Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Kallinger, the Enigmatic Cobbler

The Other Murders

Schreiber claims that during her extensive interviews Kallinger confessed to two other murders: that of his son Joey and that of another boy from his neighborhood.   She accepted Kallinger's account that "something emerges" from within him that he did not understand.  In the fashion of the 1970s, she looked to his childhood for the answer.

Kallinger's adopted parents apparently were strict, and by his description, rather unloving.   At one time, they took him for a hernia operation and told him that the doctor had also fixed his penis so it would never get hard.  That apparently gave him a complex about his size.  Nevertheless, he did father seven children and did demand oral sex from three of his victims.  It does not seem as if he had a serious sexual dysfunction, apart from an unhealthy fear about his penis being small.  Yet with no evidence for the actual incident, Schreiber wrote that the parents symbolically "castrated" his ability to grow up normally.  That's apparently also what made him want to kill with a knife.  Her analysis of his penis-fixation as a result of this ordeal is extensive, but essentially the knife transformed him from victim to victimizer.  It became his penis substitute and he apparently became obsessed with the male organ.

He told Schreiber that he had a lack of empathy — one of the traits of a psychopath — but she took this to mean that he was abused into withdrawal.   As for the degree of physical abuse he suffered, she had only his word for it.   He also terrorized other boys with a knife — a clear sign of conduct disorder as a precursor to future violent conduct.  She faulted the parents for that (and everything else).

His first marriage was bad as well, with a woman who refused to take responsibility for their two children.   Around this time, he said, he learned that holding a knife in his hand would help him achieve an erection for masturbation.  He claimed that since the age of 15 he had hallucinations of God and the devil, and that these were responsible for the fires he had set to burn down his building.  The voices had told him to do it.  [That he gained quite a bit of money from these acts is not mentioned here.]

He detailed for Schreiber a long and complex history of hallucinations---which no one else had ever seemed to know about.   He went over his foot experiments at length, and then talked about his abuse of his children.  He was sadistic and she attributed this to his own child abuse.

By the winter of 1973-4, Kallinger believed he had a mandate to destroy mankind.   He was supposed to kill everyone with a butcher knife, and he enlisted his son as an accomplice.  They would ride the bus to towns they'd never been to and his son would break into houses to rob them.  Supposedly, the boy alone committed two dozen robberies in all [although no one ever tried to link such incidents with the 1975 incidents, despite tremendous publicity].  Then his son demanded that Joe go into the houses, too, and supposedly they successfully robbed dozens of homes throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.  [Schreiber does not link any of these to police reports or newspaper accounts.]  Kallinger claims that it was his son who endangered him.

Then Kallinger received the supernatural order to kill three billion people.   But he didn't know how to kill.  He told this to his son, who supposedly cheerfully told him he'd be glad to do it.  [This seems unlikely, since his son could not even rape a woman when given the chance.]  One day in July 1974, says Kallinger, they spotted a boy on Fifth Street in Philadelphia.  His name was Jose Collazo and he was ten.  They took him to an isolated area in an abandoned factory, snipped off his penis, shoved shears into his rectum, and killed him.  Kallinger says he kept the dismembered penis. 

[The newspaper report on the boy's discovery on July 9, 1974 indicates there was a slight laceration in the groin and no injury to the rectum as Kallinger had described.  He could easily have read the account -- he admitted that he had -- and used it for his ploys.  Kallinger's discussion of the wounds and the gag they taped into in the boy's mouth would have alerted police to homicide, but there is no mention of that.  Kallinger said they had killed him around 4, and he was found at 6, but the medical report said he had been dead between four and ten hours.  The discrepancies are worth noting, along with the fact that Schreiber did not look up the police reports.]

Two weeks later, he said that he and his son lured Joey to an abandoned building with the promise of taking photographs and killed him there.   They pushed him into some water, chained to a ladder, where he drowned, and during all this Kallinger had an orgasm.  Schreiber says that Kallinger's schizophrenic dissociation protected him from feeling guilty.  He could just as easily have been a psychopath, without remorse.

The day the police accused Kallinger of killing his son, he told Schreiber, was the day "Charlie" the ghost showed up.   She believed him.  She made no mention of a possible motive of self-enrichment through the insurance money.  She concluded that the murder was guided by a powerful hallucination.

During the crime spree that began toward the end of that year, Kallinger said that his son threatened him with an ultimatum: if we don't kill, I won't go out again.   So he had no choice but to begin.  Throughout the rest of the crimes, he claimed that he watched as his "double" did cruel things to people.  Yet his accounts are remarkably detailed and coherent for a man with memory loss and the sense that he was out of touch with things. 

He says he chose Maria Fasching as the sacrificial lamb because she was easiest to get up off the floor, not because she was pretty.   He commanded her to go into the boiler room and chew off the penis of the man he had hog-tied.  She refused.  Then at "Charlie's" command, he began to stab her.

He and his son ran for the bus and when they reached New York, they had pizza.   Kallinger knew that his godly mission had begun — something of a contradiction, since he'd already killed two boys.  Schreiber says this contradiction was due to a memory lapse.

In support of his psychosis, Schreiber reports Kallinger's histrionics in court, but fails to address how he could have been psychotic and so controlled during his assault and break-ins.   In other words, if this was his psychotic behavior, then what was that?    The prosecutor certainly noted it and had four experts testify about it.

Schreiber writes somewhat defensively that the jury believed the larger team of experts merely because there were more of them.   She did get some prominent psychiatrists to look over her interviews with Kallinger, and even to meet with him, and said that they believed he was schizophrenic.  Yet she did not seem to understand that psychosis is not equivalent to legal insanity.  Psychotic people are often convicted because they show in their criminal behavior that they know what they are doing is wrong.  Even in his confessions, Kallinger seems to know that what he did was wrong.

Whether he was actually a serial killer or even psychotic is anyone's guess.   The professionals could not agree.  Kallinger may simply have been a psychopath who liked to confuse and manipulate people, and enrich himself.  While it makes sense that he might have killed his son for money, or even in a disturbed frame of mind, we don't know that he did.

He spent much of his remaining time in prison writing poetry and fixing the shoes of the prison personnel, and Schreiber's book has become the basis for which many people evaluate the man.