The Serial Killer Whose Murder Weapon Was President Taft's Pistol
Carl Panzram had the makings of a real-life Coen brothers villain. After being brutally beaten and raped all throughout his youth, he went on a one-man rampage across America. Vandalism, larceny, arson, rape, murder ... he even wanted to start a goddamn war between America and Great Britain. The man had a dream -- a terrifying, sheet-ruining dream, but a dream nonetheless.
In 1920, Panzram burgled the home of former President William Howard Taft. He had a bone to pick with Taft -- he had been sentenced to three years at Fort Leavenworth military prison for enlisting in the army but refusing to work while Taft was secretary of War. Panzram was the sort of guy who could see that as Taft's fault. Anyway, Carl made off with cash and bonds, thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry belonging to the former first lady, and Taft's Colt .45 pistol.
The Bridgeport Times via Library of Congress
We gotta work on your hyphen placement, typesetters.
Panzram used the profits from his crime to buy a boat, then lured sailors aboard with the promise of work before getting them drunk, raping them, and murdering them with Taft's gun. He then weighed their bodies down and threw them overboard. He killed at least ten people this way, part of the 21 murders he claimed to commit.
Panzram was eventually caught and arrested for robbing Taft's house. While in prison, he beat someone to death, and was executed for it, but not before he wrote some of the most depressing memoirs in human history. As further punishment, he was later portrayed by James Woods in a very unfortunate movie.
The Countless Men Who Drowned In Mud
World War I often takes a backseat to its gritty sequel, but it was nonetheless a total horror show of trench warfare, mustard gas, and existential poetry. And that's merely scratching the surface! For example, the Battle of Passchendaele saw some of the heaviest rain Europe had endured in 30 years. It absolutely poured for a full week, while artillery destroyed canals and drainage ditches all over the swampland. So the field itself turned into a muddy disaster. Did you know you can drown in mud? You can. It just takes a while.
One battalion lost 16 men to mud alone. One soldier wrote about that unique feeling you get when you successfully navigate the mud, only to realize you were stepping on corpses the whole time. A Canadian and German solider were found drowned together while "locked in struggle," because sometimes metaphors for the horrors of war are really on the nose. Here's one survivor's firsthand account:
A khaki-clad leg, three heads in a row, the rest of the bodies submerged, giving one the idea they had used their last ounce of strength to keep their heads above the rising water. In another miniature pond, a hand still gripping a rifle is all that is visible, while its next-door neighbor is occupied by a steel helmet and half a head, the eyes staring icily at the green slime which floats on the surface almost at their level.
So there you go. You got a new phobia out of this after all.
Canadian Armed Forces
Don't say we never gave you nothin'.
To read more horrific tales from history, check out Jacopo's novels The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, License To Quill, and his short story "Sleep Debt" in the upcoming thriller Hardboiled Horror, which you can order here!
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