When it comes to serial killers and mass murderers, the refrain of “I’m innocent” is a familiar one. Not many killers go out of their way to fess up to their crimes. Even fewer go on to take perverse pride in their heinous acts.
Carl Panzram, however, is not most killers. Throughout his criminal career, Panzram made no secret of his contempt for humanity and his love of killing. Because of this, it’s no wonder that many consider him to be the most sadistic killer in history.
Like most killers, Panzram had a rough childhood.
As the son of German immigrants, Panzram began acting out at a young age. Trying to intervene on their son’s behalf, his parents enrolled the young Panzram at a school for troubled youth. The sadistic staff there routinely beat and tortured students. After returning from the school, Panzram ran away from home at the age of 14.
What followed were several years of escalating crimes.
In 1907, a drunk Panzram decided to enlist in the army. Not long after, he rebelled against his commanding officer and served a two-year prison sentence. Future president William Howard Taft, then Secretary of War, was the one who signed off on Panzram’s sentence. After being released from prison in 1910, Panzram burgled Taft’s home in Connecticut and made off with a substantial sum of money.
He then used this small fortune to buy a yacht.
With his yacht, Panzram brought his reign of terror to ports all along the Northeast. Panzram was fond of getting men drunk, raping them, and then killing them. Despite his frequent sodomy of men, Panzram never considered himself gay. Instead, he wrote in his autobiography that he used sodomy to dominate and humiliate his victims.
Panzram’s killing spree eventually took him to West Africa. There, the locals made easy prey for his sadistic tendencies.
In 1928, Panzram returned to the U.S. and was arrested for burglarizing a home in Washington, D.C. During his interrogation, he confessed to previously killing two young boys. In light of his extensive criminal history, he was strapped with a hefty sentence. Once in prison, Panzram killed again and was then sentenced to death.
While awaiting execution, Panzram was given a pen and some paper by a sympathetic guard. He then began working on his autobiography.
The autobiography, which was published in 1970, began with a straightforward and chilling statement: “In my lifetime, I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, and 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 in the least bit sorry.”
As he was being readied for execution in 1930, Panzram stayed true to form. He managed to spit in the executioner’s face while screaming, “I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it!” When asked if he had any final words, Panzram replied: “Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!“