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Psychopaths: The Anatomy of America's Most Calloused Human Beings

By Edited May 21, 2014 3 2

Psychopaths: The Anatomy of America’s Most Calloused Human Beings



 Do You Have Psychopathic Tendencies: Take the Test Here

By: J. Marlando

As a writer I have had all kinds of assignments over the years and once I was hired to do a film script on a man who just been let out of prison…on a technicality after spending a lifetime of robbing and murdering. The first night we met, we ate diner in a restaurant and later sat at the bar getting to know each other. While we were at the bar he told me that he was just like God because he had the power to choose who lives and who dies that night. Yes, this guy was out and on the streets! I finished the motion picture but it was never done. The person I had written about got greedy, put a knife to the producer’s throat and told him the “movie was his.” I suppose he thought just because he had a finished script in his hands, he had a sure sale and was going to get rich and famous. Anyone in the business knows better than this!

The fellow I just described was an obvious psychopath who had murdered at least a half dozen people. As my interviews kept unfolding with him the more and more his bitterness and hatefulness was revealed—he was both angry and calloused with a dark side that was deep and dangerous. He also told me that “the system had made a big mistake with him, they should have killed him,” and he thought that it was quite humorous that they didn’t.

He was no doubt a clinical psychopath (term used in its common meaning), a cold blooded thief and killer; an evil doer.

Not all “psychopaths” come wrapped in the garb of the thief. There are psychopaths who are bankers, lawyers, doctors, school teachers, plumbers, bakers and no doubt congressmen and senators or in other words, all kinds of people with severe antisocial thoughts and behaviors. Psychopathy is not limited to any specific group such as the very poor or very rich; and psychopathy can be demonstrated in many ways other than robbing people. Throwing dogs out of moving car windows, kicking old ladies or even making a child sit too long in a chair for punishment can be symptoms of the malady.

We all have our dark side! A lot of movies make us cheer for the bad guy because movie-makers put just enough empathy in their personalities to make them likable. Certainly the Godfather

did this. Indeed, we left the theater imagining what it would be like to have all that power and to be that ruthless. Some policemen who are psychopaths create their badges into gateways of power and ruthlessness however. Some prison guards are well known for not only becoming callous but finding pleasure in their power over the prisoners.   

With all this in mind this article sets out to be twofold: Part one will be about select individuals who have demonstrated psychopathic behaviors in their lives like John Wesley Hardin and Al Capone. The second part will attempt to explain the psychopath’s personality as a result of human experience and not genetics. The overview is quite simply, no one has ever been born to be bad.

I hope that the reader finds as much interest and intrigue in the following as I have in thee the penning of this text.

Historic Psychopaths

In our times Hitler is the ultimate image of evil, yet he was probably far less likely to have been as psychopathic as many of the ‘”henchmen” who put his cruelty into human action. Doctor Josef Mengele

  the physician who ordered the most torturous medical experiments on prisoners was as close to “inhuman” as a person can be. Indeed, while Hitler taught that Jews, Gypsies, Russians and others were Untermenshen, meaning “subhuman,” needed to be exterminated off the planet. However, Hitler it seems had no stomach for the dirty work he ordered done by ruthless men such as Heinrich Himmler 
who assured these kinds of results:


When it comes to wanting entire peoples pushed off the face of the earth, however, Nazi-like tactics are not exclusive to German cruelty. Here’s the result of the genocidal attempt during the 1980s in Uganda

  and the result of the genocidal attempt at Wounded Knee 


one hundred years earlier in 1880. Hitler is not the only slaughterer of millions of human beings in the name of…progression.

In view of the above it seems apparent that psychopathy can be collective as well as belonging to select individuals. The religious folks who burned witches became psychopathic in their mobocracy just as the Ku Klux Klan has


Certainly the inquisition was a psychopathic endeavor

just as a modern day stoning is

Not everyone who commits psychopathic acts has a psychopathic personality. The two major keys to a (real) psychopath is having a lack of remorse and/or guilt feelings for wrongful and harmful deeds and a callousness that lacks empathy. The fellow I talked about in the introduction could actually kill a person and eat a sandwich at the same time.

Not every killer is a psychopath either. Jesse James

 for an example, who has wrongly become a folk hero, was a ruthless killer who used the war and his hatred for the North to justify his behavior of robbing and killing. The fact that he justified his evil acts is a signal of his not being a clinical psychopath even though, for example, he once rode into Lawrence Kansas (1863) with the Quantrill’s Raiders and murdered 150 civilians including children and later got drunk with his companions no doubt celebrating “the victory.”

Billy the Kid and John Wesley Hardin are far better candidates for being psychopathic. Henry McCarty also known as William Bonny and Billy the Kid

  is actually known for killing only around 4 or 5 people and not the 21 that American mythology credits him with. Nevertheless, like so many known psychopaths his cruelty began in his childhood. He was only 16 when he shot his first victim. While Billy is also depicted as a rather ignorant, vain killer in real life he was quite intelligent and very literate. Was he simply ruthless or a true psychopath we cannot know for sure but that he was what we call “heartless” probably applies.

It is James Wesley Hardin 

who, in my opinion, fills the psychopathic profile: During his life he killed around 44 men including one for snoring too loud. It is said that once out of prison he tried to reform by becoming a lawyer but during an argument he shot a police officer in the back. There is no evidence that Hardin ever endured a day of remorse or guilt for his actions displaying the typical psychopathic lack of empathy for his victims.

In more recent times there has been virtually countless thugs slithering their way through the crowds of ordinary folks called gangsters not to mention some in the robes of priests, professors and judges. I’ve decided to narrow in on one man, however, who I believe serves best as an example for a truly bad person. Albert Anastasia.


Albert was born in Calabria, Italy on September 26th, 1002 to Raffailo and Louisa Anastasio, a railroad worker and his wife. (Albert would not exchange the “o” with an
“a” at the end of his name until moving to America).

When Albert was around 17 years old his father died leaving 9 sons and 3 daughters and no doubt a life of financial hardship. At age 19 Albert, along with three of his brothers, obtained jobs on a freighter but jumped ship as soon as it docked in the United States. They entered the U.S. illegally but must have had connections because they soon enough began working as longshoremen on Brooklyn’s waterfront.

Only two years later Albert was convicted for murdering a fellow dock worker after arguing with him. He was sent to Sing Sing where he was put on death row. Nevertheless he won a retrial because the prosecution’s witnesses mysteriously disappeared.

Albert was on the street nearly a year before being arrested again, this time for possessing a firearm. He served 2 years for that in City Jail.

Nevertheless, the young hood from Italy had connections before he was 30 years old, he had become leader of the International Longshoremen’s Association, controlling 6 local union chapters. He had also befriended Giuseppe (Joe the Boss) Masseria

  and become just as close with Lucky Luciano 
Vito Genovese
 and Frank Costello

Albert was again arrested and charged with murder in 1928 but again the witnesses disappeared before they could testify in court.

By 1930 Albert Anastasia was working as Lucky Luciano’s trusted ally to take over New York’s organized crime then run by mobsters Masseria and Salvador Maranzano. The infamous Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel 

was also in the takeover plot.

Albert was smart enough to know that if Lucky Luciano became boss that he would get a piece of the syndicate’s action. The problem was Luciano eventually gave his support to Maranzano. This did not stop Albert’s ambitions to climb up the ladder of the mobs top men. As it turned out Maranzano was murdered so Lucky Luciano ended up boss in any case. Indeed, he would be the innovator to create the National Crime Syndicate which would consist of the five families of New York.

As all this was happening Albert Anastasia was arrested again for murdering yet another man—this time with an ice pick but (somehow) those witnesses failed to show up too. A year later in 1932 Anastasia killed another man in a laundry but again…no witnesses.

Albert Anastasia was well rewarded for his fidelity to the mob. He and Lou (Lepke) Buchalter were set up to control, Murder, Inc. (Yes, it is true there was a real Murder Incorporated located behind a candy store owned by another mob guy, Louis Capone so the business of killing for the mob was not some creation from a writer’s clever pen but the real thing).

Murder Incorporated committed nearly 1000 murders during the ten years they operated. During that time Albert was nicknamed “Mad Hatter” and “Lord High Executioner.” Incidentally, he never served any time for any of those murders he either ordered or even did himself.

Then in 1936 Lucky Luciano’s luck ran out…at least for a little while. He was convicted up to 50 years for 62 counts of compulsory prostitution. Genovese took over as acting boss.

By 1941 the law was uncovering Murder Incorporated’s web of deception and had arrested a mobster by the name of Abe Reles

  for being involved. Reles decided to make a deal since he had supplied Albert hit-men for many years, Albert Anastasia heard that Reles might talk so he put $100,000 on Rele’s head. Soon enough he was found dead hanging out a fifth floor window with a sheet wrapped around his neck and tied to the radiator in his room. Might we suspect the police officers who had him in protective custody? Well, of course not even though $100,000 is a great temptation.

Albert Anastasia was no doubt as smart as he was cold. He managed to make a deal with the government to lighten Lucky Luciano’s prison term in exchange for the Mafia protecting the waterfront during the war and he eventually got Lucky released in order for him to assist government war efforts with his friends in Sicily.

In 1942 Albert Anastasia joined the U.S. Army. He became a Tech Sergeant and taught soldiers to be Longshoremen. In gratitude he was given an honorable discharge and his U.S. citizenship in 1944 he returned to his powerful and wealthy lifestyle. Four years later he purchased a dress making factory in Pennsylvania leaving the waterfront under his brother’s care. Nevertheless, in 1950, Albert was called into the Kefauver Hearings to testify about organized crime including murder. (Any interested reader can see the video at the bottom of this text). Albert wouldn’t cooperate and  refused to talk.

During these years there was a lot of arguing between the crime families and even within the Mangano family where Albert served as an underboss. Mangano, it is said, resented Albert’s tight relationship with Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. Clearly as a result of their dispute Vincent Mangano

 ended up missing never to be found and his brother Philip
  ended up on a beach with three bullets in him. In the meantime Vito Genovese had ambitions to take over the Luciano family but that meant killing both Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia.

One of the earliest tactics Genovese used to bring Albert down was to belittle him to other high ranking mobsters.  Then in May of 1957 Genovese went into action. He sent a hit man, Vincent Gigante, seen here

  to take Frank Costello out. He wounded Costello instead but that was enough. As soon as he recovered he retired handing Genovese all he wanted. In October of that year, however, Albert Anastasia was sitting in a barber’s chair waiting for his haircut with his body guard still parking the car. Left alone, two masked men entered, shoved the barber away and began firing. After only a few moments, Albert was dead.



Aspects of Psychopathy In Our Society

Even though men like Albert Anastasia have committed unconscionable crimes does not necessarily mean that he was a psychopath, although we can highly suspect that he was. A real psychopath (Also often called a sociopath) has no empathy or even feeling toward other people or, for that matter, any other living thing. Indeed, when we hear of some terrible human action we wonder something like how could anyone do something like that.

As I have already indicted, not all psychopaths are gangsters or gangbangers as they come from all sections of life and financial backgrounds. Indeed a 2012 article released by the Washington Blog said, “We’ve extensively documented that sociopaths in D.C. and on Wall Street caused the financial crisis.” How cynical or clinical this comment is, it is certainly grounded in possibility. Perhaps you recall the motion picture, “Wall Street?” Remember Gordon Gekko…a perfect example of the psychopath’s personality:


Gekko announced that “greed is good” and what is interesting is that a great number of audience members agreed with him.  I believe it was writer Martha Stout who pointed out that America is a breeding ground for sociopaths and I believe this is true, for one reason, because most children grow up with the idea that “greed” is actually a positive preference.

The profile for the psychopath/sociopath (There is no real marginal difference in meaning for the two terms) can begin with “greed” as psychopaths are emerged in self—it is their thinking, their feelings and their desires that count. They can be your very best friend as long as they need you and dump you like a hot rock when they don’t.

An educated guess is that there are around 12,000 authentic psychopaths in the U.S., some studies say a little less but I project more—for one thing, the high incarceration rate of people who have committed vicious crimes as opposed to even violent crimes indicate psychopathic motives in greater numbers. And, such a statistic, like 1 out of every 25, could never be accurate anyway. After all, most psychopaths are expert in making themselves appear that they are the nicest people in the world and all are not behind bars but, in many instances, behind very successful desks.

There is a difference between the psychopath and sadist. The classical sadist may enjoy seeing an animal or human suffer while the psychopath simply doesn’t care one way or another.

As a quick aside, what I would like to see is a study done on the psychopathically based motives of many big businesses and government

Price gauging for example is psychopathic in nature just as making war for expansionistic purposes is; nepotism in contracting and so forth. That is, the anything-for-a-profit-syndrome!


In our society we even have psychopathic jokes and sayings like “Do onto others before they do onto you” or “trust no one” or “Always watch your back.” It isn’t that our society doesn’t support these rather negative rules-of-thumb. After all we are clearly a culture of social-Darwinism.

We are raised to believe that discontentment is something positive and as kids we are put on a mental merry-go-round of wanting more and different. We even have negative names for those people who fall off along their way of getting more and different: Poor…failures…ne’er-do-wells and so forth. In regard to this, we American’s are so indoctrinated in believing that it takes stuff to make us happy that most everyone is waiting for something in their future like graduation, a new car, a bigger house, marriage and the list goes on—a jet ski, you name it—but once we fulfill one desire another pops up. You know, I always thought I was going to be happy once I got the raise but I should be making a lot more so I’m frustrated to make another move.

All this is probably included in why Martha Stout tells us that in other cultures, especially in certain East Asian countries like Japan and China there are simply less psychopaths and so psychopathic behaviors. I have personally lived in Thailand and Mexico and there is just not that high anxiety for more stuff among the people as there is with most Americans. The sad thing is that most Americans too often have their identities in what they own becoming the cars they drive, the jewlery they wear and all the rest of it. In fact, one the best sayings I’ve ever heard is, “Those people are so very poor. All they have is money.

I feel compelled to remind the reader at this juncture that we have not been talking about actual psychopaths here but instead how aspects of a psychopathic personality is weaved throughout our culture. After all, our growing population of human beings living on the street is a signal of a heartless society. 

Thankfully the very vast majority of us would not coerce or harm anyone else to obtain what we want. Yet, there are certain subtle psychopathic attitudes that are fairly common such as using the “It’s my way or the highway” command. If you will, this, at least in some situations is as powerful as making any other kind of an offer that certain individuals can’t refuse…we are also capable of misusing the love someone has for us—something real psychopaths excel at. It fact, while speaking of love, even as little children we are trained to use our love for acquisitioning things from relatives and to be careful NOT to love anyone who doesn’t love us back.

The good news is that even when we hurt another person or after doing something else we knew was wrong, we ordinary people have the capacity to feel empathy. And, we can be haunted by guilt and regret for our wrong doing. After all, the “aspect” of psychopathy within is not strong enough to make us callous. The real psychopath, however, has detached him or herself from what we might term “normal” feelings and live in a world that most of us would not suspects exists; a world of not caring much about anything or anyone but oneself.

We’ll talk about this next.

 The Psychopath

 The psychopath definition most commonly describes a person who, through nature, nurture or both, has lost their capacity to feel empathy for other living things; a psychopath has no regret or guilt feeling for evildoing is narcissistic and, at least below the surface of his or her persona fully antisocial.

As I have said near the start of this article I have worked with a man that could literally shoot you and eat a sandwich at the same time. In my many years of writing I have worked with a couple of, what some would term, cold blooded gangsters along my way too. Gangsters and killers fit the profile of course but I also know a person born in a solid, middle class family that I suspect is a full fledge psychopath but also as intellectual moralist so that keeps him from antisocial behaviors.  

Most psychologists and other scientists that study these issues most typically believe that the psychological dilemma .remains pretty much a question of nature and nurture. Most of us are born loving, nurturing and hopeful are we not? Just look at this typical young, American youth:



Who would suspect the sweet child would grow up to America’s most well-known psychopathic murderer. This is that same boy in later years:


For those who were not around during Charlie Manson’s murder spree, he started a small commune in California in the late 1960s—a time when the hippy population was peaking in its anti-war, pro drug and free love lifestyle 


As commune leader Charlie Manson fulfilled all the aspects of a psychopath’s personality: He was charming, showed deep concern for everyone in the camp. His followers, by and large, loved him with few exceptions. He was a quasi-king of his group. How many knew of his past we cannot know but he had already spent nearly half his life time in prisons and jails.

He stirred three young, impressionable girls to commit what he had named, “Helter Skelter.” That is, the vicious murder of Sharon Tate

and others. His “gang” of thrill-seekers were these three girls seen on their way to the courtroom. All were convicted along with Manson.

Charlie Manson said that what he hoped to accomplish was to seed and start a race war but it is also typical for the psychopath to create his acts of evil in some cause like the killer of prostitutes who said he had done it to save them from their sinful lives. In the end and after Manson’s sentencing there were actually cults started forming to create a pop culture around his image of violence and the macabre.

Was there something in Charlie Manson genetics that had given him a psychopathic personality or was his callousness developed from his early life experiences…That is, was it nurture or nature that created the monster within?

The reader will have to make up his or her own mind but I am fully convinced that psychopathy is totally the result of nurture; that healthy infants are born, if you will, as blank slates. (I say “healthy” because children born with brain damage can be less capable of comprehending the world outside the womb).

In any case, Manson was a drug advocate and handed our drugs to his followers which, some say, made his followers more vulnerable to his suggestions as cult leader. One report says that beyond the pop-drugs of the time (pot, mescaline, LSD) Manson gave his followers Orange Sunshine LSD a kind of contamination of Timothy Leary acid that often stirred brutal violence in people. Some report that this mind-altering drug was smuggled into Vietnam for ground forces in the US Army from California’s coast and that the CIA was privy to the violent aspects of the drug’s use. How much of this is true we cannot know for sure but, as I recall, one of the Manson girls said that she found stabbing, pregnant Sharon Tate to death was…fun.

None of this speculation, however, gives us any real insight to Manson himself or what gave him the cold capacity to order such terrible crimes and believe that they would be blamed on the black militants of those times…if that was truly his motive. And, if that was his motive there had to be others involved in the plot beside indoctrinated girls to do the dirty work.

                        Manson girls on Way to Court Room


If we look at Charles Manson’s early life we discover that he never met his father and his mother was a 16 year old named Katherine who was sentenced to prison for armed robbery shortly after Charlie turned five. Charlie was handed over to his aunt and uncle in West Virginia to take care of but as soon as his mother was paroled she took him back.

The officials at the school that Charlie was attending said that the boy was extremely moody and suffering from a persecution complex. At only thirteen years old he began revealing his anti-social behavior by robbing a grocery store. After that he was in one institution after another. However at age 18 a prison psychiatrist diagnosed Manson as suffering from psychic trauma but who was sensitive to the world around him..

We simply can’t imagine the horrors in Charlie Manson’s life between infancy and ten years old. We cannot know how cared for or neglected he was during his crib life, how well nurtured he was or wasn’t by his mother. I believe these are all factors that work to turn a potentially normal child into a psychopath. Psychopathy I believe begins as a self-constructed suit of emotional armor. That is, the closing down of normal feelings because those feelings have been so abused by others and so the world.

This can happen to any child who is neglected in serious ways and so mistreated during their earliest childhoods. Wealthy as well as poor parents can be guilty of this. Children who are made to feel unloved and uncared about will typically withdraw deeply into themselves. Not all become psychopaths while hiding in their cocoon but some do. It may depend on Nature to that extent but I remain convinced that the psychopathic personality is made not born. Here is a photograph of Charles Manson in more recent years

 and after decades in prison where he will one day die. What he might have become had he been born in another circumstance and raised by more mature, loving parents we cannot know.

What we can know however is that we need far more research and work done to free the psychopath from his or her self-condemnation into inhumanness. From this view I am also convinced that prisons as they are today have become obsolete; a mere step up from Dark Age dungeons where punishment was the only goal anti-social behaviors.

 In view of all of this, no child is born to become the evil-doer. The psychopath in all his apparent arrogance is a victim of something unbearable in his or her past; something that made “feelings” too painful to cope with and callousness a path to survival.


There are two things more important than even money to each of us human beings—it is to know that are both lovable and loving as individuals. Parents who conscientiously gift their children with these two qualities send them into life with open minds and hearts. Parents that do not give their children the knowing that are loving and lovable tend to send them into the world afraid and distrusting. Some of those children will always be the next generation’s psychopaths.

It can be argued that once the child reached the age of reasoning he or she always has the choice to be good or evil by his own volition. The truth I believe is however, that once the child has cut him or herself off from the natural emotions of love, understanding and kindness that the brain delivers the callousness that keeps such emotions buried too deep to reach at least without extreme therapy. The difficulty, however, is that the true psychopath see nothing wrong or missing about him or herself. It is the rest of the world who needs educating and set straight.

Where are on the pendulum between normal and sociopathic. I’ve made up a short way of testing based a lot on the PCL-R method to find out.

0 means not at all       2     means somewhat       3   means yes


  1. Do you use your charm to superficially get your way   0       2      3
  2. Being honest, do you hold yourself in higher esteem than most others   0   2    3
  3. Do you desire to manipulate others  0    2    3
  4. Do you lack remorse and/or guilt 0    2     3
  5. Do you lack empathy    0    2    3
  6. Do you have a difficult time controlling your behavior   0   2   3
  7. Do you lie a lot?    0     2     3
  8. Are you sexually promiscuous   0       2       3
  9. Do you blame others a lot     0       2      3
  10. Are you angry at the world at least most of the time   0       2      3
  11. Have you committed serious or petty crimes  0       2        3

I offer that if you answered with a “3, ”  6 out of 11 times that you ought to consult a professional. That is, I am not saying that you’re probably a true psychopath but you may not be living as happily and freely as you might. If you marked 9 or more 3s well then, you may have a problem?  Oh, if you’re wondering what the norm is…”0” on all!

 References and suggested reading:

Davis, John H. * Mafia Dynasty* Harper Paperbacks

Harris, Marvin* Our Kind * Harper Perennial

Juan, The Odd brain * Andrew McMeel Publishing

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The Sociopath Next Door
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Aug 30, 2013 12:43am
Good article about a quite difficult topic! About the test, I have a hard time believing 0 to all is the norm. I mean we are all committing petty crimes, aren't we? And know many people who blame others a lot... (yes, yes, me included). But again, nice article, thanks for it.
Aug 30, 2013 7:15am
Hi Adragast:: Thanks for reading and thanks for your support. Yes, if you are referring to the test questions, I too agree that the "condition" is far more complex than the psychiatrists make it appear with their questions. I've copied for the text of the article. Again, I do NOT believe that anyone is born a psychopath like one is born with hazel eyes. I believe it is a response to trauma. Anyway, appreciate your interest and thanks for your kind words.
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