Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

'Movies Made Me Murder'

Commanded by God

In West Germany, the "Beast of the Black Forest" was prowling around in 1959.  In a dark alley in Karlsruhe, the body of a woman was discovered.  She had been raped and her throat slit with a razor.  On the same night, another woman reported being accosted by a man who'd run off when a taxi drove by.  The police could find no clues from either incident to assist in arresting someone.

Yet several more dead women turned up over the next few months, as well as a series of complaints about sexual assaults.  One woman, a student named Dagmar Klinek, had been thrown off a train after being raped in an empty railway car.  She was further assaulted outside on the ground, and stabbed to death.  Still, there were no clues.

Then during the summer of 1960 in Hornberg, a young man picked up a suit he had previously ordered and left his briefcase in the tailor's shop while he went on an errand.  (In another account, he changed into the new suit and left his other clothing behind in the shop.)  The tailor noticed something odd about the briefcase so he opened it and found a modified rifle with a sawed-off barrel.  Since this was clearly for a crime, and possibly to rib him, he alerted the police, who awaited the man's return.  When he walked into the shop, he was arrested.  He gave his name as Heinrich Pommerencke, age 23. 

Heinrich Pommerencke
Heinrich Pommerencke

Under further interrogation, he admitted to robberies committed in another town.  Just to test him, investigators told him they had found bloodstains on the suit he'd left at the shop, and it had matched the blood of several murder victims in the Black Forest area.  Pommerencke fell for the ruse, admitting that he'd raped and killed several women (some accounts say he admitted to ten).  He was obsessed with sex, he said, and had been since he was quite young.  But it was a movie that had inspired him to act out.

He explained how he had watched a showing of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, seen the licentious women dancing around the golden calf, and decided that he "would have to kill."  It was his mission.  Among other felony charges, he was convicted of four murders, a dozen attempted murders, and twenty-one rapes.  He was also suspected in six other murders, and despite his supposed lunacy, he received six life terms.

While it makes some sense to find culpability in overtly violent films, we wouldn't expect that a film like The Ten Commandments would inspire lust murders.  Yet, apparently, it did.  We can list a few other movies that have been thus associated as well.


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