Serial murder has worn a lot of masks and has been carried out by a lot of wicked faces, evil persons who exerted their dark wills upon innocent prey. But even more striking is when the murderer’s face is that of a child. Sometimes, though rarely, children embark on killing sprees, like Mary Bell, for instance, who murdered two people at only 11 years old. Thankfully, the nightmare stopped there, when she was locked up for her crimes. But still other child murderers, like Peter Kurten, never stopped—they took their lust for blood all the way to the grave.
Such is the case with one young Jesse Pomeroy, a teenage serial killer from the United States who claimed the lives of multiple victims in 1874. Here are ten dark and macabre facts about this young murderer.
Jesse Pomeroy was born in Boston on November 29, 1859, though various sources differ on the date, and would begin a troubled life. He is said to have been born with a defect in his right eye, where white covered even his pupil. Other kids thought it unusual and were afraid to look at him, shuddering way in revulsion and, of course, being as mean-spirited as children can be about it.
He became a loner and an avid reader, absorbing his mind into the graphic tales told in “dime novels,” books which were particularly brutal, violent, gore-filled, and possibly influential on a young mind with a vivid imagination. Jesse Pomeroy would become a serial killer before he became an adult.
It is thought that Jesse Pomeroy may have had a predisposition toward violence that was further exacerbated by life events, which, even to this day, further begs the age-old question: Are there some people who are just born to kill and be destructive? There is actually a large body of work which has brought forth evidence which actually suggests that some people may have a genetic predisposition toward violence and aggression, which, at least in combination with external forces, can predict violent behavior.
And Jesse Pomeroy would have been no stranger to such tendencies. There are certain genotypes of the MAOA gene which may play a role in the predisposition toward violence. As we will see, it’s likely that Jesse Pomeroy had such a predisposition, as his crimes began at an usually young age.
Jesse’s family life was rather rocky, which likely contributed to the violent outbursts which would come so early on in his life. His older brother was totally oblivious to him, focusing all of his attention on girls instead. His father, Thomas Pomeroy, seems to have been particularly repulsed by young Jesse’s eye issue and was outspoken about it.
Thomas was an alcoholic dockyard worker who also abused Jesse radically. He would beat Jesse with a belt, often ordering him to strip naked so that the beating would hurt more, for his own twisted amusement. We can say with almost an absolute certainty that this solidified Jesse’s violent tendencies.
At 12 years old, Jesse would commit his first known violent act on December 22, 1871. He lured a younger boy to a secluded location, stripped him naked, tied him to a beam, and beat him unconscious with a rope. Jesse would then trap and physically attack six more younger boys over the next nine months, a telling indicator of the nature of the soon-to-be serial killer.
Jesse soon incorporated a knife into his acts of clandestine torture. He would even go as far as to stab one of the boys with pins for sadistic kicks. This is the kind of youth that Jesse Pomeroy was, and he was definitely disturbed from a young age, before the killings took place.
Those violent encounters of 1871–1872 weren’t the end but rather just the beginning of a tale of an evil youth and violence that would claim many, many more victims. He would strip, bind, gag, and sometimes stab his captives. Other times, he’d knock out their teeth, but he didn’t kill anyone just yet. For the moment, he got his sadistic kicks from simply torturing the younger boys and would leave afterward.
The violent encounters didn’t result in death; they were just ruthless, savage beatings of small children, precursors to Jesse’s murders. On July 4, 1872, Pomeroy took a young boy by the name of Johnny Balch to his preferred secluded location, beat him, and tortured him. When the boy finally regained his strength and was able to walk, Jesse helped him to a local salt creek, where he washed the boy’s wounds with saltwater.
There is no question by now that Jesse was a sadist. While sadism itself is bad enough, Pomeroy was likely also a psychopath. Such people have a general desire to do harm to others, often show disregard for the feelings or rights of other people as well as a willingness to put others at risk for their own pursuits of pleasure, are generally highly manipulative, and are often criminal offenders.
Some researchers draw a distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths in that sociopathy develops in response to external stimuli, whereas psychopaths are born with the disorder, and it’s activated by external forces. Jesse Pomeroy was likely the latter, judging by the young age that his violence manifested itself.
Jesse Pomeroy was what the FBI would describe as an organized serial killer, which means he was organized, plotting, methodical, and intent on killing his victims. Organized killers are careful and generally don’t leave behind a lot of evidence, as they know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and are less sporadically charged by the whim of emotion, like disorganized killers are.
Organized killers can often maintain a facade, a public face for the world to see, and no one would ever guess their true, evil natures that lurk behind the mask. This was definitely Jesse Pomeroy.
Jesse Pomeroy was also categorized as what’s known as an organized lust killer, or lust killer. Lust killers have the primary motivation of sexual ends and hedonistic pleasure, rather than financial or material gain, psychological issues such as anger, hatred for women or men specifically, or some other mental health problem. Lust killers really get off on harming, torturing, and killing their victims and often practice necrophilia and cannibalism as a sort of sexual act, consuming and keeping the victims they’re sexually attracted to. Peter Kurten and Jeffrey Dahmer were the prime examples of lust killers. Peter Kurten often could not achieve orgasm without torturing some animal or other person.
Lust killers are also known to pose bodies in various ways, take pictures of their victims, and return to the places where they dumped the bodies to have sex with the corpses. This was most definitely Pomeroy, who would masturbate to the torture of his victims while he inflicted inhuman amounts of pain on them, whipping them, beating them, binding them, subjecting them to the extreme winter cold in the nude, and more. Pomeroy, even as a young boy, took erotic pleasure from the act of torturing and eventually killing his victims.
While Jesse Pomeroy has a comparatively low body count compared to other killers, what is striking is his unusually young age when the murders began, though even this isn’t unheard-of; there have been young killers for as long as there have been people on this Earth. In April 1874, a couple of boys who were searching for clams and other various fun items on the beach were about to make a gruesome discovery. In a ditch, they found the body of a four-year-old boy named Horace Millen. The corpse had been nearly torn apart by a savage maniac. Millen’s genitals had almost been entirely cut off, he had stab wounds in “X” shapes all across his body, one of his eyes had been gouged, and his throat had been slit. Young Horace’s body had also been set on fire. This was what a young lust killer by the name of Jesse Pomeroy did for twisted erotic pleasure. Two men spotted a boy fleeing the scene on the same day when the body was discovered. Police instantly had a hunch and a suspect in Jesse Pomeroy.
Some weeks prior, on March 18, 1874, a ten-year-old girl named Katie Curran had disappeared. Police investigated and found that the last place she was seen was the shop owned by the Pomeroy family, where Jesse often worked. Police took this into account after discovering Millen’s body and went to question Jesse Pomeroy. They found him with his clothing soaked with blood, which they presumed to be that of Horace Millan. Upon further investigation, police discovered that Jesse had scratches on his skin, defense marks from the attack on Horace, and that his boot prints matched those found at the beach where Horace’s body was found. They also found a bloody knife on his person. Police definitely believed they had their boy.
As police began to question Pomeroy, with all of the physical evidence they had accumulated, they wanted to be certain and obtain a confession. They asked the boy murderer if he had killed Horace Millen, and Jesse coldly replied, as factually as possible, “I suppose I did.” Then the police were in for a surprise they had no idea that they had coming: Pomeroy confessed to the murder of 27 other people. (His true victim count is generally pegged at either nine or ten.) Police dug around the shop and found Katie Curran’s remains. Pomeroy was brought up on charges for the murder of Horace Millan, for which, at the time, they had enough evidence to take him to trial.
Jesse would ultimately be found guilty of both the murders of Millen and Curran. He was initially sentenced to die. However, on September 7, 1876, Jesse Pomeroy would have his sentence commuted to life in prison. Jesse spent the rest of his life at Charlestown State Prison. Until 1917, he lived in solitary confinement. He died, still incarcerated, on September 29, 1932, aged 72 years old.
I like to write about dark stuff, horror, history, and death.