Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sadism and Murder by George A. Thacher 1913



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One of the most shocking perversities of animal life is demonstrated when a mother kills her own young soon after birth. This is complete defeat of nature's plan of reproduction, and it is caused by emotional disturbance of the mother.

In the human family the most terrible perversion is shown when the male under the emotional stress of the sex impulse kills the female. The perversion in its milder forms is very common, and the emotional disturbance caused by the sex impulse includes an intense wish to suffer pain as well as to inflict pain. In the mentally unbalanced, the feeble-minded, the epileptic and in senile dementia this perversion shows the greatest violence and is often the cause of murder. This fact is not generally known, probably because the Anglo Saxon race has been taught for centuries to hide under the veil of silence everything touching reproduction.

The scientific name of this emotional disturbance, amounting sometimes to an aberration, is algolagnia. This describes a complex emotional state which for practical purposes has been divided and called by two different names. The desire to endure suffering is called masochism from the name of Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian novelist, who was a victim of the desire for punishment at the hands of his wife. He persuaded her, against her wish, to whip him with a whip having nails attached to it, and took great pleasure in his pain.

Rousseau was also a victim of this amazing perverted emotion (see his "Confessions") and there have been many cases known to physicians and alienists.

The other perversion is known as Sadism. Here the patient desires to inflict punishment such as whipping or strangling or causing the flowing of blood. This is the perversion which leads to murder in extreme cases. The murder of the Hill family in Portland in 1911 was a case of Sadism.

The name comes from the Marquis de Sade who lived in France over a hundred years ago and whom Napoleon had confined in an asylum for the insane. But the perverse and wicked conduct which made Marquis de Sade infamous was told about three hundred years before de Sade was born in the horridly fascinating tale of Bluebeard, who cut off the heads of numerous wives because of their curiosity and disobedience.

Bluebeard's life of wicked and bloody love must have had a thrilling appeal for men and women, witness its being worked into a clever drama and also made a part of a popular opera. The historic original was Chevalier Raoul, who was made a Marshal of France in 1429. He was a brave soldier, but cruel and wicked, and he delighted in corrupting young persons of both sexes and afterwards murdering them and using their blood in diabolical incantations.

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There is a sure foundation in human nature for these tales, and that is the perverse desire to inflict pain upon a loved object, possibly from a wish to absolutely dominate the object of desire. Where the individual is mentally and nervously abnormal and unbalanced this desire to inflict pain becomes an aberration or a species of insanity. Such a person under the influence of sexual passion may commit murder by strangling or by stabbing or cutting with any sharp instrument. The effusion of the victim's blood seems to gratify this insane perversity which, since the time of the Marquis de Sade, has been called Sadism. This pathological occurrence either precedes or follows copulation, but occasionally it becomes a substitute for sexual indulgence. Lombroso discusses the case of Verzeni, who said in his last confession, "I had an unspeakable delight in strangling women," and referring to one of his victims by name, said, "I took great delight in drinking Matta's blood."

A number of years ago the civilized world was intensely aroused by the "Jack the ripper" or Whitechapel murders in London, which were the work of a Sadic. The perverted acts of this insane devil defy description.

In the last seven years there have been quite a number of sadistic murders in the United States. In the spring of 1911 the people of Portland were horrified by the strangling of little Barbara Holzman in Albina. In June of the same year the Hill family in Ardenwald were chopped to death with an axe by a Sadie. Four persons were killed.

In August of the same year, 1911, the Goble family of Rainier, Washington, were chopped to death with an axe. Two persons were killed.

Last August Lynn George J. Kelly confessed to killing a family of six persons at Valisca, Iowa, with an axe several years ago. The testimony at the trial showed the nature of the Sadic in unmistakable fashion. Attorney General Havner of Des Moines sent me a copy of Kelly's confession, which, however, he repudiated at the trial. There is a great deal of interest in this confession to a student of sadistic murders, but the man was a minister and the crime was so overwhelmingly terrible that the jury of laymen could not believe that a minister would commit such a wholesale slaughter without an apparent motive.

In 1913 Dr. Knabe, a woman physician in Indianapolis had her throat cut in her own apartments by a Sadic.

In 1914 in Sacramento, California, a young girl was strangled by a Sadic.

In February, 1915, there was a sadistic murder at the county farm in Multnomah County where the victim's throat was cut.

It was about the same time that there was an attempted sadistic murder of a woman at La Grande, Oregon. The weapon used in this case was an axe, but the victim finally recovered.

This limited number of cases is enough to indicate the pathological character of sadistic murder. It is literally an insane perversion of the sex impulse and in these cases where it proceeds to the point of assassination it is accomplished by strangling, or cutting or chopping or stabbing. Kraft-Ebing, who is perhaps the oldest and best recognized authority on sadism, believes that the Sadic's motor centers are involved to a great degree in his aberration and that the unnecessary violence of the assassinations are thus accounted for. All of the authorities on the subject, Kraft-Ebing, Lombroso, Dr. Thoinot, August Forel, Havelock Ellis, Iwan Block, Dr. Healey and Dr. Jacoby, agree that the acts of a Sadic in his frenzy are those of an abnormal and perverted being who, like other insane persons, seems to be only partly conscious of what he is doing. Such are the characteristic qualities of Sadism, which in feeble-minded and unbalanced men has often led to murder.

There was no evidence given in the trial of Mr. Pender for the murder of Mrs. Wehrman and her child tending to indicate that he was a Sadie, but this trial was unusual both because of the lack of evidence and because of a highly inflamed public sentiment against the accused. Stories were widely circulated in Columbia County, especially, that Arthur Pender was a Sadic and that he boasted of mistreating Filipino girls and then killing them. Like the old tales of pirates and the stories of soldiers returned from foreign conquest these yarns were greedily listened to and swallowed, for Pender had been a soldier and had fought in the United States army against the savages and barbarians in the Philippine Islands, and now a woman and child had been brutally murdered and Pender lived only a mile away.

According to the popular notions of circumstantial evidence that was very damaging. Nobody knows who started these stories of Mr. Pender's wild doings in the Philippine Islands but they were put in circulation by somebody who wanted to explain the murder of Mrs. Wehrman. Even the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Tongue, did not hesitate to build on this foundation. He has several times told that Pender's wife in seeking a divorce accused Pender of threatening her with a knife. However, the divorce was obtained by default, and so no evidence was given about the "cruel and inhuman" treatment which is so commonly charged in divorce proceedings. Without proof of sadistic tendencies in the murder of Mrs. Wehrman and her child this theory falls to the ground. Pressing the finger on a revolver trigger and causing an explosion of gunpowder caused Mrs. Wehrman's death, while sadistic murder since the days of Bluebeard has involved strangling or cutting or stabbing or chopping the victim to death as illustrated in the cases referred to in this chapter.

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