Sarah Gonzales-McLinn is a girl who killed her 52-year old ex-boss and sugar daddy Harold Sasko, back in January of 2014, at the age of 19. She is now currently serving a 50-year minimum sentence for first-degree murder.
Following the homicide, Sarah was immediately slandered as a “gold-digger” and “psychopath” by the media and police; while Sasko was turned into a martyred saint. After killing her former manager, Sarah wrote “FREEDOM” on the wall in his blood. What did this signify?
Not many understand the truth of what really happened, and it is time that it be told.
Sarah was born on Jul. 9, 1994, and grew up in Topeka, Kansas. She was naive and sheltered due to being home-schooled for years. Following her parents’ divorce, she was molested by a neighbor.
This traumatized her, and she began sneaking out of her home at odd hours to drink her sorrows away.
Despite all this, Sarah had a kind streak. She always looked out for her disabled younger brother, and once rescued an abused horse.
But fate was not kind to the struggling teen.
At 15, she was brutally assaulted by an older male friend: he pushed her into a coffee table, breaking it in the process; and proceeded to burn her with cigarettes and rape her.
She suffered from PTSD flashbacks and nightmares, and was hospitalized at a mental institution after attempting suicide when she was 16.
Sarah’s parents’ divorce had caused her to feel unwanted and out of place. She no longer felt welcome or comfortable living with family, and desperately searched for a way out.
Escape would present itself in a terrible form. When she was 14, she got a job at CiCi’s Pizza parlor.
Her manager was a well-off yet sleazy individual named Harold Sasko. He was in his 50s, owned two locations of the restaurant chain, and had a creepy reputation.
Terry David managed one of Harold’s restaurants, and claimed that his boss told him “to only hire young, attractive girls.” When Terry warned female employees to watch out for Harold, he was incensed.
Harold presented himself as a devout Christian, but Terry said he was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing… he had ulterior motives, and I know that for a fact.”
Later on, when Terry heard of his boss’ death, he stated that “the first thing I said to my wife was, ‘I wonder which one of those girls’ dads went over there and killed him.”
And it gets even worse.
Ann Tau’s young children worked at CiCi Pizza, under the employment of Harold. During their shifts, she waited for her kids in the parking lot; since they could only work a limited amount of hours due to their age.
In this time, Ann became a sort of confidante for the midlife crisis-having pizza boss. Harold would get into her car and openly rant about his problems.
Ann recounted the disturbing time she spent in Harold’s company:
“He wanted to die… He was Catholic, so he didn’t believe in suicide, but he asked me if I would kill him.
He told me how to kill him, and I’m convinced he told Sarah the same thing. He was a very sick person. I’m an adult woman with five children, high functioning, and he weighed me down.”
This occurred a year before Harold’s death.
Before Sarah’s trial, Ann went to the district attorney and told him everything, but he declined to allow Ann to testify.
She said that “the jury should have heard how he was messed up, and that this was the environment Sarah was part of.”
Alas, it was not so. The saintly picture of Harold that was presented in court went against Ann’s own experiences with the man. The game was rigged.
Anyways, let us return to Sarah. Due to her unstable home situation, Harold asked her to move in with him. She was 16, and he was 50.
And so ring the alarm bells…
At this point, Sarah was not even working at CiCi’s Pizza anymore. Her ex-manager had somehow reconnected with his vulnerable former employee, and found the perfect opportunity to exploit her.
Harold tried to gain her confidence by picking her up from school and taking her to Taco Bell, and asking questions about her life. Once she turned 17 and graduated high school, Sarah finally took the plunge and moved in with Harold.
Sarah explained to her suspicious family how “he said he would show me a better life and pay for me to go to college.”
They didn’t buy it.
Sarah’s mother Michelle Gonzales said that the living arrangement upset her, and caused her and her daughter to have fights when Michelle advised against it.
According to Michelle, Sarah was delusional about Harold’s real intentions:
“She’d say, ‘He’s a Christian man!’ He preyed on that whole Christian thing with her, and wanted to rescue her from her broken home.”
To Sarah, Harold was just a harmless father figure. He initially requested that Sarah refer to him as “dad,” and told inquisitive friends that the girl living with him was his stepdaughter.
Things got weird real fast.
As she neared 18, Harold became more brash and sexual. He gave her weed and alcohol, and discussed the idea of them dating. Sarah tried to refuse, but the implication became clear: no sex, no home.
God had officially left the premises.
In addition, she claimed that Harold also gave her cocaine and ecstasy, and got her extremely drunk to make her more susceptible to his perverted advances.
He wanted her to feel indebted to him. Harold began leaving out a copy of a printed running tab, which listed all the things he had bought for her since she moved in.
He told Sarah she could only leave once she paid him back for everything, and warned against legal retaliation if she did not. She was working at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but only made minimum wage.
Despite this, she was giving Harold most of her pittance of a salary. It was still not enough, and he demanded she pay him back rent. This was ironic coming from the man who once offered her a better life.
Finally, Sarah got drunk, steeled her nerves, and gave in to the older man’s sexual advances. Why? Her mother has a theory: “She told me she thought she couldn’t come home, because he told her no one would want her there.”
Feeling displaced and hopeless, she began having sex with the man who once called himself her second dad. She most likely felt too guilty to return home after these disturbing experiences.
Dr. Marilyn Hutchinson, psychologist for the defense, said that after interviewing Sarah for 17 hours during her trial; she found that “her sense of captivity was pretty intense.”
Sarah said she could only stomach sex with Harold while she was completely inebriated or drugged, and most often she was barely conscious while he had his way with her.
She “would just lay there and check out’’ and was “disgusted” with the encounters and said no repeatedly, but he just held her arms down and ignored her.
The prosecution later argued that all this was consensual. But try and see it from her perspective: if you were a broke and homeless teenager who had to have sex with a man in his 50s in order to survive, would that really be a voluntary situation?
Rumors began to spread in Kansas that Harold and Sarah’s relationship had a sexual bent to it. An anonymous businessman from Lawrence had some inside dirt on the situation:
“He took the girl in and was supposed to be getting her back on track, but… a [CiCi’s] manager told me that they were having a big time affair… that it was pretty torrid… and (Sasko) had kicked her out five or six times and she had worked at CiCi’s and she’d been fired there a number of times.”
Harold arrived late for work, often with hickeys on his neck.
Co-workers at Bed, Bath & Beyond described Sarah as shy, quiet, and fashion-model good looking at a slim 5’8, 120 lbs stature. When they tried to pry into her relationship with Harold, she was quick to assert that he was her stepfather. But everyone suspected something sleazier.
Their living arrangement was basically an open secret, yet nobody intervened to help Sarah.
She later testified that:
“I would leave the house sometimes when he was gone. I would have to sneek (sic) around because he would get mad … I think more than anything he made me feel he owned me. I was a toy to him like his personal barbie doll. That’s what he tried to make me.”
This manifested itself in Harold pressuring Sarah to get butt implants, because he wanted her to be a “curvier Barbie.” Cringe.
Due to pain resulting from the procedure, Sarah took hydrocodone all summer long. The drug is a powerful painkiller derived from codeine, and said to be nearly as addictive as morphine.
He also paid for her to undergo a nose job, and wanted her to get a boob job in the future, telling her that “no man would find her attractive because her breasts were not big enough and her butt was not big enough.”
Okay there, Harold.
The surgeries totaled $16,000, and Harold demanded that she pay him back- or he would sue her if she tried to leave him. She was in his debt, and he warned her that if he took legal action, “she would never be able to own a house or anything.”
She testified that:
“He was very nice at first and called me his daughter. After the relationship turned sexual he was very mean, he would always belittle me.
He owned me at that point, and the surgery just solidified it for him. I was so embarrassed and I hated myself because it had gotten that far. My sister and I used to make fun of girls who did that, and that was something we’d never do.”
Sarah was unraveling mentally. Her previous psychological issues had been exacerbated by living with a weird old guy in his 50s who kept trying to have sex with her.
She was too humiliated to return back to work and face her coworkers’ questions, so she spent her days lying on the sofa drunk and high, wondering how she would escape her financial quandary.
Cyle Ossiander, a CiCi’s Pizza’s manager, went to visit Harold at home and witnessed an incident that disturbed him.
He found that Sarah had killed, skinned, cleaned, and cooked a rabbit for dinner. But it wasn’t just any bunny, it was a domestic one she had bought from Pet World.
Cyle said “It was a household rabbit, not game. I don’t know of many people that would kill a rabbit and eat it.”
Actually people do eat rabbit, Cyle. But usually not pet ones. And this one wasn’t the first: Sarah butchered and ate several of them, and later used the exact same knife and method of execution on Harold.
She was on antidepressants for six months up until Harold’s death, switching from Zoloft to Pristiq a few days before shit hit the fan. She later told detectives that:
“I had violent thoughts for two years and they progressed, I guess. They just became really intense. I’ve not been in a good place. It’s like really hard to explain. Little things make me turn and see red almost.”
She had finally had enough of her perverse living situation.
By all accounts, Sarah was emotionally and psychologically exhausted, plagued by financial and mental issues. She said the period leading up to the killing was hazy and “felt like dreams.”
Five days before, Sarah cemented her plan to murder Harold. Police would go on to find that she had googled “neck vulnerable spots.”
On January 14, 2014, Sarah slit Harold’s throat. She drugged him first so he would not feel pain, but also so he would not be able to fight back.
That fateful day, Harold returned home and started working on a speaker system. He asked Sarah to bring him a beer, and she did.
She brought him three beers- but she laced the fourth one with crushed Ambien she had hidden on top of the microwave, so he would be drunk first and less likely to taste the pills.
After 5 Ambiens masked in a few more beers, Harold passed out cold on the floor. Next, she bound his wrists tightly with zip ties.
He mumbled a few words in his barely conscious state. Feeling guilty, Sarah had second thoughts about the murder. But she had already come too far…
She retrieved her hunting knife (the one she’d used on the bunnies), and touched Harold’s neck to feel for his pulse. Sarah stabbed into his carotid artery, then sliced into his neck horizontally, sawing in a side-to-side motion into his spine.
This nearly decapitated him. Sarah said it was difficult to penetrate his neck with the blade, so she held his head in place with her left hand the whole time.
She initially told detectives that as she killed Harold, she “just didn’t feel anything.” However, she then claimed that as she saw Harold die, “everything was screaming at me.”
Detective M.T. Brown, who interviewed Sarah after the murder, testified that “she said she wanted to see someone die… she wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone.”
She went to the sink to clean off the knife, then wrote the word “FREEDOM” on the wall in Harold’s blood. Sarah then showered and washed off the blood, listening to music while doing so. She called into work, saying she would not be in for a few days due to a relative’s death.
Sarah straightened her hair, packed up her bags (including a photo of her sister Ashley), grabbed her chocolate Labrador dog Oliver, and took off in Harold’s 2008 Nissan Altima. She vanished, leaving a trail of confused cops in her wake.
She left her cellphone and tablet behind, so authorities could not track her.
Police broke into Harold’s home on Jan. 17, three days after the murder, when he did not show up for work and was reported missing. A cop peered through a window after knocking on a door and receiving no answer, and saw Harold lying in a pool of his own blood.
What caused her to snap?
Two days before she killed Harold, Sarah sent the following telling text to her sister:
“I’m starting to realize I don’t want the dream everyone wants for me. I don’t want the American dream. I want real freedom, and I know how to get it and I have to give up a lot. I feel like a caged animal.”
While the media portrayed her as a bloodthirsty monster, the truth was much more complex.
This young and vulnerable Latina, made putty in the hands of an older, more powerful, and financially controlling man; longed for freedom that went beyond subservience to a former manager. She needed to escape the sexual constraints he had placed on her, to be more than just his “Barbie” and pawn.
It was perhaps misguided, and a deranged act of violence; but Sarah had killed out of pure desperation. She killed the authority figure who had sexually abused and confined her to a life of financial and mental slavery.
Sarah was on the lam, and managed to evade capture for 11 days. Police initially put Sarah down as a missing person, but soon realized that she was guilty of Harold’s murder.
Her post-homicide adventure reads like a bizarre crime novel. Knowing her capture was inevitable, Sarah fled boring Kansas for Texas.
Sarah often woke up in shaking cold after sleeping in the car all night, and wanted to go somewhere warm. She then drove on to Florida; because she thought the ocean view would be much nicer there, and she also wanted a certain tattoo from a specific artist. Gotta love her priorities.
En route, she slept in the car, at occasional rest stops, and once even shacked up with a kind pastor and his wife. They fed her dinner and housed her for the night. Other than that, she mainly ate fast food and takeout, paying for everything in cash.
She was tattooed by Florida artist James Baker, and he provided some interesting testimony into Sarah’s mind and personality. He said that the two had a mutual interest in serial killers, which they discussed as he worked on her tattoo.
Sarah was a fan of the 1992 murder mystery novel “I” Is For Innocent, by Sue Grafton. She paid James $200 for a rib cage tattoo that took two hours to complete. It was of her favorite quote from the book:
“Beware the dark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb.”
She also had roses tattooed onto her shoulder.
Sarah was finally captured at the Everglades National Park on Jan. 25 at 10:30 PM, after an officer found her sleeping in the stolen car. They rudely woke her up, and found she was lying right next to a loaded gun.
Inside the vehicle, police discovered $2,399 in cash, two knives (one of them was the blood-stained murder weapon, hidden in the map pocket of the driver’s door), two guns, an ax and hashish.
This spelled the end for her short and violent burst of freedom.
The trial was an utter disaster for Sarah, and so was her initial interrogation. Sarah admitted to the police that she had “wanted to see someone die,” and the media and prosecution ran wild with this quote.
Suddenly, all the evidence proving that Harold had kept her as a virtual sex slave was brushed aside, and Sarah was depicted as a psychotic individual; a femme fatale who had lured Harold to his demise- despite the fact that she was a mere teenager suffering from years of mental issues, exploited by a man 33 years her senior.
The media kept pushing the narrative that Harold and Sarah were “roommates”– perhaps wishing to not disgrace the dead man, but willfully ignoring the truth and spreading outright lies by doing so.
Police even found a questionable text from Harold; in which he apologized to Sarah a few days before the murder, for trying to force her to have sex once again.
This too was ignored, among all the other enlightening testimony from people who knew the darker side of Harold.
Sarah also said that Harold was suicidal due to business and personal issues, and often talked to her about killing himself. This is backed up by Ann Tau’s testimony, with whom he also discussed such subject matter.
The court instead chose to focus on the grim physical evidence against Sarah: which included a stick-figure target she had created at home to throw knives at; with major organs, blood vessels, and even the groin marked out especially.
The conservative Kansas elite gathered in droves to condemn Sarah yet were quick to defend Harold, as she was turned into a villain and a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of her community.
At her February 2014 hearing, Sarah was upset to see her family appear in court, gathering to support the once-abandoned teen. Her defense attorney Carl Cornwell said that “she was embarrassed. She didn’t want to see her family there. She was embarrassed.”
In 2015, after only four hours of jury deliberation; Sarah received a Hard 50 Penalty- a life sentence, with a chance of parole only after 50 years.
The District Attorney Charles Branson ridiculed and doubted Sarah’s claims that she was raped as a child, despite the fact that Sarah cried while showing the court her cigarette burn scars.
Her mother Michelle was dismayed at her daughter’s harsh sentencing, and the court’s unwillingness to acknowledge that Harold kept Sarah in sexual slavery and financial bondage.
Michelle admitted her daughter would have to go to jail for the crime, “but not the rest of her life, because he had no business doing what he did to her.”
Despite the fact that Sarah’s family paid defense lawyer Carl Cornwell $40k in legal fees and they had a legitimate case, Carl used an extremely idiotic defense. He argued to the court that Sarah had Multiple Personality Disorder, informing her they could win if they used that defense.
And so, Carl preached to the court about how Sarah had many different, violent personalities named Alyssa, Vanessa, and Myla- is it any wondered the jury condemned her to life in prison?
Even the prosecution’s psychiatrist, Dr. William Logan, admitted that Sarah showed symptoms of PTSD, major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Yet Carl did not use this evidence to his client’s advantage.
The trial was totally botched, and her ship sank immediately.
Michelle does not ask her daughter to contemplate her crime, as Sarah is not receiving any psychiatric therapy in jail. She says “I don’t encourage her, because if I open that box, who’s going to help her with what falls out?”
Her prison is infamous for rape and violence, yet Michelle says “what’s saddened me the most about her being there is she told me she’s safe now.”
Even the confines of jail seem less disturbing than her life outside- one in which Sarah had to be sexually subservient to an old man just to keep a roof over her head.
Such is the tragedy of Sarah’s life: she killed the man who sexually abused in her a pathetic bid for freedom, but only doomed herself to a lifetime of imprisonment.
As of 2020, Kansas Department of Corrections facility in Topeka lists her earliest possible release date as Feb. 1, 2064. The American prison system is harsh and unforgiving; merciless towards those who need justice the most.
"The queen wants me; I must live and die near her."
We’ve all heard of Queen Marie Antoinette, and her unlucky fate at the blade of the revolutionary guillotine. But not many know the tragic tale of her best friend, Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy, Princesse de Lamballe.
De Lamballe was killed a month before her beloved queen, humiliated and beaten to death in a crowded street by enraged revolutionaries. This is her melodramatic story:
Marie Thérèse was was born to a German princess and a Sardinian prince on Sept. 8, 1749. She was, quite simply, a bourgeois bitch: a descendant of the prestigious House of Savoy.
She would have been your typical dispensable aristocrat, had her family not arranged a prodigious marriage on her part.
A Lovely Wedding
Thanks to internal connections, de Lamballe was swiftly married off to Louis Alexandre, Prince of Lamballe – great grandson of Louis XIV a.k.a. The Sun King, and consummate French royalty.
The prince was also a spoiled brat and a notorious womanizer.
He was red-haired, with a tall, strong build and luminous eyes. The prince was said to be attractive to women, who he pursued readily. He was even rumored to have been friends with the perverted libertine Marquis de Sade.
This arranged marriage was his father’s bid to subdue the wily prince: he felt the shy and reserved de Lamballe would chastise his perverse son.
Most importantly: she was nonthreatening and not the sharpest pencil in the box. Madame du Barry, infamous mistress of Louis XV, called Marie Thérèse “destitute of wit.”
Marie Thérèse was not conventionally attractive: she had a big nose, a giraffe neck, and sloped shoulders; plain in both mannerisms and appearance.
There were some positives about her, like her smooth skin that was described as “delicately fair,” as well as clear blue eyes and long golden hair that was compared to Raphael’s madonnas. Overall, she was considered a righteous, moral, kind woman with a good temperament.
In January of 1767, the couple was married off in a luxurious 10 day ceremony with celebrations and feasts taking place in both France and Italy. She was now officially a princess!
She was only 17 years old and the prince was 19. The pair were both Virgos with close birthdays: two hard-headed individuals meant to clash.
Before the wedding, the prince went to go see his future bride to bring her a bouquet of flowers, disguising himself as his own servant. Upon discovering his gag, de Lamballe was charmed and intrigued.
She said of it:
“I hope[d] my prince will allow his page to attend me, for I like him much. What was my surprise when the Duc de Penthièvre presented me to the Prince and I found in him the page for whom I had already felt such an interest!
We both laughed and wanted words to express our mutual sentiments. This was really love at first sight.”
The couple spent their honeymoon at the Château de Nangis, a pleasant mini castle where Joan of Arc had once walked.
At first, the couple was said to be enamored by one another as there was a strong physical attraction between them. The princess must have been getting some good dick, as she wrote to her mother “it is very pleasant to find thus in my duties my sweetest enjoyments.”
Soon enough, however, the prince fell back into his degenerate, polygamous ways.
Sins and Punishments
After a few months of marital bliss, the prince began affairs with numerous women, even impregnating an opera singer at one point.
The prince also used his wife’s diamonds to pay off his debts, as well as cruelly re-gifting them to his mistresses.
Princess de Lamballe was humiliated by her husband’s errant behaviour and infidelity. She found consolation in her social life at the royal court at the Palace of Versailles.
The princess also became close with her husband’s father, Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre. The duke was one of the richest and most powerful men in France, and he was very fond of his daughter-in-law.
In May of 1767, the princess sent a lamentful letter to her mother:
“Why is it that monsieur de Lamballe… warms my heart but all the fires of the love he has for me have suddenly changed?
In vain I seek in my conduct that which might have caused this change, but I cannot find any cause… Can it be because I’m not with child? Is that a crime? His indifference kills me.
But one thing that distresses me… is that I cannot doubt that the life he leads alters his health. A thousand forebodings overwhelm me. Oh my mother! Sympathize with my sorrows, and I will feel less bitter.”
Due to her husband’s neglect, she began to faint and have nervous fits. Doctors diagnosed the princess with hysteria and so-called “convulsive vapors” and melancholia, when she was really just an upset teenager who was dismayed at being cheated on.
Soon enough, the partying prince’s health began to deteriorate as well, but for different reasons. Louis Alexandre grew pale, tired, and ill, and was plagued with skin ulcers.
He also badly injured himself by falling off a horse, so he went home and had his cuckolded wife and sister care for him.
Karma was hitting him hard: the prince started wasting away, and was constantly feverish, exhausted and suffering from skin rashes. He had syphilis!
Louis Alexandre had contracted venereal disease from one of the orgies he had attended. Doctors prescribed seven pounds of mercury to treat the syphilis, but it was to no avail.
It completely was over for the pernicious prince. Louis Alexandre confessed his sins to a priest, and died on May 6, 1768, in the arms of his loyal wife. He was only 20, and their marriage had lasted a little over a year.
Now a widow at only 18, the princess briefly considered joining a convent. But really, why would she? It would be such a waste, and so boring.
Marie Thérèse had just inherited a large fortune from her dead husband, and was ready for a new life. The Duc de Penthièvre took the young widow under his wing, and brought her to live with him in his gorgeous Château de Rambouillet.
The château was far removed from the hustle and filth of Paris; a lush green country castle where the super-rich spent their days in utmost leisure. The princess enjoyed her relaxing days at this fair château, taking long walks in beautiful country forests and sitting by the window-side writing letters and self-reflecting.
The princess and her father-in-law also spent time engaging in charitable projects to appease the jealous proles, and were called the “King of the Poor” and “The Angel of Penthiévre” respectively.
And so began Princess de Lamballe’s grand courtly life: she was so well reputed that she was even considered for a time as a possible wife for King Louis XV.
However, nothing materialized of it, as he was already too enamored by his slutty mistress Madame du Barry.
A Beautiful Friendship
The princess was introduced to dauphine Marie Antoinette in 1770, at her wedding bash to future King Louis XVI. Despite being six years older than her, the princess became fast friends with the dauphine.
Marie Antoinette described her as “the only woman I know who never bears a grudge; neither hatred nor jealousy is to be found in her.”
The outgoing, fashionable, pretty, strawberry-blonde haired Marie Antoinette was, personality wise, quite the opposite of de Lamballe. But they enjoyed the stability and consistency of one another’s affections.
Marie Antoinette helped the princess grieve and heal from the recent death of her sleazy husband, for which she would be grateful for until the end. The princess said:
“It was amid this gloom of human agony, these heart-rending scenes of real mourning, that the brilliant star shone to disperse the clouds, which hovered over our drooping heads…
It was in this crisis that Marie Antoinette came, like a messenger sent down from Heaven, graciously to offer the balm of comfort in the sweetest language of human compassion…
From that moment I became seriously attached to the Queen of France.”
In return, the princess gave her the utmost loyalty. Within the court of Versailles, Maire Antoinette was surrounded by bitchy haters who constantly criticized her for being unconventional and imprudent.
Many courtiers were incensed by her foreign heritage, and she earned the pejorative L’Autrichienne (the Austrian bitch).
Within this sea of bitterness, is it any wonder she needed a friend?
Marie Antoinette and the princess bonded by going on wintertime sleigh rides together, resplendent in fine ermine and sable furs. They were pulled through snowy Paris by horses that were decked in jingling bells and lux white head-plumes.
On May 10, 1774, King Louis XV died of smallpox. His grandson, the awkward and portly Louis XVI, succeeded him. Marie Antoinette went from despised dauphine to Queen of France in the abrupt blink of an eye.
Princess de Lamballe was now in a place of immense power and influence.
When the princess was away from the court for two months, Marie Antoinette missed her dearly, and had de Lamballe’s portrait painted in her looking-glass room. The two even started wearing matching coordinated outfits. They were, like, total BFFs forever.
The Queen was said to have remarked to Louis XVI that “the Princesse de Lamballe’s friendship is the charm of my life.”
In September of 1775, Marie Antoinette attracted controversy when she appointed de Lamballe the title of “Superintendent of the Queen’s Household.”
This post was so contentious that it had been left vacant for 30 years, as it was a very highly-paid and influential position. And now, with this honor bestowed upon her, Princess de Lamballe was the highest-ranking Lady in Waiting in all the court.
Many were unhappy with this appointment, as they felt de Lamballe was too much of a fragile drama queen to handle such responsibility. She was once said to have fainted of shock when a lady-in-waiting unexpectedly and noisily yawned near her.
The princess’ brother Eugène was also promoted to regiment commander in the French military, thanks to his sister’s connections.
Marie Antoinette’s mother Empress Maria Theresa grew concerned with the amount of influence the Princess de Lamballe was accumulating.
Comte de Mercy-Argenteau, an Austrian diplomat that Marie Antoinette’s mother used to keep an eye on her, reported to the Empress that:
“This lady joins to much sweetness a very sincere character, far from intrigue and all such worries… the choice is excellent…
All the same, I have taken the precaution to point out to the Queen that her favour and goodness to the Princesse de Lamballe are somewhat excessive, in order to prevent abuse of them from that quarter.”
In the spring of 1775, starving French peasants rioted due to extensive grain shortages. This was nicknamed the Flour War. Louis XVI was not doing a good job feeding his people. Consequences were to come…
But not yet. Marie Antoinette was still enjoying her sexy, exciting royal life. And she had made a new friend: Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac.
The pretty, violet-eyed, charismatic duchess caught the Queen’s eye immediately. The duchess was more attractive and smooth than the neurotic and humble de Lamballe, but she was also more gossipy.
Marie Antoinette was turned on by the duchess’ cavalier devil-may-care attitude. The Queen paid off the duchess and her husband’s 400k franc gambling debts so they could permanently move into Versailles.
There was also a strange coincidence: Princess de Lamballe and the Duchesse de Polignac were born on the exact same day, of the exact same year! This bode well for a blooming friendship, right?
The two hated one another, and vied for Marie Antoinette’s affections. The Queen began to prefer the duchess’ company over the princess. She was, after all, way cooler than the dorky, fainting Princess de Lamballe.
At this time, the Queen’s advisers complained de Lamballe was getting paid way too much for her Superintendent position. She was already rich via her father-in-law, and owned many empty homes that she did not even live in.
De Lamballe refused to relinquish any privileges or her 50k crown salary, and rumors spread that she was a greedy bitch.
Princess de Lamballe began to get an inkling that the tides were turning against the monarchy.
Many peasants and courtiers alike began to make apparent their disdain for Marie Antoinette’s expensive and bimboish obsession with fashion and fancy living, which was seen as especially distasteful during periods of terrible famine and starvation for the lower class.
The Queen laughed off the princess’ advices against being too decadent, and joked with the Duchess de Polignac at what a bore the princess was.
Comte Mercy-Argenteau witnessed their constant disagreements, noting:
“Constant quarrels, in which the Princesse seemed always to be in the wrong…
The Princesse de Lamballe loses much in favour. I believe she will always be well treated by the Queen, but she no longer possesses her entire confidence…
The Princesse is very little seen at court. The Queen, it is true, visited her on her father’s death, but it is the first mark of kindness she has received for long.”
The cunty duchess also did her best to create a wedge in the princess and the Queen’s friendship.
When the Queen retreated to the colossal 1,500-room Château de Fontainebleau in autumn of 1776, she chose to bring the princess with her, instead of the duchess.
At the end of 1776, de Lamballe was plagued by a bad attack of measles. The Queen sent her heartfelt, touching, worried letters inquiring about her health.
In 1778, when the princess’ mother died, the Queen and King both wrote sweet letters of consolation.
Marie Antoinette signed off with “I embrace you again with my whole heart, as I shall love you all my life.”
Louis XVI added “You know how much we love you. May God be with you.”
Despite the fact that both her parents had died that year, the princess was there for moral support when the Queen gave birth to her first child: Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, or Madame Royale.
It was a horrible 12-hour labour, in which Marie Antoinette almost died of suffocation. The delicate de Lamballe of course fainted after witnessing this.
Extravagance and Depravity
There were rumours spreading around Paris that Marie Antoinette was cheating on her husband, as well as having lesbian relationships with the Princess de Lamballe and the Duchess de Polignac. Did the Queen really eat muff? Who knows?
One must note that Princess de Lamballe was not known to have taken any lovers after her husband died. She appeared to have a limited interest in love affairs and men. Could it be that she was into women? It is impossible to prove or disprove.
Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, really knew how to trigger people. She was a gambling addict, took the company of men who were not her husband, and loved the theatrical arts.
The Queen, herself, acted in plays, and was said to have been a terrible performer. The Duchess de Polignac ensured that the Princess de Lamballe was barred from attending any performances.
In 1790, when Marie Antoinette’s mother died, she withdrew to mourn with the princess and the duchess in private. Subsequently, the Queen increased de Lamballe’s salary to match her loyalty.
The princess was having a fun time giving tea parties and riding hot air balloons at the wonderful Hôtel de Toulouse, which was owned by her father-in-law, the Duke of Penthièvre. Her bedroom was an opulent salon gilded in gold and velvet.
In December of 1784, a bandit named Pierre Poulailler tried to burn down the Hôtel. The princess awoke the duke at 1 AM, and they escaped the inferno. Police extinguished the fire promptly.
As for Pierre, he was said to have killed 150 people in his life of crime. He once even sealed a man alive inside a building. When Pierre was captured, his bones were broken on a torture wheel and then he was burned alive.
Wasn’t 18th century France just lovely?
Following the infamous 1785 Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette’s already questionable reputation was irreparably tarnished. The peasants nicknamed her “Madame Deficit,” blaming the Queen for the country’s dire financial plight.
In 1787, the princess was in poor health and France was on the brink of bankruptcy. Political troubles were brewing steadily.
The princess set off to England for a health retreat. She viewed Herschel’s Forty-Foot Telescope, and had dinner with writer Horace Walpole.
Like the condescending gout-ridden Englishman he was, Walpole remarked “I have no particular penchant for sterling princes and princesses, much less for those of French plate.”
By 1788, most of Louis XVI’s parliament and a veritable array of aristocrats had turned against him for attempting to tax them. They simply refused to pay up, even though there was a poor harvest that year and French citizens were facing starvation.
This was the period when the Jacobins banded together, and republican Maximilien de Robespierre started his rise to glory and power.
The conflict between the King and his unruly subjects finally climaxed with the Storming of the Bastille prison in 1789.
The prison was supposed to symbolize all of the King’s tyrannies and evil. But when the approximately 1,000 partisans of the Third Estate broke in, there were only seven prisoners within!
99 citizens died during the action.
Bernard-René de Launay, governor of the Bastille, was captured and horribly beaten.
When he could no longer take the abuse, he cried out “Enough! Let me die!” and kicked a pastry cook in the nuts, as his final act of defiance. In return, he was stabbed, beaten, and shot to death by the angry mob. Afterwards, his head was sawed off then paraded around on a pike.
A British Doctor by the name of Edward Rigby described the scene:
“[We] perceived two bloody heads raised on pikes, which were said to be the heads of the Marquis de Launay, Governor of the Bastille, and of Monsieur Flesselles, Prévôt des Marchands.
It was a chilling and a horrid sight! … Shocked and disgusted at this scene, [we] retired immediately from the streets.”
This was a disturbing omen of violent things to come.
The Unraveling of the Monarchy
Unable to control the angry mobs of rioters any longer, the King advised his supporters to flee the country for their own safety, as he could no longer protect them.
While this was all going down, Princess de Lamballe was in Switzerland on a leisure trip.
When the third estate demanded that the nobles cough up some of their baubles to help pay France’s national debt, the princess was very hesitant to contribute.
Marie Antoinette was the same: she unwisely chose to wear her most beautiful and expensive jewelry while attending a delegation in August.
Three months later, another monumental event occurred: The Women’s March on Versailles.
On October. 5, following a large feast at the king’s palace; a mob of almost 10,000 starving, enraged women and revolutionary agitators set off from the Parisian marketplace to Versailles, armed with weapons.
Why were the starving peasants forced to pay taxes, while the comfy aristocrats were exempt? It was time for an answer.
When they arrived, the mob demanded the king provide grain for their hungry families. Louis XVI relented and promised to take care of the issue, then he and his family settled in to sleep for the night.
But the suspicious mob broke into the palace and attacked and murdered the guards. Again, they decapitated their victims and placed the guards’ heads onto pikes.
Marie Anoinette nearly escaped being bayoneted to death in her bedchambers by angry rioters.
By now, the mob had reached 60,000, and they forced the King and Queen to leave Versailles and return to Paris: to live in the dilapidated Tuileries Palace. Louis XVI was now at the mercy of his people.
Two days after this chaotic event, the ever-loyal princess went to Tuileries to provide emotional support to her Queen. Upon her arrival, Marie Antoinette collapsed into the princess’ arms and began sobbing.
The princess resumed her superintendent position, and moved into the Pavillon de Flore to stay close to the Royal family. She referred to her apartment there as a “dungeon” compared to what she had had in Versailles.
Since the King and Queen were virtual prisoners at this point, they decided to try and escape Paris to go to the royalist stronghold of Montmédy; which bordered Marie Antoinette’s beloved Austria.
The Queen gave the princess a very affectionate farewell before her escape. The princess found out next morning, and set off to meet them in Montmédy.
The attempt failed disastrously, and the King and Queen were captured in Varennes on June 21, 1791, and forced to return back to Paris.
De Lamballe was steadfast, and after waiting in Montmédy for a week, she sent Marie Antoinette this lamentful letter:
“I … wait [for] your Majesty’s command… When your Majesty wears fetters, can liberty be of any value to me? When your Majesty is bathed in tears, can any tranquility enter in to the bossom.”
The princess desperately wanted to help her Queen, but was advised to stay afar in Brussels. Marie Antoinette did not want the princess to return as she feared for her dear friend’s life.
The Queen wrote to de Lamballe:
“Your friendship is my consolation and my only happiness… Do not return, do not throw yourself in the tiger’s jaws; the present is too terrible.”
Marie Antoinette sent the princess a gold ring which was looped with strands of her own her that had been “turned white by misfortune.” Oh the drama.
Even the Duc de Penthièvre tried to halt his daughter-in-law’s return; entreating de Lamballe’s cousin, the King of Sardinia, to try and convince her to go hide it out with the Savoy family.
She wrote him an epic letter declining all help:
“I do not recollect that any of our illustrious ancestors of the house of Savoy… ever dishonored or tarnished their illustrious names with cowardice.
I cannot swerve from my determination of never quitting them, especially at a moment when they are abandoned by every one of their former attendants, except myself…
“During the most brilliant period of the reign of Marie Antoinette, I was distinguished by the royal favor and bounty. To abandon her in adversity, Sire, would stain my character, and that of my illustrious family, for ages to come with infamy and cowardice, much more to be dreaded than the most cruel death.”
Princess de Lamballe would never betray her friend of more than 20 years. It was unthinkable.
Against all safety and common sense, de Lamballe decided to return to Paris and go down with the sinking ship. She made out her last will and testament, then arrived back in France on Nov 4, 1791.
Princess de Lamballe brought the Queen a red and white spaniel as a gift to cheer her up, but a dog could not fix Marie Antoinette’s busted life. She was now aged and haggard, with her hair turned totally white.
On the other hand, the Queen’s old friend the, Duchesse de Polignac, was far away; not one to be found near any danger. The Queen wrote to the duchess that “the good Lamballe … seemed only waiting for danger to show what she was worth.”
Only five ladies-in-waiting remained at the court, and de Lamballe was one of them.
At this time, the Jacobins wanted the King’s young son Louis-Charles to have a tutor who was sympathetic to the revolution. For that purpose, the princess suggested future psychopath dictator Maximilien Robespierre as a candidate.
Marie Antoinette adamantly refused, and after that, Robespierre held a hateful grudge against the Princess de Lamballe.
By 1792, Paris was saturated by pamphlets accusing Marie Antoinette of being a whore. A particularly comedic one told a story where de Lamballe supposedly supplied the Queen with massive dildos, implying that the King was too small to satisfy her.
After Louis XVI vetoed a decree for a constitutional monarchy, partisans stormed into the Tuileries Palace on June 20. The violent mob threatened Marie Antoinette, who responded that her place was by the King’s side.
Fearing for the Queen’s life, the princess cried out “No, no, Madame, your place is with your children!”
The princess courageously stood by the Queen through the whole debacle, and was more protective of the Queen’s life than her own.
While revolutionaries declared war on Austria, Louis XVI went behind France’s back to make a deal with Prussian royals. The Brunswick Manifesto declared that if the French monarchy were harmed, then French civilians would be attacked in turn.
Now that Louis XVI was viewed as a traitor, French revolutionary insurrectionists became bold and attacked Tuileries Palace on August 10.
When she saw the approaching army, Princess de Lamballe declared to the Queen: “My dear, my dear, nothing will save us. I think we are lost.” It was completely over.
The King and Queen, as well as their frightened children and entourage, were forced to take refuge in the Legislative Assembly.
Once the most dignified crop in Paris, they were now relegated to sleeping on the floors of dingy jail cells on flimsy mattresses.
On August 19, the Princess de Lamballe was forcibly separated from the Royal family. Marie Antoinette was devastated. Who would she get her nails done with now?
Like a movie, the princess fell to her knees to kiss the Queen’s hand. But before she could do so, the indignant guards dragged the princess off.
Marie Antoinette’s daughter Madame Royale claimed that“they tore her away, saying that such an act was enough for a slave toward tyrants.”
The princess was taken to the La Force Prison and interrogated by members of the Paris Commune.
The princess was imprisoned alongside the Royal governess Louise-Élisabeth de Croÿ de Tourzel, and her daughter Pauline.
Mme. de Tourzel said that “the Princess de Lamballe bore her sad lot perfectly. Sweet, good, and obliging, she showed us every little attention in her power.”
But the princess had her haters too. The Duc d’Orléans’ (ex-brother in law and now enemy of the princess) salty mistress, the Comtesse de Buffon, took pleasure in kicking the princess when she was already down:
“The princesse de Lamballe is without a maid and has to look after herself. For a person who affects to feel ill before a lobster in a picture this must be a rude position.”
Not very nice, bitch!
The princess showed major toughness of character by having none of her usual fainting attacks while imprisoned.
Meanwhile, the princess’ loving father-in-law, the Duc de Penthièvre, was doing his best to try and free her; even offering the Commune half of his massive wealth as a bribe.
The principled fellows declined the cash.
Princess de Lamballe was dead meat. The revolutionaries would have no mercy for the delicate and refined 42-year old widow with Savoyan blood. She was just another head soon to be impaled sky high.
A Savage and Vicious Murder
On Sept 3. 1792, the last day of her life; the princess was dressed in angelic white silk with her curls neatly arranged under a cap.
At 6 AM, jailers came into de Lamballe and Mme. de Tourzel’s cell, and asked the women their names. Immediately knowing something was wrong, they began to pray.
The princess gazed out the window of her tiny cell, frightened. She saw a rabid, screaming, bloodthirsty mob gathered outside. A man threw a rock at her face, which cut her cheek and drew blood.
At 11 AM, a jailer led the two women out of their cell into the nightmarish courtyard. Drunk and belligerent, the men outside taunted and insulted the princess.
The princess bore her lot with dignity, according to de Tourzel:
“We clasped each other’s hand … and I can state positively that she displayed much courage and presence of mind, replying without hesitation to all the questions put by the monsters who joined us for the sole purpose of contemplating their victims before leading them to death.”
De Tourzel managed to escape the courtyard, due to the help of a mysterious man known as Monsieur Hardi.
The princess, however, was not so lucky. She waited with other doomed political prisoners, to be sent before an impromptu revolutionary tribunal.
The trials, of course, were a farce: they existed only to expedite the killings of political enemies. This was the period of the September Massacres, where thousands would be put to death under the guise of revolution.
And it was the princess’ turn.
Brought before the tribunal in a dank, grim room; the revolutionaries demanded that she “take an oath to love liberty and equality and to swear hatred to the King and the Queen and to the monarchy.” The dialogue went as follows:
Princess de Lamballe had become fearless in her indignation.
Unlike the other cowardly courtiers who once swarmed Louis XVI’s bustling court- and then fled like rats when trouble hit, the princess actually had values and ideals.
She would not beg for her life like a dog, or shit on the hand that once fed her.
The princess simply responded: “‘I have nothing to answer. Whether I die sooner or later is a matter of indifference to me. I have made the sacrifice of my life.”
And with those words, she sealed her fate.
The tribunal called out “Let Madame be set at liberty,” which was actually code for “throw her to the wolves.” Without understanding what was happening, the princess was escorted into the street by two guards.
She was greeted by the scene of a horrific massacre. Piles of naked, bloody corpses were laid out in the open.
An angry mob of men, women, and even children were assigned to slaughtering those who the tribunal deemed as guilty; and they seemed more than happy to do so.
The frightened princess fell back on the guards and tried to escape, crying out “Fi horreur!” or“I am lost!” But they clamped her mouth shut to prevent her screams, and pushed her further into the bloodthirsty mob.
A member of the mob described the princess years later as a mere “little lady dressed in white.”
That did not prevent them from murdering her in a terrible manner. A witness described the scene:
“A journeyman barber, staggering with intoxication and infuriated with carnage, endeavored, in a kind of brutal jesting, to strike her cap from her head with his long pike.
The blow fell upon her forehead, cutting a deep gash, and the blood gushed out over her face.”
The princess’ golden hair came undone, and from her cap fell a letter from her beloved Marie Antoinette.
As blood dripped onto her white silk dress, the mob became emboldened. A man came forth to deliver the final death blow; by bludgeoning her head.
The princess was piled upon and stabbed; then grabbed by the hair and decapitated by a random maniac with a sabre. They went full on slasher movie villain, it seems.
There is also this dramatic firsthand account from a bystander by the name of Jean Némery:
“A quick and horrific scene unfolded before my eyes. On seeing the bodies lying on the ground, the Princess made a gesture of horror and stepped back sharply.
The two men who stood beside her seized her by the arms and spoke to her; she replied, with gestures, but I could not hear her words.
Some of the executioners approached the small group and laughed, probably mocking the fear of the princesse. One of them threatened her with his pike.
She stepped back and raised her arms, as if to protect herself. The executioners had parted and I thought they were going to pass.
I breathed when, suddenly, two of those devils stood before her and beat her, one with a pike, the other with a sword.
She screamed, staggered, put a hand on her chest, then fell onto a pile of bodies … she tried to get up, but she received fresh blows, her arms fluttered a moment, then did not move again.“
Wild rumours later circulated that the princess was raped, dismembered, and sexually mutilated. However, that is all unsubstantiated.
It is fairly likely that they stripped the princess’ corpse naked, and disemboweled her.
What indeed was factual was that the mob placed the princess’ severed head on a pike, and grotesquely paraded it around the streets of Paris.
The deranged procession screamed out the Princess de Lamballe’s name in a macabre trance of celebration and drunken dancing. And to be fair, can you imagine being an 18th century French peasant? This was the highlight of their week.
Execution was an art, a form of entertainment. And here was the Queen’s best friend: whose fortune had been enough to buy whatever she desired, a million times over. She was now headless; a dismembered body in the hands of those who despised what she stood for, of those barely able to even afford bread.
The mob first stopped at a barber shop, and insisted he groom the decapitated head by applying makeup and curling her hair.
The mob then stopped to show the severed head off at a café, where spectators drank to de Lamballe’s death.
Finally, the mob attempted to break into the Temple: the fortress where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned.
If they had succeeded, the mob would have forced her to kiss the decapitated de Lamballe’s lips, as many had assumed she and Marie Antoinette had once been lesbian lovers.
*Insert obligatory joke about giving head here.*
Fortunately, guards managed to prevent the mob from breaking into the Temple, and the King and Queen’s windows were kept closed to prevent them from seeing the princess’ severed head.
When Louis XVI asked why their windows were being shuttered, a guard responded “they are trying to show you the head of Madame de Lamballe.”
A horrified Marie Antoinette nearly fainted away.
Their daughter, Madame Royale, described the scene as such:
“My mother was seized with horror; that was the sole moment when her firmness abandoned her.
The municipals scolded the officer, but my father, with his usual kindness, excused him, saying it was not the officer’s fault, but his own for having questioned him…
My unhappy mother did not even try to sleep [that night]; we listened to her sobs.”
Jean-Baptiste Cléry, valet of Louis XVI, described in his journal the peasants’ attempts to try and show Marie Antoinette her BFF’s decapitated head:
“They had raised the victim’s head so that it could not escape her sight; it was that of the Princesse de Lamballe. Though bloody, it was not disfigured; her blond hair, still curling, floated around the pike.”
It’s nice to know that the princess still looked pretty, even after they cut her head off.
Like a marauding circus, the celebrating mob next went to seek out the Duc d’Orléans and his mistress the Comtesse de Buffon (who as I mentioned before, were not fans of the princess.)
The pair were dining with English gentlemen at the Palais-Royal, when the mob started waving the princess’ severed head by an open window.
The irritated Duke brushed off the bizarre spectacle, commenting “‘Oh, it is Lamballe’s head: I know it by the long hair. Let us sit down to supper.”
The Comtesse, on the other hand, was duly alarmed and cried out “‘O God ! They will carry my head like that some day!”
Luckily for her, that would not happen. However, the cavalier Duc d’Orléans was guillotined the very next year.
The mob couldn’t play with the princess’ detached head forever, could they? They had to be stopped.
Knowing she was in deep trouble, the Duc de Penthièvre had send emissaries to the princess’ trial. They had tried to help her, but they were no match against the thronging mob.
As she was being beaten to death, the emissaries cried out for mercy to try and halt the killing. But the mob disdainfully screamed “Death to the disguised lackeys of the Duc de Penthièvre!’
Now that the princess had been slaughtered, they were charged with obtaining her remains. It was not an easy task. They had to pretend to befriend the mob, so they took the exhausted marauders to an ale house to get them shitfaced.
While the drunks were distracted, an emissary named Jacques Pointel managed to steal the princess’ head off the pike it was impaled on. He wrapped the head in a napkin, and whisked it away; secretly burying it in a children’s cemetery.
Her skull was never found, despite attempts to unearth it in 1904. As for the rest of her body, that is also a mystery.
Poor, old, sickly Duc de Penthièvre was heartbroken when he found out what happened to his much-adored daughter-in-law. She was the light of his life, and he had took her to his bosom like she was his real daughter. He never forgot her, and said:
“I think I always hear her … I always think I see her sitting near the window, in the little study … with what assiduity she used to work there, from morning till night, at the labours of her sex, for the poor? … and this is the angel they have torn to pieces!”
If that doesn’t bring a tear to one’s eye, then what the hell will?
Louis XVI was guillotined in January of 1793. His last words were, “I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge. I forgive the authors of my death, and I pray God that the blood which you are about to shed may never fall on France.”
Marie Antoinette was inconsolable after this, and her daughter said she became wholly indifferent to life and death.
She met her end via guillotine in October of the same year. Marie Antoinette accidentally stepped on her executioner’s foot, so her last words came to be, “Pardon me, Sir, I did not do it on purpose.”
Their daughter Marie-Thérèse Charlotte (aka Madame Royale) managed to survive until age 17, after which she escaped France to live in Vienna with relatives from her mother’s side.
Louis-Charles, their son and heir to the throne, was not so lucky. He was imprisoned, abused, and neglected- dying from tuberculosis at the age of 10.
Who was this murderous mob of aristo-killers anyways, and why were they so violent?
They were the sans-culottes (without breeches), the lowest of the low; the poorest of the poor.
The sans-culottes were radical militant revolutionaries from the bottom class of French society. There were some career criminals among them, and many seemed to take delight in bloodshed and carnage. Years of destitution had made them monstrous.
There are stories of cannibalism, the murder of priests, and of boiling people alive; all said to have been perpetrated by the sans-culottes. It becomes hard to tell fact from fiction. Marxists brand them as misunderstood heroes, and conservatives as commie devils.
Under Robespierre’s control, these frustrated poor became pawns to carry out acts of violence and mayhem.
Throughout the Reign of Terror, 17,000 French citizens were said to have died. Princess de Lamballe was just one of many victims.
Was it better to be a puppet of the psychopathic Robespierre and his hypocritical bourgeois Jacobins, or a puppet of the decadent and buffoonish King Louis XVI and other selfish monarchs of his ilk?
In the end, the French Revolution achieved everything and nothing. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were deposed and executed, but what followed?
A Napoleonic dictatorship and wars that claimed millions of lives, and a Bourbon monarchy that was restored in 1814- only to be overthrown yet again.
France went through several revolutions and republics, the way Marie Antoinette went through pastries.
And yet- would we claim that any of us are truly free men and women? Why celebrate Bastille Day when there is now a Bastille around every corner?
It also begs the question: did the Princess de Lamballe deserve her headless fate?
It depends on how you look at it. To some, she was just a dutiful member of the monarchy; wrongfully caught up in the zeitgeist of her time, inside something that was totally beyond her control.
The princess was not a particularly offensive royal, unlike vulgar thots such as the Duchess de Polignac, or Madame du Barry.
By all accounts, the princess was a restrained, dutiful individual- not one for excessive indulgences, starting feuds, or participating in racy love affairs. She was a surprisingly chaste and upright woman.
Not only this, but the princess showed remarkable strength of character and bravery towards the end of her life. She died with dignity, unlike Madame du Barry- who, in comparison, begged for her life like a dog before the executioner guillotined her.
The princess lived a life of wealth and privilege, and, grateful for all that fate had given her; she chose to give her life in return, as payment for the fabulous existence she was briefly granted.
Her loyalty is inspiring, and even surprising. Not many would die for a friend the way she did.
A contrary argument could also be made: why should we pity a woman who had so much, in a time where others had so little?
She had two extremely wealthy benefactors: Marie Antoinette, the literal Queen of France + her father-in-law, the richest man in France, the Duc de Penthièvre. She refused to reduce her salary or riches, even though she knew those below her were suffering.
The princess received a massive dowry at her wedding: it was said that the amount of jewels that the Duke gifted her could fill up literal pages of text if recorded. When she made out her will, she left a comedic amount of monetary provisions to care for her dogs.
Meanwhile, the diet of the average Frenchman was limited to overpriced bread, and even that was difficult to obtain due to famine and shortages. The princess could arguably be described by her detractors as just another clueless rich bitch.
Marie Antoinette did not actually say the words “Let them eat cake.” However, her ignorant actions were sufficient to prove that she was not fit to govern. But then again, how many political leaders are today? There are many others who deserve the guillotine, yet she was just unlucky enough to actually receive it.
The Royalists (those that were for the monarchy) used the princess’ horrific death as propaganda to discredit the Revolution, and to depict the lower classes of France as senseless barbarians. In death, the princess became a politicized martyr, and many depict her as positively Christ-like
On the other hand, corrupt and degenerate elected officials tell us that the French Revolution was necessary, as the flesh and blood of fallen monarchs paved the way for a more equal, democratic society. Ironically, we now need a revolution in our current time period more than ever.
There is no clear-cut conclusion to be reached in this story, no obvious moral lesson to be preached.
But! If a woman as mild-mannered as de Lamballe can be slaughtered in the name of liberty, we can surely guillotine a celebrity or politician or two…right?
To conclude, the internet is full of histrionic individuals worshiping the tragic bromance of Princess de Lamballe and Marie Antoinette. The princess perhaps may be the ultimate Ride or Die. She is the type of girl we all need by our side.
Images of the princess’ gory demise have consistently been painted and engraved, for hundreds of years after the fact. The world is obsessed and captivated by this woman’s death, as it came to symbolize everything that was deranged and scary about the French Revolution.
Regardless of everything; the princess and her decapitated head will definitely live on forever in infamy, tragedy and controversy. She embodies the darkest side of glitz and glamour; the highest high, and the lowest, bloodiest end.
And now, I will definitely have nightmares about levitating disembodied heads after writing this massive wall of text.
Laurie Wasserman Dann lived a charmed life. Money, men, educational + career opportunities, luxury cars and clothes, constant vacations, a polished and respectable suburban existence- and she threw it all away, to shoot up an elementary school.
Plagued by severe mental illness for years; Laurie lived in a state of perpetual psychological torment. No amount of expensive psychiatry and medication could help her. She would only be appeased by blood and chaos, eventually ending her own life after a final disturbing spree of violence.
Poor Little Rich Girl
She was born in Chicago on October 18, 1957 to Norman “Norm” Wasserman and housewife Edith Joy, the descendants of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Her father Norm was a wealthy accountant with a net worth of $4 million. Adjusted for inflation, that is equivalent to $11 million today.
Laurie grew up a sheltered child in the suburbs of Northern Chicago. Her parents were distant and emotionally cold, choosing instead to show their affection by taking her and brother Mark on impromptu trips to Disneyland, Florida and Hawaii, and buying costly gifts.
Laurie claimed that when she was hurt or ill as a child, her mother often ignored her. Edith did not work, and was completely dependent on her husband, afraid to even drive on her own.
Laurie would go on to imitate her mother’s helpless and clingy attachment to her husband in her own relationships.
Their home was kept immaculately clean. At the age of 5, Laurie already had obsessions with “good” and “bad” numbers, and displayed OCD symptoms. There was also a strong genetic predisposition for mental illness, as Norm’s grandma and Edith’s mother had suffered from clinical depression.
Around the age of 12, Laurie was placed in special help classes for the learning-disabled. Laurie was an unattractive and awkward child, and her peers said she had a “spaced out” look to her.
A classmate recounted how:
”She was very, very quiet, and she was very strange because you`d walk down the hall and say `Hi` and she wouldn`t say anything. It didn`t seem she had many friends in junior high.”
As a teen, her parents paid for an otoplasty procedure (a cosmetic surgery to reduce large ears), and a rhinoplasty for her big nose. These surgeries, combined with a growth spurt which increased her breast size, suddenly turned the shy and mousy Laurie Wasserman into a beautiful young woman.
Her introduction to the opposite sex was ruthless: the first boy who asked Laurie out went on to break up with her two months later because he was embarrassed to be seen with her.
Laurie was enraged but learned a valuable lesson: she switched to a new high school and began to wear tight-fitting designer clothes to emphasize her petite yet top-heavy 5’3, 100 lbs build.
While she was popular with boys, girls hated her, even though she bought popular girls gifts of jewelry and candy. One female classmate recalled how she ”perceived a paranoia when girls were around. She always had a boyfriend and was really clingy, draped around him. That really struck me, that she was somehow frightened and had a real unhealthy attachment to boys.”
Perhaps they were jealous?
In 1974, a football player named Rob Heidelberger began dating Laurie. During her shifts at K-Mart, Laurie would not scan Rob’s purchases, and instead passed him the items for free.
Rob described their high school romance as such:
”I had a LeMans convertible, and we would drive around after school, listening to Beach Boys tapes. We would go over to her house and listen to the radio. I can`t remember that she had any friends of her own.”
The couple broke up after only one month, following a mediocre prom date.
Ironically, Laurie was supposed to have been in a relationship with another boy at the time. She had developed a cruel streak. Laurie had one of her lovers call the boyfriend that she was now tired of, and he relayed this brutal message:
“You should know that I’ve been going out with Laurie. We’ve been having a great time together, including sex. She really likes it from me. She thinks I’m great. And those times when you dropped her off for work or the country club? Well, she called me up and I came to get her and we went out.”
After high school, Laurie began her never-ending odyssey of failed studies: she drifted between universities in Iowa, Arizona, and Wisconsin; changing majors constantly from teaching to home economics to psychology, etc.
Her grades were weak, but she told friends she was only at college to find a rich husband anyways. She joined and was ejected from a sorority, and dated dozens of men simultaneously.
In 1979, Laurie found love with a pre-med student named Stephen Witt, and planned to marry him. Unfortunately for her, he wanted to see other women. Stephen quickly grew fed up with Laurie’s clinginess, but kept her around to cook, clean and care for him while he focused on studying.
Once he was done his courses, Stephen dumped Laurie for being too possessive. Laurie constantly phoned him whilst crying and begging for another chance, but he refused. She was left heartbroken.
AtLong Last Love
Since she had failed in her quest to find a husband, Laurie gave up on university and went back home to Chicago, finding work at a Jewish country club as a cocktail waitress.
There, she would meet 25-year old Russell Dann, a cocky sales exec who worked at his father’s insurance company. Like Laurie, he was riding on daddy’s gravy train of plentiful cash.
She fell for him immediately. He was short and boyish and resembled the Monkees lead singer Davy Jones, who she had a crush on.
Unlike shy, withdrawn Laurie; Russell was extroverted, charismatic, and enterprising.
Laurie lied to him that she was a graduate in hospital administration, feigning success in order to impress. Nine months after they began dating, the couple were engaged.
Laurie told a friend that “Russ is the first person who gave me a lot of warmth and a lot of love. I don’t even know how to deal with it.”
Poor Russell had no idea what he was getting into.
The couple married in September of 1982, in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Laurie didn’t have many friends to invite to the wedding, so they kept the guest list short. Russell’s friends and family constantly criticized her for being “weird” and introverted.
After a tranquil honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands, Laurie regressed into certain ritualistic OCD behaviours.
She refused to step on sidewalk cracks, never put lids back onto items, hoarded large piles of dirty clothes, stopped driving to tap her feet on pavement, and did not let Russell go to work until she touched the sofa.
When asked why, she simply said “something bad will happen if I don’t.” She would not step on certain rugs, tiptoeing around them instead, and rode bicycles with only one hand, almost causing her to fall off a bridge.
Russell realized Laurie was incapable of remaining employed. She was fired from dozens of jobs for incompetence, and often lied on her resume. Eventually, she gave up trying to work altogether.
She then spent her days in bed, watching TV until Russell came home. She was unable to handle even basic tasks. When Russell’s sister asked Laurie to help babysit her children, Laurie pretended she got into a car accident to avoid it.
When guests came over, Laurie was a ditz; serving them rotting potatoes and frozen vegetables, complimented by dying flowers.
After a year and a half of a troubled marriage, Russell insisted that Laurie see a psychiatrist. The shrink prescribed Thioridazine, a heavy-duty tranquilizer used to treat schizophrenia and psychosis. After 3 appointments, Laurie stopped showing up.
The psychiatrist was concerned, and wrote Laurie a letter telling her she desperately needed to continue receiving professional help.
An alarmed Russell asked Laurie’s dad to talk to her, but Norm told him “that there’s really not that much of a problem here. It’s a nonissue. I don’t believe in psychiatry. I don’t believe in that kind of stuff.” And that was that.
Two years into their relationship, Russell bought the couple a brand new suburban home. Laurie trashed it almost immediately, scattering her makeup in the microwave, putting food out to rot, leaving cabinet doors open, canned food in the dishwasher, money in the freezer.
When confronted, she would be flippant; surprised that anyone would even question her.
A depressed Russell lamented to his friends about how Laurie was “not happy. She’s not self-sufficient. She doesn’t do anything all day long. She has no life. Laurie is just somebody who needs to be taken care of, and I know I have to take care of her forever.”
She was becoming a burden to him.
By the time Russell would arrive home from work at 6 pm, Laurie was barely awake, still dressed in a sweatsuit or pajamas. The house was usually filthy, as Laurie never cleaned, and Russell would have to do it all himself. He felt like she was more of a lazy child than a wife.
She begged him not to divorce her:
“Don’t leave. You’re the only person who ever cared for me. Even after all the shit I put you through, you were still a pal. We have a great house in the suburbs and we belong to a country club. Where would I go if I lost you?”
Once Laurie realized that Russell was serious, she tried to make efforts to improve. She attempted to do laundry, but ended up putting soggy, wet clothes back in the drawers, causing mold to grow on them.
She also became hypersexual, wrongly believing that sex could cure their marital problems. Laurie had odd fetishes: she admitted to fantasizing about dogs giving her head, and confessed to getting off in public pools, in the presence of her family!
Russell was just about done. He had encouraged Laurie to go back to therapy, but she wasn’t making any progress. He did, however, feel guilty, so he stayed with her on her 28th birthday, and bought her a flower bouquet and pink sweatsuit.
Laurie wore the sweatsuit for weeks, believing Russell wouldn’t leave her if she kept it on, and hauled the flowers around even after they died.
A Messy Divorce
In 1985, near their third anniversary, Russell told Laurie that they had to separate. She was an emotional wreck, sobbing because her parents were on vacation in Florida, unwilling to return home to console her.
Russell had to phone Norm and call him a “son of a bitch” to convince him to come back and care for his distraught daughter.
Laurie went home to live with her parents during the separation. She tried to convince Russell she was a functional human being, that she would change for the better.
Privately, she told friends that Russell would not get away with doing this to her, and that she would make him suffer.
Laurie went full psycho: threatening Russell that she would get pregnant to force her to stay with him. When he informed her that always pulled out, she told him she would just get a syringe and inject his semen.
They began having screaming fights, and police were often called to their residence.
Around this time, Laurie started an annoying and disturbing habit: she would phone Russell, his family, and friends repeatedly, often hundreds of times a day, only to hang up.
At one point, she was even arrested after the calls were traced back to her, but police released and never charged her.
The divorce dragged on for months, turning ugly fast. Laurie, a habitual liar, was telling everyone that Russell was physically attacking and raping her.
Once, like a scene from a horror film, Russell found Laurie in his closet, sitting in a pile of birdseed, listening in on his phone conversations. She became a stalker, intercepting and reading his mail.
She filed a false police report, claiming Russell had burglarized her home. When he asked her why, she told him:
“I don’t have any reason to go on living. And if I go, you’re coming with me. If I can’t have you, nobody can. That’s true love.”
At this time, she bought a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum gun. Police asked Laurie’s parents to confiscate her gun, but they vehemently refused to do so. Norm blamed Russell for “ruining” his daughter.
Laurie called up her college ex Stephen Witt, now married and a doctor in New York.
She told him that she had his child, and had been raising it alone for years, nearly causing Stephen and his wife to break up.
When Stephen found out Laurie was lying, she phoned his office and told his coworkers that he raped her in an emergency room.
Stephen’s wife said that Laurie’s voice over the phone ”sounded like the Wicked Witch of the West.” She would soon receive several death threats from Laurie, directed towards her and their children.
In between bouts of psycho bitch behaviour, there were attempts at normalcy. Laurie dated a neighbour, and often baked cookies and pies for his mother.
The mother said Laurie seemed a lonely and sympathetic individual, who rarely laughed or smiled, but had a certain “modesty of the soul. She was naive, forlorn and lost, and wanted love and understanding and someone to talk to”
In the summer of 1986, Russell started dating a rich $100 million net worth blonde heiress. Laurie did not take this well. Somebody had to pay.
On Sept. 30, Russell was awoken in his bed by sharp pain in his chest. He had been stabbed with an ice pick!
The wound was an inch deep, and partially deflated his left lung. He was convinced Laurie was the perpetrator, but police claimed there was not enough evidence to prosecute her.
Bizarrely, Russell failed a lie detector test when questioned on the stabbing, and he said this was because police made him nervous. Indeed, the police on the case disliked Russell and thought him an entitled yuppie type.
Russell said of the incident:
“She actually told me she did it. I was talking to her on my car phone, and I said to her, I said: `Laurie, I mean, you know it`s one thing to hate me for the divorce, whatever. I mean, when you go to this extent, I mean, you need help.”
Laurie’s family and remaining friends were tired of her. Her parents still supported her financially, but were disappointed by the dissolution of her marriage and her ensuing bad behaviour. She felt unloved and unwanted, so she turned to the easiest vocation she could find: babysitting.
Technically, she didn’t even have to work. As a part of the divorce settlement, she received over $125k from Russell, as well as a $1250 monthly stipend for 36 months. But her life was empty, and she felt aimless.
Back to School
In 1987, Laurie moved into an apartment on the campus of Northwestern University in Illinois, despite the fact that she wasn’t even enrolled in any classes. It was a sort of regression into a better time, as if she were trying to relive her youth. But she was too far gone.
Laurie’s strange behaviour frightened her roommate. She refused to touch any doors or metal surfaces, using her sleeves or rubber gloves to open them instead.
She had extremely poor hygiene, and once followed one of the roommate’s friends into the bathroom to watch him pee, trying to shake his hand after he zipped up.
She left her dead goldfish in its bowl to rot.
Laurie spent her days riding elevators up and down, and watching TV static or shows without sound.
She stuffed public sofa cushions and carpets with fish bones and rotting raw meat that dripped red with blood, and threw spaghetti in the hallways.
She broke into the apartment of a man she was dating, in order to pee on his carpet.
When they went to a zoo together, the normally indifferent Laurie became sexually excited at the smell of elephant urine. What was happening to her brain?
The scared roommate began sleeping with a bat or knife at his bed.
Babysitter from Hell
After tenants complained about Laurie’s creepy behaviour, she was promptly evicted, much to the dismay of her exasperated father.
In November of 1987, Laurie bought a .32 caliber Smith & Wesson Terrier revolver. Despite the fact that their daughter was clearly deranged, her parents allowed her to possess guns.
Laurie had returned home, only to cause more aggravation by wreaking havoc via babysitting.
She cut open a client’s furniture, causing $1700 worth of damages. When police questioned her, Laurie cried and accused Russell of doing it to frame her. They let her go.
It wouldn’t end there: she would steal food, shoes, pills, perfume- you name it. She wrote on walls with crayons, and wrecked furniture.
People who hired her said she wore thick coats even in the summer, and had awful B.O. A client said of Laurie:
“‘She had an almost childlike quality about her. But she had a great uneasiness with adults. She also had body odor like a longshoreman.”
She let dogs inside a client’s home, and stood by while they tore the place up. Laurie’s father paid the family off to thwart a police complaint.
Norm and Edith sent Laurie back to therapy, as her behaviour was getting too wild for them to handle.
The shrink prescribed Anaxfraxil/Clomipramine, an antidepressant drug used to treat OCD. One of the many side effects of this medication is increased suicidal ideation, as well as the symptoms listed below:
Her exhausted parents sent Laurie to live in student housing in the college town of Madison, Wisconsin. She lived by the University Hospital, to be close to her psychiatrist, Dr. William Greist.
When he administered an OCD questionnaire, Laurie responded “no” to questions asking whether she fantasized about homicide and hurting others.
Dr. Greist prescribed more Clomipramine, as well as Lithium, and gave her lists of tasks to complete which were supposed to assuage her OCD.
Just when she started to improve, Laurie overdosed on her medication. She vomited continuously for 12 hours until her parents took her to the hospital.
That Christmas, she bought her last gun: a .22 caliber semiautomatic Beretta.
Laurie was losing it. Her psychiatrist was alarmed when he discovered she had stuffed a cloth-covered pencil into her ear, and then lit it on fire, in order to remove earwax. She had to be prescribed antibiotics to treat the resulting infection.
Back to School Pt. 2
You would think that after the Northwestern debacle, Laurie’s parents would be more reticent about placing her in collegiate environments. Well, that wasn’t so!
Instead, she moved right into the heart of the University of Wisconsin, in one of the most expensive residences. Purchased courtesy of Norman, of course.
Her new roommate quickly began to notice Laurie’s eccentricities. She had no friends, she didn’t bathe, and her room smelled like urine.
On her shelves were dildoes and Penthouse magazines. Laurie was obsessed with sex: when she and Russell were together, they had invested money in softcore porn films.
Laurie continued her elevator riding obsession, which earned her the moniker “Psycho Elevator Lady.”
She hogged the lobby room TV, and told others it was hers when they tried to touch the remote, obsessively switching back and forth from channels 7 to 21 over and over again.
She entered the cafeteria in fuzzy pajamas, and ate only with gloves on, taking massive quantities that caused her weight to balloon to an extra 50 lbs. It was as if she were ravaged by an insatiable hunger.
Soon, Laurie was bulimic, vomiting loudly after eating, to the point where other students became concerned.
Creepily, a student adviser found Laurie in a stairwell, stark naked and slamming doors repeatedly. She also set fires on campus, and broke her roommate’s stereo and computer.
The only male relationship Laurie acquired in this period was a friends with benefits situation, with an attractive but odd sophomore who had managed to bang her after offering her a back massage.
He claimed that although she had bad hygiene, he didn’t really care, as his laycount that year was supposedly 20. Sounds legit.
However, this guy had never been with a girl like Laurie before: She sliced up her FWB’s roommate’s clothing and textbooks when they were outside during a fire alarm drill, causing $650 worth of damages.
Laurie started plotting her final rampage as early as March of 1988.
It was here that her crank phone calls escalated into actual verbal death threats. She would call up Russell’s sister Susan and laughingly tell her “I’m a psychopath,”mocking her with chants like”Susie, Susie, Susie, you are going to die. Your children are going to die. Goodbye.”
Laurie then stole arsenic and lead from her psychiatrist’s hospital lab, as well as books on poison from the local library.
That month, Laurie was arrested for shoplifting 4 wigs, 2 hairclips, white pants, and a ring from JC Penney. She ran from the police, and when caught, she tried to give them a fake name.
Following her release, she skipped town to avoid her community service sentence.
In April, her distraught roommate left, and Laurie had her own lonely dorm to herself.
Laurie also stopped attending therapy, and her alarmed parents tried hard to convince her to allow herself to be hospitalized. She refused, and the stage was set for a horrific incident.
Due to the fact that she was now phoning up her enemies and threatening to actually kill them, the FBI finally intervened. They sought to seek an indictment against Laurie, but were too late.
She had already gone home to visit her parents for summer break.
Something incredibly disturbing had happened before Laurie left the campus. The janitor found her curled up on the floor of a garbage room, inside of a plastic bag, sweating profusely.
When he asked her what she was doing there, she said she was just looking for something and dashed away.
The frightened man called up his colleagues, who then went into her disgustingly horrific dorm room.
Her room was full of human waste, but an oblivious Laurie was sleeping nude on her mattress. She somehow managed to convince police she was alright, and then made her escape back home to Chicago via Greyhound bus.
Like the buffoons they were, police and FBI missed their last chances to stop Laurie’s killing spree.
When they searched her vacated room, they found hell on earth.
There was a news clipping about a man with OCD who shot himself in the head as a “cure.” There was an article about a mentally ill woman who pretended she was being stalked in order to gain sympathy. There were stolen items from Russell’s home.
Creepiest of all, there were illegible yet telltale rants scrawled by Laurie on scattered paper:
“ hate pain… get through to you… abuse , spit , hurt , spat… why gun . question of safety… bag lady , scum paraplegic… Threw away wedding tape terrified I was helpless . I’ll deny it . suffer forever . Harm children to pay a bill .”
May 20, 1988: the day where all the threads unraveled.
Laurie awoke at 5 am, and prepared arsenic-filled rice krispie treats, popcorn and juice packets. She was ready to harm the people who she felt had made her suffer.
It was sunny outside, and she was wearing a U of Arizona Medical Dept. t-shirt with a skeleton on it, paired with white bermuda shorts.
Stage 1: Poison
She then drove across town to deliver the tainted snacks to the homes of her enemies.
Ex-employers, babysitting clients. former in-laws, ex-friends, her psychiatrists, hated neighbours, college fraternities, ex-boyfriends, and Russell Dann- dozens of people received poisoned goods, as they were all on her kill list.
Few actually consumed the strange, foul-smelling packets of leaking food and juice, which were clumsily injected with poison via syringe. Her most potent victim was a dog, who vomited blood yet survived after consuming the tainted snacks.
Stage 2: Explosives
After this, she arrived at the home of the Rushe family, to babysit their two sons and take them to a carnival as she had promised.
It is bizarre that despite all her sick behaviour, many of her babysitting clients remained unaware and still hired her! Some think the fact that the Rushe family was moving cross-country triggered Laurie, since she took it as a betrayal.
Instead of taking the kids to a carnival, she instead drove to Ravinia Elementary School, and left a homemade bomb (created with stolen flammable chemicals) by the entryway.
Her intention was to kill Russell Dann’s nephews. She set fire to the bomb and ran away, but before it could detonate, a teacher and his students noticed the fire and called the cops.
Returning to the car, Laurie gave the boys poisoned milk in a Mickey Mouse cup. It tasted gross, so the children spit the liquid out and refused to drink more.
Laurie’s next target was a Jewish daycare center which Russell’s niece attended. She kept trying to enter the building with a gasoline can, but was escorted outside each time by puzzled teachers.
Stage 3: Arson
After that failure, she took the Rushe children home. While they were in the basement with their mother, Laurie started a fire upstairs.
The flames quickly spread and trapped the family, but heroic mother Marian Rushe managed to smash the tiny basement windows open. She used her hands to clear the broken shards of glass, badly cutting herself in the process.
She saved her two boys first, then herself.
Bloody and confused, Marian wondered if Laurie was alright. She could not believe her shy babysitter was capable of something like this, and would only find out later that it was Laurie who started the fire.
Stage 4: Firearms
Though her actions up to this point were (thankfully) incompetent, she would finally manage to harm the victims at her next target: Hubbard Woods Elementary school.
She arrived at around 10:30 AM, armed with three guns, which were tucked into her shorts. There were around 200 kids attending school that day.
Laurie first went to the boys’ bathroom, and a teacher saw her exiting and said “hello.” Laurie ignored the greeting and walked on.
She entered classroom #7, where teacher Amy Moses was giving the children a bicycle safety test.
Amy was a small woman, barely grazing 5 ft and weighing about 110 lbs. At this point, Laurie was very heavy, pushing 160 lbs. There was no way Amy would be able to fight Laurie off.
When Amy asked if she could assist Laurie in anything, she merely replied with a chilling “no.” Amy said that Laurie looked “so lifeless. Her face was so hard.”
Amy assumed that Laurie was a visiting student teacher, so she tried to engage her in conversation. Laurie stayed cold and blank, probably strategizing her next move, wondering what to do.
There was still time to call it off and go home, still time to save her conscience.
Suddenly, Laurie stood up from the desk she was seated at, and stormed into the hallway, like a woman possessed.
Laurie saw a 6- year old boy drinking at a water fountain, and pulled him into the bathroom. She fired a hesitant shot, but accidentally hit the tile wall. She shot again, this time hitting the boy in his chest.
Turning around to leave, she found that two boys had witnessed her crime. She aimed to shoot, but the gun jammed, and they ran away and informed a teacher.
The poor wounded boy asked the teacher if he was going to die.
Galvanized, Laurie returned to classroom #7. She pointed her gun at Amy and ordered the teacher to round her students into a corner.
Amy attempted to wrestle the gun away, but Laurie overpowered her. As she pulled another gun out of her shorts, Amy noticed that Laurie wasn’t wearing any underwear.
Laurie then walked up to five scared children, and shot them wordlessly, one after the other. The scene was horrific. Wounded children lay crying on the floor, covered in blood.
Here, Laurie killed her only victim: 8- year old Nicholas Corwin. The rest were left with terrible injuries that took months to recover from, but with mental scars that would last forever.
Fugitive on the Run
After injuring 6 children and killing 1 of them, Laurie escaped to her car. She panicked at the sight of police and accidentally drove into a dead end suburban street. She removed her blood-stained shorts, covering herself with a flimsy blue garbage bag as replacement.
Armed with two guns (she had thrown the heavy Magnum away after it jammed), Laurie ran through random people’s backyards in hysterics.
After running through dense forest brush, she came to 2 Kent Road, an 8 bedroom mansion which belonged to the well-off Andrew family.
She burst into the unlocked kitchen, and found 50- year old Ruth Ann and her 20- year old son Philip, an athletic runner and swimmer. Laurie flashed her gun at them, and took the family hostage.
When they asked her why, she lied that she had shot a man who had raped her, and had run away because she was scared of police.
A sympathetic Phil tried to offer a clearly upset Laurie some water and a pair of pants. She rejected the pants, but took the drink.
The concerned family encouraged Laurie to call her mother, which she did, explaining:
“Mom. I’ve done something terrible. People won’t understand. I’m going to have to kill myself. These are nice people here, I don’t want to hurt them.”
Phil leaned over to console Laurie, who pulled away and warned him not to touch her. She did, however, allow Phil to speak to her mother.
When he got Edith on the phone, Phil was shocked at how emotionless and unsurprised she was, asking him only to return her daughter home safely.
Edith claimed that she could not come pick Laurie up, as she didn’t have a car. Most likely, Edith was too afraid to handle the situation herself, without her husband present.
Laurie apologized to her mother, and told her goodbye and hung up.
Ruth Ann offered Laurie a pair of yellow sweatpants, which she finally accepted. As she put them on, Phil was surprised that Laurie exposed herself in full view of everyone, not even bothering to cover her nakedness.
As she changed, Laurie left her two guns on the counter top.
A sneaky Phil managed to grab the .22 Beretta, but Laurie reached for the .32 S&W (the one she shot the children with) and demanded he return it back. Phil kept but disarmed the gun to dissuade her wrath.
Laurie finally allowed mother Ruth Ann to leave. As soon as she was outside, she informed police of the hostage situation inside her home.
Inside, Phil tried to plot his escape, but Laurie shot him without warning, and then ran upstairs to the second floor. He was hit in the chest, and he sunk behind the pantry for cover.
The bullet was lodged inside Phil’s lungs, right beside his heart, but he escaped the house and survived the harrowing ordeal, eventually going on to become an FBI agent in the future.
Inside the home, Laurie had holed herself up inside the daughters’ rooms. She was at the end of her life. The room was filled with toys and girly objects, perhaps providing some comfort to her.
The crime scene outside would rage on until 7 PM. At this point, the police had phoned Laurie’s parents and requested that they come assist in procuring their daughter from the house.
Ex-husband Russell Dann also showed up on the scene after going through a root canal at his dentist that morning. He claimed to have felt vindicated, as no one had believed him when he warned them that Laurie was violent and unstable.
An officer on the scene who had mishandled the stabbing case even sobbed and apologized to Russell.
When Norman arrived at the standoff, he was hysterical and in disbelief. He cried:
“She’s my little girl. And they’re treating her like a wild animal. Look at these people with army outfits and guns. All they want to do is kill her.
If this is true, if this is Laurie and she did these things, my life is over.”
Norman demanded that police allow him to go inside the house to get Laurie, but they refused, saying it was too dangerous.
Cops humiliatingly tied a dog leash around Norman’s waist to keep him under their control. Via speakerphone, Norm begged his daughter to come out of the house and talk to him, but there was no response.
While Norm lamented the situation, Edith told police that considering the severity of her crimes, Laurie would now be better off dead.
After nearly 7 hours of this awful spectacle, police finally stormed the house.
They found Laurie in the girls’ bedroom, face down in a pool of blood. She had shot herself in the mouth, severing her brain stem. Her eyes were open, and her tongue stuck out from between clenched teeth.
Laurie Wasserman Dann was dead, committing suicide at age 30.
When police informed her parents, Norm was devastated, sobbing and apologizing for his daughter’s actions continuously. Edith seemed eerily… relieved.
The agonized couple went home, police in tow. When police tried to search Laurie’s room, Norm grew enraged, demanding they leave immediately.
Once the police left, the Wassermans threw away most of the evidence. Norm’s compulsion to protect his daughter followed him even after her death. He cried and cried, mourning the loss of his “baby,” wondering how she could do something so evil.
For the most part, Laurie’s rampage had failed. She had attempted to kill hundreds of people across the city by distributing poisoned food to “enemies,” planting homemade bombs at schools, committing arson, and shooting up an elementary school.
She had also intended to kill her ex-husband and those close to him.
In the end, Laurie killed only one child, and herself.
Mother Linda Corwin made a public statement on her son Nicky’s death, which highlighted a disturbing coincidence:
“Hubbard Woods School had returned all of Nicky’s classroom projects, including several storybooks he had written and drawn pictures for.
Two creations seemed chillingly prescient— the first was a lengthy talking-animal story he titled ‘Randolph’s Adventure,’ in which the villain, a dog named Dirty Dan, shoots his victims while at play, killing a character named Mickey.
The second was a drawing of his mother, standing alone, with a balloon caption coming from her mouth reading, ‘Where is my son?”
In the wake of her shooting spree, victims sued Laurie’s parents for allowing their unstable daughter to own firearms, and pushed for stricter gun laws.
Ironically, they forgot that she had attempted to utilize poison, fire and bombs as murder weapons as well.
Some even pushed for the involuntary institutionalization of mentally ill people suspected of being dangerous.
Police and FBI were criticized for their incompetence and for not taking Laurie seriously as a threat to society, despite the fact that Russell Dann had constantly warned authorities about his crazy ex-wife for years.
Laurie Wasserman Dann was buried in an unmarked grave at Shalom Memorial Park, in a small ceremony featuring her parents and a few relatives. Grave diggers were told not to disclose her burial location to anyone.
If you actually read all this, you are probably wondering what the fuck was going on in mind of Laurie Dann.
Hers was a long, unending tale of mental suffering: what haunts me most were her obsessions with raw meat and riding elevators, which seem to evoke the similarly creepy case of Elisa Lam.
Laurie obviously suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia, yet her parents were in denial of this, choosing instead to treat the issue as just a mild embarrassment for their family. They vacationed in Florida while dumping their daughter onto psychiatrists in other states, hoping for a miracle cure in their absence.
Rather than lightly requesting Laurie to hospitalize herself, her parents should have done so against her will, instead of encouraging her to live alone when she was no longer even capable of performing the most basic daily tasks. Not only this, but allowing their unhinged daughter to own three guns? It was a recipe for disaster.
Her ex-husband Russell was cold, more interested in building his own life than helping his mentally ill wife. Everybody Laurie knew deemed her a “weirdo” after awhile and abandoned her. Nobody wanted to be responsible for such a frighteningly troubled woman.
There was something terrible happening in her mind that nobody understood. And yet, how can one sympathize with a child killer? Her actions were sick beyond belief.
To her father, she remained his shy, misunderstood, tragic little girl. But to the rest of the world, Laurie Dann is a symbol of mental decay and absolute terror.
I leave you with the final heartbreaking letters Norm sent Laurie in April, a month before her rampage, begging her to get professional help and to heal from her mental illness:
Hollywood: it chews you up, and then spits you out. This proverb was never more true than in the case of Barbara Bates; a psychologically fragile Old Hollywood actress who managed to withstand several career disappointments, until a final tragedy drove her to grim suicide.
Born in Denver, Colorado in 1925, Barbara always had a gift for glamour. She was a dark-haired, shy and demure enchantress, who modelled as a teen and studied ballet, eventually winning a beauty contest that changed her life. The prize? Round trip tickets to Hollywood, of course.
In 1944, Barbara and her mother went to L.A. in search of fame and glory. Two days before they were due to return home, they met a publicist for United Artists studio named Cecil Coan.
Barbara was only 19-years old, and Cecil was 45 and married with four children. None of this deterred the pair, who began a torrid affair that unexpectedly turned into a successful 22 year marriage. He divorced his wife as soon as possible to marry Barbara, 26 years his junior. Despite the initial creepiness of the pairing, they were deeply in love and would stay together until Cecil’s death.
Immediately, Cecil began working his magic and turned Barbara into a budding starlet. In September of 1944, Barbara signed a contract with Universal Pictures.
Cecil had introduced her to producer Walter Wanger, who was looking to cast“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” for his upcoming picture Salome Where She Danced. Barbara received a role as one of the seven dancing girls, alongside Yvonne De Carlo. She seemed set for stardom, but her career would stall in the next few years.
In 1947, producer William T. Orr convinced Barbara to dye her hair blonde. After she did, however, he told her, “You are not the blonde type. Be yourself.” Asshole, much?
At this time, she also began pin-up modelling on the side to make some extra cash. Shy and reserved Barbara resented doing sleazy cheesecake shoots, but they caused her to catch a thirsty Warner Bros. rep’s eye, and she received her first big role alongside Danny Kaye in the 1949 musical comedy The Inspector General.
Sadly, much of her part was lost on the cutting room floor. To add insult to injury, Warner Bros. tried to force Barbara to go to New York to promote the release of The Inspector General, but she was too proud to submit to the studio’s whims and they fired her. An exasperated Barbara then attempted suicide, but the studio managed to cover it up and hide this from the press. This was the beginning of a repeated series of suicide attempts by Barbara, prompted by either personal or career lows.
In 1949, she discussed the ins and out of being a star with a newspaper. She described how:
“Every Hollywood newcomer goes through a sex school. They have regular exercises to bring out your…uh…fire. They told [drama coach] Sophie Rosenstein to ‘put some sex into me.’ She did. Sophie made me throw back my shoulders and stick out my chest.
Then I had to sit in front of a mirror and breathe deeply—for hours and hours… They want you to become conscious of your body and to…well…to throw your curves at the world. And all the while you’re supposed to be thinking sexy thoughts. They don’t tell you what. That’s one thing they leave up to you.”
If that sounds grotesque to you, you’re not the only one! Barbara was already in a unstable state: she was known to suffer from depression and mood swings from the very start, clearly due to untreated mental illness. Instead of being honest with her about realistic career goals, various Hollywood studios treated Barbara like a cheap floozy, giving her only tiny insignificant bit parts as a meager reward for signing on with them.
Barbara had also developed a reputation of being difficult on set. Jeffrey Hunter, who co-starred with Barbara in 1952’s Belles on Their Toes, claimed that she was “very disturbed. I felt uncomfortable in her presence and felt she was a very troubled young woman.”However, Ray McDonald, who starred alongside her in the 1953 Mickey Rooney musical All-Ashore, claimed that“she was easy to work with but had moods of depression.”
In May of 1949, another sleazy yet typical Hollywood incident occurred: Notorious lech Harry Cohn (head of Columbia Pictures from 1919 to 1958) offered to sign a contract with Barbara on one condition: she divorce her husband. She refused. He called her two nights later, and drunkenly invited her to his yacht. She refused again.
In E.J. Fleming’s book The Fixers, he describes how Harry Cohn “was said to have verbally or physically raped every woman that ever worked for his studio.” Harry was a known pervert who was rumored to have forced the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak to sleep with him in order to be cast in starring roles. His track record makes Harvey Weinstein seem chaste in comparison, and would be definite cause for a #MeToo hashtag in the 21st century.
However, it was the late 1940s, and since Barbara refused to play Hollywood’s licentious game of casting couch bingo, she would never gain the big-name stardom she had always dreamed of.
But alas, there finally came a small light at the end of the tunnel: Barbara managed to land a contract with 20th Century-Fox, who cast her in the biggest picture of 1950, the Bette Davis classic All About Eve.
Barbara’s role was minor, but it was the one she would always be remembered for. The Hollywood Reporter described her memorable appearance in the final scene as “sum[ming] up the whole action and point of the story. It’s odd that a bit should count for so much, and in the hands of Miss Bates all the required points are fulfilled.”
With the money from her big role, she bought a 51-foot yacht named The Bayadère, which cost $45,000 (adjusted as $480k for modern inflation). Barbara spent 8 months learning how to sail and navigate the yacht at a Coast Guard School. Hollywood did have a few perks after all! The studio even installed a radio-telephone on the yacht to enslave contact her at all times.
Barbara had a few more notable roles left: the 1950 cheesefest Cheaper by the Dozen, and the brainless 1953 Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin comedy The Caddy. She was frustrated with these moronic films, lamenting to gossip columnist Erskine Johnson on how “I thought great things were going to happen [after All About Eve]. So far—nothing. They keep casting me as a 16-year-old; I can’t seem to get up to 20.”
Then came her dream role: Barbara was screen tested for the suicidal ballerina character in Charlie Chaplin’s 1952 comedy-drama Limelight. As a former childhood ballerina, she would have been perfect for the part. Chaplin was delighted with her audition, and offered her the role himself.
Unfortunately, dictatorial Fox refused to loan Barbara out to United Artists to film the picture, due to the fact that they resented Chaplin for his supposed communist ties. Barbara was left heartbroken and destroyed after losing the role of a lifetime.
After this, Barbara’s career tanked. She was fired from the 1954 sitcom It’s a Great Life for “erratic behavior.” What set her off? Well, let us examine an interview Barbara gave columnist Lydia Lane on the set of the TV show, just months before she was canned:
“I have had such trouble keeping thin. I dearly love anything sweet—especially chocolate—and to say no really takes discipline. But it isn’t healthy to be dieting all the time… The thing to do is find the weight at which you are comfortable and level off.
I keep a check by weighing in every morning, and if I’ve gained even a pound, I start cutting down. I have a calorie chart which I carry in my handbag and this helps me limit myself to 500 calories a day until I’m back to normal. I haven’t had to diet for quite a while, and it’s a wonderful feeling.”
500 calories a day? Who wouldn’t feel like shit on this diet? Obviously, Hollywood has an obsession with thinness and actresses are required to stay in shape. But this was eating disorder territory, and it was no wonder poor Barbara was losing her mind from the pressures mounting all around her.
Out of work and desperate, Cecil arranged for Barbara to go to England and sign on with the Rank Organisation in 1956. The studio felt she was too old at the age of 31, and advertised her as being a 24-year old. She was cast in a few films, but suffered a nervous breakdown and health issues which caused her to abandon the sets while filming. Many suspected that Barbara attempted suicide once again. Nevertheless, she was fired by Rank in 1957, and was forced to return to the USA.
She played in several TV commercials to make some quick cash, as the couple had lost money due to bad land investments in Spain. Barbara’s old friend Rory Calhoun landed her a final movie part in his 1958 western Apache Territory. Her last TV appearance was in a 1962 episode of The Saint. An unceremonious end for a troubled career.
In 1960, the couple converted to Catholicism and moved to a modest Beverly Hills apartment. Throughout her chaotic life, Cecil had proven to be an unmoving rock of support for Barbara. He was her manager, agent, husband, lover, best friend and closest confidante for most of her adult life. Tragically, Cecil was diagnosed with cancer, and the last sane threads of Barbara’s life quickly unraveled.
She put aside her career to loyally care for the ailing Cecil, but the stress of being his constant nurse caused Barbara to snap. She attempted suicide by slitting her wrists, but survived yet again. These were very dark times for her, and the final straw was when Cecil died in January of 1967. She was at his bedside, romantic and steadfast until the very end. But when Cecil passed, something in Barbara died with him.
If she was already suicidal even in the presence of Cecil, now she was completely lost. Feeling aimless, Barbara left California for good and returned home to Denver. To her credit, she did attempt to rebuild a life: she attended a secretarial school by night, and worked as a nurse’s aide in the daytime. She was also a dental assistant at one point, and often volunteered at church.
What does this tell us? Barbara was dead broke. Cecil’s hospital bills must have drained her Hollywood fortune. Being relegated to the boring common life of a wageslave after starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor in films and purchasing half a million dollar yachts was disastrous.
At the end of 1968, she remarried: to a sportscaster named William Reed, who also happened to be a childhood friend. The marriage did not seem to be very romantic, and was most likely just an arrangement of convenience to prevent the onset of late-age loneliness.
So here was Barbara: back in her hometown, aging, married to a man from her youth, her Hollywood career totally faded; as she worked obscure random jobs to rake up pitiful sums of cash she would have laughed at in her days as a top actress.
It was all too much.
On March 18, 1969, Barbara’s mother returned to their suburban home, and found the garage was locked and sealed from the bottom. Upon unlocking the door, she found Barbara dead in the front seat of her Volkswagen. She had committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 43.
This came after a mere four months of marriage, indicating Barbara’s unhappiness in her newfound relationship. There are also reports that she was pregnant at the time and that this may have set her off. She was quietly buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Colorado.
Barbara once said “I have no illusions about being a star. Every time I did something really important, they ended up cutting it.” This was an accurate summation of her life and career: she lived a brief, painful and beautiful existence full of heartbreak and malady. Hollywood had drained her and then tossed her aside when they deemed her too old, mentally ill, and washed up. She was the victim of the monstrous machine of cinema, but she managed to free herself with death.
Eileen Francis Hynson was a 19-year old girl who disappeared off the face of the earth on June 1, 1976. No body was ever found, and her whereabouts are still unknown.
The information on her case is scarce and very limited. She was from Napa, California, living in a time period where murder and mayhem ran rampant. 1970s Cali was filled to the brim with serial killers, rapists, and kidnappers: the list of missing and murdered people from this period is almost infinite.
Eileen was born on Feb 6, 1957 (an Aquarius) and was 5’2 and 130 lbs, with dazzling hazel eyes and dark brown hair. She lived with her father and brother, since her mother Gwendolyn had died 3 years earlier in 1973. It must have been difficult for 16-year old Eileen to have dealt with such a huge loss at a very young age.
Only 2 family photos of Eileen were ever made public, and what I always found striking about these images is how she looks slightly sad yet effortlessly beautiful. And the fact that her eyeliner was completely on point.
The summer of 1976 should have been a happy time for Eileen: on that bright June day, she took off from home to attend a bridal party dress fitting. Her father claimed she first went to a resort in Lake Berryessa, a fairly remote area that is difficult to get to without a car.
Weirdly enough, Eileen did not take any luggage with her – she had left her suitcase behind at home. This indicates that she did not plan to be gone long, and rules out the possibility that she ran away from home.
In September of 1969, almost 7 years before Eileen disappeared, Lake Berryessa became infamous. The Zodiac Killer (yet to ever be identified) went apeshit on two picnicking college students. They were a square and pleasant couple named Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, and they were just trying to enjoy some quality relaxation time in nature.
They were intruded upon by a creepy man with an executioner’s hood and .45 pistol, like a bad B-movie come to life. The man toyed with the couple, pretending he was a runaway prisoner on the lam to Mexico. At first he claimed he only wanted to rob them. But things soon turned violent. He was the one and only Zodiac Killer, and he forced Cecelia to tie Bryan up with a plastic clothesline, and then tied her up himself.
As he pointed the gun at the couple, Bryan noticed that the Zodiac’s hands were shaking. Bryan asked if he was nervous, to which the Zodiac responded with a relaxed laugh and an “I guess so.” What happened next was without warning.
After putting away his gun, the Zodiac suddenly turned towards the bound and subdued Bryan. Brandishing a knife, he stabbed him 6 times. Later on, Bryan would note how the stabbing made a “chomp-chomp-chomp” staccato noise in his back, sending him into a world of terror and shock. Cecelia was stabbed next: 5 times in her back, and 5 times on the front of her body.
After playing dead for a time, Bryan managed to crawl towards a main road for help, but Cecelia was too weak to even move. She was alive when authorities arrived, but went into a coma and died days later. Bryan survived the attack and went on to become a lawyer.
What can one make of this nightmare of a crime? Whether or not the Zodiac Killer was involved in Eileen’s disappearance (probably not, abducting a female quietly does not fit his M.O.), his crime proves that areas of Lake Berryessa are so isolated that somebody can attempt to commit a double murder without being interrupted.
Did Eileen Hynson fall victim to some lunatic who put her through a similarly deranged experience?
What complicates things even further is that Eileen was supposed to have left the lakeside resort to go to Benicia, California (another Zodiac killing ground), where the bridal party was happening. We have no idea why Eileen went to Lake Berryessa first, or who she met there.
In fact, we have no clue as to where exactly Eileen disappeared – it is not even on the public record! She could have vanished anywhere between Napa, Lake Berryessa and Benicia, most likely en route between the two latter locations, as her father only grew alarmed after she left the resort.
To add to the ridiculousness, the public was never informed as to whether Eileen had a car, or if she was busing and hitchhiking between these points. Since there is no mention of an abandoned car or licence plate info, and due to the fact that she was only 19, it is plausible to assume she had no transportation of her own.
If she had her own vehicle, who managed to coax her out of it? Did a strange man pull a Ted Bundy-style manipulation on Eileen in a lone parking lot? If she was busing, did she meet a suspicious character at a stop who lured her to her doom? If she hitchhiked, which fatal car did she enter? Did she meet her end at the lake, just as Cecelia Shepard had? There are literally zero answers.
According to a Facebook post by a woman named Kathleen who claims to be her cousin, it was her wedding which Eileen was due to attend. She alleges that Eileen left her home to prepare for the bridal fitting (she was to be the Maid of Honor), and was never seen again. If Kathleen is for real, she needs to hit me up and give me an all access interview.
A user with a sharp eye on Websleuths forums uncovered a photo of a girl who strongly resembles Eileen. This image was taken by Californian serial killer William Richard Bradford; a former photographer who lured women to their deaths under the pretense of a modelling career.
This alleged photo of Eileen is #40 in a collection of 54 photographs of different women found at Bradford’s residence. Initially, they were all believed to have been Bradford’s victims. As of now, more than half have been identified, most being alive and well, though police have not released the identity of all of these women.
Some claim Girl No# 40 has been identified by police, but the info is a secret. In 2012, Napa County’s cold case unit added Eileen to a list of disappearances which “they believe have the highest possibility of being solved using modern evidence techniques.”
Is this because they identified the Bradford girl as Eileen Hynson? It is aggravating how police still continue to withhold key information, yet appear to have had no conclusive breakthrough after nearly 50 years on the case.
Another Websleuths user claims she spoke to Eileen’s family and found that they believe Girl No# 40 is Eileen, but older and possibly years after she disappeared.
There are also some theories about Eileen being a victim of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer. In the early 1970s, several young women were kidnapped and murdered while hitchhiking in Sonoma County. The killer’s trademark was tying women up (like the Zodiac!), torturing and raping them, then strangling or stabbing them to death. He was never caught.
All of the Santa Rosa Killer’s victims have been identified, save one: Sonoma County Jane Doe, whose skeletal remains were discovered in a ravine in 1979. She was thought to be between 16- 21 years old, wore contact lenses, had auburn-brown hair, had a broken rib heal while she was alive, and stood at around 5’3.
Her cause of death is unknown. She was hogtied, and her arm was fractured around the time she died. This sicko took pleasure in torturing his victims before killing them: In 1972, Kim Wendy Allen, 19, was raped, tied up and murdered, after being strangled with a cord for over 30 minutes.
The description of this Jane Doe fits Eileen, but it would be helpful if we know if she wore contact lenses or had a broken rib in her lifetime. To reiterate, the lack of info is a massive roadblock in Eileen’s case. Hopefully, the police still have her DNA on file and will eventually test her against this Doe (and others).
Eileen Hynson is still out there somewhere. Her remains could be lying untouched at the bottom of some Californian lake or a distant ravine off the edge of rocky forest cliffs. Or perhaps she is still lying nameless in a coroner’s morgue, her body forever awaiting identification. Her disappearance continues to be a frustrating unsolved mystery.
Marina Elizabeth Habe was a 17-year old college student who was violently murdered in L.A. in 1968. Her murder remains unsolved and has prompted endless speculation and theories, many of which include the rather fantastical allegations of involvement by the Manson Family.
Hollywood breeds many children of privilege, and most grow up to become bratty party queens. Enter Marina Habe. She was a dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty- by all accounts a shy, quiet, and moral Catholic girl attending college at the blissfully located University of Hawaii.
Her mother was B-movie bit part actress Eloise Hardt, and her father was author Hans Habe, a Hungarian-Jewish refugee of WWII who fled Europe after publishing the unflattering original name of Adolf Hitler’s father Alois (it’s Schicklgruber, if you’re curious). Her parents made an odd couple, and went on to divorce promptly. Hans moved to a beautiful Swiss village and married a 6th wife, leaving Marina in the care of her mother. He wrote dozens of bestselling books until his death in 1977.
Eloise was always busy filming roles for the silver screen and TV. In fact, her IMDB credits show only a 2 year hiatus period after her daughter’s death. She was never a big star, but she was committed and reliable in performing small roles.
Marina was sent off to Hawaii after graduating high school, and she seemed to have no complaints about relocating to the sunny paradise. Her future seemed bright. She was attaining an arts degree, and planned to become an actress. With her mother being an industry veteran, this would have been a piece of cake.
At the close of 1968, Eloise had Marina return home to L.A. for the holidays. The pair spent Christmas together, and New Year’s Eve soon approached. Little did they know that Marina would not live to see 1969.
It was the night of December 29, and Marina was out on the town partying with friends. She was accompanied by her date, 22-year old John Hornburg, who was 5 years her senior. The pair were with two other couples at the Troubadour nightclub, watching Larry Hankin’s stand up comedy act. Personally, this is not the comedian I would have selected for my last night on earth.
The couple left the club at 11:30 PM, and hung out in Marina’s expensive sports car for a couple of hours, parking near John’s Brentwood home. They most likely engaged in a heavy makeout sesh and other R-rated activities.
At 3:15 AM, Marina changed out of her swanky date ‘fit and into a white turtleneck sweater, a lux fur trim coat, and brown capris. She began her drive home. This is where the mystery of her fate begins.
At her West Hollywood home on 8962 Cynthia Street, Eloise was awoken by noisy muffler exhaust sounds from a car engine – an unknown black vehicle was parked in her driveway. Marina’s car was parked right next, but she was nowhere to be seen. Eloise then saw a young man in his 20s running towards the black car yelling, “Let’s go!” The driver gunned the engine, and the occupants of the vehicle took off.
Marina disappeared without a trace, kidnapped by ominous men right out front on her driveway. When her car was examined, police claimed that the handbrake was set with such force that it was impossible for petite Marina to have done so herself.
Eloise was hysterical with worry, and called the police. According to her stepson’s dramatic account, she paced her bungalow screaming “Why don’t you take me [instead]?” Hans Habe left Switzerland to return to L.A. immediately. They waited in vain for a ransom note from the kidnappers, but there was only silence.
Two and a half days later on Jan. 1, 1969, a couple walking on Mulholland Drive noticed a discarded purse. Inside, there were Marina’s credit cards, makeup and a small amount of cash. This did not bode well, as it showed that whoever kidnapped her had clearly had no interest in money or extortion.
A passing civilian’s dog then discovered Marina’s mutilated corpse 30 feet off the side of the road down a ravine. Puzzlingly, the dog’s owner requested that police ensure that his name would appear in the newspaper. His wish does not appear to have been granted.
There was so much overgrown foliage in the ditch that detectives had failed to spot her body from the search helicopter which circled above Bowmont Drive for days. She was found only 4 miles from her home, and very close to the house of Robert Goulet, AKA the weird turtleneck singer guy Will Ferrell does impressions of.
There are many conflicting reports online as to the condition of Marina’s body and the time of her death. Some allege she was killed the same night she was kidnapped, mere hours later. Others claim she was held captive for over a day and fed by her captors.
While many sensational news outlets claim she was raped, the official coroner’s report pointed to the conclusion that Marina had recently had consensual sex, most likely with her date John Hornburg during the parked car rendezvous. There were no signs of sexual assault or forcible entry on her body. Either way, it would prove impossible to tell with complete certainty exactly what had happened to Marina after she was abducted.
The autopsy report from Jan. 2, 1969 says that she was found lying supine near dense brush. She was fully clothed, with the exception of her shoe, which was tossed nearby. Marina was 5’5 and 128 lbs, and had alcohol in her system at the time of death. Her last meal was vegetarian-based.
There are rumours that she was burned and found nude, but these allegations are categorically false.
Marina’s wounds were extensive and sordid. She had two black eyes caused by a man’s fist, as well as blunt force trauma inflicted with a small hard object. Her throat was cut so violently that her left carotid artery was severed, and her liver was lacerated.
She was also stabbed numerous times in the chest and neck, with one deep slash penetrating her breastbone through her sternum. None of these wounds were fatal, however, and her cause of death is listed as exsanguination, or death by excessive blood loss.
Notably, there were no defense wounds on her body. This indicates that Marina was either physically incapacitated (by her injuries, or due to being restrained by her captors), or she was just too afraid to fight back.
The report also said that an old motorcycle frame was found near Marina’s feet, which is strange because newspapers never dished this rather juicy clue and cops never discovered its origin. Was this the case of a biker gang gone mad?
The coroner determined that at least two different knives were used in the frenzied attack. By now, it was certain that there was more than one person involved in Marina’s murder.
Marina’s Catholic funeral was attended by 350 mourners at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. A priest by the name of Father Acton gave a rousing speech:
“We wonder about a society, the products of which can be… capable of such heinous crimes. There you have the perfect formula for bitterness, resentment, hatred, perhaps despair. This we must guard against.”
It is said that Eloise was never be able to recover from the murder of her only child, and spent years obsessing over it, full of guilt and despair. She was 99 years old when she died in 2017.
Marina Habe’s homicide was never solved, despite the fact that there were 6 detectives and 20 deputies on the case. At the time, Sherriff Harold White claimed that the LAPD was “trying very hard. But we have turned up nothing that is even remotely interesting.” There appears to have been no official police suspects as released to the media.
Enter the Manson Family: There is zero concrete evidence to link Charles Manson & Co. to Marina’s murder, but that hasn’t stopped true crime enthusiasts from coming to far-fetched conclusions. It seems that every late 1960s unsolved California murder is blamed on the Mansons, without actual proof.
When interviewed about his whereabouts on the night of Marina’s murder, Manson stated he was at a New Year’s eve party thrown by John and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas. Lucky him!
There are harebrained claims that Marina was friendly with certain Manson Family members, such as Bruce Davis, Bobby Beausoleil or Tex Watson. These three men were known as the Family lotharios: they would befriend women (sexually) and then attempt to recruit them into the Family, all at the behest of Charlie M. LSD-fueled orgies were said to have followed.
Friends claim Marina was too “square,” and too rich and high-class to associate with hippie hoodlums like the Family. The time frame in which she would’ve befriended them is skewed as well: Marina was attending college in Hawaii for most of 1968.
It is worth noting, however, that Angela Lansbury’s daughter Deidre joined the Manson Family in the 1960s, much to her mother’s chagrin, despite also being a wealthy and famous celebrity child. Though unlike Marina, there is actual evidence of her doing so.
In 1968, the Manson Family ran an illegal car and motorcycle chop shop in the desert, next to Spahn Movie Ranch. They bought and recycled stolen auto parts, and were involved in the death of a 16-year old supplier named Mark Glen Walts. He was shot to death and dumped in Topanga Canyon near Mulholland Drive.
Coincidence, or not? Does the motorcycle frame found on Marina’s corpse point to the Mansons? Or was it some other biker gang gone haywire, such as the Hell’s Angels? It is glaringly evident that the police failed to investigate her case properly.
Marina’s death is also tied to several other unsolved murders, such as the Nov. 1969 homicide of Reet Jurvetson, a 19-year old girl dumped on Mulholland Drive, very close to where Marina was discovered. She was stabbed over 150 times, and like Marina, her carotid artery was severed and she was discovered in a ravine.
In the same month of the same year, Scientologists Doreen Gaul and James Sharp were found gruesomely butchered to death in L.A. Their eyes were cut out, they were run over with motorcycles, and they had been whipped with chains. They were stabbed nearly 60 times each, and Doreen had been raped.
Like Reet and Marina, their cases are still unsolved, and the only suspects anyone can come up with are, you guessed it, The Manson Family.
It is very likely that all of this could have been the work of an unknown serial killer who was active in the late 1960s, or a rogue biker gang. L.A. was in the midst of a hippie flower-power revolution, and any number of creepy psychopaths could have taken advantage of this cultural chaos to kill young, beautiful and vulnerable women. Charles Manson was just one among many.
To muddle the waters even further, let us return to Marina’s actress mother, Eloise Hardt. In 1966, she starred in a hauntingly atmospheric horror film named Incubus. This was one of Eloise’s larger roles, and she received top billing.
Incubus is a must see for vintage B-movie fans, as it was filmed entirely in Esperanto and starred William Shatner in all his pre- Star Trek glory. It was directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of the spooky TV series The Outer Limits. What does this nerdy trivia have to do with the murder of Marina Habe, you ask?
Simple: the film is said to be cursed. It sounds ridiculous, but the horrific occurrences that plagued the stars of Incubus makes for interesting reading.
Shatner claimed that while on set in Big Sur, a weird hippie approached the cast and crew, asking too many questions and irritating the actors, who responded curtly. The hippie was indignated, and loudly recited a curse that was supposed to have damned all those involved in production. Did he really? Or was he just high as shit?
In another odd link to the Manson Family, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski attended the San Francisco Film Festival premiere. Sharon would be slaughtered by the Family three years later in 1969.
Mere weeks after filming wrapped, actress Ann Atmar committed suicide. She was a part time girlie mag pinup who killed herself at only 27 years old, before the film even premiered.
There is no further information available on her death, or why she killed herself. Could it have been due to the disturbing part she played in Incubus? Her character was that of a naive blind girl who is brutally raped by a demon, played by Serbian actor Milos Milos.
Born Miloš Milošević, the hot-tempered Serb was a streetfighter and former bodyguard of Alain Delon. Shortly after Incubus’ release, he murdered Barbara Ann Thomason, wife of Mickey Rooney, whom he was having an affair with. He then shot himself. Some suspect ol’ Mickey was in on the crime, enacting revenge for his cuckoldry.
This bad publicity basically tanked the film in all regards. And then, years later, the curse was completed with the unsolved murder of Eloise Hardt’s daughter Marina. The film itself would be lost until 1993, when it was discovered archived in a French cinematheque.
With the case of Marina Habe, everything must be taken with a grain of salt. The Manson Family and Incubus curses aside, her story is a dark one that seems to have uncorked all sorts of evils in its wake.
Whoever killed Marina Habe on that dark New Year’s Eve of 1968 is possibly still out there, or has died unpunished. But her story lives on, and that of so many other women whose lives were claimed in the crazed frenzy of late 1960s L.A.
Arnella Roma Flynn was the free-spirited youngest daughter of Errol Flynn, consummate Hollywood star and libertine of the 1930s. She inherited her father’s glamorous good looks, and his penchant for alcohol, drugs and partying. This led to an early demise for the both of them.
When Arnella was born on Christmas in 1953, her father was already 44 years old and had a grand total of 4 children by 3 different women. His crazy lifestyle had started to take a toll on his health, but he refused to yield to old age. He was nicknamed the Tasmanian Devil for good reason: after he was barred from drinking on set, he injected vodka into oranges and consumed them during filming. He was incorrigible, and also known as a sexual pervert and opium addict to top it all off.
Arnella’s mother was the reserved and picture-perfect Patrice Wymore, an American actress almost 20 years Errol’s junior. She cut her career short in 1953 when Arnella was born, to care for her new baby- and her alcoholically destroyed husband.
Errol was content with his new wife at first. He described Patrice as:
“attractive, warm and wholesome… She could cook Indian curry, she could dance, she could sing, she was reserved, she had beauty, dignity… homebody qualities that go toward making a sensible and lasting marriage. She typified everything that I was not. Nobody ever tried harder than Pat to make me happy.”
Apparently, he had to break off an engagement to a Romanian princess in order to marry Patrice. Errol had his housekeeper inform the princess via phone call.
The marital bliss would not last, due to Errol’s roving lecherous eye. When Arnella was just a few years old, her father left the family for his 15-year old girlfriend Beverly Aadland. Patrice and Errol separated, but never officially divorced. He died of heart failure in 1959, when Arnella was 6. Errol’s chaotic, drug-and-alcohol-infused, womanizing life was cut short prematurely.
With such an absent and infamous father, Arnella never stood a chance. Her attorney claimed that:
“One of the problems Arnella had growing up was that everyone around her knew her father, but she didn’t. She had a lot of problems to cope with growing up. And having this famous father you don’t even know hanging over you is not easy.”
The extended Flynn family was no stranger to tragedy either. Her older stepbrother Sean mysteriously disappeared in Cambodia in 1970, while covering the Vietnam War as a journalist. He was never heard from again. Arnella was said to have always spoken of him fondly and missed him very much.
In 1942, Errol went sailing on his beloved luxury yacht, the Zaca. During a storm, he washed ashore on Port Antonio, Jamaica. He fell in love with the island nation immediately, calling the landscape “more beautiful than any woman I have ever known. When God created Eden, this is what He was aiming at.” He bought Navy Island, a hotel resort, and a 2,000 acre plantation where he grew coconuts and raised cattle.
When Errol died, the savvy Patrice struggled to take control of his paradisaical Jamaican estates. She wanted to remove her daughter from the chaotic world of L.A. paparazzi and media hounds and give her a “more enduringly satisfactory way of life.”
Patrice was also worried about Arnella’s love of partying and hard living, which must have set off alarm bells that recalled her late husband. She said of her daughter: “I had to get her away from Sunset Strip and all its temptations. She was in danger of becoming a flower child.” Her hippie days in L.A. came to an end.
At the age of 13, Arnella went to live on the placid, tropical, crystal-blue shores of Jamaica. Her mother was an intelligent businesswoman who opened up her own boutiques and gift shops, and managed the hotel and farmed the plantation at considerable profit margins. Their life in Jamaica was, quite surprisingly, simple and free of modern degeneracy: Patrice refused to own a telephone or TV until the 1980s.
None of this placidity could subdue the energetic teenage Arnella, who had a penchant for chugging Jamaican white rum down raw, and smoking the marijuana that grew plentifully along the islands. She also enjoyed athletic activities like water skiing, boating, collecting seashells and swimming.
When she was 18, Arnella went to London and New York to become a model. She was blonde, thin, beautiful and looked the part, and it was easy to nab contracts through Flynn family connections. She grew close to her stepsister Rory, who was also a model. She married a photographer named Carl Stoecker, and in 1976, they had a son named Luke who, you guessed it, went on to become a model.
The marriage dissipated, and Arnella grew disillusioned with the hustle-bustle of the big city. It was time to return to Jamaica, and to live in tropical peace. Or was it?
Upon her return, Arnella partied like her life depended on it. Along with rum and weed, she took on cocaine, which she soon became uncontrollably addicted to. Her friend circle consisted of laid back Rastafarians, who were content to party with her, but advised her to lay off the white powder.
Her friend Anthon recalled her fondly:
“She was one of us, man. She preferred to spend her time here than with the others. She was cool like that. She was one of the best people. She was flexible. When she was with us, she talked like a Jamaican, but when she was with the others she talked like an American. She wasn’t stuck up; she wasn’t all high and mighty. She loved the Rasta. She loved the long hair. She had several Rasta boyfriends. That was her thing.
But she was our friend too. We tried to stop her from doing the coke, but you can’t stop doing that stuff until you die. I shared smoke with her, but none of the coke. That stuff messes with your head.”
Arnella became an aimless beach bum, with no concern for commerce or career. Her mother was ashamed, and wanted her to get a grip on her life and raise her son Luke, which she had been relegated to doing since Arnella was unfit herself.
But the demons that were plaguing her would not let go. She would destroy herself just as her father had. Islanders watched sadly as Arnella stumbled around drunk and high, night and day, with no apparent concern for her own well being. Ironically, even Errol diluted liquor, whereas Arnella would just drink it down straight.
Patrice stopped giving Arnella financial allowances, as she squandered all the money away on cocaine. She was banished from the main property to a smaller plot on the island. Arnella began growing carrots and tomatoes, which she sold to tourists for drug money. When that floundered, she stole coconuts from her mother’s plantation to fund her addiction. The girl who was raised as Hollywood royalty was now relegated to petty thievery.
By 1998, only 3 years after she officially moved back to Jamaica, Arnella was washed up and near death. An islander named Doris Brady mourned how “she used to be such a pretty girl, but at the end she was just a bag of bones. She looked like an old woman, older than her mum.” Errol suffered from the same issue: by the end of his life, his addictions had left him looking horribly aged and like a mere shadow of his former self.
Patrice tried using “tough love” tactics on her daughter, but it was to no avail. Arnella’s Rastafarian boyfriend Willard Hearne was concerned about her, but nobody could help. He called Arnella:
“a very sweet girl, but she had a lot of problems. It is a shame she and her mother couldn’t get along. Just days before she died, Arnella got a letter from her mother’s attorney telling her she had to leave the estate, she was being kicked out. She told me she was sad because she had nowhere to go. Then three days later she was dead. I’ll miss her.”
Arnella was discovered dead in her bed by horrified plantation workers on Sept. 21, 1998. She was only 44. Her body was completely emaciated. The remains were flown back to L.A., to be buried next to her father at Hollywood Hills cemetery. Arnella and Errol now rest in peace together under the sun.
After his death, Errol’s teenage girlfriend Beverly claimed that he hated California, and had always wanted to be buried in the lush Jamaican tropics. Arnella seemed to have had the same love affair with Jamaica as well.
Said Errol in his autobiography: “My dream of happiness — a quiet spot by the Jamaican seashore, looking out over the ocean, hearing the wind sob with the beauty and tragedy of everything…”
Though they had not spent much time together in life, Arnella and her father were connected by obscure threads of fate. Many say that addiction is passed along genetically. This was never more true and tragic than in this case. Despite having it all, this father and daughter gave up and sedated themselves to death.
Karen Lancaume was a French porn star who despised her profession and committed suicide at the age of 32. To be fair, not many female porn actresses enjoy their job: 69% of women in the sex industry report suffering from PTSD. For a sensitive and intelligent woman like Karen, her psychological wounds proved to be fatal.
She was born in Lyon to a wealthy family who would later disapprove of her career choices. Her real name was Karine. Her mother was Moroccan, and her father was French.
Karen was raised in the placid and serene countryside, spending much of her time with her brother and several pets. Her existence was sheltered, but as a child, the shy girl enjoyed playing in the forests and exploring nature.
She graduated college with a Communications degree, and considered a career in advertising. Karen lost her virginity at the age of 17.
The path she went down was antithetical to the promise of her youth. Attractive, educated, and rich; she was not your stereotypical “bimbo” pin-up queen. What forced her hand into the adult film industry?
It all began when she started working weekends at a nightclub to pay off her college debts. It is odd to note that her wealthy parents didn’t help her out financially.
When she met a disc jockey named Franck Ceronne at the club, Karen fell head over heels and the couple quickly married. He promised her a life of domestic bliss with several children. Unfortunately, the pair somehow managed to amass crushing debts and were struggling to pay them off when Franck came up with a bright idea: they should start filming pornos for quick cash.
At first Franck promised Karen that they would only make adult films together, and she would not have to engage with other men on screen. The couple quickly discovered that Franck could not perform in front of a camera, and he wasn’t sizable enough phallic-wise to impress producers.
Karen was then pressured into having sex with other partners on screen. She would later go on to say that “a man who truly loves you would never make you do that.”
The couple divorced in 1997, and Karen continued filming porn to pay the bills. Porn producers and directors adored her. She rose to stardom; working with the biggest names in the European adult film industry, and was even nominated for a Hot d’Or award.
Karen wrote of her work: “Double penetrated at a freezing 5 ° C, followed by an ejaculation. Covered with sperm, soaked, dead cold, no one handed me a towel. Once you have shot your scene, you’re worth nothing.” The lack of empathy she faced on set only fueled her distaste and disillusionment.
In 1995, Karen was gang raped: “I went to buy cigarettes at two in the morning after work, and three guys trapped me.” This was no doubt a brutal experience which scarred her psyche. Sex had become a tool of suffering in her life, which others used to brutalize and punish her for being attractive.
In 1999, almost four years into her porn career, Karen received an offer that would change her life. Writer and former sex worker Virginie Despentes was looking for someone to star in her new and explosive film project Baise Moi (Fuck Me), and required actresses who would consent to perform unsimulated sex scenes.
Virginie approached Karen and a fellow porn actress named Raffaela Anderson at Cannes Film Festival after seeing them in a documentary. She immediately knew they were perfect for the role, with co-director Coralie Trinh Thi noting how: “These two were really different from the other girls. The little one, Raffaela, was very funny. The big one, Karen, looked like she could beat someone up.”
Raffaela’s character is raped during a scene in the film, and it was emotionally difficult for her to perform since she had already suffered assault in real life, just as Karen had. She was raped by two men who recognized her from her adult film career. Outrageously, the public prosecutor told Raffaela not to complain about being raped, since she was a porn star and therefore deserved it.
The plot of the film centers around two angry women who go on a gory killing spree. There is even a a rather interesting scene where an abusive male bar patron is sodomized with a gun. Baise Moi was cathartic for its two stars, functioning as a satisfying rape-revenge movie in which the perpetrators receive scathing doses of violence in return.
For anyone who’s seen it, Baise Moi is unforgettable. It isn’t the type of film to win any awards, but it is a classic of the New French Extremity movement. It caused a massive controversy upon its release, and was initially banned in Australia, Canada, Singapore and the U.K. for its excessive depictions of sex and violence.
Critics were flabbergasted, calling the film “Thelma and Louise on crack.” To be quite frank: Baise Moi makes Natural Born Killers look like a children’s cartoon. French right-wing parties associated with Jean-Marie Le Pen attempted to have the movie banned, but it was finally released with an X-rated certificate for 18+ audiences.
Karen’s performance was powerful and charismatic: she was tall, dark, gorgeous, intimidating, and great with a gun; the personification of badassery. Audiences, however, were not prepared to see two former porn stars headlining a film. Director Virginie Despentes claimed that:
“The real problem is that Baise-Moi is a film about violent ‘lower class’ women, made by supposedly marginal women. The mainstream doesn’t want to hear about people with nothing, the disenfranchised, the marginals, taking up arms and killing people for fun and money. It happens, of course, but we’re not allowed to acknowledge it.
Then there’s the question of the actresses. Of course it’s fine to have porn films and porn actresses, but when you put them in a naturalistic drama that causes all kinds of problems. Why? Because you’ve destroyed the idea that they are sexual toys and brought them to life.
We really took the brunt of a lot of prejudice and paranoia. We didn’t realise just how much fear and hatred it would arouse, but it definitely stoked up a lot of nasty stuff. Not least because it’s about poor, non-white women. In France, there’s real conflict between the white majority and the Arabic population.
Our two lead actresses both have African roots – one is half-Moroccan, the other half-Algerian – and in France, don’t harbour any illusions, it’s visceral, this problem. A lot of people really don’t want to see two North African women who have been raped taking up arms and shooting European men. That’s a little too close to historical reality.”
Despite starring in an attention-grabbing incendiary film in which her performance was praised, Karen’s acting career never really took off. She was tired of porn and done with the industry, but she could not shake off the restrictive shackles of her past. The six years she spent doing adult films had taken its toll on her.
In an interview, she railed against gender inequality: “Why are women grabbed by the ass and not men? All we ask for is understanding, equality. In porn, guys enjoy the mouth of girls, the woman takes it on the face. Baise Moi, it’s the opposite.” Karen eventually wanted to write an autobiography about her life in the adult film industry, but sadly she never got the chance to.
On January 28, 2005 at midnight, Karen committed suicide in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment in Paris, with the aid of sleeping pills and alcohol. She left a note addressed to her mother, writing only the words “too painful.”
It was a week after her 32nd birthday. She died alone on a Friday night, with her friends returning later that weekend only to find her deceased. They claimed she had been in a good mood, and shown no signs of wanting to harm herself.
Associates described Karen as somber and introverted, often dressed in black. Virginie said of her; “She’s the only girl I knew whose big dream was to be a housewife. The first time she told me that, I preferred to put it aside, but knowing her better, I understood that it existed as a dream. It was her thing. We do not always do what we want.”
Karen had dreams that lay way beyond her porn career: to star in mainstream films, to fall in love, to have children, to write a book about her life, and to live with financial security and happiness. She did not manage to make these dreams materialize, and gave in to the psychological torment which had plagued her for years.
When you search “Karen Lancaume” on the internet, you are flooded with hordes of obscene photos and videos. Where are the stories of her life and humanity, outside of the pornographic industry?
In death, Karen deserves to be respected, regardless of what she did for a living. This written piece is a tribute to her life, and a lamentation for the things that could have been.
Let us end with the words of her friend Virginie, who said that Karen had“a sweetness, an incredible femininity. And at the same time one felt she was ready to take an ax and destroy a wall.”
July 23, 1987: It was a sweltering New Mexico summer when a bizarre and gruesome act of fetal abduction occurred.
Darci Pierce was a deranged 19 year old who had kidnapped 8 and a half months pregnant Cindy Ray from an obstetrics clinic under the threat of a toy gun, and took her to an isolated forest location.
She proceeded to cut Cindy’s premature baby out of her belly with car keys, killing the poor 23 year old mother to be in the process. Darci bit the umbilical cord with her teeth to sever it.
Cindy was a devout Mormon and known to be very moral and kind, and was already the mother of 1 child previously.
Darci was abandoned at age 11 and raised by foster parents. She despised her stepmother who she claimed was “fat, poor and ugly.”
Darci was also a charlatan who had lied to her husband, friends and family about her pregnancy. She had gained 60 lbs and stuffed her clothing to make her belly seem larger.
Darci was desperate for a baby, as she had miscarried twice before, and despite being barely 20 she could not wait any longer. Her husband was expecting her to give birth at any moment, and her family had already thrown her a baby shower.
During the murder, a man in a pickup truck drove by the wooded area and had stopped his truck on the highway to question Darci on why she was pulled by the side of the road. Darci insisted repeatedly “My friend and I need to be alone,” and seeing another woman (Cindy) sprawled on the ground, the man assumed they were having a liaison and left.
Miraculously, the baby had survived despite being savagely ripped from her mother’s womb under a tree in the desert.
Darci went to a hospital covered in mud and blood, and claimed the baby was hers. However, doctors quickly realized that Darci had never given birth and she confessed to murdering Cindy.
Darci led officers to the scene of the crime, and when she saw the mutilated body of her victim, she became hysterical and screamed, “Get me out of here. Please kill me.”
Despite pleading insanity, Darci is now spending life in jail. Cindy’s husband remarried and raised a happy and healthy daughter who managed to survive the trauma of her birth.
Ruslana Sergeyevna Korshunova was known as the “Russian Rapunzel” for her long cascading locks and ethereal good looks. Admirers from every corner of the earth marveled over her glinting crystal blue eyes, compared to the ice of the Siberian taiga, and her youthful beauty and elegant 5’8 frame. She was on the front covers of Elle and Vogue, and modeled for IMG, whose client list includes the likes of Kate Moss and Lauren Hutton. She lived in a world of glamour and money.
All this could not keep her alive: She died in June of 2008, days before her 21st birthday, falling to death from her ninth floor apartment building. Police deemed it a suicide.
Almost immediately, controversy, conspiracy theories, psychological analyses, and curiosity followed. How could such a gorgeous, young, successful girl kill herself? And did she really, or was she murdered?
Ruslana had lived a short but charmed life. Her father, a former Red Army officer, died when she was only 5 years old.
She was very close to her mother Valentina, a cosmetic company executive, who would be her most intimate confidante and best friend until her death. In fact, Valentina had washed Ruslana’s long hair her whole life, until she went to Paris to model and was forced to do it alone for the first time.
A pal of Ruslana’s would admit after her death that “the most important thing about her and her internal world was that she was lonely. There was no one who was really dear to her, except for her mother.”
The family lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and were not financially deprived in any way. Ruslana went to one of the best schools in the city, and wanted to eventually go to university in Germany.
But at the age of 15, Ruslana’s life changed in a flash. After her photos were printed in a magazine in 2003, she was noticed by agent Debbie Jones from Models 1, who was immediately struck by her alluring appearance.
She was deemed “A Face to Be Excited About” by Vogue magazine, and Debbie went on to say that “everyone… adores Ruslana. I saw her by chance and she looked like something out of a fairytale! We had to find her and we searched high and low until we did! She’s really incredible with feline features and timeless beauty.”
The fairy tale would not last long, but it was exhilarating. Valentina was hesitant about letting her daughter enter the lurid modelling business, and preferred that Ruslana went to college instead, claiming there was no future in the industry. Ruslana refused, and wouldn’t stop pestering her mom until she agreed to accompany her to a casting call in London.
Ruslana still had braces, and was a naive wide-eyed girl in a big Western European city. She had no idea what she was in for. The world of coked up, anorexic, cynical and desperate fashion models was still alien to her, and she tried to retain a constant mantra in the wake of this new chaos:“Instead of moaning at the thorns/I’m happy that a rose among them grows.”
Money was scarce at this time and modelling gigs were few and far in between. A friend of Ruslana’s from this period describes how “in Paris and Milan there’d be these dinners, rich men would pay to come, we could join in for free. Ruslana and I would go. It would be our only chance to eat. The men could tell we were not like THAT. We were dunces, the ones who went to bed early.” In other words: they didn’t put out; look but don’t touch, etc.
Ruslana was packed into crammed flats full of aspiring models, waiting for her big break. She received this when she was 18 years old, in the form of a Nina Ricci fragrance commercial.
In the ad, she wears a pale pink backless ball gown, and climbs up a pile of apples to pluck the fruit-shaped perfume bottle down from a tree. It was this corny yet indelibly dreamy piece of advertising that turned her into a star.
Soon she was flying high, being invited to New York and Moscow’s classiest parties, and being barraged with the attentions of dozens of wealthy suitors. Alarmingly, she was even summoned to covert parties thrown by Jeffrey Epstein on his creepy private island.
Unfortunately for Ruslana, she soon fell in love with a wealthy unnamed Russian oligarch who brutally broke her heart. Friends say that the man was attractive and super rich, and she fell head over heels for him. She wanted marriage and children, and even introduced him to her mother, but to the oligarch, this was only a temporary fling.
He began ignoring Ruslana’s desperate phone calls, and the oligarch’s personal assistant requested she leave him alone. Being dumped caused Ruslana to lose her mind. She lost weight and became fraught by depression. She would never recover from this disappointment.
Years later, in March of 2008, Ruslana would write on her blog:
“Why, sooner or later, love will die. What is even worst is if it will end earlier for my partner than for me. It really hurts when someone stops loving you but you continue to love.
Reason says that it is better to be loved, but in life, we love more often than we are loved. To love, especially without return, is very hard, painful and takes away from the soul’s strength.”
And so she went through a string of disappointing relationships. She grew anxious about finding the “right one,” and often dated several men at a time, hoping one would take. A friend noted how “she was always searching for love. I used to say to her never search for love. The love will find you.” But she kept pining for true romance, and making bleak choices in the process.
To add on to personal injuries, Ruslana’s career began experiencing a decline at this time. It wasn’t completely over, but employment did start to dry up. A friend said she balked at the world’s newfound indifference to her: “She couldn’t understand. Suddenly she was one of a thousand girls. One of a million. A no one.” The world of fashion is a cold one; here today, gone tomorrow. The phone had stopped ringing.
Ruslana’s life became more stressful than the 20 year old could handle. She was still making $5k per fashion show and photoshoot, but sent much of that money back home to her mom and brother. She rented out a Manhattan apartment for a whole year at the price of $40k, and lived mostly alone, or with whichever man she was currently dating.
With her family on the other side of the world and constant unstable relationships being her only close sense of support, she started crumbling under the pressure. It was around this time that Ruslana joined a self-help cult named Rose of the World. Similar to Scientology in its operation, the Rose stems from a 1980s American cult named Lifespring, which was banned at its outset.
In training sessions, participants are encouraged to share their most traumatic life experiences and mistakes. They are then told to accept responsibility for these, and it is supposed to purge members of their demons. The sessions can run up to $1,000 for only three days. Desperate and isolated, this became Ruslana’s only emotional outlet. She was said to be extremely vocal at these sessions.
Friends reported a change in Ruslana, noticing she began moody, agitated and aggressive after her sessions at the Rose. She attended the program for three months. Former participants claim the organization gave them PTSD and emotional scars, but fellow model Anna Barsukova said “it’s a popular thing to do. One of my friends went there too… They do training about developing your personality.” However, there was a dark side- Ukrainian model Anastasia Drozdova also committed suicide by jumping after attending the Rose for a year.
According to a friend from the Rose, Ruslana told them her darkest secrets, talking tearfully about her failed romantic relationships and her father’s death. One claims “she tried suicide five times in different ways. She’s tried it since she was 15, 16 years old. It was a loneliness that no one understood.” One must note that those were the ages upon which she began her modelling career.
When questioned about Ruslana’s death, a Rose life coach had harsh words: to him, she was a “typical victim. Sometimes it’s better to commit suicide than not to change.”
Ruslana had also been embroiled in a lawsuit with her former agent, who she sued for $500k due to embezzlement of funds. She complained to acquaintances about money troubles, and told her mother she was getting fed up with the modelling business and wanted to eventually leave it.
The most salient insights into Ruslana’s psyche lie in her personal blog. She explains herself in her own words, growing more and more frustrated in the months before her death:
It hurts as if someone took a part of me, mercilessly tore it out, stomped all over it…threw it out.
If I am for others, then who is for me? And if I am for myself, then what am I for?
there’s disorder! i don’t have a home. I need an boss for there to be order
my dream is to fly..oh my rainbow is too high..
I’m a bitch. I’m a witch. I don’t care what you say … I know why my other relationships didn’t work out, ’cause I’m unpredictable.
life is very fragile, and its flow can easily be ruined.
i’m so lost..will i ever find myself?..
Her final entry came on May 30, a month before her death:
“Do not confuse love and desire. Love is the sun, desire – only flash. Desire dazzles, and the sun gives life.
Love does not take away from one in order to give to another. Love – this is the essence of life. But you will not give your life to another.”
On June 28, 2008, at 2:30 p.m., Ruslana fell to her death from the ninth floor balcony of her apartment at 130 Water Street, Manhattan. She left no suicide note.
She had returned from a modelling gig in Paris, and showed no outward signs of distress or abnormality. The doorman noted she was all smiles on the day of her arrival. Friends claim she was “on top of the world,” and had no reason to have done what she did.
Ruslana died four days before her 21st birthday. There were no alcohol or drugs in her system, and in life she was known to hate drinking because it made her sick. Ironically, even though she was afraid of heights, she chose to die by jumping.
Before her death, Ruslana’s famously long Rapunzel hair had been hacked off. This spurred on rumours of murder, but it may have been a final act of defiance, or the symptom of a manic and self-destructive episode. As a model, she had to keep herself in pristine condition, always rail-thin, always presentable. It seemed she had had enough.
Although she already had a new boyfriend, luxury car dealer Mark Kaminsky, Ruslana chose to spend her last hours with her ex Artem Perchenok. He was her only real long term relationship: the couple had dated for 2 years.
Artem describes her as impressionable and sensitive: “She would cry for any, even trivial reason. She took everything so personally.” He said that the two were each other’s first loves, which explains why Ruslana spent her last night with him. They also continued to share a cat together.
Artem’s father states that “the kids watched movies, read love poems. My son had this tiny book Ruslana had given him once. They read the poems from there. Later he put the book in her coffin — and his cross.” The film in question was Ghost (1990).
Hours after Artem dropped Ruslana off at home, she was dead. He felt that she was trying to say goodbye to him. To honor her memory, Artem had a tattoo of Ruslana’s name in Russian done on the inside of his wrist.
At the building, police found that the construction netting on the balcony of Ruslana’s apartment had been sliced open, in order to facilitate her jump. Bizarrely, her body was found 28 feet away from the building. This meant she would have had to have taken a running leap from the balcony.
The sound of her fall to earth startled witnesses, who say the impact sounded like a bomb, a bass drum and a gunshot. Just as she lived, Ruslana died in a very public manner.
Distraught concierge Muhammad Naqib described the grisly scene: “I was shocked when I saw her on the pavement. She was on the road, small and pitiful, in a puddle of blood, surrounded by a crowd. Her arms and neck were broken.” She had no shoes on, and wore only a purple tank top with blue jeans.
Murder was ruled out, as anyone who went upstairs to Ruslana’s apartment would have had to have crossed paths with the concierge. She had no known enemies who wanted her dead, but some assert she had connections to the Russian underworld. This has never been substantiated
Ruslana’s mother had her buried in Moscow, the city she loved best. At the funeral service, dressed in a black veil, she gave a final touching and heart-wrenching speech about her lost daughter:
“She was very strong, even though she looked so fragile. She was the closest person in the world to me, the most trusted; she would never let me down. I was always proud of her. And I’m proud of her today.”
Until the end, Ruslana supported her family and kept them close to her heart, visiting her mother and brother in Kazakhstan mere months before she died. She kept a small and close circle of friends, which she preferred over the hustle of big parties and Hollywood.
Yet she still felt alone in all the foreign countries she lived in and traveled to, and deprived of the romantic love she always dreamed of. Her online posts show a deep obsession with loss, love and feelings of emptiness. Artem accused her of giving up on herself, and Mark wondered how she could do this when she was loved by so many.
None of us will ever fully understand what motivated Ruslana Korshunova to kill herself, but her pain will continue to resonate deeply with all who read her tragic story.