Carl Panzram’s Autobiography

Panzram A Journal of Murder Panzram A Journal of Murder by Harold Schechter

Recommended by Jake Chevedden

Carl Panzram writes; “”In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and last but not least I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry.”

That’s not all either. He robbed William Howard Taft’s home in 1920, and stole his gun, which he then used to murder four or five people. He tried to rob several Army Barracks and U.S. Naval ships. He beat the brains of 11-year-old boys and would rape sailors’ bodies before dumping them in the Hudson River.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for several of these murders, but was then sentenced to death for killing a fellow prisoner. His last words to his executioner: “hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang ten men while you’re fooling around.”

There is a form of sociology that believes that societies should be studied by evaluating their extremes, abnormalities and fringes. Are we microwave equipped, car driving, Soprano loving, Hamburger eating Americans? Or are we a homeless, drug addicted, AIDS infected, schizophrenic, murderous and anarchic people tending towards destruction? Carl Panzram’s autobiography doesn’t aim to be universal – its simply a confessional document, but it is a reminder that the extreme is never far away and the breadth of this killer’s travels and the extent of his crimes, from African boys to U.S. Presidents, is a nice reminder that the fringes of society are never far from the center.


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