More and Better Psychopaths

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About the Author

  • HL Mencken, Wrote More and Better Psychopaths
  • Born September 12, 1880 was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English
  • Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century.
  • A supporter of scientific progress, he was very skeptical of economic theories
  • known for writing The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial".
  • Mencken was known for his controversial ideas: he was not a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. During and after World War I, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British propaganda.[3] However, he also referred to Adolf Hitler and his followers as "ignorant thugs." Instead of arguing that one race or group was superior to another, Mencken believed that every community produced a few people of clear superiority.
  • In his best-selling memoir Happy Days, he described his childhood in Baltimore as "placid, secure, uneventful and happy.
  • When he was nine years old, he read Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, which he later described as "the most stupendous event in my life".[7] He became determined to become a writer himself.
  • On November 23, 1948, Mencken suffered a stroke that left him aware and fully conscious but nearly unable to read or write, and able to speak only with some difficulty.
  • Mencken died in his sleep on January 29, 1956

Historical Context

Baby face nelson.jpg

Baby Face Nelson

  • Known as George Nelson, was a bank robber and murderer in the 1930s.
  • Baby Face Nelson, a name given to him due to his youthful appearance and small stature
  • Nelson entered into a partnership with John Dillinger, helping him escape from prison in the famed Crown Point, Indiana Jail escape, and was later labeled along with the remaining gang members as public enemy number one.
  • Nelson was responsible for the murder of several people, and has the dubious distinction of having killed more FBI agents in the line of duty than any other person.
  • At the age of twelve, Nelson was arrested after accidentally shooting a fellow child in the jaw with a pistol he had found.
  • Arrested again for theft and joyriding at age 13, he was sent to a penal school
  • 1928, Nelson was working at a Standard Oil station in his neighborhood that was the headquarters of young tire thieves, known as "strippers", gave him a job driving bootleg alcohol throughout the Chicago suburbs. It was through this job that Nelson became associated with members of the suburban-based Touhy Gang
  • Committed his first major bank robbery in Grand Haven, Michigan on August 18, 1933, this bank job apparently convinced Nelson he was ready to lead his own gang.
  • On March 3, 1934, John Dillinger made his famous "wooden pistol" escape from the jail in Crown Point, Indiana. Although the details remain in some dispute, the escape is suspected to have been arranged and financed by members of Nelson's newly formed gang,
  • Became public enemy #1 when he robbed two federal agents –Baum and Newman, and a local constable, Carl Christensen at gunpoint for their car. As Newman, the driver was getting out, Nelson, apparently detecting a suspicious movement, opened fire with machine gun pistol, severely wounding Christensen and Newman and killing Baum, shot three times in the neck.
  • A short but furious gun battle between FBI agents and Nelson took place on November 27, 1934 outside Chicago in the town of Barrington, resulting in the deaths of Nelson and FBI Special Agents Herman "Ed" Hollis and Samuel P. Cowley


  • Member of The Tri-State Gang,along with Walter Legenza, William “Big George” Phillips, and Arthur “Dutch” Misunas.
  • Given this nickname because they moved between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia committing hold-ups and truck hijackings
  • Born in 1905, he grew up in a financially struggling family. Close to his mother Elizabeth, he had “Mother” tattooed on a forearm.
  • Baby-faced Mais photographed better than Legenza
  • Mais began his criminal career young. In 1935 he recalled, “I have lied, cheated, stolen and broken almost every Commandment.”
  • On June 5, 1934, Baltimore cops surrounded a house. Mais and Legenza drove up. Police ordered them to surrender. Mais tried to flee by car
  • Cops shot out windows and a tire, stopping the car. Mais and Legenza tried to run, Mais is shot and Legenza surrendered.
  • Mais’s life was saved by transfused blood donated by a cop.
  • On September 29, 1934, a jailor escorted Legenza and Mais to meet an attorney. The prisoners pulled out their smuggled pistols and shot repeatedly, wounding three men as they escaped. One officer later died.
  • On December 14, 1934 cops acting on a tip tried to halt three men exiting a car. Racing from the police, Legenza jumped off a concrete embankment, breaking a leg and both heels. Mais dragged Legenza into a stolen car and they raced off.
  • Early January 17, 1935, a sleeping Mais awakened surrounded by armed federal agents. McKeever was arrested on the sidewalk and Legenza on his hospital bed.
  • On February 2, 1935, first Mais and then Legenza died in Virginia’s electric chair.

The Text

  • Main in the years 1910-1930's
  • About the author's views of New Penology, which he thought was bogus
  • Baby Face Nelson a thug and bully
  • Started crime at a very young age and was first arrested when he was 14, but let go due to the New Penology and paroled
  • Began to get caught by the cops a lot, but manages to escape with the help of friends and killed three policemen in the process
  • New Penology said that it need to handle people like this more tenderly and that they were not the ones responsible, but society
  • Cops were the only people who were reliable when it came to bringing suspects in and the crimes would get away because the rest of the justice system had holes
  • People like Baby face Neal can only be dealt with by a death sentence
  • Cops pick up a heavily armed Mais in Baltimore, He escapes and kills a police man
  • Mencken questions if the police should go up and tap him on the shoulder politely or shot him on the spot before he sees them
  • Only one concerned psychopath was executed in the year Mencken wrote this Hon. John Pierpont while many other were killed for lesser crimes
  • Almost unheard of for a professional to be executed because of the law they have connections that can get them out
  • seems very bitter toward the ones that escape
  • Masterpiece of the New Penology is Hon. Thomas H. Robinson wanted for kidnapping and bludgeoning
  • he also started young and seemed to the author to be destined to be sent to the gallows
  • Encountered a fool of a judge and had two psychiatrists argue if he was insane or not, and in the distraction was able to slip out of custody and continue his crimes
  • The author questions that if these people are considered psychopaths than what is Criminal
  • Finds the categorizing of people involved in crime as simply sick and that treatment can fix is total crap

Reactions from the Blogs

  • Abigail: "Baby Face Nelson seems like a very confused man due to the fact that he does not even have one name he goes by many different names."
  • Demi: I really like the quote, on the second page,” Either he fools a jury, or his lawyer fools a judge.”
  • Seth: While reading i learned two new vocabulary words: sordid and penology. Sordid meaning morally ignoble and penology being the study of the punishment of the crime.

Pop Culture References

  • Bones: Howard Epps
  1. A man on death row
  2. the man in the cell
  • Episode featuring the Tri-State Gang on the T.V. series the Untouchables


  • What do you think about the New Penology?
  • What do you think puts a person under the category of a psychopath?
  • What did you take away from the authors language?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree with Mencken?
  • What about these kind of people make some believe they are simply sick and can be treated?