The following are the first chapters from the book “The Butcher of Humanity – The True Story of Carl Panzram, a Product of Hatred and Vengeance.
The Desolate Land
If ever there was a word to describe the world that Carl Panzram first came into, that word may as well be “bleak.” Born June 28, 1891, he was the youngest in a brood of six children to two Prussian immigrants in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
The father of the family, John Panzram, was a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War. He had come to America seeking to build his fortune out on the wild frontier, only to find that the most fertile land and profitable homesteads had already been bought. They settled instead on a dirt farm, toiling away in vain, crushed beneath the weight of their patriarch’s dead dreams.
There was little time to tend to the needs of yet another child. Matilda “Lizzie” Panzram had been in her forties when her youngest child was born. Frequently tired and unwell from menopause, she would sometimes leave her wailing baby unattended for long stretches of time. Life only grew more arduous as time went on; in 1892, the country was hit with what would be its worst economic crisis until the Great Depression. The land continued to be a disappointment, and John’s misery only deepened.
It was his father who would give young Carl Panzram his first taste of violence. A combination of devout faith and alcoholism made John a short-tempered man with little patience for his wife or his children.
Disobedience was met with beatings. Affection was regarded with little importance. His youngest child was already being shaped by these harsh teachings. Carl Panzram learned how to hate from an early age.
When Carl was eight, his father, still haunted by dreams that were never realized, abandoned the family to head north. The three eldest sons left the homestead not long after to start their own lives. One, unfortunately, would die before his new life could begin. Thus Lizzie was left to care for the dirt farm with only her daughter and two remaining sons. Work that had been hard before would become grueling with fewer hands to help. The children’s time was divided between school and labor.
It was around this time that he had his first run-in with the law. He was arrested for, incredibly enough, being drunk and disorderly. He was quickly returned home, where another beating awaited him. It did little to quell his developing alcoholism and troublesome ways.
At nine, after having suffered from an ear infection, Carl began to feel a strange pain at the back of his skull. It turned out that the untreated illness had spread to his mastoid, a small bone full of air cells located behind the ear. The pain grew worse, as did the likelihood of him suffering from lifelong brain damage, but his impoverished family could do little to help him. Unable to afford a doctor, his mother lay him out on the kitchen table. Without the proper tools, sanitation, or even any sort of anesthetic, performed a rudimentary surgery on his head.
Unsurprisingly, the primitive operation only exacerbated Carl’s painful condition. In the end, Lizzie had no choice but to have her son hospitalized and face a second operation.
The aftermath of Carl Panzram’s mastoiditis has been a subject of interest for historians and true crime writers alike. If the infection had spread to his developing brain, it could have caused permanent damage. In particular, it may have damaged the hypothalamus, a small but vitally important region of the brain located near its base. The hypothalamus controls sexual arousal as well as strong emotions such as anger and feelings of self-preservation. Panzram himself would later speculate if his childhood illness could have been partly responsible for how he turned out, as is often seen with other serial killers.
Regardless of what caused his feelings of rage, the young boy was already on a seemingly irreversible path towards evil. By the age of nine, he already despised both his parents. He wished he could have murdered them both for having unleashed him into the world.