Pine Village Killer

Carl Reimann 2018
Carl Reimann, the “Pine Village Massacre” killer, aged 77.

“Carl Reimann did not go in to the establishment with the intention of shooting anyone, so what is his explanation for what happened? …Inmate Reimann stated he saw a flash of red light and just started shooting.”
~ WSPY News, Plano, IL

“He traces his crime sprees to a hardened heart formed in childhood… ‘Love is something a child needs to hear,’ he says. ‘I learned to live without love. I became withdrawn.'”
~ Connection Magazine

Amidst my ongoing obsession with murder ballads, I turn my attention to the case of Carl Reimann, who killed five people in an Illinois restaurant in 1972 and made headlines at the end of April upon being granted parole in an 8-4 vote that cited his “sincere religious conversion.” The above quotation comes from an article that focuses on this aspect of his life. While it seems simplistic to attribute multiple homicides to early parental disregard, it’s nonetheless intriguing to me that Reimann has thought about the genesis of his dark impulses. And in writing the following poem, I found it easy to imagine his conclusions lending color to the way he views the world upon being released, especially in light of where he relocated to…

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Idea-Makers

“Mr. Auschreiber, your company has done what many technophobes and naysayers insisted was impossible. Is it fair to say that the literature and screenplays generated by your algorithms are now indistinguishable from those still created by human hands?”

“I believe that’s accurate.”

“Now, our readers will generally find it easy to imagine a computer assembling pieces of a story into something that adheres to established rules of exposition and plot structure. What may seem strange is the idea that an algorithm can generate original ideas. How do you accomplish that?”

“The truth is, that isn’t the algorithm. There’s a secret ingredient in the process, and if you’ll follow me – quietly, please – you can be the first person from outside the company to see it.”

“I… Sir, what am I looking at?”

“These are our idea-makers. You see, artificial intelligence has made great strides, but it still lacks an unconscious mind. As you said, a computer can put the pieces together, but it can’t compete with the generative potential of the human mind, at least not yet. So people who aspire to creating the next great novel or film can apply to let the system monitor their brain activity during periods of rest.”

“So in essence, this is where you harvest dreams?”

“The entertainment industry has always known dreams to be commodities awaiting collection and distribution. Our dreamers are just the first to profit off of them directly. They spend twelve hours a day absorbing existing media and processing it into useful ideas. It’s at that point that the algorithm takes over and translates an often confusing set of images into straightforward, marketable stories. Afterward, our employees go home with their heads empty of the familiar burden that comes from trying to make their dreams tangible. …And doesn’t that sound nice?”

Losing Streak Lois

lois-reiss-manhunt-20032371
Lois Reiss, 56, of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, killed her husband David sometime in March and Pamela Hutchinson in early April.

“Reiss has a history of stealing money and gambling, and authorities dubbed her “Losing Streak Lois” for her habit of frequenting casinos.”
~ The Associated Press

I was instantly fascinated by news reports regarding Lois Reiss, because of the peculiar fact that she murdered Pamela Hutchinson with the apparent intention of assuming the similar-looking woman’s identity. The information about her gambling addiction was seemingly treated as a bit of throwaway trivia in the media, but as I set out to write the following poetic account of her deeds, it occurred to me that such details might say something meaningful about mental states that help a person to justify senseless killing.

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Early Warning System

Jonathan was more heavily besieged by the day. Now the early warning alarms began sounding just after daybreak, as narrow bands of light breached his defenses. He’d made every effort to prevent the things outside from peering in and making him the object of their monstrous designs. To live in a world of darkness was the price of security.

The early warning systems were rudimentary. They could neither describe nor enumerate the things that sought him out, but they exposed a chilling regularity in the assaults. After the first buzzer, he had twenty minutes to shore up barricades, dim the lights, and steady his breathing before the proximity alarm began to sound.

When it announced an adversary’s arrival outside the wall, Jonathan braced himself for a sensory onslaught. The alarms always sounded with escalating frequency, screaming at him with the implication of untold terrors. Yet there was nothing for him to do but prepare for a fight he prayed would never come. Almost invariably, the two alarms sounded by turns, one ringing off the walls and one buzzing from the device in his hand.

Muffled underneath those sounds, Jonathan could sometimes hear the vicious barking of his tormentors. Occasionally, those sounds even seemed to take on the shape of familiar language, or worse yet, voices he seemed to recognize vaguely, as from another life. But he was resolved not to let the beasts gain entrance by either brute force or trickery.

***

Outside, Jonathan’s brother pressed the buzzer several more times and then redialed his number once again, this time to leave a message noting with concern that no one had heard from him for a few weeks. “Give me a call back,” he concluded, his tone unworried. Jonathan had always been standoffish, but if anything was wrong, surely he’d reach out.

Selective Memory

JohnChristie

If walls could talk, no doubt this court would recognize your face:
One John Reginald Christie, once of 10 Rillington Place.
You’ve anchored your defense in questions of your mental fitness,
But three years previous you made a most impressive witness.

Portrayed as one who’d triumphed over youthful indiscretions
You helped to bolster someone else’s dubious confessions.

I well remember Timothy and Geraldine and Beryl
And how his execution helped to lift me out of peril.

I understand the verdict in that case began you crying.
Now tell us, Mr. Christie, was that guilt? Had you been lying?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

No matter, Mr. Christie, about Timothy John Evans,
Though now that he’s been hanged, I pray he’s guilty, by the heavens.
But even if he murdered both his wife and infant daughter
It was not he who made the house you shared a house of slaughter.
Now six more corpses they have found—six women whom you robbed of life.
We only ask that you expound upon the killing of your wife.

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

So you profess no feeling after thirty years of marriage
But think upon her death as on some casual miscarriage?

I’m sure I grieved appropriately when poor Ethel passed,
Especially at knowing that she hadn’t first been gassed.
She must have struggled greatly as in ’43 when Ruth
Presumably fought back with all the energy of youth,

But that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

I thank you for the mention of Ruth Fuerst; you’ve indicated
That she was killed impulsively—a conflict escalated.
But this can’t be repeated as a credible excuse
For Ethel, other victims, or for posthumous abuse.
So once again the court will ask you for elucidation:
When strangling your wife in bed, what was your motivation?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Perhaps you felt encumbered in your further foul ambitions
Or maybe Mrs. Christie started harboring suspicions.

Perhaps, or maybe something rose upon my mind like blisters
Brought on by jeers too reminiscent of my mum and sisters.
You’ll choose your favorite theory or you’ll choose to go on guessing.
But motivations seem to me like so much window dressing.
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

But do you then remember your endeavors at concealment,
The sprinklings of a disinfectant, purchases of sealant?
You sent her loved ones letters with a stable mind’s creation
Of narratives that you presented as your wife’s dictation.

That only goes to show I woke from murder with a mission.
I knew a crime was done, and yet regarding its commission…
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

And prior to your “waking up”, you’d not at all prepared
To sell her watch, her wedding ring, the furniture you’d shared?
To forge her name and empty her account of every schilling
With no apparent purpose but to finance further killing?
It’s then you spent three months upon your wicked recreation.
And was it for the sake of this you’d quit your occupation?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

And all the while, beneath the floorboards, Ethel lay interred.
We’ve asked you why this was, but you have presently demurred.

I think, my lord, the reason is that she, my truest love
Was fitted to our home and to her husband, hand-in-glove.
I didn’t wish my deed to part her from the life she’d known,
But of the deed itself, which left me more or less alone…

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

And sentiment is on display in just your wife’s case, is it?
Not so, the last three corpses, which sat up a while to visit?
Though only with your wife did you serve tea upon her tomb,
Ms. Fuerst was also briefly planted in your living room.
From this account and more besides there’s every indication
That she and all the others earned your close consideration.

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Perhaps you have in mind, at least, some lingering sensation
When thinking of your virgin victim’s fleeting exhumation?
The task provided time for keen awareness and reflection:
You made her grave in stages night and day to dodge detection.

I’ll only speculate, but I imagine it was thrilling.
My triumph must have filled me with an appetite for killing,
But that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Then what about the second woman, known as Muriel?
I understand you worked with her. You must have known her well.
You’d socialized with her and built a shining reputation
Before professing you could remedy her respiration.
So when you used the balsam to conceal heating gas
And urged her breathe it, what did you believe would come to pass?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

You’d have the court believe a man could act without intention
In his creation of a clearly murderous invention?
And would you claim Ms. Eady suffered rape and strangulation
To service what was only an unconscious avocation?

Against the telling of my guilt I’m hopeless to defend,
But as to my cognition, I will only say again:
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

How clear you seemed, though, as a witness for the prosecution.
The detailed structure of your nearly whispered elocution
Subsumed the facts in Evans’ case. It must have been persuasive!
But how things change in just three years! Your doubts have grown pervasive,
Your memory reliable in when it turns all hazy.
Had this been planned with counsel in the hope of looking crazy?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

I trust that you’ll forgive a little further speculation,
For Mr. Christie, I believe there’s been no alteration
Upon your mental state and that the evidence is mounting
Of most deliberate planning in the items you’re recounting.
Your tactics of defense have undergone a change in style,
But reason underlay your lies and murders all the while.

But that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

I will, however, offer this support of my defense:
Recall I left a thigh bone propping up my garden fence.
It stood there underneath your noses back in ‘49
When you uncovered bodies and assumed they weren’t mine.
I testified in court about them, sans interrogation.
So was there any competence in that investigation?
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

It’s not as though the evidence was so adeptly hid.
A dog could find my victims, and I had one, and he did!
The cops had barely left my garden when he started scratching
The earth above a human skull, a morbid little hatchling.
I threw it out at once; I found the image far too grisly.

We know, and in a bombed-out house. But which one was it, Christie?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

She may have been transferred to potter’s field; I doubt you’ll find her.
But how would you have felt to hold her skull as a reminder
That I am not the only one with something to defend,
That you had chance enough to bring me to an early end?

I would have wept with rage at such appalling lack of action.
But what of you, then, Mr. Christie? What was your reaction?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

You weren’t much affected by the stench of death pervading
Your flat. With Ruth removed, your murders were accelerating.
You stuffed them in an alcove that you later papered over,
With Ms. McLennan anchored by the bra strap at her shoulder
To Ms. Maloney and Ms. Nelson, an expectant mother.
But could you even tell these two apart from one another?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Yet with your final victim, you were living in close quarters,
As well as with her boyfriend when you welcomed them as boarders.
But later on you used the force of brotherly persuasion
To lure Ms. McLennan back to suffer strangulation.

I well remember boarding them. We got along, I reckoned.
My shift from friend to killer must have happened in a second.
But that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Then how do you explain your still-methodical behavior
When you continued meeting with the boyfriend, Alex Baker,
To ask if Hectorina’s whereabouts had been discovered
While she was slowly decomposing in your kitchen cupboard?

I think that when I met him I was earnestly concerned,
For though my guilt is something I have logically discerned,
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Even so, perhaps if you continue thus discerning
You’ll find there’s something more about your past we could be learning.
So, Mr. Christie, think a moment back on young Ms. Fuerst
Your vicious catalog of names: is she indeed the first?
We know about the disrepute you earned when you were younger,
But were you then a monster merely teasing out its hunger?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

You see, the pubic clippings you were keeping in a tin:
There’s three of them that can’t be matched to women you did in.
So what of those you stalked while in the War Reserve Police?
Were early homicidal urges aching for release?
And after you’d indulged them did you soberly determine
That you could leave the corpse alone and blame it on the Germans?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

How strange it seems that you can offer nothing in addition
To anything that we’ve already placed on exhibition.
How strange, as well, that while your stories never seemed deranged,
Police will testify of just how frequently they changed.
You’ve led us down the garden path at length, but all the while
Have you so much as offered up one meaningful denial?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

While we enumerate the facts to which you are acceding,
Why don’t you please remind the court just how it is you’re pleading?

I do maintain, my lord, that when I did these heinous crimes
I was insane. But mind you, I was sane at other times.
I trust that you will credit my dispassion, ease, and silence,
And let me speak but little of the details of my violence.
For that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

But Mr. Christie, might we also credit your discernment
At separating right from wrong and fleeing your internment?

No sir, for when I walked the streets in states of fugue or rapture,
I nodded to policemen—I was not evading capture!

And yet, we know your movements ‘til your image started showing
On tabloid covers. Where on Earth could you have then been going?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

If you were running scared or only fleeing your reflection,
Your instincts speak of self-awareness and of self-protection.

Well, these I have and well obey, and why should you find fault
With how I have behaved between the moments of assault?

The sanity of in-between is time for contemplation,
But did you question once your further murderous temptation?

Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

Amidst the deadly afterglow, my senses were depleted.
And what’s the use of thinking on such things when they’re completed?
And if an impulse both indulged and unremembered fallows,
What purpose could there be in starting courtship of the gallows?
Perhaps I would have stopped if my desire began to foment
Within a sober mind. But was there ever such a moment?
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

But is there some dividing line past which you can remember?
The rattle of their final breaths? The wilting of your member?

I have a vague impression of their bodies, limp and warm,
But famously, and all my life, I’ve struggled to perform.
So wouldn’t you expect the sex would stand out in my mind
As moments when I left ol’ “Reggie-No-Dick” far behind?
But that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

But didn’t you attack them with the most deliberate malice
Upon the dictate of your wounded ego and your phallus?
And didn’t you refine your methods o’er the course of years?
These queries wait, however tightly you may clamp your ears.

Seek no more answers, gentlemen, but mark the case as won.
The answer is and always shall be, “Yes… I must done.”
But that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

And even so, my conscience urges that I go on singing:
The crime was mine that set my neighbor Mr. Evans swinging.

I’ll thank you if you put this all to rest, sir. Do you mean
That you confess your killing of the baby Geraldine?

Oh, no sir, I just meant his wife; she fits with my compulsion.
The thought that I could kill a child quite fills me with revulsion.
Of that, my lord, I don’t recall.
I do not recollect at all.

But think not that I’m making Tim the object of deflection.
I never thought him guilty; he had earned my true affection.
When he was taken to be hanged, I was a font of tears.
I’m certain they will clear his name, though it may take a dozen years.

Timothy Evans

XXIII.

When hours passed and no one came inquiring

About the source of distant plumes of smoke,

I looked around and thought it’d be inspiring

If they were underneath this when they woke,

And so I made us beds within the basement

And watched the children cough themselves to sleep,

Cocooned a while in stifling encasement

So they’d emerge as I had from the deep.

And so they did, like groundhogs in the spring

Considering their nascent adaptation

While I explained that one day everything

Would mock their home’s infernal transformation.

I told them, “Children, learn to rest at ease in

Whatever detritus my gods provide,

For when the Earth begins its darker season

They’ll be no other places to reside.

And in that time, the ones who rise as leaders –

Your children or your grandchildren, perhaps –

Will stand alone, as all the world teeters,

In smiling at the imminent collapse.

Now, put aside all notions of returning

Your monstrous souls to permanent gestation

And let us start our home fires brightly burning

Along the path of gloried devastation.”

XXII.

What simple-minded guru first invented

The mantra “in with good air, out with bad”?

What good is that when all the air is scented

With charring flesh that once was mom and dad?

The children, now my own, beheld the burning

And doubtless raised the question on their own,

And tasted of the atmosphere, discerning

If it should stay within them ‘til they’re grown.

I’d made them all a party to the killing

By placing matches in each little hand

So when the smoke arose they’d be more willing

To let their noses fill, their lungs expand,

Their lips stop trembling and pursue a kiss

From flames that shamed a parent’s tepid love,

Their ears start yearning for the pop and hiss

Of flames that blotted out the stars above.

And so it looked like they were breathing easy

When fire raged where every child had roomed.

The weather, cool and dry and gently breezy

Encouraged all, ‘til all had been consumed.

The wreckage of their home looked no more dismal

Than life within it surely must have been.

And it became the place of their baptismal

With ashes and expended gasoline.

XXI.

I welcome my description as corrupter of the youth,

For that, it seems, is just a term society appends

To any influencer who indelicately rends

A child from parents with his blunt expression of the Truth.

And so, with gags and blindfolds I obstructed elder lies

And bid the children’s ductile minds to willingly enfold

The wisdom to be found in not just loving as one’s told

But rather understanding whom exactly to despise.

I left their Christian god and human values duly tattered

With tales of gods I’d met, that we could join, that so revile

Outmoded faiths as only so much desperate denial.

And thus a childish worldview was irreparably shattered.

I set to work upon their folks, encouraging the screaming

But making it more meaningful and easier to swallow

By telling where the souls would go and where the world would follow,

So awe could set in children’s eyes and stop their tearful streaming.

And then I let them know they all would find a long-sought voice

When those of their forerunners had been made forever quiet.

I wanted them to know it, though, not merely be compliant,

So I resolved to put the young ones to a real choice.

I noted that the oldest son’s expression was elated.

He’d listened raptly all the while and seemed to understand.

I held the knife before him ‘til he took it in his hand

And plunged it in his father’s breast. He never hesitated.

XX.

My worldly hopes and godly dreams both followed as I traveled

Evading all the dangers of a fixed investigation.

And as I went on running thus, those lively roots unraveled

Which might have turned one goal into the other’s expiation.

Instead, I saw my grayscale dreams become an overlay

For all the ordinary lives I casually encountered.

And so it was when on the road I found a place to stay

Among a country family who failed to make their outward

Appearances seem finer than their meager, base existence

Possessed of peasants’ faith, of resignation, and of silence.

Immediately I discerned in all the kids resistance

And in the parents only a pathetic kind of violence.

And soon thereafter, thinking of a life I had envisioned

I flared with rage at unexamined, valueless antiqueness

That keeps strong children and the very species quite imprisoned

And molds them in a shape that reproduces human weakness.

To place that shape on bright display, I bound the feckless pair

So mom would grow repetitive in desperate supplication

While dad did little more than slump down helpless in his chair

And let his kids be spectators to all my recreation.

I hoped the hideous display would help them understand

The worth of many parents is exhausted when they breed.

“The best of gods acknowledge this,” I said, “and they command

That you must sing a song for them; your children must be freed.”

XIX.

In thinking on the visitation, I came to understand

My will, although subordinated, hadn’t been destroyed

But still would have a role to play. And since that day, I planned

To build myself a stable base from which could be deployed

My darker soul and emissaries that I would acquire

With pride at thinking I could forge my brethren out of fire.

I’d started on my path by disregarding the banal,

Like kids and marriage, as distractions from my true existence.

But then I came to recognize their weirdly altered call,

Which echoed deeply in my silent visitor’s insistence

That even these should bend so I would never have to bother

With love or procreation just to fill the role of father.

I hoped therefore to find a protégé, a pet, a bride,

Who’d understand me not as merely master but creator.

My stance, like great Colossus, overspanned a great divide

‘Tween artisans who sought to tear me down or make me greater.

How mightily did one side lift me up, and to recover

I’d have to place my foot more firmly down upon the other.

In dreams I heard the voice of gods all sighing their assent,

Their understanding that for the fulfillment of their mission

Their servant’s blood would need a sort of pathway of descent

And many anchor points to drag mankind to its perdition.

Indeed, with ordinary aspirations I united

The sunny realms of man with realms eternally benighted.