Little Yander [not his real name] was walking aimlessly when a stranger caught his eye: it was a white man, sitting on the outskirts of an Angolan village and appearing to be deep in thought. It was not something usual there, so the boy, barely eleven years old, approached that tourist with the intention of meeting him without suspecting that he would soon lose his life.
The adult reacted in the kindest way and, after generating some confidence in the boy, invited him to accompany him. After a few minutes of walking, both arrived at a gravel pit and there the carnage began. The little boy was brutally raped and, when finished, beaten to death. It was Carl Panzram, a pedophile and globetrotter with a chilling criminal record: more than 1,000 rapes and twenty crimes dominated by anger, revenge and sadism.
Charles 'Carl' Panzram was born on June 28, 1891 in Polk County (Minnesota), into a family of Prussian immigrants, whose father, John, abandoned them while our protagonist was still a child. The absence of a father figure and the way in which said march occurred generated a first trauma in the little boy. At just twelve years old, this resulted in a serious problem of alcohol addiction.
In addition, Carl began to develop an insurgent and aggressive personality, which led to an early criminal career characterized by thefts and robberies of all kinds. In fact, his first crime was robbing a neighboring house where he took a cake, some apples and a gun.
He was soon arrested and sent to a reform school, the Minnesota State Training School, where he was beaten, raped, and tortured by facility staff. After his release, he returned to the family home, although shortly after he ran away, thus beginning a nomadic life.
At fourteen years old, the teenager slipped into trains to travel from one side of the country to the other. With such bad luck that, on one of those trips, he ran into a group of homeless people who gang-raped him. That event caused such trauma in Carl that he went from being a victim to a perpetrator: he saw submission and power as the best way to express anger and revenge. A modus vivendi that he would reach when he turned thirty.
While he was reaching this escalation of sadism and death, the young man continued to commit thefts and robberies, setting fires, for which he was convicted and sent to the United States Disciplinary Headquarters, in Fort Leavenworth (Kansas). From there he did not come out rehabilitated to reintegrate into society, but quite the opposite, stronger and more sagacious to undertake his outrages.
A new robbery led him to prison in 1915, this time to the Oregon State Penitentiary, whose stay was a true hell. There, officials beat him, raped him and hung him unconscious from rafters, as well as keeping him in solitary confinement where he ate little more than cockroaches.
Despite the poor living conditions, Carl still had the courage to help prisoners like Otto Hooker escape, who in his escape killed the prison director and made our protagonist an accessory to murder. Two years later, Carl also fled, though he was caught and sent back to prison. Soon after, he cut through the bars of his cell and escaped again, this time with greater success.
The following years, Carl changed his appearance, cut off his mustache and continued committing crimes under twelve different aliases, always in different parts of the country. Until in 1920 he stole a large amount of money, bought a sailboat, which he named Akista, and unleashed a bloody escalation of violence.
To do this, the young man lured American soldiers to his ship, where he got them drunk until they passed out. He then savagely raped them and then killed them and dumped their bodies into the Atlantic. He harassed and killed ten men in this way, but not because he was homosexual, he wrote himself, rather because it was his method of dominating and humiliating people.
After these crimes, Carl left the United States to tour Africa, more specifically Angola, where he embarked as a merchant marine. In this country he killed an eleven-year-old boy, whom he raped and beat for pleasure. "His brains were coming out of his ears when I left him and he will never be dead again," he confessed to authorities years later.
A few days after this crime, Carl went back to his old ways. He hired an expedition of six aborigines to hunt crocodiles and, when they were in the middle of the river, the criminal pulled out a pistol, shot them and threw the remains overboard.
“They were hungry. I fed them,” she said, referring to how the bodies were devoured by the reptiles. Then she took the boat and returned to the mainland.
After another year in Africa, Carl returned to the United States to continue his misdeeds: he left a trail of dead in Massachusetts, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. However, the murderer always managed to get away with these crimes and violations. He was never caught for such crimes. In fact, it was a robbery that led him back to prison, to the feared Fort Leavenworth.
During questioning for that misdemeanor, Carl confessed to the recent murder of two minors, charges for which he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, after the conviction he recognized many more.
“Throughout my life I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of robberies, robberies, thefts, fires and, finally, I have sodomized more than 1,000 men. For all these things I do not regret it in the least, ”he confirmed to a cellmate.
The capital punishment verdict would come a year later, on June 20, 1929, after beating one of the prison guards to death with an iron bar. Prior to the crime, Carl had already threatened to kill "the first man" who dared to bother him, including the warden of Fort Leavenworth himself.
For the next year, the prisoner refused to appeal and threatened to kill those human rights activists who dared to do so on his behalf. Carl was delighted with the verdict. “I can't wait to sit in the electric chair or dance at the end of a rope, like some people do on their wedding night,” he said.
Some statements that he put in writing thanks to his friendship with the guard Henry Lesser, who took pity on him, gave him money for food and cigarettes and provided him with paper and pencil so that he could record his thoughts as an autobiography.
Thus was born Panzram: A Journal of Murder (Panzram: diary of a murderer), a book written by this serial killer, although published by Henry Lesser after his execution. The unusual friendship between jailer and prisoner made it possible for Carl's life not to fall into oblivion, nor his most sordid thoughts.
“I do not believe in man, nor in God nor in the Devil. I hate the whole damn human race, including myself... I preyed on the weak, the harmless, and the unsuspecting. This lesson was taught to me by others: power does good”, it can be read.
For the first time in his life, someone was kind to Carl Panzram, "a spirit of hate and revenge" who would see his end on September 5, 1930, at the age of 39. When the executioner put the noose around his neck, the murderer spat in his face and blurted out: "I wish all humanity had only one neck so I could strangle him!"
Next, the sayon asked Carl if he wanted to say any last words, to which he barked a: “Yeah, hurry up, you fucking bastard! He could kill ten men while you fool around.”
Decades later, specifically in 1995, Oliver Stone produced one of the most famous films in cinema history: Killer: A Journal of Murder (Death Row), based on the life of this dangerous serial killer and with actor James Woods in the skin of Carl Panzram.
One of his most mythical sequences occurred when Woods's character yelled "I want to get out of this I want, I want to leave this life!", because he refused to appeal his death sentence. The reflection of the actor's anger captures perfectly what Panzram felt at that precise moment, always under the complicit gaze of the guard and his good friend Henry Lesser.