A Mayflower Murderer
Most serial killers come from the bottom half of society. They grow up in poverty, and have few opportunities. Parents or caregivers often abuse them. While Hadden Clark was abused, he was given many advantages, the result of being the progeny of a distinguished family.
His mother, Flavia, boasted of being able to trace her lineage back to the voyage of the Mayflower and had direct descendants who were heroes in the Revolutionary War. Hadden's grandfather on his father's side served as the elected Republican mayor of White Plains, New York. His father—also named Hadden—would help invent clear clinging plastic wrap and fire-retardant carpeting. The Clark family was well off and well thought of by their neighbors. Despite all this, the family had a deep secret. Both parents were alcoholics whose drinking often led to physical battles that were sometimes fought out in front of the children.
Hadden, born in April of 1951, was the second child. His eldest brother, Bradfield, had been born a year earlier. Geoffrey Clark, the youngest brother, arrived in 1955. The last child, Alison, was born in 1959. She would run away from home as a teen and later break ties with her parents, telling an investigator, "I never had a family."
The Clark family bounced around Connecticut and New Jersey as Hadden was growing up, rarely staying in any place for more than a year. Hadden's father, who had both an MBA and a PhD in chemistry, never seemed satisfied with his employers, always searching for more money.
Bradfield was a handful from the start and became involved with drugs as a teen. Though he would receive two university degrees, and be highly thought of in the new world of computers, the Clark genes would be his downfall. In 1984, during a night of drinking and drugs, he would murder his date, a beautiful 29-year old woman named Patricia Mak. After banging her head against a brick cinderblock and strangling her, he would cut up her body into 11 pieces in his bathtub, cook part of her breasts on his barbecue grill, eat them, and then stuff the remaining body parts into plastic bags. Like Hadden, he intended to bury the body, but grew remorseful, attempted suicide, and then called the police. He received 15-years-to-life and is still serving time at Pleasant Valley State Prison in California.
Geoff, the youngest brother, would have other problems. After earning a degree in microbiology at Ohio State University, he married a childhood sweetheart and the two made their way to the Maryland suburbs of Washington where a position at the Food and Drug Administration awaited. They settled into a quiet house on Sudbury Road in Silver Spring and had three children before the marriage turned ugly and divorce actions were filed. Marcia accused Geoff of physically abusing her twice and he was convicted of one of the charges, earning a suspended sentence.
If the three other Clark children had difficulties in their lives, with Bradfield eventually committing the ultimate offense, they paled alongside Hadden. He seemed to have been born evil and liked to hurt people. Children usually ran the other way when he showed up and those who dared cross him often found their family dog or cat deposited on their doorstep, decapitated.
Once, when Geoff and Hadden were learning to ride their bikes without hands, Hadden grabbed his handlebars and deliberately rammed his brother. Geoff hit the sidewalk headfirst and began bleeding profusely from the head. Hadden hurried home to tell his mother, Flavia.
"There's been an accident," he told her, but don't worry the bike's okay." He didn't mention his brother's injuries.
"My brother's sense of reality was always a little askew," Geoff said, years later.
Flavia Clark at first blamed her son's strange behavior on a bad forceps delivery. Then she thought he had cerebral palsy and took him to an expensive clinic. His father had no such illusions. After a few drinks, he began to refer to his son as "the retard." Since Hadden was the second child, and the couple had wanted a girl, his mother often dressed him in frilly girl's clothing. A taste for female clothing was implanted in him as was the name Kristen—his mother addressed him by that name when she was drunk.
Yet Hadden did not test as mentally deficient. In fact, he could appear to be a genius when it came to chess, a game that required thinking and concentration. On the other hand, emotionally he was a small child who lashed out physically when he was publicly criticized. The only place where he felt a degree of normalcy was at his grandparents' retirement estate. After his term as mayor of White Plains, his grandfather had purchased a dream house at the edge of a town called Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Nobody called him a retard there and it became as close to heaven on earth as Hadden Clark would find.
"The days we spent there were the most wonderful time of Hadden's life," Geoff said once. "They were for all of us."
Flavia Clark wanted her son to have a trade and so she enrolled him at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, a two-year chef's school in Hyde Park, New York. There, he surprised everyone by demonstrating a real talent for carving ice sculptures and figures from tallow. His chef's education was not without incidents. Hadden retaliated against slights by urinating into vats of mashed potatoes. Still, he passed enough courses to graduate from the cooking academy in January of 1974. In a rare display of solidarity, Hadden's entire family showed up for the graduation ceremony.
The degree from a top-flight chef's school enabled Hadden Clark to pick and choose employers — at first. But he was never able to keep a job for more than a few months. His strange behavior, like openly chugging beef blood in a restaurant's kitchen, did not endear him to fellow employees or employers. His first jobs were in Provincetown on Cape Cod, where years later he would confess to killing several women in the sand dunes nearby. On one such occasion, he claimed to have murdered a young woman burying her nude under a sand dune after first removing her hands at the wrists. Hadden told police he used her fingers as experimental bait for surf fishing, a hobby he had become proficient in while living on the Cape.
After becoming shunned by restaurant owners in the beach towns of Massachusetts, Hadden Clark did a one-year stint on the cruise ship S/S Norway. After that, there were jobs in Long Island banquet halls, and a three-week assignment at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. In all, Hadden Clark would hold 14 different jobs between 1974 and 1982.
During that time his family disintegrated further. His grandfather died and his grandmother, in poor health, entered a nursing home. His parents divorced, with his father dying soon after from cancer. Hadden, an unsuspected murderer many times over, entered the U.S. Navy as a below deck cook. It was his last chance at a career. But his shipmates didn't understand a sailor who often wore frilly ladies' panties under his uniform. There were beatings. Once, he was locked in a meat freezer for three hours. The Navy tried moving him to new ships but there were incidents. After a final beating where he suffered a concussion from his head being banged against an aircraft carrier's deck, Hadden was given a medical discharge, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He soon showed up on his brother Geoff's doorstep, which resulted in the brutal killing of little six-year old Michele Dorr, with the police believing that her father and not Hadden Clark was their prime suspect.