Beckert easily slips through the cracks being that he does not fit the current profile of a serial killer or pedophile. He is small at 5’5”, looking harmless and having a childlike chubby face. He appears to be well off, able to explore the streets in the daytime, living in a small but nice apartment, having a maid service, living in a posh neighborhood, and wearing lavish clothing. Seeming to escape from the normal profiling, Beckert could have continued his spree of murders, except for one detail: Beckert was a former mental patient. Though mentally unstable in some way, he is aware of right and wrong, suggesting he is not a psychopath.
Hans Beckert suffers from maniacal blackouts, otherwise known as acute lethargy, while he is hurting his victims. We know that he claims he is present just before the crime takes place, but afterwards, he is unaware of what he has done until he reads a poster or newspaper. He is shocked and appalled at himself, regretful and frightened. Medical journals explain that these sorts of blackouts can be attributed to psychotic or emotional episodes, which could be the reason Beckert was a mental patient at one time. Possible electric shock treatment could have caused his blackouts, or a childhood head injury or trauma. Sufferers of brain tumors and psychological stress often experience strange personality changes which could contribute to Beckert’s loss of memory during his crimes.
Beckert could have also been molested as a child. Often, the sufferers of sexual assault go on to commit the same crime they were once victim to. People with multiple personality disorder have at least three alternate identities; it is possible that Beckert may have been struggling with such a derangement. Beckert hears voices, which could be a sign he is afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia. He is hunted by his own out of control psyche which conveys that he feels another part of himself is responsible for the murders. Serial killer David Berkowitz not only felt he was Beelzebub, he also believed a black Labrador was demanding him to kill. Psychologists diagnosed Berkowitz with extreme schizophrenia.
Since mental illness was still somewhat of a mystery in the 1930’s, the film itself may be inaccurate in describing an unbalanced and disturbed personality. Inconsistent research done for the film may have also contributed to this fact. It is always possible Beckert is just a pathological liar. Known criminals with serious psychological problems are often fantastic actors, such as Kenneth Bianchi who fooled many psychologists with his alternate personality “Steve Walker”. This fictional character, he claimed, committed the Hillside Strangler crimes in the late 1970’s.
On the other hand, Jeffrey Dahmer, though thought to be one of the worst serial killers of all time, readily admitted to his crimes. Dahmer was remorseful and sickened by his crimes, much like Beckert. Often going into a trancelike state, Dahmer’s conscious mind was absent during the time of his killings. He also suffered from severe alcoholism, which also causes blackouts. Beckert, though, seems to use alcohol to calm his sexual and violent urges.
The term “serial killer” historically did not exist during the 1930’s. The technical definition of a serial killer is one who commits at least three murders spread apart by various lengths of time. Albert De Salvo, also known as the Boston Strangler, was the very first person to be named a “serial killer” by police in around 1963.
Fritz Haarmann and Peter Kurten were prolific killers in Germany in the early 1900’s. The two separate murderers were indiscriminate about who they chose to abduct, molest, and later kill. Not only did Fritz Haarmann, of Hanover, torture his prey, he also reportedly let them bleed to death after a large bite to the neck. Haarmann pleaded for his own death and was beheaded the day after his court trial. Peter Kurten, of Dusseldorf, was an arsonist and sexual deviant who used various methods of killing, but preferred stabbing his victims remorselessly. His murderous reign of terror lasted from around 1913 to 1931. Kurten was guillotined in 1932, much to the relief of the residents of Dusseldorf. Both killers were the inspiration for the film “M” released in 1931. The outrage felt during this time period fueled this film to later be used as Nazi propaganda; the soldier’s being told that the main character, Peter Lorre, was the face of a “typical Jew”.
“M” was Lang’s first “talkie” film although he directed a dozen silent films before. This was also the first film to identify a character by the sound of a song or coincidently, a whistle. Before the killer is seen in the film, he is already synonymous with “Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg. Peter Lorre, the actor, did not know how to whistle, so all of the scenes in which he is seen whistling are done by the director, Fritz Lang.
In the film, Elsie Beckman, played by Inge Landgut, is nearly killed by a bus after leaving school, before a policeman takes her small hand and leads her across the street. The near fatal bus accident foreshadows Elsie’s forthcoming death by the hands of a child murderer. Later without the policeman by her side, Elsie is seen bouncing a ball down the street and stops in front of a light post.
The light post reads, “Murderer! $10,000, marks reward.” The poster is soon obscured by the shadow of Hans Beckert who politely remarks on what a pretty ball Elsie has. Elsie follows the man, who we see only from behind, whistling “Hall Of The Mountain King”. Beckert buys little Elsie a balloon from a blind vagrant, played by Georg John, and continues down the street. This is the last time Elsie Beckmann is seen alive.
Havoc is an understated term to portray the frenzy that has gone on for eight months in Berlin. Four and a half million residents are horrified and fifteen hundred leads are tracked in the search for the child killer. Elsie Beckmann is the eighth and final victim to be abducted and sexually violated before being murdered and hidden in underbrush. Gangs of police swarm the streets in an effort to find any person talking to small children or leading them to a secluded area. Citizens accuse each other of the heinous crimes by mobbing innocent people they think look suspicious.
The only clues left by the murderer are crushed Ariston brand cigarette butts and candy wrappers which cannot be traced to any pastry shop in the city. Fingerprints are analyzed. Homeless shelters and criminal districts are searched. Railway stations and bars are all investigated for any sign of the killer. Every criminal, vagrant, and strange looking individual is demanded to possess identification at all times, which will be examined closely by police investigators. Even police search dogs are sent out to the crime sites for any odor which might implicate the killer to a known criminal.
“Because the police did not publish my first letter, I am now writing directly to the press. Proceed with your investigations. All will soon be confirmed. BUT I AM NOT DONE YET!!!” Hans Beckert is soon found scribbling a letter to a newspaper. On an old wooden window ledge, Beckert is able to see a sunny and beautiful afternoon as he writes his macabre threat. Whistling the same haunting tune, he writes in a childlike cursive scrawl in distinctive red pencil. The grainy surface of the table leaves large indents on the paper as Beckert writes. Killers such as Albert Fish, Dennis Rader, and The Zodiac Killer all craved publicity, writing long and ranting letters to the press in an effort to be noticed. This is a tactic used for the purpose of possibly wanting to be caught, or to frighten the public and exasperate the police.
Beckert’s cryptic letter is released to the newspapers and soon analyzed by a forensic scientist who remarks that some of the words in the note attribute directly to the sexuality of the sex offender. It is the one and only time in the film that the killer is openly suspected to be a pedophile. This was presumably because of the time period, in which Lang was careful not to enrage the public more than it already was. After hearing the terrible tales of Peter Kurten and Fritz Haarmann, within five hours east of Berlin, the citizens were already appalled by the recent violence and chaos. The forensic scientist goes on to say that the uneven style of the note suggests “indolence or madness.”
As the letter is dissected, the scene disintegrates to a rather unusual view, where we see Hans Beckert’s face for the first time. Preening at his reflection in a mirror, he mischievously pulls down the corners of his mouth in a mock frown to show what he believes to be a typical villain. He seems to be laughing at his crimes in this peculiarly strange short scene. Temporarily forgetting his mental maladies, it is easy to see the truly evil capacity within him. He smiles proudly at himself and an eerie silence fills the room before the scene is cut abruptly.
Not only were police searching for Beckert, but criminals were avidly searching for him as well. Because of nightly raids in their districts, the gangsters are unable to commit their own crimes, leaving them destitute. They are also so sickened and angry that such a killer could be roaming their streets and scouring for innocent children. The heart of a criminal is not so malevolent that they are unable to understand the revolting pedophilia and death enacted by Beckert. Having the same goal in mind to catch the murderer, the police and the gangsters have a meeting at the same time of the night in different locations. These scenes are spliced together excellently by director Fritz Lang, who separated the conversations only minutes within each other.
To expedite Beckert’s capture, the gangsters employ street beggars as “look-outs” for the purpose of finding any person luring young children away from schools and toy stores. The reward to these beggars is $15,000 marks and each readily agrees to the job. Each beggar is given a radius in which to keep watch, and all comply with the utmost vigilance. The only soul that knows who the killer is, is the blind beggar who sold the balloon to Beckert the day of Elsie Beckmann’s murder. He can only identify Beckert by his unique whistling, and he is deeply affected by the plaguing tune, covering his ears any time a similar sound is made. The blind man does not hesitate to join in with his comrades to catch the killer.
The police compile a list of mental patients released from asylums in the past five years. These patients have been deemed harmless to society and now live in assisted living homes or their own apartments. Police are told to go door to door to find each one to interrogate. An investigator is sent out to find a Mr. Hans Beckert at a seemingly nice apartment. As he walks into the door of the building, he almost bumps into Beckert who is leaving his home on the prowl for a new victim. The two pass each other unknowingly.
Beckert is seen buying peaches from a street merchant, as if no murders had taken place. He appears indifferent and bored, alone and carelessly throwing peach pits on the ground on the streets. Later, he stops to look at an item in a shop window. There, he sees a small girl behind him in the reflection of the glass. She is eyeing a small toy near him, and he begins to sweat and wipe his salivating mouth. His eyes grow large and he begins scratching the top of his left hand, a nervous tic he appears to have developed as a reaction to anxiety. As the girl leaves to meet her mother at a street corner, Beckert quickly retreats to a nearby café where he orders cognac, one after the other. The visible wash of relief clears the angst from his troubled face and he begins to calm himself by whistling “Hall Of The Mountain King.” His compulsion, however, overcomes him and he quickly begins wandering the streets searching for another child to abduct.
Beckert soon finds his next victim; it is the girl singing the children’s song at the beginning of the film. Passing the blind vagrant selling balloons, Beckert leads the child to a candy store. The vagrant immediately begins to recall the tune whistled by the man who bought Elsie Beckmann’s balloon. Suddenly flustered and frightened, he calls over another drifter to follow the whistler at once.
The drifter trails Beckert and the girl to a candy shop called Obst u.Sudfruchte where he hides behind a trashcan. Perhaps Beckert cared so little for his small victims, that he bought them cheap candy before their deaths. Emerging from the shop, Beckert looks right and left before taking out a switchblade and begins to slice an orange for the little girl. Realizing he must catch the man as quickly as possible, the drifter draws a large “M”, for murderer, on his palm with white chalk. As the drifter passes, he slaps Beckert on the back, leaving a large “M” imprint on the left side of his overcoat. Beckert is unaware of the mark the vagrant has left. Staring as the drifter disappears into the night, the little girl retrieves the switchblade from the ground and hands it to Beckert. This could have been the very tool to fight him off, ironically, as she smiles with the knife gleaming in the light post. Although somewhat bewildered, Beckert decides to continue on his conquest with the girl, his arm protectively around her the whole time.
The gangsters are notified that the killer had been found by the beggars. They are told to follow him in turns to avoid being noticed. When Beckert takes the child to a local store toy store, it is there that the girl first sees the “M” written on his left shoulder. Pointing it out to him, Beckert realizes the terrible fact that he has been found when he looks at himself in the store window reflection. The girl tries to wipe off the chalk, but is unable to erase it. Beckert, alarmed and frenzied, sees that he is being followed and abandons the young girl, running down empty streets and finding himself trapped by beggars stepping out of the shadows. The beggars whistle to each other to advise where he is headed, but Beckert is able to hide in an office building attic, where he is safe. That is, until the door is locked from the outside by a watch guard who is unaware of his presence.
Back in Beckert’s deserted apartment, the investigator falsely tells the maid that he is there to visit with Beckert on behalf of the Tax Department. The maid quickly lets him into Beckert’s room, where the investigator sits down and pretends to read a newspaper. When the maid leaves, the investigator begins his search of the room, looking for an old wooden table or some kind of evidence left in the trash can. The room is empty of clues, except for an empty pack of Ariston brand cigarettes and a bag of candy. Believing something is amiss, the investigator returns to the police commissioner, Karl Lohmann, played by Otto Wernike, who remembers the distinctive cigarettes left at the scenes of the crimes. The investigator thinks about the cigarettes for a moment before noticing the windowsill in the sergeant’s office. “Good God! The window ledge!” The police return to Beckert’s home to find red pencil shavings on the windowsill and the word “press” imprinted on the wooden ledge. Police immediately surround the building and wait for Beckert to arrive home.
As the gangsters determine their plan, Safecracker, the boss, decides to wait three hours for the street to clear of people and cars. The building is soon locked by the guards and each room is routinely checked, while the attic is ignored. When the gangsters arrive, Safecracker is dressed as a policeman and is able to trick a guard into opening it. It is then that dozens upon dozens of the gangsters sneak in, all with various implements to open doors and drill through floors. The on duty watchmen are all knocked out and put in closets to hinder them from identifying the criminals or calling the police. Each locked door is wired, so the alarm will go off if anything other than a key is used to open the door. The gangsters tear the knobs clear off the door to reach each room. This shows the fierce determination they feel about finding the child murderer. The capture of Beckert is now a matter of principle, the reward long forgotten.
In the utility closet, where Beckert is hiding, he is struggling to open the door with the blade of his knife, which breaks and falls to the floor. Sweating and panting, he tries in vain to get the door open, now with the head of a nail, which he tries to use as a key for the locked door. While hitting the nail with the tail end of his knife, making a terrible racket, one of the gangsters hears him through the door and alerts the rest of the gang to check the attic.
At this point, a watchman wakes up and is able to send an alarm to the police with an electronic code that lets the police know where the trouble in the building is taking place.
Still struggling with the make-shift key, Beckert sees the door handle turn and he slowly backs up against the wall, realizing that he has indeed been followed by someone. Turning out the light and hiding under left over office furniture, Beckert is able to escape from the gangsters…. For five minutes. He is soon caught by a blinding light used by the angry gangsters. Trapped in a large burlap bag, Beckert is taken kicking and screaming to an abandoned factory.
The police, still unaware that the murderer has been found, question the injured watch guard who swears that he overheard the gangsters say that “We found the guy! We found him!” This leads the police to believe that the building was not purposefully vandalized, but merely searched for the infamous killer.
Franz, a gangster who was stuck in the boiler room when everyone else fled, is apprehended by police and will not talk. Until wrongly threatened by police that the watchman was murdered, Franz is told he could beat the rap if he told the police where the gangsters took the murderer. Franz admits everything, including the location in which Beckert was taken; the Kunz & Levy distillery. The police arm themselves and prepare to arrest Beckert at the dilapidated factory Franz disclosed.
The watchman, alive and well, is seen enjoying a large dinner at a restaurant.
At the Kuntz & Levy distillery, Beckert is pushed down a flight of stairs to face his peers, one hundred odd criminals, men and women. All standing before him, some of whom are the parents of the victims, Beckert stands frozen. Suddenly understanding his fate, he begins screaming to be let go over and over, to no avail. Pleading with Safecracker, Beckert vehemently denies any involvement in the murders. He realizes he is caught when a hand grabs his “M” marked shoulder. Turning around, he sees the blind vagrant who ironically is the one to catch Beckert only because of his whistling. The blind man tells him, “This is no mistake. No. No mistake. You recognize this? You bought a balloon just like this for little Elsie Beckmann.” The vagrant holds up a brightly colored balloon and then dramatically lets it go. Beckert begins chanting her name, dreamlike, and stumbles backwards. We find it is clear that he is the murderer when Safecracker holds up photos of the little girls Beckert has violated and killed. Beginning to shake and cry, Beckert recoils as each photo is shown.
Beckert is then treated to an informal trial led by Safecracker. Because of their experience and prison sentences, the criminals believe they have every right to exterminate Beckert under their own court of law. The mobs of people begin to shout that Beckert deserves the worst kind of death, that he should be slaughtered for his crimes. The obscenities continue as Beckert throws himself against a pile of wood while trying to escape. At this time, Peter Lorre begins speaking; his character only given less than a dozen lines in the first one hour and thirty-six minutes of the film. He is told that he is given a defense attorney to which he replies, “Defense counsel? Defense counsel? I need no defense counsel! Who’s gonna prosecute me? You perhaps?”
It is presumed that the defense counsel, played by Rudolf Blumner, is in fact a criminal or vagrant himself, wearing informal attire and having unkempt hair and using lackadaisical dialect. When approached by Beckert, the defense merely says, “Hey you. If I were you, I wouldn’t make big speeches. Your heads at stake here, in case you hadn’t noticed….. I have the dubious pleasure of serving as your defense. Though I’m afraid it won’t do you much good.” This shows us that even the defense is not on Beckert’s side, a fact that terrifies him. Death by the mob, considered by any person, is a frightening and horrible experience. Beckert cries out over and over that he demands to be handed over to the police. Beckert would rather be punished by the real court of law in a more seemingly humane and altruistic way.
In Peter Lorre’s hysterical and sobbing speech he conveys his feelings about his crimes with such heart and bizarre craze; one cannot help but sympathize and yet be so sickened with such a character. With enormous bulging eyes, disheveled hair and begging on his knees, Lorre gives a frantic and incredible speech in which to explain his crimes. A spectacular range of emotions burst forth from Lorre showing his tremendous acting ability. From guilt, terror, excitement, frustration, sorrow, disappointment, madness, and delight, Lorre fantastically switches tones within seconds.
"But I can't help it. I can’t… I really can’t…. help it! What would you know? What are you talking about? Who are you anyway? Who are you? All of you. Criminals. Probably proud of it, too- proud you can crack a safe or sneak into houses or cheat at cards. All of which it seems to me you could just as easily give up if you learned something useful, or if you had jobs or if you weren’t such lazy pigs. But me? Can I do anything about it? Don’t I have this cursed thing inside me? This fire, this voice, this agony? I have to roam the streets endlessly, always sensing that someone’s following me. It’s me! I’m shadowing myself! Silently…. But I still hear it! Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m tracking myself down. I want to run- run away from myself! But I can’t! I can’t escape from myself! I must take the path that it’s driving me down and run and run down endless streets! I want off! I want off! And with me run the ghosts of the mothers and children. They never go away. They’re always there! Always! Always! Always! Except… when I’m doing it… when I….,” Beckert closes his eyes in ecstasy. A terrifying smile begins to curl his lips. A moment passes before his shoulders slump and he realizes the horrific deeds he has done. Disappointment engulfs his entire being before going on, “Then I don’t remember a thing. Then I’m standing before a poster, reading what I’ve done. I read and read… I did that? I don’t remember a thing! But who will believe me? Who knows what it’s like inside me? How it screams and cries out inside me when I have to do it! Don’t want to! Must! Don’t want to! Must! And then the voice cries out, and I can’t listen anymore! Help! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!”
Such a speech implores the audience to try and understand what mental illness may do to a person. Beckert, although flustered and stuttering, appears to be well spoken, implying that he is in fact a somewhat intelligent man. Psychosis in individuals with high IQ’s has been observed under the assumption that they believe they can indeed commit crimes without being apprehended. Documented child killers Leopold and Loeb were a standard example of this affliction with IQ’s as high as 210. Ted Bundy, with the IQ of 124, was able to escape from courthouses twice for brief amounts of time.
When Safecracker decides the fate of Beckert, that he must be extinguished because of his horrible acts, the defense counsel suddenly switches sides. After hearing the tearful words of Beckert, the defense rises gallantly from his chair and delivers his own speech that was so much against the death penalty; the mob begins laughing in the middle of his closing statement.
Covering his face and ears with his hands, Beckert kneels on the cement floor praying for clemency. His lawyer, seeing his client cowering against a wooden pole, addresses the court with fervent tenacity, “…… He (Safecracker) is mistaken because the very nature of the compulsion warrants acquittal! It is precisely the nature of compulsion that relieves him of responsibility for his actions! And a man cannot be punished for that for which he is not responsible! I’m saying that this man is sick, and you turn a sick man over to a doctor, not an executioner….. What does the state build asylums for? No one has the right to kill a man who cannot be held responsible for his crimes! Not even the state and least of all you! The state must ensure that this man is rendered harmless so that he ceases to be a danger to society! …. I will not let you shout me down! I will not allow a murder to be committed in my presence. I demand that this human being…. That this human being be afforded the same protection under the law rendered the common criminal! I demand that he be handed over to the police!”
When the lawyer’s speech still does not sate the mob, they begin to rush towards Beckert, ready to impose their own form of the death penalty on him. Suddenly, all of their hands rise up in the air. Beckert looks up from his hands in confusion to find a police officer holding his shoulder and reading him his rights.
The last scene of the film features the mother of Elsie Beckmann in black, tearfully saying, “One has to keep closer watch over the children! All of you!”
We don’t know what happened to Hans Beckert, whether he received the death penalty, was sentenced to prison, or if he was sent to another mental hospital.
The abduction and death of a child is arguably the worst way in which a parent can experience loss. A typical life cycle is that in which a parent will parish first, which is terrible in itself for a child. But when a child is taken early in life, it is the loss of a defenseless and innocent person who never knew a full existence rich with joys and sorrows. The grieving process for a parent is never ending. A parent mourns the loss of a child for the rest of their life no matter the circumstance. The memory of the child often haunts the parent, leaving them in a state of possibly forever blaming themselves for what they could have done to prevent the death from occurring.
What truly matters is the fact that children are abducted everyday and as Mrs. Beckmann said, we must watch them. We cannot trust others to walk them home from school, take them to a candy store, or ask them to keep terrible secrets. Children are innocent and know no better. Any adult could be just as kind and loving as their parents. But underneath could be a pathological liar, a deranged mental patient, or a maniacal killer.
“M” was written by Fritz Lang and his wife Thea Von Harbou. The film premiered May 11th, 1931 in Sweden.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Herman Mudgett, preferring to be called H.H. Holmes, was responsible for the deaths of 150-200 people between the late 1880's to the mid 1890's. A respectable and attractive young man, Holmes first worked as a prescription clerk at a drug store in Chicago. Scamming and falsely marketing various "cure all" medicines, Holmes was able to purchase a large plot of land in which would become known as the Holmes Castle. With 100 rooms in the huge mansion, Holmes constructed "false partitions, stairways leading nowhere, long dark corridors, trap doors, and secret passageways." In most rooms, there were gas pipes installed with fake valves that would asphyxiate his victims without their knowledge. Also found in the horrid castle was acid to burn the flesh of his victims, bloody nooses, and a medieval torture rack used to stretch bodies to twice their normal size. According to the Visual Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, "The second floor contained 35 rooms. Half a dozen were fitted up as ordinary sleeping chambers and there were indications that they had been occupied by various women who worked for the monster, or to whom he had made love while awaiting an opportunity to kill them." There was also an electronic bell that would ring every time a door would open to let Holmes know of any potential escape. Holmes preferred modus operandi was to gas his victims to death in a locked room and then add fire which would torch the flesh of the victims. What would end Holmes reign of terror was the murder of Benjamin Pitezel, a business partner of Holmes, who he killed and dumped in Philadelphia sometime in September 1894. In 1895, Holmes was found guilty of the slaughter of 27 people and sentenced to death. Holmes was subjected to fifteen minutes of unbearable pain when the gallows failed to execute him immediately. He was thirty-six years old. The Guinness Book Of World Records named him "the most prolific murderer in recent criminal history".
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
"I believe the only way to reform people is to kill them", Carl Panzram once said of his crimes. Completely void of feelings, Panzram killed at least 21 people, though the number is thought to be more. Born in 1891, he was the son of Prussian immigrant parents. From the age of eight, Panzram was already in trouble with authorities for various petty crimes. Sent to juvenile institutions, Panzram spent his childhood orphaned and alone. As and adult, he was frequently incarcerated and was often argumentative and insubordinate to the guards who subjected him to vicious and relentless beatings. As a free man, Panzram committed a myriad of crimes from arson to sodomy. There was nothing he wouldn't do to satisfy his grim pleasures. By 1920, Panzram was thought to have begun his career of murdering by purchasing a yacht in which he acquired ten men to work for him. All of the crew were drugged, raped and killed at the hands of Panzram. The bodies were thrown overboard. Panzram committed his crimes all over the world, including West Africa where he hired another ten men for his crocodile hunt. The purpose of the trip was abandoned when Panzram killed all the men and then participated in necrophilia before throwing them to the crocodiles. Panzram's Modus operandi varied from shooting to strangulation among other heinous acts. When Panzram was finally apprehended, his chilling words echoed throughout the gallows. "I wish the whole world had but a single throat and I had my hands around it.... I am not in the least bit sorry." In 1930, at the age of 39, Panzram was hung at Leavenworth Prison.
For more information, go yachting with a psychopath.
The "Vampire of Hanover", Fritz Haarmann was born in 1879 to an angry and bizarre father who tried to have his son committed to an asylum because he believed Fritz to be mentally deficient. This action was never carried out. As a young man, Haarmann involved himself in petty crimes, often getting arrested because of his sloppy handy work. Changing his aim, Haarmann soon focused on raping and murdering young homeless boys who frequented train stations. Haarmann was brutal with his victims, killing them with a barbaric bite to the neck. Luring them with sweets and cigarettes, Haarmann was able to have his pick with any young boy he chose. Soon, Hans Grans would join Haarmann in his crimes and moved into Haarmann's bloody and disheveled flat. The pair were very open with their killings, often cutting up bodies loudly and walking the streets with buckets of blood. The reason Haarmann was able to get away with this was because his profession was a butcher. When the public began to complain about meat tasting odd, it was rumored that the meat could possibly be human. After Fritz and Hans were listed as suspects in the many murders taking place in Hanover, Haarmann's flat was discovered to be horrifically covered in blood and small boys clothes. When a young mother found a piece of clothing that belonged to her missing son, Haarmann finally confessed to his crimes. In 1924, Haarmann and Grans were charged with the murders of 27 young boys. When asked about one particular missing boy, Haarmann coldly replied, "I should never have looked twice at such an ugly youngster... Such a fellow would have been far beneath my notice." 200 witnesses were called in the trial, damning both Haarmann and Grans. On December 19th, 1924, Haarmann was found guilty. His last words were screamed in the court, "Do you think I enjoy killing people? I was ill for 8 days after the first time. Condemn me to death. I ask only for justice. I am not mad. It is true I often get into a state when I do not know what I am doing, but that is not madness. Make it short, make it soon. Deliver me from this life, which is a torment. I will not petition for mercy, nor will I appeal. I want to pass just one more merry evening in my cell, with coffee, cheese, and cigars, after which I will curse my father and go to my execution as if it were a wedding." The very next day, Fritz Haarmann was beheaded.
For more information, please visit SerialKillerCalender.com
What does a woman look for in a man? The deciding factors in choosing a companion for life might be good looks, charisma, humor, and a certain degree of allure. However, there is a distinct and popular belief that many woman follow while dating: Accepting the shortcomings. Certainly, no man is perfect. Each man has an inevitable trait or characteristic that women have to come to live with or love in their man. Without this acknowledgment, a woman is sure to spend her life endlessly searching for a man that doesn’t exist. Every man carries a bit of disagreement, a character flaw that cannot be ignored, or some kind of personal baggage. This is not the fault of the man, for it is human nature for all people- men or women- to err in their ways.
In the case of Nannie Doss, the perfect man was illustrated in books and magazines featuring apparitions of men that fulfilled all of her desires and needs. These men had no defects, and Nannie was unwilling and unable to recognize any other man who did not measure up to her fantasies. The lengths Nannie went through to find this man were dizzyingly frantic and desperate. In her adult life, she met five men she considered to be lifelong partners, but each one proved to be a nuisance she would not tolerate. Four of these men, all in love with her unmistakable laughter and charm, found themselves victims of torturous poisonings that left them convulsing and crying out in anguish. Nannie watched all of them parish, removed each wedding ring, which she set on the bedside table until a more suitable husband asked for her murderous hand in marriage.
Loulisa Hazle gave birth to her first child, Nancy (nicknamed Nannie) in the crisp and chilly month of November 1905. Loulisa and James Hazle were poor but honest and hardworking citizens of Blue Mountain, Alabama. To follow Nannie were three sisters and one brother, all of whom were made to work on the family’s farm as soon as they could walk. Loulisa, fearful of her domineering and abusive husband, brought up her children exactly as James Hazle ordered. The five children were expected to chop wood, plough fields and complete farm chores by the age of five. Nannie sensed her mother’s apprehension towards her father at a young age and abided by the strict rules and regulations of the Hazle home. The children walked two miles to reach the local school, but were often absent due to their father’s wish that they work on the farm. Nannie’s education ended at the 6th grade, her father deciding that work was to be her main focus. This was also an early attempt to keep Nannie away from unwanted attention from boys.
As Nannie and her sisters reached adolescence, their father became increasingly stern that they stay home while their friends went to parties or get-togethers. James Hazle firmly believed that his daughters were not to engage in any sexual activity unless he had first picked their mate for marriage. Nannie, around 14 or 15, had begun reading her mother’s romance novels and magazines which became her first glimpse into her relentless hunt for the perfect man. She found the men in these books and articles not only incredibly handsome, but compelling and utterly spellbinding. The effect these books had on Nannie was boldly profound. Nannie longed for the Prince Charming she felt she richly deserved. Thus, she began sneaking out of the house to pursue the man that would take her away from the farm and her abhorrent father.
When Nannie reached 16, James Hazle had found a compatible and decent fellow for his eldest daughter. Charley Braggs, an earnest employee of the Linen Thread Company, was a handsome and pleasant man who pledged his love to Nannie and proposed after four months of courtship. At the insistence of her father, Nannie agreed to marry Charley. In 1921, they were married and settled into a home in Blue Mountain with Charley’s mother. Charley was deeply devoted to his mother and this became a problem for Nannie. Finding Charley’s mother a bossy hypochondriac with constant ailments, Nannie was made to stay at home every night and lost complete control of her social life. She realized that she was again being dominated by an adult figure, much like with her father and his many rules and punishments. Nannie decided not to be the obedient party anymore and began going out as often as she could, seeing other men and disappearing for days or weeks at a time. Between 1923 and 1927, Nannie had four daughters with Charley. About this time she took up smoking and drinking, presumably to cope with motherhood and her failing marriage. Both she and Charley were having adulterous affairs, and neither seemed to care.
In 1927, on a morning like any other, Nannie prepared breakfast for her two middle daughters, and by the time lunch was ready, both girls had died of suspected food poisoning. Though he couldn’t prove it, Charley believed something was wrong and immediately took his eldest daughter, Melvina, and fled Blue Mountain. Nannie was left alone with Florine, her infant daughter. Charley’s mother died of natural causes shortly after Charley left. One year later, Charley arrived back at the home with a new girlfriend and asked Nannie for a divorce. She granted the divorce and left the home with Melvina and Florine in 1928.
Nannie began work at a cotton mill in Anniston, just outside of Blue Mountain. She moved back in with her parents, Melvina and Florine in tow. Loulisa enjoyed this time with her grandchildren, often taking care of them while Nannie was working or out on the town. Nannie spent her free time paging through her romance novels or exploring the newspapers for a man. Upon reading the Lonely Hearts columns in the newspapers, Nannie searched for her new mate, which turned out to be Frank Harrelson, a 23-year-old factory worker. Frank sent a dazzling picture of himself and a love poem to her, while Nannie baked a cake and sent a photo of herself to him. By 1929, they were married and Nannie believed she had finally found her soulmate. The honeymoon didn’t last long, for Nannie discovered that her new husband was not only an alcoholic, but had been arrested for assault on several occasions. Nannie continued reading her dime shop romance novels, often nursing a black eye or bruised cheeks courtesy of Frank’s wild mood swings.
To remove themselves from Frank’s debts, enemies, and overall bad name, the family moved to Jacksonville, where they hoped to start a new life. Frank, however, continued drinking and brawling at local bars. Nannie brought up her daughters as best she could and stayed married to Frank for 16 years. She endured his violent temper and his vicious beatings all the while dreaming of her Prince. Nannie was a devoted believer that the infatuations she read about in tacky romance novels would become a reality for her someday. Book by book, each description of the perfect man pulled her closer to obsession. Nannie was in love with words on a page, lost deep in the daydream of a man that was never real. She still communicated with men in the singles ads in the newspapers, filtering out the ones that did not fit her ideal image of a gallant man riding on a white horse.
Melvina, now married, gave birth to her son, Robert Lee Haynes in 1943. Nannie was a doting and loving grandmother to Robert, taking care of him while Melvina was out, holding him tight in her arms and kissing his chubby baby cheeks. At 38, Nannie was enjoying her second shot at motherhood. Pictures of Nannie all depict her as a happy woman; gray hair curled just so, laugh lines around her mouth creased from years smiling. She was the perfect image of a blissful and jubilant grandmother.
In 1945, Melvina went into labor for the second time. This was a difficult pregnancy, and Melvina had complications while giving birth. Nannie was at her side the whole time, fetching water or juice, comforting her daughter with a cold cloth, and attending to her every need. When Melvina finally gave birth, it was to a baby girl. One hour later, Melvina, groggy from the ether, glanced over at her mother holding the newborn. What she saw would later be described as a nightmare or a drug induced dream, for what Melvina witnessed was her mother sticking a hatpin into her baby’s head. Melvina later was told by doctors that her baby had not survived and the cause of death was unknown.
When Melvina came home several days later, she recounted to her husband and mother-in-law the story of what she believed to be a nightmare. For a moment, silence filled the room. Then, Melvina’s husband and mother-in-law admitted that they had both seen Nannie holding a hatpin in her hand earlier on the day of the birth. She was casually twirling it with her fingers, they said. Melvina, unbelieving, dismissed the occurrence as a drug induced dream. Her own mother killing her newborn granddaughter? It just couldn’t be possible! Six months later, while Melvina was away and Nannie was babysitting, little Robert was found dead from asphyxiation. Nannie played the part of the mourning grandmother and took great care in seeming genuinely distressed. She later collected $500 from a life insurance policy she had taken out on 2 year old Robert.
After a drunken night at a local bar in late 1945, Frank returned home demanding sex from his wife who declined. Frank became violent, and Nannie finally submitted. Nannie insisted that Frank raped her that night, which was the last straw for her. The next morning, she found Frank’s corn liquor jar lying in her rose bush. Nannie was very particular about her gardening. Finding evidence of Frank’s drinking infuriated her. Emptying most of its contents, she then poured rat poison into the jar. That evening, Frank died in excruciating and unbearable pain. The symptoms of rat poisoning are extremely unpleasant and include bleeding gums, bloody diarrhea, nosebleeds, fatigue, and shortness of breath. To die in such a way is impossibly tragic. This was the fifth murder Nannie had committed, and it seemed to be getting easier each time. With soldiers coming home from the war, no one was paying any attention to the amount of people who died after coming into contact with Nannie. It suited her fine, for it gave her more time to find another Prince Charming.
The time between 1945 and 1947 is unknown, for Nannie was unaccounted for and may have been travelling or searching for a new husband. In 1947, she ended up in Lexington, North Carolina. She met Arlie Lanning after perusing the local Lonely Hearts column once again. They married within two days of meeting each other. Nannie referred back to her romance novels, and soon found that Arlie was not her perfect match. He was a philanderer of many women and drank excessively. Unsatisfied, Nannie decided not to put up with Arlie’s wickedness. She continued her search for Mr. Right.
While Arlie drank and chased after women, Nannie disappeared from their home for undisclosed periods of time, often without a word. When Nannie was at home, she played an adoring wife, taking charge of household duties, cleaning and baking pies. She also attended church, sometimes with Arlie, who was seen as the town drunk and local scoundrel. Nannie, married for the third time, realized she had picked another dud, but never understood that there is no definition of the “perfect man”. Loving someone for all their faults had never occurred to her, and she believed that there still was a man that would fulfill her wildest dreams. What Nannie did not account for was the fact that she was not perfect either. She had murdered five people already, and was an exceedingly disturbed and thoroughly flawed person herself.
In 1950, Arlie Lanning died of heart failure. The days before his death were spent in great pain. He was sweating, vomiting, and was very dizzy, all symptoms that he may have been suffering from the flu. They are also symptoms of arsenic poisoning. No autopsy was done, for doctors believed Arlie’s drinking had somehow affected his heart to fail. Before his death, Arlie remarked that his ailment was due to the coffee he drank the morning before he got sick. Nannie had prepared the coffee and a bowl of prunes for him that morning. After Arlie’s death, his house was burned to the ground while Nannie was out having her television repaired. The house was to go to Arlie’s sister stated in his will, but with the house gone, Nannie was able to collect the insurance money. Before Nannie left town she visited Arlie’s mother who turned out to be Nannie’s seventh victim. Arlie’s mother died suddenly in her sleep that night. Nannie then returned to Alabama to take care of her bedridden sister, Dovie. Not much is known about the relationship Nannie and Dovie had, but shortly after Nannie arrived, Dovie, too, passed away in her sleep.
In 1952, Nannie met Richard L. Morton through The Diamond Circle Club, another sort of dating agency. At age 47, Nannie had lost a great deal of her good looks and was now searching for older men who could be her Prince Charming. Nannie married Richard, moving into his home in Emporia, Kansas. Richard considered Nannie to be “the sweetest and most wonderful woman I have ever met." Richard appeared to have cherished Nannie after marrying her, buying her expensive gifts and charming her with his handsome and clean cut appeal. But Richard was in debt to everyone, and had other girlfriends hidden in town. Finding her new husband a cheating louse, Nannie began looking in the newspapers again for a new husband. Her plans to kill Richard were paused when her mother came to live with her in early 1953 after the death of her father. Perhaps Nannie carried a grudge against her mother for the years of strict rules and abuse her father inflicted on Nannie as a child, for there is no rhyme or reason she wanted to kill her mother. Maybe Nannie knew she couldn’t kill Richard with her mother in the house, or maybe it was just instinct to kill for Nannie at that point. Soon after Loulisa moved into the Morton household, she died after a bout of chronic stomach pains, another symptom of arsenic poisoning. Three months later, Richard died of similar causes.
Nannie’s fifth and final marriage was to Sam Doss, a state highway inspector. She had met him through the newspaper ads, and visited him in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sam proposed to Nannie in June of 1953. Sam never drank, smoked, or cursed and was an avid churchgoer and lover of nature. Nannie found Sam to be insufferably boring, though he was probably the closest Nannie would find to be her Prince Charming. Sam was never threatening or violent towards Nannie, nor did he have affairs. He did not approve of the cheap romance novels Nannie constantly read, or the television she watched. Sam was very frugal, making sure all the lights were off in an unoccupied room, and he was adamant that doilies were used for every drink or plate laid on a table. Sam also had a habit of setting a time and date for sex, which irritated Nannie. In her romance novels, sex was always spontaneous, passionate, and tender. When Nannie left the house to visit Alabama, Sam was readily sorry for his ways. He arranged all his bank accounts available for Nannie’s spending, even taking out two life insurance policies on himself and Nannie. This brought Nannie home very quickly.
Sam Doss, upon eating dinner with Nannie and having her prune cake, became immediately sick with a severe infection of the digestive tract. He was taken to the hospital for 23 days. When arriving home, Nannie gave him one day to recover before making him dinner and coffee. Sam Doss died that night, convulsing and vomiting while Nannie watched. The doctor Sam had seen in the hospital was suspicious of his death. Sam had been well enough to leave the hospital only the day before and now he was dead. Something didn’t add up. The doctor promptly ordered an autopsy which showed Sam’s stomach full of arsenic. According to the coroner’s report, he was given “enough arsenic to kill a team of horses.”
Arsenic poisoning might be regarded as one of the most agonizing ways to die. It may take hours, days or even weeks, depending on the dosages given for the victim to succumb to death. The lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver are chiefly affected by arsenic poisoning. One first feels a sudden onset of a tremendous headache, much like a migraine. This is followed rapidly by changes of color in the fingernails. In acute cases, stomach pain or cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody urine, and severe convulsions occur. To die of arsenic poisoning is fantastically horrible, but to watch and do nothing is pure evil. Nannie Doss, appearing to be completely devoid of emotions was ruthless in her killings. Instead of simply divorcing her husbands, she apparently felt that they needed to be exterminated, much like an annoying bug.
After Sam Doss’ death, Nannie was arrested and questioned by police about the arsenic found in Sam’s body. Nannie was reported to have giggling fits while being interrogated. Nannie first confessed to killing Sam because he was, by her accounts, too frugal. Nannie then confessed to killing Frank, Arlie, and Richard, claiming they were all dullards who, she said, “If their ghosts are in this room they're either drunk or sleeping." She claimed that all she had wanted was to be loved, to find true romance like in the books she pored over. It was reported that while confessing, Nannie was reading a romance magazine that had to be taken away from her to get her to pay attention to the seriousness of her crimes.
The bodies of all the victims poisoned were exhumed and all were found to have lethal doses of arsenic. The bodies of those who had not been poisoned and had died of asphyxiation were suspected to have been smothered in their sleep. The death of her children and grandchildren was never fully understood. Nannie had killed her husbands because they were boring, but what of the children? One can only speculate the motive for killing 2-year-old Robert Haynes was for the insurance money, but it does not explain the other murders. Perhaps Nannie was suffering from some kind of postpartum depression when she killed her two children in 1927. Overwhelmed with four children, living with her overbearing mother-in-law, and upholding a marriage she was clearly unhappy with could have all been factors that led to the death of her daughters. But killing her newborn granddaughter is still shrouded in mystery.
The insurance money was never what Nannie was after, she told police. Her killings were simply done as an act of ridding herself of something she no longer wanted. Sherby Green, a direct relative of Nannie stated, “And if killing people brought in a little extra income, an insurance policy here or there, well, she considered that a bonus. Payment for her cleverness, if you will.” Another motive for killing her husbands could have been Nannie’s fierce hatred for her father. The treatment her father imposed on her as a child might have had a lasting effect on Nannie’s outlook on men. The dominance he once possessed over her she would then reflect back at her husbands. She was now the dominant person and wanted to punish these men as her father had punished her. Her father used a switch as his form of poison, while Nannie used arsenic.
After hearing about the arrest of Nannie Doss, John Keel of North Carolina contacted police stating that Nannie had been corresponding with him and had sent him a cake. She had been searching for another husband while still married to Sam Doss. In her last letter to John Keel, she said was ready to visit him. Charley Braggs was sought after by reporters, for he was the one husband that got away. He had long since suspected Nannie’s poisoning as the cause of death of his two daughters. He also claimed that he was fearful of Nannie during their marriage, declining to eat the food she served whenever she was in a bad mood.
Nannie was put to trial for the death of Sam Doss in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was never tried for the ten other murders in Alabama, North Carolina, or Kansas. When questioned by psychiatrists, Nannie had an explanation for her crimes. She recalled a day when she was seven years old, riding on a train in Alabama. The emergency brakes were used, and Nannie fell forward, hitting her head on the metal bar of the seat in front of her. She suffered blackouts for months after the incident, and splitting headaches that plagued her for the duration of her life. Frontal lobe damage of the brain can indeed cause changes in personalities. Judgment, impulse, and sexual behavior might negatively affect a person after a particular accident. Many serial killers are known to have suffered early head trauma that later affected the thinking and processing of what is right or wrong.
However, psychiatrists found Nannie sane and responsible for the murder of Sam Doss. She decided to plead guilty on May 17, 1955 of her own accord. She was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Elmer Adams, her gender saving her from the death penalty. Nannie Doss served 10 years in The Oklahoma State Penitentiary before dying of leukemia in 1965. In her prison cell were hundreds of paperback romance novels.
Albert De Salvo, raised by a horrificly abusive father, grew up in Massachusetts and learned of sexual deviancy early in childhood. This would carry on into his adult life, where he molested small children and raped senior citizens and young women. To gain access into their apartments, De Salvo falsely claimed to be from a modeling agency. So impressed were these women, that they allowed De Salvo to enter, at which point, he would measure them naked as well as dressed. Not until his break-ins were in full effect was De Salvo known to be The Green Man because of the noteworthy green clothing he favored. In 1962, De Salvo earned a new name, that being The Boston Strangler. After raping and strangling his mostly senior citizen victims, he would use panty hose to tie a bow around their necks. This would be considered his calling card. De Salvo famously stated after his incarceration "I don't know why I killed them. I wasn't even excited. And then I went home and played with the kids and watched the report of the murders on the TV." Showing his cold mentality, De Salvo had no emotion regarding the deaths he imposed. The most gruesome murder occurred in 1964 in which De Salvo savagely mutilated his last victim, Mary Sullivan. Between her toes, De Salvo left a haunting and yet optimistic note reading, "Happy New Year." In a desperate and bizarre attempt to rid himself of guilt, De Salvo, on his knees, sobbed to one of his rape victims, "Oh God, what am I doing? I am a good Catholic man with a wife and children. I don't know what to do." What would finally convince police that they had the correct murderer was when they witnessed De Salvo tying his shoes with the exact loops used in his terrible killings. De Salvo never stood trial for his crimes because he was branded as mentally insane. Serving a life sentence at Walpole State Prison, De Salvo only spent a short time in his tiny cell. In 1973, Albert Henry De Salvo was found stabbed 16 times by an unknown inmate. De Salvo is estimated to have murdered 13 women in two years. He was the very first person to be labeled as a "Serial Killer".
Photo courtesy of SerialKillerCalender.com