House Cafe to screen new documentary Sunday

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Katie Finlon

A prison-hopping serial killer with a 6th-grade education couldn’t have a more interesting story to tell.

Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance, John Borowski’s latest documentary, will be screening at 8 p.m. Sunday at the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway.

Panzram was a criminal and serial killer who was abused in many jails and prisons in the United States in the early 20th century. After he escaped from the Oregon State Penitentiary, he killed 21 people, according to Borowski.

“There are many interesting aspects to Carl Panzram’s entire life that makes his story universal and in many ways very pertinent to our current time period,” Borowski said.

When Panzram arrived at a Washington, D.C., jail in 1928 for a housebreaking charge, he met a jail guard named Henry Lesser. After Panzram was abused at the D.C. jail, he and Lesser became friends.

Once Lesser learned about Panzram’s past, he convinced Panzram to write his life story—despite Panzram’s middle-school education—for others to learn how someone like Panzram is created, Borowski said.

Borowski will be around for questions and discussions about the film after the screening.

“In our current times of Internet and cell phones, it is wonderful to have face-to-face contact with artists,” Borowski said.

The audience may recognize the person who voices Panzram, John DiMaggio, who is well-known as Bender the robot from Futurama. The audience may also recognize the location of the reenactments, which were filmed at the same Chicago jail where Johnny Depp filmed Public Enemies.

Some expressed surprise when they realized the documentary doesn’t just focus on Panzram’s murders. Borowski purposefully focused the film on the brutalities of the prison system and how a serial killer can be created in those conditions.

“Ultimately, I decided to convey Panzram as the ultimate symbol of mankind’s hatred and destruction, which were the initial reactions I had when I first read his lengthy autobiography,” Borowski said.

More information about Borowski’s past and current projects can be found on his website, www.johnborowski.com.

The cost of admission is $5. Doors open at 5 p.m., and Borowski will be screening his other two documentaries on Sunday, as well: H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer will play at 6 p.m., and Albert Fish, his documentary about an elderly cannibal who lured children to their demise in New York during the Great Depression, will play at 10 p.m. Both H.H. Holmes and Albert Fish are available on Netflix Instant Queue.