Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

"To write, is also not to speak.
It is to keep silent. It is to howl noiselessly."
© Marguerite Duras

    This panel, that appears when Dr. Gillen explains Johan to Dr. Tenma in Volume 05, Chapter 33 (Episode 19), is a direct reference to the "Lipstick Killer"; famous for leaving a message scrawled in lipstick at a crime scene.


    On December 10, 1945, Frances Brown, a divorced woman was found dead in her apartment 611 at 3941 North Pine Avenue, Chicago. The killer had entered the apartment late at night by jumping from a fire escape to her bedroom window, six stories above the ground. She had been shot in the head and a knife was driven so deeply into her throat that the point came out the other side. Although she was an attractive woman and was found nude, she had not been sexually violated.

    Chief of Detectives Walter Storms noted that there were similarities between this and the Josphine Ross (first victim) murder. The body had been carefully washed and the wounds closed. Both apartments had been ransacked but, in both cases, little was taken.

    But on a wall next to her bed, police found something that has since become legendary. Written in the victim's red lipstick were the words:

For heavens
Sake catch me
Before I kill more
I cannot control myself

    Was it a cry for help or was the murdered taunting the police?

    William Heirens was named responsible for that crime, as well as two other brutal murders.
    He was born in 1928 in Evanston, Illinois, but grew up in Lincolnwood, a suburb of Chicago, during the Great Depression. His parents had been in the floral business, but lost it due to the state of the economy. His father, George, was an odd-job laborer who often spent the small earnings he made on socializing with his friends. His mother, Margaret, worked at a bakery and often had to leave him and his three years younger brother, Jere, with babysitters. William was reportedly a loner and enjoyed playing with technical things, such as chemistry sets and toy airplanes, and also liked drawing and repairing old clocks. In order to escape the out-lashes of his parents' troubled marriage, he would usually leave the house and hang outside.

    As Bill neared adolescence, the Heirens' neighbors began experiencing thefts. Women's undergarments started disappearing from clothes lines and, later, from bedroom dressers. Bill was squirling them away in secret hiding places. He soon outgrew his fascination with women's panties but he did not outgrow the thrill he got from committing burglary. He graduated from stealing women's underwear to stealing cash, furs, jewelery, guns, knives and more. When the cops arrested him the first time, they recovered an estimated $3500 worth of loot.

    Heirens differed from most juvenile delinquents in that he was utterly secretive in his life of crime. He never ran with a gang or bragged about his exploits to his friends. For Heirens, crime was not an adolescent rite of passage, it was a compulsion. A psychiatrist who examined him for the Juvenile Court termed it "neurotic stealing."

    He was a very athletic burglar. The cops at Townhall Station called young Heirens a "human fly" for the death-defying feats of acrobatics he employed in getting into apartment windows on high floors. He would jump from one building to the window of an adjacent building, far above the ground, with seemingly no fear. He had an amazing ability to climb sheer walls; he used to refer to this as "muscling up walls."

    He also set fires at many of the apartments he burglarized and he had another special trademark: he often defecated in the apartments. He would leave feces in the middle of the floor. He later said that, when he had an urge to go out and commit a burglary, if he went to the bathroom first, the urge would sometimes go away.

    For him, crime was an outlet for his suppressed sexuality; he claimed to feel physically sick when he touched a woman. At the age of 11, Heirens claimed to have witnessed a couple making love. He told his mother, who then told him that all sex was dirty, and would lead to diseases. While kissing a girlfriend he burst into tears, and proceeded to vomit in the presence of the girl.

    In 1945, when Heirens was 17, the Lipstick Killer murders began.


The cover of this Shock Illustrated #2 (February 1956), fictionalizes the note,
but shows how powerful an effect it had on the public, even ten years after Heirens was arrested.


    On June 26, 1946, Heirens was caught trying to burglarize an apartment. He later said he was interrogated around the clock for six consecutive days, being beaten and abused by police and not allowed to eat or drink. He was not allowed to see his parents for four days. He was also refused the opportunity to speak to a lawyer for six days.

    Heirens was also subjected to an interrogation under the influence of sodium pentathol, popularly known as "truth serum". This drug was administered by psychiatrists Doctors Haines and Roy Grinker. Under its effects he allegedly stated that a second person named George Murman actually committed the killings.

    That "George" (which happens to be his father's first name and Heirens's middle name) had given him the loot to hide in his dormitory room. Police hunted all over for this "George" questioning Heirens's known friends family and associations, but came away empty handed.

    Heirens was attributed as saying while under the influence that he met "George" when he was 13 years old; that it was "George" who sent him out prowling at night, that he robbed for pleasure, "killed like a Cobra" when cornered and relating his secrets to Heirens.

    Heirens allegedly claimed that he was always taking the rap for George, first for petty theft, then assault and now murder. Psychologist explained at the time that Heirens made up this duo-personality like how normal children made up imaginary friends to keep his diabolical deeds separate from the person who could be the "average son and student, date nice girls and go to church,..."

    When Heirens, under the drug, was asked George's last name, he supposedly told the examiners he wasn't quite sure, that it was "a murmuring name". According to Heirens, the police translated it to Murman and the press, afterwards, dramatized it to "Murder Man".

    Years later, Heirens told author Lucy Freeman, who wrote "Before I Kill More...", that he woke up remembering very little of what he said under the eminence of the serum. Upholding his innocence, he nevertheless recalls one thing in particular:
    "After the use of the hypnotic drug I had the strange compulsion to take the blame for all the charges pressed against me. It must have been a post-hypnotic influence." And he attested, "In the beginning, it didn't have much effect, but later it overcame my own will and judgment of my innocence for these crimes."

    What Heirens actually said is in dispute, as the original transcript has disappeared.


    This form of interrogation, which was done without a warrant and administered with neither Heirens's or his parent's consent, is believed to be of dubious value by most scientist today. Indeed, by the 1950s so-called truth serums had been largely discredited.

    When Heirens was arrested in 1946, growing scientific opinion against "truth serum" had not yet filtered down to the courts and police departments. Since the 1950s the medical consensus has been that "truth serums" including sodium pentathol have no scientific validity regarding eliciting the truth from those subjected to interrogation.

    Of the drug sodium pentothal, experts claim that answers given under its effect could easily be "suggested" in advance by subtly, strategically formulated questions. A well-known psychiatrist inferred that the drug also digs into the layer of the subconscious in such a way as to surface pre-injected thoughts and re-fashion them as something valid: "Suppose for one or two days someone repeats to you that you are a monkey's uncle. 'Are you a monkey's uncle? Aren't you a monkey's uncle?' Then suppose you are given truth serum...You may very likely say, 'I am a monkey's uncle.'"

    All of this is conjecture and cannot be defended nor argued, that is in reference to the Bill Heirens interview, since the transcript vanished thereafter. One revelation by Dr. Grinker did, however, emerge in 1952 when he admitted that, despite the allusions to an evil alter-ego, Heirens, during this interview, never did directly involve himself in any crime.


    Police searches (without a warrant) of Heirens’s residence and college dormitory found other items that earned publicity.

    The police uncovered a scrapbook on Nazi soldiers and a copy of a book on sexual deviation entitled Psychopathia Sexualis. Both items, Heirens claimed, were things he had picked up in North Side apartments during robberies; he thought they looked interesting and took them, nothing more. The police even agreed that the Nazi book was circumstantial -- that many boys might find photographs of the fighting German Luftwaffe and Panzers interesting; after all, Heirens, as he said, was studying German in college and studying a foreign language often meant better understanding the culture of the people who spoke it.

    But, the other article, the sex book, they found less comprehensible. "Psychopathia Sexualis", written by social crimes historian Richard von Krafft-Ebbing, is a history of dark fetishisms and sexual oddities; it includes tales of famous dismemberments and other sadomasochistic crimes. The press focused on it. Heirens metamorphosized as Mr. Hyde at his most devious, full of lasciviousness and larceny.

    The Jekyll-Hyde concept made good headlines and columnists chewed into it with the fervor of a baseball pitcher with a wad of snuff. Newspapers (The News and Hearst's Herald-American) ran two photos of Murder Man Heirens top-to-bottom, one taken as he looked before his arrest - hair combed, placid expression -- and the other as he appeared during his ordeal - hair a mess, mouth askew - and encased them in a box tomb stoned DUAL PERSONALITY.


Life, in its July 29, 1946 issue, gave the Heirens case two pages, with a tousled-hair photo of Heirens
that made him appear wild, and has been criticized as helping to form the public perception of him.

    There has been much speculation as to whether William Heirens was actually guilty, or convicted by tainted evidence and a dubious confession, or even trial by newspaper. It’s one of those fascinating cases that has been much discussed and debated over six decades.