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A detailed memoir and self-analysis by a mass murderer. Panzram was born in 1891 on a Minnesota farm and died in 1930 on the gallows at the U.S.Penitentiary, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Imprisoned for most of his life from the age of twelve and brutally punished, Panzram's keen insight into the arbitrary cruelty of his fellow human being is graphically illustrated with a lit A detailed memoir and self-analysis by a mass murderer. Panzram was born in 1891 on a Minnesota farm and died in 1930 on the gallows at the U.S.Penitentiary, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Imprisoned for most of his life from the age of twelve and brutally punished, Panzram's keen insight into the arbitrary cruelty of his fellow human being is graphically illustrated with a litany of prison abuses, as well as the details of his own sordid, tragic life. Panzram arrives as a gripping warning from America's past to new prison-industrial complex era. The authors add an historical and sociological framework for Panzram's words.


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A detailed memoir and self-analysis by a mass murderer. Panzram was born in 1891 on a Minnesota farm and died in 1930 on the gallows at the U.S.Penitentiary, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Imprisoned for most of his life from the age of twelve and brutally punished, Panzram's keen insight into the arbitrary cruelty of his fellow human being is graphically illustrated with a lit A detailed memoir and self-analysis by a mass murderer. Panzram was born in 1891 on a Minnesota farm and died in 1930 on the gallows at the U.S.Penitentiary, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Imprisoned for most of his life from the age of twelve and brutally punished, Panzram's keen insight into the arbitrary cruelty of his fellow human being is graphically illustrated with a litany of prison abuses, as well as the details of his own sordid, tragic life. Panzram arrives as a gripping warning from America's past to new prison-industrial complex era. The authors add an historical and sociological framework for Panzram's words.

30 review for Panzram: A Journal of Murder

  1. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    "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." During the early 20th century a one man apocalypse (My motto is: Rob 'em all, rape 'em all, and kill 'em all.")roamed the world, setting fire to churches, barns, chicken coops, prairies, woods, and anything else flammable he encountered, r "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." During the early 20th century a one man apocalypse (My motto is: Rob 'em all, rape 'em all, and kill 'em all.")roamed the world, setting fire to churches, barns, chicken coops, prairies, woods, and anything else flammable he encountered, robbing and burgling, sodomizing and raping, fighting any and everyone who got in his way and then some, and randomly shooting out farm house windows and blowing away livestock. His name was Carl Panzram and eventually his crimes escalated into murder. Here he sets down a detailed description of his criminal exploits, his upbringing in correctional facilities for juvenile delinquents (where he was severely beat and tortured for petty infractions; his accounts are reminiscent of those of Charles Manson's own experiences as a youth) and time as an adult incarcerated in places as varied as Leavenworth to county jails, his time spent doing various jobs from strikebreaker who attacked and brutalized everyone to a failed attempt at soldiering, and attempts to explain how the world turned him into the misanthropic, hate filled, psychopathic serial killing machine that he became. Most interesting is his Nietzschean-like "might is right" and nihilistic philosophy: "I don't believe in man, God nor Devil. I hate the whole damned human race, including myself... I preyed upon the weak, the harmless and the unsuspecting. This lesson I was taught by others : Might makes right." He took his hatred of human beings and his self loathing so seriously that while on death row he said this about the humanitarian activists who were protesting his own execution: ""I wish you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it." And believed that "I have no desire whatever to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people who try to reform me. And I believe that the only way to reform people is to kill 'em." A view he was consistent with in the sense that he reformed himself through willingly being hung saying some of the coolest last words that have ever been uttered: " "Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastards. I could hang a dozen men while you're fooling around." Another notable fact about this book: Henry Lesser, the typically socialist minded Jewish prison guard who through his kindness became Panzram's only friend throughout his grisly lifetime and who was responsible for bringing Panzram's life story to the world originally sent Panzram's "Journal of Murder" to none other than H. L. Mencken who called it the most amazing and shocking documents he had ever read. My verdict: easily one of the best books I've ever read and probably the best book I've read thus far in the true crime/serial killer genre. Other choice bits from this journal of sin: "I made up my mind that I would rob, burn, destroy, and kill everywhere I went and everybody I could as long as I lived." "I was so full of hate that there was no room in me for such feelings as love, pity, kindness or honor or decency, my only regret is that I wasn't born dead or not at all." "Naturally, I now love Jesus very much. Yes, I love him so damn much that I would like to crucify him all over again."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Juanita

    Every now and then you come across something that changes your life – something that changes the way you view the world by either enlightenment or just exposure to something that you could never have imagined possible. This book did all of the above for me. I now walk through life differently. Carl Panzram was a turn of the century serial killer. At first, reading the detailed letters he wrote describing in sardonic contrast to the horror that he was printing was repulsing enough to make me slam Every now and then you come across something that changes your life – something that changes the way you view the world by either enlightenment or just exposure to something that you could never have imagined possible. This book did all of the above for me. I now walk through life differently. Carl Panzram was a turn of the century serial killer. At first, reading the detailed letters he wrote describing in sardonic contrast to the horror that he was printing was repulsing enough to make me slam the book shut in absolute disgust. But I was motivated to read further because I’d heard that several learned men and women determined this book to be one worth completing for the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of sexual pathology and extreme rage. After the first few chapters, I slowly began to understand what it was that, almost 80 years after his death, still had people reading Panzram’s story. What can one learn from such a monster? I chose this book because I wanted to delve into the vast diversity that is the human experience. If I craved simply the macabre, then I could have downloaded his letters from any website and forgotten about how Panzram began his life or why he became what he became. But I wanted to know more than that. And so I read on. I learned that even the worst of humanity are still human. That even those that have had love literally beaten, burned, and electrocuted out of them can still have a minuscule trace of it left to share with another person. That murderers are not born, they are created. And that just as surely as Panzram deserved to die for the ghastly crimes he committed, he also deserved love just as much. That's why this book is so enjoyable. Once you get past the revulsion that is the callosity of Panzrams' bragging of the murders and rapes he's committed, you see who he really was - first as a hopeful, innocent child, then as the horror that longed for his life to end, as finally, in retrospect, as someone who could have been helped before he’d gone totally astray. You get to go past the sickening crimes, and once there, you learn about a man. You learn the "whys" that we all seek to understand. Of course these "whys" never make cruelty shown in return OK. But they do explain why a man could make such terrible choices. A man that was barbaric and hedonistic. But a man nonetheless. So in short, if you're looking to understand humanity a little better, then this is the book for you! Now, I’m a person that likes to gauge my accomplishments as I get to the completion of my goal. I like short chapters or at least frequent subtitles so that I can say that I’ve read one chapter or gotten to one subtitle tonight. Most chapters were 3 -5 pages long. The book started quickly and never slowed for even a moment. And I think the short chapters encouraged me to read more. This was an AWESOME read, and I am better for having read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    No

    "I wish you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it." "I have no desire whatever to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people who try to reform me. And I believe that the only way to reform people is to kill 'em." "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!" - Ahab (?) "Naturally, I now love Jesus very much. Yes, I love him so damn much that I would like to crucify him all over again." "The underworld code is very simple. It is: Never squeal. Don' "I wish you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it." "I have no desire whatever to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people who try to reform me. And I believe that the only way to reform people is to kill 'em." "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!" - Ahab (?) "Naturally, I now love Jesus very much. Yes, I love him so damn much that I would like to crucify him all over again." "The underworld code is very simple. It is: Never squeal. Don't be a stool pigeon, a rat or an informer." "War, in the final analysis, is merely murder and robbery and the expenditure of life and property." "The criminal does not profit by his crimes. It is the law makers and the law enforcers who do profit the most. They, in reality, are the real cause of the most crime. They know it, too. That's why there is so much crime in this country today." "In my life time I have broken every law that was ever made by both man and God. If either had made any more, I should very cheerfully have broken them also." "Every child has some criminal tendencies. It is your place to correct those traits and teach them the right way to live while they are young and their minds are forming. Then when they do reach the age of reason and action, it will be quite natural for them to live clean, upright, honorable lives. In that way you will stop crime at it's source before it begins." *Face Artist - A well-experienced fruiter. Someone who knows his bananas much better than your average amateur *Panzram raped and murdered young children, all genders, all races, all ages. "I know right from wrong. No delusions. I don't hear anything you don't hear. My conscience doesn't bother me. I have no conscience. I believe the whole human race should be exterminated. I'll do my best to do it every chance I get." "Panzram preferred philosophy books, which were few in the slender store of the library. He read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer." *Henry Lesser (Jewish prison guard) sent panzram's written material to H. L. Mencken who wrote him a letter in return saying "This is one of the most amazing documents I have ever read." "...a mass murderer who clearly expressed a philosophy of hate." "I learned so much about the Christian religion that I finally came to detest, despise and hate anything and everybody connected with it. I still do." "My philosophy of life is such that very few people ever get, and it is so deeply ingrained and burned into me that I don't believe I could ever change my beliefs." "I'm mad - plenty mad right now. I don't believe there is any good in any man. I'd like to have the opportunity to go away, gain power and brains and then I'd like to kill off the rest of the world," "Get 'em out," shouted Panzram. "I don't mind being hanged, but I don't need any Bible-backed hypocrites around me! Run 'em out, Warden, or you're going to have one hell of a time getting me out of this cell. Every man I get a hand on is going to a hospital!" "Anything you want to say?" "Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you're fooling around!"

  4. 5 out of 5

    John Anthony

    Carl Panzram was 38 when he died at the hands of the Federal Hangman at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1930, the State having outlawed capital punishment for decades prior to this. The execution followed Panzram’s murder of a prison officer, though he had many more murders and other violent crimes to his credit. “Rob ‘em, rape ‘em and kill ‘em”, was his oft repeated mantra. His victims were exclusively male. Born in Minnesota to poor farmers, his early life was harsher than harsh and he seemed to le Carl Panzram was 38 when he died at the hands of the Federal Hangman at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1930, the State having outlawed capital punishment for decades prior to this. The execution followed Panzram’s murder of a prison officer, though he had many more murders and other violent crimes to his credit. “Rob ‘em, rape ‘em and kill ‘em”, was his oft repeated mantra. His victims were exclusively male. Born in Minnesota to poor farmers, his early life was harsher than harsh and he seemed to learn a very early lesson at the hands of his abusers - “Might is Right”. Was he born a monster or was he fed all the ingredients necessary to make him one? Make your own minds up. He was incarcerated for much of his life from the age of 12 and he lies in an unmarked prison grave. One of his prison guards showed him some kindness and Panzram rewarded him with pencilled scribblings of his life and crimes. Otherwise, I doubt whether we would have heard much about him. So, a large chunk of this book is in the convict’s own words. His letters to Henry Lesser, his friend and one time prison guard, alone make this book worth reading. But there is much more besides… Recommended. But I’ll need to think very carefully before making any ‘nominations’!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    Carl Panzam, a Minnesota farm boy grew up in incredible poverty on a worn out dirt farm near the town of Warren. He had no toys except for a shovel and hoe, never had a birthday, subject to vicious beatings at the hands of family members. He was sent to the 'reform' school, a type of institution little better than a prison where spending tax money on stone construction and heating systems and cafeteria meals were immensely, more important that helping troubled boys so that they can become useful Carl Panzam, a Minnesota farm boy grew up in incredible poverty on a worn out dirt farm near the town of Warren. He had no toys except for a shovel and hoe, never had a birthday, subject to vicious beatings at the hands of family members. He was sent to the 'reform' school, a type of institution little better than a prison where spending tax money on stone construction and heating systems and cafeteria meals were immensely, more important that helping troubled boys so that they can become usefull honest citizens. There Panzram, was subjected to horrendous beatings given by the local cracker staff because he was 'recalcitrant' in his English studies. He was probably, dyslexic and had a great deal of difficulty with his studies. it was a thoroughly mean horrible place to grow up in. his experiences in this place, (just being in a place like this would stigmatize a person for life) and the tortures imposed on him in his adult life spent mostly in prison, he was probably molested by a reform achool staff member, help turn him into an utter unredeemable monster. He was remarkably, frank about his evil self and his unredeemableness and about his sole goal in life to murder as many as possible, men, women, and even children. A classic example of how the state and its minions, are supposed to reform criminals into useful citizens but, in fact turn them into Frankensteins. A must for people seriously interested in Criminology and a very unusual book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    smetchie

    Someone on here mentioned Carl Panzram when referring to a boss who was such a jerk that he might actually be the re-incarnation of him. It was either Rusty or Tom. I get them confused. It was probably Rusty because he reads more crime stuff. I think... Anyway, despite being a prolific arsonist, thief, rapist, and murderer, I'm pretty sure Carl Panzram was the funniest criminal in the history of criminals. He probably doesn't mean to be funny but he's just so earnestly hateful of the entire human Someone on here mentioned Carl Panzram when referring to a boss who was such a jerk that he might actually be the re-incarnation of him. It was either Rusty or Tom. I get them confused. It was probably Rusty because he reads more crime stuff. I think... Anyway, despite being a prolific arsonist, thief, rapist, and murderer, I'm pretty sure Carl Panzram was the funniest criminal in the history of criminals. He probably doesn't mean to be funny but he's just so earnestly hateful of the entire human race that I can't help but giggle. He's a serial killer, but not like the ones we're fascinated with nowadays. He wasn't a sociopath and he didn't prefer specific types of victims (except maybe assholes. heh.) He pretty much just killed everyone who pissed him off that he could get his hands on. And when he couldn't get the person who had pissed him off, he killed someone else instead. He had a horrible childhood and was incarcerated off and on his entire life starting at the age of 11. And this was in the early 1900s when we wanted to punish, beat, and rape the daylights out of our criminals and put them to work making little rocks out of big rocks, literally. So in a way, I don't exactly blame him for despising humanity and living only for revenge. This book surely made me examine my opinions about crime and punishment. Alright so he was a sociopath. (forest gump of US prisons)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tentatively, Convenience

    I probably read this b/c Joe Coleman made a painting of Panzram. I don't like to totally emphasize the social in the shaping of humans but in some cases it seems fairly obvious that if a person's abused long enuf they'll become completely desensitized to abusing others. Such was the case w/ Carl Panzram. Panzram, the murderer that this bk is about, is quoted as saying "In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings. I have no desire whatever to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people w I probably read this b/c Joe Coleman made a painting of Panzram. I don't like to totally emphasize the social in the shaping of humans but in some cases it seems fairly obvious that if a person's abused long enuf they'll become completely desensitized to abusing others. Such was the case w/ Carl Panzram. Panzram, the murderer that this bk is about, is quoted as saying "In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings. I have no desire whatever to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people who try to reform me. And I believe that the only way to reform people is to kill 'em."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ksenia Anske

    Everything you wanted to know about prisons and everything you didn't, from the words of a killer who hated all mankind and admitted to it too, and yet you can't help it but to feel compassion when you read about his life, half of which he spent in prisons starting at the age of 11, and then you see his humanity emerge and you cry and you think you'd probably become a killer too if you went through what he went through, and yet he was never broken, not until the very end. A fascinating, horrifyi Everything you wanted to know about prisons and everything you didn't, from the words of a killer who hated all mankind and admitted to it too, and yet you can't help it but to feel compassion when you read about his life, half of which he spent in prisons starting at the age of 11, and then you see his humanity emerge and you cry and you think you'd probably become a killer too if you went through what he went through, and yet he was never broken, not until the very end. A fascinating, horrifying read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This book, in my opinion, is one of the finest books written about the life of a criminal and how the penal system shapes many of them. It's really an autobiography, written by Panzram, with interludes and commentary between chapters. Excellent. This book, in my opinion, is one of the finest books written about the life of a criminal and how the penal system shapes many of them. It's really an autobiography, written by Panzram, with interludes and commentary between chapters. Excellent.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Budha

    THIS SHIT WAS AWESOME. CARL PANZRAM WAS A CULTURED LOW LIFE, LIKE A WHORE WITH A MONOCLE.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shane Lusher

    OK, so I just like people who don't care about anything..even if they are serial killers. Don't ask me why. I think I would rather be a serial killer than a corporate lackey. Wait...I AM a corporate lackey. Interesting and accurate perspective on social conditions around the turn of the 19th century and afterwards, left me understanding why killing people might have been one way out. Just in case I'm ever a suspect in any killing: it's not my way out, and neither is sodomizing men while robbing t OK, so I just like people who don't care about anything..even if they are serial killers. Don't ask me why. I think I would rather be a serial killer than a corporate lackey. Wait...I AM a corporate lackey. Interesting and accurate perspective on social conditions around the turn of the 19th century and afterwards, left me understanding why killing people might have been one way out. Just in case I'm ever a suspect in any killing: it's not my way out, and neither is sodomizing men while robbing them, but the man does have several valid viewpoints.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Panzram was an utterly evil and violent man. He was also a powerful writer and his life story is a warning to a 21st Century bent on imprisoning as many as possible as brutally as possible.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    If Tom Sawyer had struck out on the open road and ended up in juvenile detention instead of on a raft, he might have become Carl Panzram. Panzram's story is no less iconic and American for having sprung from the darker underbelly of American society. "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 If Tom Sawyer had struck out on the open road and ended up in juvenile detention instead of on a raft, he might have become Carl Panzram. Panzram's story is no less iconic and American for having sprung from the darker underbelly of American society. "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." Panzram's clear-eyed self-report is sometimes marred by self-pity, but his analysis of his own situation is chillingly rational, intelligent, and well-written. What he has to say about the American prison system is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it almost a hundred years ago. The only reason his narrative exists is because a prison guard encouraged him to write it and gave him $20, which Panzram insists is the first nice thing anyone ever did for him. This edition (which may be out of print) alternates Panzram's autobiography with needed historical commentary, offering perspective on the world in which Panzram lived and operated. It's essential reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Helle Quinn

    "It was 2:00 AM before Lesser got a chance to slip into Isolation to pick up the first batch of writing. He stayed to converse for a few minutes, catching his first glimpse of a strong if uneducated mind. The young gard was suprised to learn that Panzram had read Schopenhauer and shared that philosopher´s pessimism about human affairs. Intrigued by the pages that rustled underneath his jacket, Lesser walked straight up the the jail barber shop, turned on the overhead light and sat down in the bi "It was 2:00 AM before Lesser got a chance to slip into Isolation to pick up the first batch of writing. He stayed to converse for a few minutes, catching his first glimpse of a strong if uneducated mind. The young gard was suprised to learn that Panzram had read Schopenhauer and shared that philosopher´s pessimism about human affairs. Intrigued by the pages that rustled underneath his jacket, Lesser walked straight up the the jail barber shop, turned on the overhead light and sat down in the big wooden chair. The narrow, lined tablet pages were still fresh with carefully penned words which stretched tightly in a slow, even hand, from one edge to another. The top of each page was neatly numbered. After reading Panzram´s account of some of his early experiences in reform school and on the road, Henry Lesser began to feel the nudge of something unusual. Lesser could not find any words for what moved him. He felt the grip of a life and the horror of a personality flexing the heavy muscles of retaliation and revenge. He determined to save the prisoner´s writings." This.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andy Nieradko

    A disturbing yet totally fascinating book. I'd never heard of this true story, until I stumbled across a documentary released in 2011 called Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance. Brilliant, but yes, a very dark film. Panzram was a serial killer, and an unrepentant career criminal in the 1920's. He was an angry violent man made even more dangerous by years of serving time under merciless penal codes and the prison abuses of the early 20th century. He made one friend in his his bloody A disturbing yet totally fascinating book. I'd never heard of this true story, until I stumbled across a documentary released in 2011 called Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance. Brilliant, but yes, a very dark film. Panzram was a serial killer, and an unrepentant career criminal in the 1920's. He was an angry violent man made even more dangerous by years of serving time under merciless penal codes and the prison abuses of the early 20th century. He made one friend in his his bloody 38 years of life, prison guard Henry Lesser, who convinced him to write down his life story. It's a sad, sick story. The reader is given the opportunity to read the words of one of society's true monsters. What makes it all the more chilling is the level of intelligence and creativity that is apparent within his words. Not the easiest book to read, but if you have that urge to look into the deeper shadows of humanity, you'll come away from this book with much to think about.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Just reread this book a couple of months ago. Just as disturbing and enjoyable as the first time in 2005.

  17. 5 out of 5

    NTE

    An absolutely brutal tale, that keeps all the sources in a row. One of the best true crime books I've ever read. Must read for any true crime enthusiast. An absolutely brutal tale, that keeps all the sources in a row. One of the best true crime books I've ever read. Must read for any true crime enthusiast.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    A first hand and completely factual account of an international crime spree undertaken in the early 20th Century, and written in the unapologetic prose of the perpetrator himself. Panzram specialised in anal rape, arson, burglary, robbery, and murder. Highlights of his career included burning down an oil rig in Africa, countless jail breaks and burglarising the house of a judge who had once sentenced him. But his acts of petty vandalism where also a lot of fun to read about, like taking potshots A first hand and completely factual account of an international crime spree undertaken in the early 20th Century, and written in the unapologetic prose of the perpetrator himself. Panzram specialised in anal rape, arson, burglary, robbery, and murder. Highlights of his career included burning down an oil rig in Africa, countless jail breaks and burglarising the house of a judge who had once sentenced him. But his acts of petty vandalism where also a lot of fun to read about, like taking potshots with his luger pistol through the windows of random farm houses. Beaten, raped, and harrowed from a young age, Panzram grew up to "hate the whole damn human race", including himself. He grew up into a man set against the world, who wanted nothing more than to kill as many people as he could. As much as Panzrams account details some awful things, you can't help rooting for him and kind of liking the guy. He's extremely self aware, and brutally honest - kind of the antithesis of a Facebook persona. Most people, if they are completely honest, have daydreamed about using an iron bar to brain a colleague, or their fists to beat the crap out of an upstart customer, or ramming another vehicle off the road for tailgating. Most people are completely capable of controlling these impulses, but thats where Panzram was an anomaly. And somehow, something about his fearless retributive violence is disconcertingly appealing. "In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings. I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies Larcenys, arsons and last but not least I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. for all of these things I am not the least bit sorry. I have no conscience so that does not worry me. I don’t believe in Man, God nor devil. I hate the whole damned human race including myself." "Society should build me a great monument because I have never propagated my kind" "I look forward to a seat in the electric chair or dance at the end of a rope just like some folks do for their wedding night." When the executioner asked if he had any last words: "Yes. Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard. I could kill a dozen men while you're screwing around"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Jones

    The life story of one of the worst dudes to ever walk the earth is also a pretty complex philosophical query into how much of Evil is inborne and how much learned. It also serves as a revealing look at a grim underbelly of Auld America that few works have the endurance to display at their full horror. Lurid and well researched, one of the very best true crime books I've ever read The life story of one of the worst dudes to ever walk the earth is also a pretty complex philosophical query into how much of Evil is inborne and how much learned. It also serves as a revealing look at a grim underbelly of Auld America that few works have the endurance to display at their full horror. Lurid and well researched, one of the very best true crime books I've ever read

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Fascinating insight into the potential depths of human evil.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Crito

    The first thing you think seeing the gaudy cover and subtitle is well here's another cheap exploitative serial killer book that'll appeal to the people in the disgust-fascination murder interest loop. That might be how the publisher thought to market it but there's a bit more to this one. The first and most obvious is Panzram himself. He's such an interesting character of surprising and unaware eloquence and intelligence. If you were to peg him into one hole it'll be that of the personification The first thing you think seeing the gaudy cover and subtitle is well here's another cheap exploitative serial killer book that'll appeal to the people in the disgust-fascination murder interest loop. That might be how the publisher thought to market it but there's a bit more to this one. The first and most obvious is Panzram himself. He's such an interesting character of surprising and unaware eloquence and intelligence. If you were to peg him into one hole it'll be that of the personification of vengeance. He is terse, wild, focused, angry, destructive, terrifying, distraught, wailing, pained, lamenting, out of mind, out of control; he has a sense of hope and justice but he is hopeful for neither himself nor others. He craves meaning but is, and feels, meaningless. His violence is an ironic and nihilistic cry for every violence ever committed. He resents every violence done to him and enjoys the violence he commits on others. He knows the only way to be freed from this cycle of hate and pain. This book is not his autobiography, it's something of a hybrid. Most of his words are from a long form confession he wrote from a cell in a Washington DC Prison. If you imagine scrawling every bit on small smuggled paper then you too can appreciate that he probably didn't say everything he could have. That's part of why this never goes into murder porn territory, another being that not that many of the murders could be exactly verified. What could be verified however, is all his prison time. Like Panzram himself the book spends most of its time in prison. The co-authors come from prison journalism so almost all of the second hand material regards prisons in some way. If it didn't have its focus on such a particular personality, this book would be seen as an indictment of the poor treatment of prisoners and a document of the way prisons reformed in the early twentieth century. This unexpected foray turns into unexpected relevance towards the modern american culture of imprisonment. But not only is this journalism that makes up half of this book written far more dry and bored than Panzram's writings (plus with a lot more technical sloppy writing, one of the more hilarious turns being the author spelling his own name wrong), it both runs alongside and then deviates from Panzram's thoughts on the matter. Gaddis (no relation) seemingly believes in the rehabilitation of prisoners. Panzram believes, in his own words, "the only way to reform people is to kill em". He sees himself shaped by this pain he was subjected to, but he also sees himself unable to be fixed. In his more "comfortable" later years he ruminates that he might not have been so terrible if he was treated this way from the start, however he would still be unable to divorce himself from inflicting more violence and chaos even if he was treated by the best of the best. Killers make a habit of making excuses for themselves but Panzram's unique in that he comes off with sincerity and lucidity beneath his rage. He wants to understand himself and the world but admits he can't. There's a fairly humorous anecdote about his attempt to get into Kant's Critique of Pure Reason where he gets so frustrated about it going over his head that he rips it apart in what he reportedly estimates to be 10,000 pieces. That's Panzram for you. Overall I think he was done justice. It does one of my favorite things in that it makes an irredeemable person sympathetic. Never does it fall into the trap of portraying a figure like this as inhuman. In fact the most visceral disturbing death that happens in here might be Panzram's himself. You can rule out any thoughts that this may be pulpy exploitation. Solid recommendation.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rex Hurst

    An incredibly brutal, partial autobiography of Carl Panzram, amass murderer and serial sodomist. His confession was written in prison and given to a guard, Henry Lesser, that he had befriended. Due to its very shocking content and roaringly immoral tenor (even more appalling in 1930 when Panzram was executed) it was not published for 40 years. The author’s back up Panzram’s account with official files and information as available, occasionally making corrections in the chronology or adding deta An incredibly brutal, partial autobiography of Carl Panzram, amass murderer and serial sodomist. His confession was written in prison and given to a guard, Henry Lesser, that he had befriended. Due to its very shocking content and roaringly immoral tenor (even more appalling in 1930 when Panzram was executed) it was not published for 40 years. The author’s back up Panzram’s account with official files and information as available, occasionally making corrections in the chronology or adding details that he was not aware of. Included is also much of the correspondence (written independently of his confessional autobiography) between Lesser and Panzram, which gives a much rounder view of the killer’s character. The letters show intelligence and a jaundiced affection towards the only person Panzram “didn’t wish ill upon.” Gaddis and Long do a very detailed and interesting background account of the various prison’s Panzram is interred within. From Dannemora to Levenworth, the display the commonplace brutality and punishments, the inedible food, and the overcrowding of a system bent completely towards punishment, rather than rehabilitation. Panzram’s case story takes a strange turn during his murder trial, he crushed a foreman’s head in with an iron bar while imprisoned at Levenworth. He decided to represent himself and plead not guilty, but openly stated his intent was to gain the death penalty and be executed. Similar to Gary Gilmore in the 1970’s this caused quite a stir at the time and questions of sanity were brought into play. The popular perception is that state executions happened every other day back in the old times and were almost a routine matter. Kansas, where the prison was located, had abolished capital punishment as had seven other states. Even then implementing a death sentence was much rarer than it is today. Panzram had killed a federal employee however so his trail went before a federal judge. As such he is eventually executed in a state that had no death penalty. Several attempts are made by various anti-death penalty groups to appeal to the president to have Panzram’s sentence commuted to life imprisonment. These attempts angered the inmate and he wrote several letters threatening them, claiming his motto was, “Rob ‘em all, rape ‘em all, and kill ‘em all.” He even sent a letter to then President Hoover informing him that he would reject any amnesty or commutation of sentence, stating that it was his constitutional right to be executed. Also of interest is the large number of historical individuals that Panzram seems to have run across over his life. Beginning with him burglarizing the apartment of former president William Howard Taft. He also indirectly crosses paths with Henry F. Sinclair, the richest man in American history to go to prison. He was given one year for contempt of Congress due to his refusal to answer questions about the Teapot Dome Scandal. Lesser was his guard and mentions Panzram to him. Apparently he worked for Sinclair's company, Sinclair Oil, in Guatemala and when fired, burned the rig down. Finally, Panzram was also locked up in Levenworth with Robert F. Stroud, the famous Birdman of Alcatraz. Stroud mentions Panzram in his book and unsuccessfully tried to get him a razor, so Panzram could commit suicide rather than be hanged by the state. While the material is fascinating, Panzram often follows into patterns of self-aggrandizement typical of many prison and criminal memoirs. He hates all of society, blames it for being who he is, blames his upbringing (which is believable), and in the end hates himself most of all. He yearns for his death most of all because he could never not be who he is.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rauros Ammonoidea

    In my half-hearted investigation of the roots of evil I came across this rather cheesy and cartoonish cover, but as I browsed through the first two pages I was immediately enraptured. 'Tis one of those books whereupon —regardless of well-ingrained prejudice and an arguably natural abhorring of violence and destruction— one cannot help but feel and feel intensely. For Panzram (so it is evicenced through this book, his journals, his correspondence with his friend Henry Lesser) was a quite sensitiv In my half-hearted investigation of the roots of evil I came across this rather cheesy and cartoonish cover, but as I browsed through the first two pages I was immediately enraptured. 'Tis one of those books whereupon —regardless of well-ingrained prejudice and an arguably natural abhorring of violence and destruction— one cannot help but feel and feel intensely. For Panzram (so it is evicenced through this book, his journals, his correspondence with his friend Henry Lesser) was a quite sensitive giant. Shed from the very cradle into a brutal world he developed a correspondingly brutal praxis, though perhaps too paroxystical, when not distorted. Carl Panzram was a profoundly lonely man with a hard-wired hate for himself: hence his almost rabid plea for penitence and death. Still and albeit an anti-Christian he was far from being beyond good and evil as he himself acknowledged. I am positive he believed in goodness. He shared what he had learnt for the betterment of carcelary and punitive systems, remarking all the while —somewhat bitterly— that it was too late for him. And yet all of his daydreaming about a desert island, a self-built house and dogs foreshadow faint glimmers of hope: paradoxical together with a man who was throat-deep in meanness and hate —in fact he represented one of the truer misanthropists in the sense of the unity, the frightful coherence of thought and action. Furthermore Panzram was not devoid of reason and intelligence; in prison he became an avid reader, commingling with the words of Schopenhauer, abashed by Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. The remembrance of his relationship with Lesser (a startlingly open-minded person for his time) was altogether unique and beautiful, shedding a contrast with Panzram's diaries of his misadventures, all of which were written in a bold and harsh and clinical and maybe schizoid —irrefutably powerful, cosmic black bile breathing through his accounts— prose culminated in a killing rampage. Props to Gaddis and Long for assembling together episodes of his life and being cunning enough for wondering. Could it be that Carl was (as psychoanalyst Karl Menninger suspected) was sexually repressed? Except he was shoved sexuality into him at a prepubescent age; likewise, he was instilled a hate for God and religion by torture and observation of the so-called pious before he was given a chance to explore and think. Didn't he resemble a raging God himself? I feel, I feel, I feel. And I wish I could have talked to him, intimated, shown him that this world and its inhabitants aren't as hopelessly cross and ill-meaning as he —down in virulent paranoia— assumed. Even at the risk of being sodomized and murdered myself.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kashif Malik

    For anyone looking to understand the mind of a sociopath.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Doug Brunell

    If you study crime, the name Panzram eventually comes up. I have always found him to be a fascinating figure. Unrepentant. A force of nature. The GG Allin of the criminal world, if you would. This book, largely in his own words, explains his deeds, but more importantly it explains how he became the man many feared. Panzram, by his own admission, robbed, burned, murdered, and raped around 1000 men and boys. He was not a man who made friends . . . except for one prison guard who was nice to him by If you study crime, the name Panzram eventually comes up. I have always found him to be a fascinating figure. Unrepentant. A force of nature. The GG Allin of the criminal world, if you would. This book, largely in his own words, explains his deeds, but more importantly it explains how he became the man many feared. Panzram, by his own admission, robbed, burned, murdered, and raped around 1000 men and boys. He was not a man who made friends . . . except for one prison guard who was nice to him by the name of Henry Lesser. That act of kindness caused Panzram to detail his life story for Lesser, and then Lesser spent the rest of his life trying to get someone to publish it because he realized how important it was. What makes a man like Panzram is not a mystery. Why we have not stopped these things from happening, however, is. Despite its brutal and frank nature, this book should be required reading in high schools everywhere, as it shows that even the most beastly can have hopes of redemption . . . though Panzram wanted none of that and did everything he could to be hanged for his crimes. Despite that, Lesser found his story to be important, and it is. Probably one of the most important tales of all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ubiquitousbastard

    I wasn't overly fond of the analysis that accompanied the letters most of the time, since I sort of wanted to be able to figure them out on my own. I think it was only necessary for the author(s) to give the Panzram's background information that wasn't included or referenced in the letters. I also think there was too much information on Lesser. Yes, he was a good advocate for correctional reform and was instrumental in Panzram telling his story, but I really didn't care about his personal life a I wasn't overly fond of the analysis that accompanied the letters most of the time, since I sort of wanted to be able to figure them out on my own. I think it was only necessary for the author(s) to give the Panzram's background information that wasn't included or referenced in the letters. I also think there was too much information on Lesser. Yes, he was a good advocate for correctional reform and was instrumental in Panzram telling his story, but I really didn't care about his personal life at all. I think I would have liked the book better if it was just Panzram's writings; I also think that would have given me more insight into his actions. I ended up reading the endnotes because I was still wanting more.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fishface

    Grim and horrifying, but also incredibly enlightening. Many people read true crime to understand what the difference is between a law-abiding citizen and someone who goes out and commits terrible crimes against others. Carl Panzram spells it right out for you, and it's basically the same story arc that brought us Charles Manson, minus all the kooky religious overlay. The story also makes clear that this man could have been reached at many different points in his life, and only one person made th Grim and horrifying, but also incredibly enlightening. Many people read true crime to understand what the difference is between a law-abiding citizen and someone who goes out and commits terrible crimes against others. Carl Panzram spells it right out for you, and it's basically the same story arc that brought us Charles Manson, minus all the kooky religious overlay. The story also makes clear that this man could have been reached at many different points in his life, and only one person made the effort -- with very limited results because he came along when a great deal of damage had been done. Left me feeling kind of split down the middle -- it's hard to really judge someone with so many strikes against him, even though he was incredibly dangerous and made no bones about that fact.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jared Della Rocca

    Certainly a dark escapade through the mind of a thief/killer/sadist, but also a clear account of the direct impact of the corrections system upon a person. While Panzram was certainly a criminal before he ever entered into prison, his descent into darkness and depravity was hastened by what he encountered while in jail. Despite the changes to our corrections system over the last 80 years, Panzram makes clear that locking someone up and letting them rot during that sentence will never change a pe Certainly a dark escapade through the mind of a thief/killer/sadist, but also a clear account of the direct impact of the corrections system upon a person. While Panzram was certainly a criminal before he ever entered into prison, his descent into darkness and depravity was hastened by what he encountered while in jail. Despite the changes to our corrections system over the last 80 years, Panzram makes clear that locking someone up and letting them rot during that sentence will never change a person. His theories on the entire system are fascinating, and give you a chance to catch your breath in between the passages of darkness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Forsyth

    It was all right. It got a little repetitive and the style was a bit dry but it was an interesting view into the early 1900's. It was all right. It got a little repetitive and the style was a bit dry but it was an interesting view into the early 1900's.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zak Cebulski

    I find true crime to be a fascinating genre. One that allows people to view the darkest depths of depravity from the comfort of a book. It shows us the evil that humans do have, and what they can do to others. Though, more times than not, true crime books are researched and written by people who have an obsession or desire to explore the darkness of humanity. That is where Panzram differs. This novel is written from the firsthand, personal, account of the self proclaimed “most criminal man in the I find true crime to be a fascinating genre. One that allows people to view the darkest depths of depravity from the comfort of a book. It shows us the evil that humans do have, and what they can do to others. Though, more times than not, true crime books are researched and written by people who have an obsession or desire to explore the darkness of humanity. That is where Panzram differs. This novel is written from the firsthand, personal, account of the self proclaimed “most criminal man in the world.” He has no issue with reliving his crimes, and does so in a nearly giddy sense, talking of the rape, robbery and murder of countless people. It is unsettling to enter this world, though once you do, you find it difficult to stop, as you want to understand how someone can become so deranged and yet can feel so sympathetic. How can someone become so emotionally blank, but yet so filled with rage. Carl Panzram was a serial killer, and criminal who committed heinous acts upon other people. There is something disconcerting about how he openly discusses these acts, and how he takes joy in doing so. As he was a true monster it is odd for me to want to compliment him in any way. Though, I would be lying if I said that his writing style was anything short of exceptional. He has a very literary way to how he conveys his accounts of crimes over the world. As well, Long and Gaddis, the authors of the book who write about he world’s happening during this time, and how this book came to be, shows the tremendous effort that was put into this novel. Especially so, the coverage of Henry Lesser’s journey to get this transcript published into the novel we have is harrowing. Long and Gaddis bring a sense of recent (the 1960s) true crime writing, which mixes like oil and water between them and Panzram, so the reader gets a sense of the time that has lapsed, or regressed from portion to portion of the writing. There lies the one criticism I have of this book. It is repeated time and time again how arduous the process of getting this book published was. When it was first mentioned and explained, it drove home the fact that this feat was not an easy one. Though, by the end, it was getting more and more repetitive. I understand the reference and the necessity to including it, though for me it became a little bit much. Getting a feeling for Panzram is quite easy, as he is very outward with his crimes. He is a human who “hates the whole damned human race”, and his openness about is crimes is nerve wracking and unsettling. If you are looking for a true crime novel about a lesser known killer, one who, if not for one man’s obsessive dedication to this story, would have been lost to the annals of history, then I absolutely recommend Panzram: A Journal of Murder. If you are looking for a first person escapade through the mind of a mental and physical fiend, who takes pride in his abhorrence, I recommend this book. It is not often that one is able to take a journey through individual crimes ranging the whole spectrum. But, when the Chance arises, it should be taken up. It is a ceaselessly interesting story, of a monster of a man who died nearly 90 years ago. It is also not often when a true crime book’s inception is as interesting as its subject matter, maybe only Ann Rule with “The Stranger Beside Me” could match, though this book is certainly there. I give this a 4.5/5.

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