The Sad, Gruesome Story Of Carl Panzram, The Most Cold-Blooded Serial Killer In History
Published in Aug 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
In a world that has seen dozens of serial killers and other sadistic monsters, it takes something special to be remembered as the most cold-blooded serial killer in history. However, for Charles “Carl” Panzram, a man who tried everything from burglary, rape, escape from prison, and murder, this frightful description is rightfully earned.
Carl didn’t bother showing remorse for his crimes. He took a lot of pride in them, which is why many people consider him the most sadistic American serial killer ever. His crimes spanned several countries and continents, and nobody knew about his brutal murders until it was too late.
Carl made it clear that he didn’t have the slightest bit of remorse for all he had done:
“For all the things I am not in the least bit sorry.”
He also said he had no conscience and didn’t believe in God, man, or the devil. He also shared his thoughts on what he thought of the entire world:
“I hate the whole damned human race.”
Carl Panzram was more than happy to talk about the 21 murders he had committed and the 1,000 sodomy cases he carried out when he was stopped at 39 years of age. The heartless man had also done thousands of robberies and several arsons.
Carl Panzram was a man who did not hesitate to commit a crime, and he never once regretted his terrifying bouts of brutality. For instance, at one point, after he was caught and sent to prison, he was quick to inform the warden that the first man to bother him would end up dead. He kept his word by beating the laundry supervisor to death with an iron box.
However, long before the authorities could catch up with the elusive murderer, he had racked up a shocking list of crimes.
Where It All Went Wrong
When criminologists later looked into Carl’s life, they had every reason to believe that a terrible childhood had turned him into an unrepentant and sadistic serial killer and career criminal.
He was born in 1891 in Minnesota, and his parents were German immigrants. He had five other siblings.
Carl had a very rough and traumatizing childhood. It all began with his father leaving the family when Carl was just a little boy. That said, he wasn’t exactly the best-behaved boy. When he was 11, he was tried in a juvenile court for being drunk.
At 12, he stole a cake, apples, and a revolver from neighbors. This was his first burglary, and it was the first of many. The crime resulted in him being sent to Minnesota State Training School. While there, he was beaten, raped, and tortured by the staff. He was also regularly humiliated, and the staff would often make him dance naked in front of them.
He was released while still in his teens, after two years. The staff considered him a “reformed boy.”
The facility had a terrible reputation and was nicknamed “The Paint Shop” because the children would leave there with bruises and blood. In fact, Carl was tortured so much that he thought about burning the place down. He actually did it in 1905, although nobody thought he was responsible.
However, soon after his release, he ran away from home. He filled his life with drugs and alcohol during his teen years. Carl did not have a specific place to go to, and he moved from one place to another by hopping train cars.
One of these rides ended with him getting raped by a group of hobos inside one of the train cars. He later admitted that the incident shocked him. Nevertheless, it taught him a lesson. He turned into a “wise boy” who would repay the injustice whenever he had the chance.
He also realized that he had a deep hatred for the human race, including himself. He cared for no one, not even himself.
As he was moving from place to place, he stole and burned down buildings.
He also made the ill-fated decision to enlist in the U.S. Army, but it did not take long for him to get convicted of larceny. After serving time at Fort Leavenworth’s United States Disciplinary Barracks, he was set free. However, while locked up, he lost all hope for humanity and his last shred of goodness.
His release from jail coincided with his dishonorable discharge from the army, which gave him the freedom to go back to his destructive ways. Over time, he was caught and released many times for his crimes.
He was a terrible thief, as he kept getting caught for stealing, although he proved to be a very elusive killer.
Carl’s List Of Crimes Kept Getting Longer
In 1915, Carl was again caught stealing, and the court sentence resulted in him having to spend seven years behind bars. He was locked up at Oregon State Penitentiary. Life there was anything but pleasant for the uncooperative Carl, who would attack, insult, harass, and disobey the guards. In return, the guards made sure that his life there was as unpleasant as possible. He was beaten, put in solitary confinement for up to two months, and hung from rafters.
When locked up alone, he had to survive on cockroaches. In jail, he also raped other prisoners.
In his first year there, he also helped Otto Hooker, a fellow inmate, to escape. As Otto got away, he killed the warden, and Carl became an accomplice to murder. He decided to escape too, but his attempt was unsuccessful as he was caught and taken back to prison. A year later, in 1918, he escaped from prison after sawing through the bars of his cell for days.
After his escape, he changed his name to John O’Leary. While in jail, he had worked on his physique and turned into a very imposing monster who had no problem attacking men and dominating them.
He used several identities throughout the years, which made it quite difficult for authorities to keep up with his crimes as there were no databases to track criminals accurately.
Escape To Africa
In 1920, Carl bought himself a yacht with money he had stolen. The yacht was called Akiska. He started luring drunken American soldiers to it. While there, the men were raped, killed by shooting them with a pistol, and dumped into an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean.
By the time the vessel eventually sank, he had killed 10 men, and nobody suspected him of the crimes. His last two victims were with him when the yacht sank. Fear of getting caught made him decide to escape to Africa. He ended up in Angola, where he raped and killed a 12-year-old boy, and he later wrote that his “brains were coming out of his ears” and that “he will never be any deader.”
Carl was determined to cause more death and spill more blood. After a few days, he killed six local guides with a gun and fed their bodies to crocodiles. They were meant to take him on a crocodile hunting expedition.
A year later, he felt that it was time to move on, and his next stop was Lisbon, Portugal. However, before he left, he burned down the oil rig he had worked at. Unfortunately, his reputation as a murderer during his stay in Africa preceded him, and he felt that the only solution was to flee Portugal head back to the United States.
Back In The U.S., He Got A Death Sentence
Once Carl got back to America, his crimes continued. He regularly raped and killed young men. He also stole a yacht belonging to the police chief and used it to rape a friend he had promised a job on the vessel. His victim got away and reported him to the authorities, getting him into trouble with the officials.
Although he always seemed to get away with murder, he had a habit of getting caught as a thief.
So, once more, in 1928, he was put under arrest for robbery. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he admitted to having killed two young boys. Carl was locked up at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Like before, he hated being locked up and tried to escape. However, he was caught by the guards and beaten until he lost consciousness.
After a year on the inside, he beat the laundry foreman to death with an iron bar. This crime earned him the death sentence. Strangely, this was an exciting outcome for Carl. In fact, after human rights activists tried to help get him off death row, he was furious. He scorned them and expressed his wish to kill them all:
“The only thanks you and your kind will ever get from me for your efforts on my behalf is that I wish you had one neck and that I had my hands on it.”
Carl had made peace with death and was even looking forward to it. Despite being a lunatic, he made friends with Henry Lesser, a 26-year-old jail guard. He felt sorry for the man and gave him a dollar to get some cigarettes.
It was Lesser who encouraged Carl to write his life story and even slipped him writing materials. Carl wrote everything he could remember about his horrific crimes, and Lesser published the writings in Panzram: A Journal of Murder in 1970. He spent four decades trying to find a publisher willing to print Carl’s biography.
Some people could not stomach the gruesome details Carl shared through his writing.
Carl was due to be hanged in just a year, and in that time, he revealed plenty about his crimes through his writings. Still, he was quite anxious to leave this world. After all, it had not been too kind to him, although he was probably much worse. Before he was hanged, he said some of the most shocking famous last words ever:
“Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”
He was hanged on September 5, 1930, and spat in the face of the executioner for trying to put a hood over his face.
He spent half of his life in jails, prisons, and reform schools. He also used multiple aliases included Jeff Davis, Jefferson Rhodes, Jeff Baldwin, and John O’Leary. Apparently, he may not have been homosexual but liked to rape men for torture. He also demonstrated that he was intelligent but was overcome by his hatred for humanity.
Carl was the personification of evil, and his life was centered on his crimes. According to his journal, his life was empty and full of negativity, so he desired to do all kinds of evils, including starting wars between countries.
In his journal, he remembered killing 21 people, although he could have killed a lot more considering that, at one point, he had poisoned municipal water with arsenic. Not all his victims’ names were revealed, but they were all male.
In 2012, a movie about him was released detailing his atrocities, and Netflix also made a documentary, Carl Panzram, about him in 2011. Karl Menninger also wrote a book about him: Man Against Himself. Many books have been written about the man today.