Friday, October 23, 2009

Philia Friday: Transvestism

Let's first start with a firm and clear statement: transvestites are not a violent group of people as a whole, cross-dressing is not an illegal activity nor should it be.  It's a personal preference that may or may not have to do with the individual's sexuality.  ...Of course now you're probably asking, with that disclaimer, why am I going to cover the topic at all?  Because, frequently, serial killers have had some experience in transvestism whether they've wanted to or not.  For the serial killer involved in transvestism it's usually a progression of sorts, their earliest, unwanted, encounters in cross-dressing leading them both to their desire to kill and cross-dress later.

Forced Into Frills

The idea of severe childhood abuse contributing in the creating a serial killer is common, probably because it often is the case.  When child abuse is mentioned in this capacity thoughts of physical violence, sexual molestation, and extreme verbal abuse are the most common to pop up.  There is another form of abuse that seems to occur frequently in the male killer's childhood and that is forced cross-dressing - being made to wear dresses, being referred to by female names, and even being presented to others under these circumstances.  For this "form" of cross-dressing it's less about transvestism and more about the utter humiliation caused to the young, developing, male child forced to undergo it.  At its bare-bones it's simply a creative form of child abuse perpetrated by the abuser.

Charles Manson had an uncle who sent him to school in a dress, Henry Lee Lucas's mother did the same.  Carroll Edward Cole, aka "The Barfly Strangler", who murdered 16 people from 1948-1980 (the earliest being when he was just ten and drowned a classmate) in a number of states, also seemed to have a mother who forced him to dress like a girl.  According to crimewriter Michael Newton, after forcing her son into frilly skirts and petticoats and the like, Cole's mother would make the boy serve her and her friends at tea parties where they would all mock him, sometimes referring to him as "mama's little girl."  ...It's no wonder the man grew up to despise women!

Dress-Up Turns Deadly

None of the previously mentioned killers ever continued their cross-dressing into their adult years, however some other killers did.  Hadden Clark was born to two parents of wealth and privilege (his mother could date her family back to the Mayflower and his father helped to invent Saran Wrap); something that is not only rare in the cases of serial killers but also the only real difference in his childhood from others who grow up to kill like he did.  Despite that "leg-up" of money and a good name Clark's parents were alcoholics who, when drunk (which was most, if not all, the time) were vicious to each other and their children.  When drinking the boy's mother would dress him as a girl and refer to him as Kristen and, as a man, Clark retained the alias of Kristen can only assume that the alias came directly from his mother's "nickname" for him.

As he grew up Clark was disturbed at best...continuing the early forced cross-dressing and frequently identifying himself as female as a result of the childhood abuse was, in fact, the least of his bizarre adult behaviors.  Clark, who most often worked as a chef, was recorded as urinating in the mashed potatoes of customers he disliked and/or felt had slighted him, chugging down beef's blood, and masturbating in front of his little niece in 1986.  It was as he packed after getting kicked out for the last behavior that his first of two confirmed kills (he claimed there were more, but none of the others were confirmed) occurred...that of six year old, Michelle Dorr.  The little girl showed up looking for the niece when Clark stabbed and killed her with one of his chef knives.  After failing in his attempt to have sex with the body, he ate some of the flesh before putting the child in a duffle bag and burying the cargo in a shallow grave in a nearby park.

His second kill occurred in 1992 and more closely related to his transvestism as well as his fast deteriorating mental state.  This time he went after the daughter of a woman he was gardening for,  a recent college grad named Laura Houghteling.  In the middle of the night Clark, dressed entirely as a woman (wig, blouse, slacks, and even a purse), he snuck into the young woman's room with a .22-caliber rifle as a weapon.  He woke the girl up demanding to know what she was doing in his bed and forcing her to admit that he, in fact, was Laura and she was just some impostor.  At gunpoint he then made her undress and bathe before covering her face entirely in duct tape, killing her via suffocation in the process.  Once dead Clark then used scissors to cut off the young lady's earlobes, carried her body and bloodied bedding into his truck, and buried her in a shallow grave.

Clark was immediately suspected of the murder of Laura Houghteling and arrested when a bloody pillowcase he'd kept as a souvenir was found with his fingerprints on it.  While in prison for that murder he confessed to killing little Michelle to his cellmate and then later brought police to her body.  As recently as 2000 Clark agreed to show law enforcement other sites where he claims he's committed murders...provided they bought him a wardrobe for a woman at Kmart and he could wear the clothes while helping the officers, of course.  Dressed in an outfit that included bra, panties, wig, and skirt Clark escorted the lawmen over a few states (including Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) and to land in Cape Cod once owned by his grandfather where a bucket of approximately two hundred pieces of women's jewelry - including some owned by Laura - was found.  Clark claims they were all trophies of kills, whether or not that's the case is debatable though since only the remains of the two kills covered here have ever been found to date.

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