10 Writers Who Killed Their Nearest and Dearest in Cold Blood
It is difficult for most of us to understand the motivations that lead to murder, especially the willful killing of a close family member or spouse. Yet the enduring appeal of crime novels demonstrates our fascination with the inner thoughts of those who have taken lives. Who better to elucidate such inner narrative than writers? At times, however, fiction can turn into reality, as in these cases of writers who took the lives of those to whom they were closest.
10. J.J. Paulsen
J.J. Paulsen had worked as a writer for such successful shows as Cosby and In Living Color, but by 2007 he was out of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. While their toddler son was in the house, Paulsen killed his wife Leanne by beating her so hard that she bled into her brain. He hid the body in the attic ,where it remained undiscovered for months. A plea deal led to his conviction for manslaughter and he was sentenced to 26 years imprisonment. In light of his profession, he was prohibited from profiting off his wife’s death through the writing of books and the production or directing of films about the event.
9. Mary Ann Lamb
Together with her brother Charles, Mary Lamb wrote the children’s book Tales from Shakespeare in 1807 — as well as other novels. Her own work Mrs Leicester’s School was considered to be a “rich jewel” of English literature by the famous poet Samuel Coleridge. The book focused on stories of girls without mothers and is thought to have been Mary’s method for dealing with the feelings of guilt she held over the killing of her own mother with a kitchen knife, while Mary was in the midst of a nervous breakdown in 1796.
8. Richard Klinkhamer
Richard Klinkhamer was a Dutch writer who was best known for works that tackled the topics of war and crime. In 1991, his wife Johanna went missing, and a year later Klinkhamer submitted the macabre work Wednesday, Ground Meat Day to his publisher. The novel was rejected due to its poor composition and horrendous subject matter, which included references to the protagonist grinding his wife’s corpse and feeding it to gulls. In 2000, Johanna’s skeleton was finally unearthed in the garden of the house where she had lived with Klinkhamer. He eventually confessed that much of the material in his novel was based on his own murder of Johanna.
7. Hans Fallada
Hans Fallada was a German novelist who was persecuted by the Nazi regime for his non-membership in the party and for the adaptation of his novel Little Man, What Now? into a movie by Jewish producers in Hollywood. During the war, he agreed to write an anti-Semitic novel but secretly wrote an anti-Fascist work. Throughout his life, he struggled with morphine addiction and depression, dying in 1947 at just 54 years of age. Fallada had started exhibiting suicidal tendencies in his late teens. This state of mind had led him, at age 18, to make a suicide pact with his friend Hanns Dietrich, using the cover of a duel to avoid dishonor. Fallada was successful in killing Dietrich, but Dietrich missed, and Fallada survived his subsequent self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.
6. Carol Anne Burger
Carol Anne Burger was a photojournalist and Huffington Post blogger who had won numerous industry awards. In 2005, she married her girlfriend, Jessica Kalish, but just two years later their relationship broke down. However, despite the end of the relationship, Burger and Kalish continued to share a home, and a year after their break-up, Burger stabbed Kalish with a screwdriver over 200 times. Burger killed herself before she could be questioned by the police, but it is thought that the murder was motivated by Burger’s distress over financial and career worries, and her jealousy over Kalish’s new girlfriend.
5. James Tiptree, Jr.
James Tiptree, Jr. was in fact the pen name of female author Alice Bradley Sheldon. Science fiction writing was not considered to be a female genre in the mid-20th century, so Sheldon took on a masculine nom de plume and kept her identity secret until she was found out in the 1970s. She continued to write over the next ten years. Then, in 1987, at the age of 71, she fulfilled a suicide pact she had made with her husband, who was 13 years her senior and suffered from ill health. She shot him and then shot herself in the head. Their bodies were found in bed, holding hands.
4. Harry Horse
Children’s author, political cartoonist and illustrator Richard Horne went by the pen name Harry Horse. In January 2007, when Horse was 46 years old, he was found dead in his home. His corpse was embracing the body of his dead wife, Mandy, who had suffered from multiple sclerosis and was terminally ill — meaning many commentators described the scene as a Romeo and Juliet suicide pact. However, in 2008 the remaining facts were revealed: rather than giving his wife a peaceful death, Horne had in fact stabbed her thirty times, then killed their pets, and finally stabbed his own body until he died from blood loss.
3. William S. Burroughs
A prominent figure in the Beat Generation, William S. Burroughs was a writer whose work ran the literary gamut from poetry and novels to spoken word performance. His works include 18 novels/novellas, four essay collections and six short story collections. His heroin use was a profound influence on his work, as was the death of his wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951. Vollmer was shot and killed by Burroughs in Mexico City, but the circumstances surrounding the death are murky. At first, Burroughs maintained that he had been attempting to shoot a tumbler of water off her head in a William Tell act, but he later changed his bizarre story to explain that her death had occurred when the gun misfired as he was attempting to sell it. Burroughs stayed in Mexico for a year, then absconded across the US border. He was convicted of manslaughter in absentia and given a two year suspended sentence.
2. Michael Peterson
Drawing on his military service, Michael Peterson’s books, A Time of War and A Bitter Peace, achieved a good level of success. He also worked as a newspaper columnist, where he was known for his criticism of the local police and the district attorney (who later prosecuted him for his wife’s murder). In 2001, Peterson reported that he had found his wife unconscious at the base of the stairs. He was later tried for murder, with the prosecution believing that it was motivated by his wife’s discovery of his bisexuality and gay relationships. However, the defense maintained that Kathleen was accepting of her husband’s sexuality and that her injuries were consistent with a fall, possibly caused by an attack from a large owl. Nonetheless, Peterson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
1. Louis Althusser
The influential author and political theorist Louis Althusser suffered from mental illness for much of his life. In 1947, at the age of 29, he was treated with electroconvulsive therapy, the result of which was to condemn him to periods of mental instability and breakdowns. He had met his future wife, Hélène, the year before. Decades later, in 1980, he strangled her to death with his bare hands. Althusser had been suffering from one of his bouts of mental illness, and with no witnesses, the event is shrouded in mystery. Althusser himself remembered only that he was massaging her neck and then discovered, to his horror, that he had killed her. Rather than being tried, he was committed to a psychiatric hospital for three years, following which he wrote and published an autobiography in which he described his wife’s death. He followed his wife to the grave ten years after her death.
Leave a Reply