Saturday, February 17, 2007


Yes! Office politics rule no 7: when you can't get information directly from the source you go to another source who has access to the information. I now have the information that I was looking for from Harry's Central State Hospital file.

I would not have to go through all of this if Harry had ever been given the attention he deserves as a case study. The only book that has good information on him also was very poorly fact checked. Consequently, I have to piece together information on my own. Personally it's more fun this way. Authors are human so either they are too detached or too involved with their subjects. Interpretation as to motive and history are always subjective with the exception of cold hard facts. I mean the where, when, how. Why is always subjective and why is almost never fully known unless you get an untainted confession. (Untainted no coercion, no diminished capacity, etc)

So here's the skinny; the information may not seem like much but it does explain some things, raise more questions about others and make me see Mrs. Lena Pierpont in a much more favorable light.
  • Harry was diagnosed with dementia praecox. That diagnosis is available on the inquest papers that are available to the public. In the Central State file it list that his illness was of the Hebephrenic type. A form of schizophrenia that typically onsets after puberty and involves a progressive disintegration of behavior. Characteristics include inappropriate mannerisms and emotional responses (such as grimacing or grinning at improper times).
  • Harry suffered a head injury at age 9, which was not though serious and a severe injury at 18 when he was hit in the head with a baseball bat and rendered unconscious for about 5 minutes.
  • Harry was not sexually active at 18, in fact he avoided the company of girls except his sister Fern who he was close to. He was not a good mixer and became more stubborn and irritable as he grew older.
  • Fern died when she was 19 years old of Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Harry would have been 17 at the time (1910 census records for the family show a 2 year difference). Harry did not tend to Fern during her illness; however he "was round her quite a bit". No sanitary precautions were used during his time with her.
  • Examination of his lungs and breathing lead doctors to suspect a T.B. condition existed.
"Patient expresses no delusions. He guards well all that he says and will not let out anything. Declares at all times that there is nothing wrong with his mental condition. It is conceded that he is normal but the nervous system does not present a very favorable condition."
Even before he truly began his criminal career Harry knew when it was to his advantage to keep his mouth shut. It would become harder for him to keep outbursts at bay as evidenced at the Sarber trial and during his stint on death row. So why is this important? To me at least it shows several things:

  1. Had Harry been in any criminal trouble prior to his visit at Central State it would show up in this file. So, unlike Dillinger, Karpis, Nelson, and hosts of others Harry doesn't start showing a criminal tendency until after childhood which is consistent with his diagnosis.
  2. Harry's mother was genuinely concerned about her son's health and she had every reason to be. Her letter writing campaign is genuine not a ruse developed to spring Harry early.
  3. Harry was crazy enough to develop an escape plan where the inmates went out the front door and think it would work. His paranoia aided him in changing the date.
I love this stuff!

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