Columbine

I’m reading Columbine by David Cullen and my life is pretty much on hold until I finish it. I did not know much about the shooting that killed thirteen people and wounded twenty-three, and I am learning that my impressions about what happened and why it happened were incredibly distorted.

Dwayne Fuselier was an FBI negotiator who also held a doctorate in psychology. He worked the Branch Dividian case and was the last person to speak to David Koresh before the tanks rolled. He also had a child at Columbine, and because of his proximity, the Columbine investigation benefited very early from his expertise. One thing I found so fascinating is that Fuselier diagnosed Eric Harris as a psychopath. Psychopathy is a very serious diagnosis; it is almost an accusation. A professional does not level it without substantial and certain proof. Eric Harris provided that proof in spades.

Eric Harris was a psychopath, a young man who simply could not empathize with anyone else. After the Columbine massacre, even on that very afternoon, rumors began to spread that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullied by jocks, and this orgy of murder was revenge for bullying. That simply wasn’t true. One of the most spine-chilling passages in Columbine was:

By this time, Fuselier had already read Eric’s journal and seen the Basement Tapes. He knew what the media did not. There had been no trigger.

God. The implications of that roil the mind and quake the soul. Eric began to plan the attack when he was sixteen years old. For two years he plotted, planned, made pipe bombs, experimented with other explosives, acquired guns, and daydreamed about the attack in rich detail. The plan had been to “outdo” Oklahoma City. Several bombs places in the cafeteria did not detonate, and so they wandered through the school, randomly shooting classmates and teachers. Eric enjoyed every minute of it. There had been no real reason for it other than he wanted to do it.

I have trouble wrapping my mind around it. I believe most everyone else does too – the media, especially, who need a hook and a narrative arc to peddle their stories. But there simply isn’t a narrative here, there’s no cause and effect (as in: “jocks bullied me, thus I will kill them.”) The killers did not target Christians, jocks, people of color, or anyone else. They wanted everyone dead. Everyone.

But it would be a mistake to think the killers had anything in common. Dylan Klebold’s journals talk repeatedly of love. He wanted love. He was in love with a young woman who did not know he existed; he wrote about her, and letters to her (which he did not send) obsessively. He was severely depressed and had been suicidal for many years, but as he wrote to his beloved, if she could love him back, he would find a way to live. He would live for her. Where Eric was in love with the blood and guts, the bodies stacked high to the horizon, Dylan just wanted people to understand that love was all that mattered. And nobody loved him; it ate him up inside.

Dylan was a bit of a follower. When he and Eric were arrested for stealing stuff out of a white van, Eric blamed it all on Dylan. Dylan accepted most of the blame, though it had almost certainly not been his idea and Eric had prodded him, psyching him up to do it.

Studying deadly dyads through-out history, such as Bonnie and Clyde and the Beltway Snipers – a certain pattern of domination and submission begins to emerge. Dylan and Eric defied that pattern because Dylan wasn’t blindly loyal to Eric. Dylan had told on him when he threatened another friend of theirs. His best friend was someone named Zack. He didn’t really believe it would happen, probably until they actually pulled out their guns and stalked into the cafeteria. He wanted to avoid it. He wanted love to come through at the last minute and save him. Give him a reason to live.

The parents of Dylan have been slightly more forthcoming than Wayne and Kathy Harris. Wayne and Kathy Harris released a very brief statement saying they were sorry for the role their child played in the tragedy. Susan Klebold repeatedly refused a request from Oprah to appear on her show, but she did write an essay for Oprah’s magazine, called “I Will Never Know Why.” I read the essay with gusto, eager to hear what Ms. Klebold might say about the killings. I was disappointed; she used most of the essay to discuss teen suicide prevention. She says that she had no idea at all that Dylan was depressed, or homicidal. I believe that both Tom and Susan Klebold are deeply remorseful for what happened. But I think they are also lying to themselves and to the public about the extent of their responsibility in the massacre. Tom Klebold worked from home. At any time, he could have walked into Dylan’s room and discovered pipe bombs and guns, journals full of suicidal ideation, drawings of murder. Yet, for reasons unknown, he never did. At one point, Susan Klebold even gets indignant and asks, “Who put that gun in my child’s hand?”

In the Basement Tapes, Eric and Dylan talk about how their parents don’t know anything; they’re downstairs in Eric’s basement riffing on holocaust and his parents don’t suspect a thing. I believe strongly that Wayne and Kathy Harris suspected a great deal. Wayne Harris, a former Marine, was a law and order man. He kept a journal in which he described Eric’s trespasses and then his solutions. Eric repeatedly threatened a classmate and the police were called numerous times. Each time, Wayne would jot down in his journal that the parents of the other boy were over-reacting. They punished Eric for his misdeeds. They got him into therapy as part of a Diversion program after he stole electronics from the white van. Eric, like all psychopaths, conned his parents and conned the therapists.

Even though he was brilliant at being a psychopath, I believe that parental intervention would have had an even greater effect on Eric than it would have on Dylan. Wayne “respected Eric’s privacy” and thus never went into Eric’s room unless invited. If he had, he would have discovered pipe bombs, weapons, violent drawings, the basement tapes, and who knows what else. If he had opened the year book, he would have seen Dylan’s gleeful entry about murdering thousands of people. A pipe bomb had already been discovered in the neighborhood and Eric was punished for it. Yet it seems to never have occurred to Wayne and Kathy Harris that they might want to keep an eye out for another pipe bomb.

It also seems like it never occurred to either set of parents to separate the two boys.

The warning signs were there. Eric was blatantly getting away with his death fantasies at school by writing moralistic essays asking when it is okay to kill someone. He wrote essays on Nazis and got A’s on them. One teacher wrote “Wow. Incredible” in the margins of one particularly gruesome scene.

But the boys were not Nazis. Dylan was Jewish. Eric liked the thought of death and the Nazis enabled him to access that through a veneer of scholarship. They were also not part of the Trench Coat Mafia. The Trench Coat Mafia boys had graduated the previous year and Dylan only knew one person who was marginally involved in it. They were not goths, either. And they were jocks; Eric played soccer and Dylan wrestled.

You take away all the myths and you’re left with something terrifying: Dylan was going to kill because he was explosively angry, mostly from not finding love. And Eric was a psychopath whose bloodlust seems to have been inborn; he was always going to kill, with or without Dylan.

Out of thousands of rounds spent, Dylan only pulled the trigger five times. Eric killed most of the people, and wounded most of them. He taunted them. When he found a group of kids huddled in the bathroom, hiding from him, he said out loud, “Who ever is in here is going to die.” Yet he didn’t go in. He even made eye contact with several students who were crying, terrified, and he didn’t go in. He enjoyed having the power of life and death over people.

In the library, he bent down to one girl who was hiding under the desk and asked, “Do you want to die?” She begged for her life. He granted it, and killed the girl next to her. That girl who lived was also part of a strange myth that rose about Cassie Bernall. Somehow, the rumor began that Cassie Bernall was asked, “Do you believe in God?” When she answered yes, Eric shot her. Cassie was widely considered a real Christian martyr. Her mother wrote a book about Cassie called She Said Yes.

But the incident didn’t happen.

Another girl, Valeen Schnurr, was asked if she believed in God. She wavered, saying No at first, trying to gauge Eric’s reaction. Then she said yes. Then she was left alone.

The boys wandered the halls, randomly shooting people and walls, throwing pipe bombs. Laughing and talking. Police outside did not have what I would consider a great reaction. A teacher died after waiting three hours for the police to come in and get him after he had been shot in the neck and leg. Because the police were outside so long, a rumor was begun that there was a hostage stand-off. Not true. The boys killed themselves in the library forty minutes after they began the shooting spree. The police did not know it, but they could have gone in at any time to help retrieve the wounded. They also could have retrieved the wounded outside. Two young people – Rachel Scott and Daniel Rohrbough- were shamefully left on the sidewalk over night. It had begun to snow, and still, nobody picked them up.

Eric and Dylan moved through the commons, the cafeteria, and the library. They ruled the school. Surveillance pictures show some incredible footage of them just chilling, shooting stuff. One of the bombs had not detonated and so Eric shot it.

Oh tyrant swagger! Oh the artifice of the guns strapped to the body, the Rambo iconology, the bad-assery of the sawn off shotguns, snub nosed evil.

One can imagine the thrill dying for Dylan almost as soon as it began. It would not have died for Eric. Eric was having a blast. This was the best thing he’d ever done. The world would know his name. But Dylan, who could barely pull the trigger, was probably feeling pretty sick. They did not want to be captured. They knew they would die in the school. For Dylan, that would have been the Big Moment. For Eric, it was just a nice little way to sock it to society, a way of saying I did this and you can’t even punish me for it. Joke’s on you, suckers. They walked into the library and sat down, side by side on the floor. Nobody knows who went first or if they did it at the same time, but Eric put the gun in his mouth, and Dylan put the tip of his gun to his temple. There in the library, where so many of their classmates lie dying and dead, they pulled the triggers.

Eric was right. We still talk about him and Dylan. We still grapple with the why.

When I was in Colorado last summer, I ended up, quite by accident, driving through Littleton, and found myself shocked when I passed the high school. Was that…? No, couldn’t be. But it was. It looks like any high school in America. I was pleased to see the normalcy of the place. The dull routine of trig, English, social studies was still firmly locked in place. Eric and Dylan took the world from some families, but they did not change America. Like the Oklahoma City bombers, even 9/11, the Columbine Massacre has passed into a netherworld of not-quite-realness except for those who live with the absence of their loved ones. It is a specialized pain. It is what we respect, what we honor when we discuss Columbine.

Comments

  1. jessicarrot says:

    The first people I think of when horror like this unfolds are the mothers. It always gives me this shiver of pain to think about being responsible for giving birth to a monster. I am surprised that Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Klebold didn’t overtly take more responsibility for what their children did. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they think about it every other minute…living with the shame of what their boys did with their names.

    I really wonder if they didn’t know who their children were…If there wasn’t some moment when they looked into those eyes and feared? I agree with your assessment. If they had done more things may have turned out differently. But I just empathize with those parents…I think if my failures in parenting manifest themselves in some kind of national tragedy… I think that is punishment enough. That is something they have to live with everyday. I can’t imagine that.

  2. Cara Ellison says:

    Oh I agree. I may have sounded harsh and decisive in my essay there, but I do have boatloads of empathy for both mothers. Kathy Harris closed off permanently and immediately. Her husband is rather emotionless, and I think with her son gone, she’s probably got an unfathomable amount of sorrow and no real expression for it.

    Ms. Klebold is slightly more outgoing. I think her son Dylan is the more sympathetic of the two boys. He was actually very sensitive, and I think she probably mourns every day that she didn’t catch any of the signs.

    In the book Columbine, the author describes several meetings between the parents of the victims and the parents of the murderers. Almost none of the victim’s parents blame Eric’s and Dylan’s parents – a fact I find astounding.

    I think part of the reason neither set of parents has offered to give interviews is because they are terrified of the response. They know there is a lot of anger out there, and they want to avoid it. I can’t blame them for that.

    Both sets of parents were deposed for a lawsuit, and the depositions have been sealed for twenty-eight years. So we’ll know more about the parent’s role in the future.

    The fathers seem almost personality-free. I don’t know anything about them. But the mothers… my heart does go out to both of them.

    I can’t imagine how you go on after something like that.

  3. Cara Ellison says:

    Something else about the timing of the suicides has me curious.

    When the boys went back up to the library, they began shooting at police through the windows. This was a kind of cat-and-mouse game, I think. An attempted suicide-by-cop. When that didn’t work, they sat down and killed themselves.

    Part of Dylan’s brain was blown onto Eric’s left pantleg. In a gruesome picture, the brain is almost whole, lying on Eric’s knee. If Eric had been alive at the time, he would have moved away reflexively. So even if it was done seconds before Dylan, Eric had to go first.

    Perhaps they agreed to do it at the same time, and Dylan, in one tiny little reflex for life, hesitated. He watched Eric do it. He thought of surrendering. If he surrendered, he would go to prison, maybe get the death penalty. He had been suicidal for a long time – death was at hand. And yet he hesitated for that little moment. I don’t know what it means. Maybe they did do it at the exact same moment and Eric was oblivious to the gore. It only takes a nanosecond with the weapons they had. So maybe it did happen at the same time. They pull the trigger and bam. Or maybe after Eric had killed himself, Dylan hesitated, and understood for the first time in his life what he was giving up. It is impossible to know.

    There are no mysteries here. We know who did it and why and how. We have pictures of them doing it. No mysteries. And yet a sense of mystery remains. The “why”.

  4. I spent Mother’s Day with my family at Clement Park adjacent to Columbine for a baseball tournament. We all visited the memorial at the end of a winding path up the hill sunken into the hilltop overlooking the school and park. Walk up there and the not-quite-realness of which you speak suddenly becomes very, very real – the shooters, the victims, the parents, the epitaphs. No matter the amount of noise generated by the countless baseball games, tennis matches, and soccer games in the surrounding park beneath the memorial there remains an eerie silence surrounding Columbine. You can feel it.

  5. jessicarrot says:

    Creepy. I clicked through a couple of youtube videos and there was one were Mr. Harris supposedly called in suspecting his son was one of the shooters…I wonder if that is real. He mentions the trench coat mafia in the call. If it is real, it kind of proves that the dad at least had an inkling what his kid was capable of. And that is something…I think it is a creepy thing to speculate about. What would you do? What lengths can you possibly go to as a parent if you think your kid might be a psychopath? What if you were afraid of your kid? There are a lot of questions this brings up. All of them very unsettling.

  6. Thanks for this really thoughtful post, Cara.

    I’m late for an appointment, but I’ll be back.

  7. This is powerful stuff – I have been looking forward to reading that book.

    I remember this piece in Slate – a sort of psychological profile of both boys: http://www.slate.com/id/2099203

    Much of it reminds me of the Leopold and Loeb murders. Just as senseless – a sort of frenzied misreading of Nietzsche, and a desire to be remembered, to do something “big” and “unforgettable”. Also, the fact that there were TWO of them. It was the chemical mixture of the two of them that made such a deadly combo.

    Speaking of the parents – there’s a really harrowing novel by Lionel Shriver (who is a woman) – called We Need To Talk About Kevin – and it’s from the point of view of a mother whose son killed a bunch of people at his school. Terrifying book, very well done.

    Cara, this might be a site you find interesting, in lieu of your last comment:

    http://raising-a-psychopath.blogspot.com/

    • Cara Ellison says:

      I did think of you and your amazing psychological profiles of dyads. You have written extensively about a movie with Sissy Spacek and the character Cathy, the “Cold Reader”, etc. So I definitely had those in mind while I was writing.

      Okay, now I’m checking the links.

  8. Cara Ellison says:

    Sheila, I’ll check out the links.

    Two people sent conspiracy links, which I quickly moved to the trash. Both were of the opinion that there were more than just Dylan and Eric killing people. This is explained by panic, first of all, and secondly, Dylan and Eric started off wearing trench coats. Dylan got hot and took his off. This led to people saying there were three perps (two guys in a trench coat and one in a t-shirt). Then Eric took his off. This led to the belief there were four people. (Two guys in trench coats and two in t-shirts.)

    Only Eric and Dylan were involved. The journals and video back this up. Please, no conspiracists.

  9. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, conspiracy theorists!

    Yes, the pairings can be deadly. Every psycho leader needs a passive depressive follower. There’s a sado-masochism in the pairing – one who loves to be bossed around, the other who loves to boss. Each one NEEDS the other.

    I gotta read this book.

  10. Cara Ellison says:

    I’m reading Raising A Psychopath. It is putting the fear of God into me. There really are “others” in the world.

    You *must* read Columbine (“I demand it.”)

  11. Yup. Terrifying. Another good site is http://www.sociopathworld.com/.

    As you can see, I’m a bit obsessed.

    I will read it – I promise – it’ll be my next book.

  12. Cara Ellison says:

    I just checked out the link and the first thing I saw was a “featured comment” on the sidebar which reads:

    I’ve known [my husband] a long time and yes, he has a very sordid past. I knew he was a sociopath before he told me that he suspected it. We actually talk about it a lot now. He knows I don’t want to change him. I accept his limitations as he accepts mine. Neither of us are perfect but we somehow fit. I don’t see sociopathy as black and white as so many on here do. He has so many traits that I respect and admire. He is full of contradicting qualities. He keeps me on toes..i take nothing for granted and that’s o.k. with me. I prefer it that way. There is nothing shallow about him or our relationship..it is intense and full of incredible passion. Feeling his love..and yes, he does love, is the most incredible feeling in the world. I need his sort of intensity to stay interested. I’ll choose his brand of intensity over “sweet” any day.

    Holy merlot! I am still grappling with this, but I think either she’s mis-diagnosed her husband and he is NOT a sociopath, or this lady is flat out insane herself. Sociopaths/psychopaths see others as a means to an end. Loving a psychopath is essentially a suicide wish; a desire to subjugate yourself for whatever fleeting desire your “beloved” might have.

    People are crazy. Seriously, bat-shit crazy.

  13. I don’t know, I can see her point. Sociopaths can actually be very exciting in relationships – due to lack of inhibitions (sexually, certainly – but also emotionally) and the ability to mirror intensity. Sometimes their “act” is so good that you honestly can’t tell the shallowness of the feeling they are showing you. Until it’s too late. My experience with you-know-who confirms that. I actually understand her comment. Once you dig deeper into that particular blog, you see the awareness that some of these people have that they are “other”. Part of the “appeal” is that, unlike normal people who have boundaries – these people often don’t.

    Which, of course, means they have no problem lying, cheating, using, manipulating – but it also means they can be really exciting lovers, and thrilling companions – they really do SEE people clearly, which can be an addictive thing. There’s a dark side to it, but usually that doesn’t come out at first.

    That’s a REALLY interesting site – lots of really fascinating things there.

  14. Thanks again for the great post.

    I actually found Sue Klebold’s essay in O very moving, and I hope she reached a lot of moms, many of whom have depressed sons. I think that’s one of the biggest useful things we can learn from this tragedy: identifying and treating teen depression.

    (BTW, it’s unlikely that Tom or Sue would have found much in Dylan’s room. There is no indication that bombs or guns or other material was ever stored there. Nor did Dylan draw diagrams: that was all Eric.)

    If they had read Dylan’s journal, they would have seen that he was suicidal, but should parents be reading their kids’ diaries? I don’t think most parents do. And more importantly, kids know a lot more than parents believe. If the parents are snooping, and reading, the kid most likely knows, and acts accordingly. I don’t think Dylan would have confessed his true thoughts in his journal if he had the type of parents who would be reading it.

    FYI, for anyone interested, there’s lots more info at my Columbine site.

  15. Cara Ellison says:

    Dave,

    What a pleasure to have you comment here. I won’t try to argue with the authority on the subject, but I will say that if I were in Ms. Klebold’s shoes, I’d have enough evidence and motivation to read the journal (i.e., the van incident would have been plenty for me to keep a teen on a short leash.) That said, I don’t blame her for not taking an active role and actively seeking out evidence that her son was involved in something nefarious.

    I’m curious if you have any theory about the suicides. That little space of time after Eric was dead and Dylan wasn’t is obsessing me. What did mean? Anything? Is there any chance Dylan hesitated for longer than a second? I guess I am hoping (foolishly, probably) that when it finally came time for him to die, he recognized his loss. I’d be curious to hear your take on that.

    I have devoured your Columbine site; I encourage everyone else to jump on it. Seriously, there is some great stuff there.

  16. Cara, it is going to take some time to digest this.

    I know one thing — it is scary as Hell!

    Lee

  17. lporter101 says:

    You might want to consider the following:

    Cullen claims that Eric Harris was a swaggering ladies’ man and confident social king. This assertion is ludicrous.

    Cullen writes that Eric “got lots of girls” and had sex with a 24-year-old woman named Brenda Parker. He even quotes Parker in his book. The truth is that Parker had no connection to Harris or the tragedy; she was a “fangirl” who sought attention by making up stories. She has *zero* credibility.

    Eric tried to get a date to the prom; he failed. He asked several girls, all of whom turned him down. He finally convinced a girl he met at the pizza place where he worked to spend a couple of hours at his house on the night of the prom; they watched a movie. She declined to attend the after-prom party with him, so he went alone.

    Harris was fairly short (5’8″) and very skinny, with a deformed chest due to his pelvus excavatum. As his body language in the following video (recorded in a hallway at Columbine and shown in a documentary about the massacre) demonstrates, he was no match for the larger boys he encountered on a daily basis:

    In his final journal entry, Eric wrote:

    “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t — say, “well thats your fault” because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh — nooo.”

    Does that sound like someone who was confident and socially successful?

    Cullen perpetuates the long-standing myth that Dylan was a sad little emo follower who was totally led by Harris.

    The truth is that Dylan was the one who wrote about going on a killing spree before Eric; he even wanted to do it with someone else.

    (Keep in mind that Eric and Dylan intended the massacre to be a bombing event with a shooting element. Their plans went awry.)

    On Monday, November 3, 1997, Dylan wrote in his journal:

    “[edited] will get me a gun, ill go on my killing spree against anyone I want. more crazy…deeper in the spiral, lost highway repeating, dwelling on the beautiful past, ([edited] & [edited] gettin drunk) w. me, everyone moves up i always stayed. Abandonment. this room sux. wanna die.”

    He wrote “*my* killing spree”, not “*our* killing spree”.

    Those who have seen the basement tapes have said that, on them, Dylan appears far more eager and enthusiastic than Eric.

    On the tapes, Eric apologizes to his family; Dylan does not.

    On one tape, Eric is seen alone, tearing up when he thinks about his friends back in Michigan. He even turns the tape off so he will not be captured crying on camera.

    If he truly was a pure psychopath, as Cullen claims, is it likely that he would have cried while thinking about old friends?

    Cullen writes that Dylan had doubts about “going NBK” – NBK was the killers’ code word for the massacre – *during* the attack. One wonders how he came to this conclusion.

    At the school on 4/20, Dylan was the one who seemed to be enjoying himself. Eric was subdued in comparison.

    At one point, Dylan saw one of his victims writhing in pain.

    “Here, let me help you,” he said – and shot the boy in the face.

    Was that the action of someone who had doubts about what he was doing?

    This is not the forum for a thorough debunking of Cullen’s claims. The bottom line is that the book, while useful in some respects, is *not* the definitive, myth-busting account it purports to be.

    Read Mr. Cullen’s book, but also read Columbine: A True Crime Story” by Jeff Kass; “No Easy Answers” by Brooks Brown; “Comprehending Columbine” by Ralph Larkin; and as many other books as you can find. Read the killers’ journals and other writings (www.acolumbinesite.com is a good starting point). Read the documents (*very* begrudgingly) released by law enforcement over the years.

    Keep an open mind and remember that the “truth” is always very elusive.

  18. lporter101 says:

    Cullen’s book is highly flawed.

    Cullen claims that Eric Harris was a swaggering ladies’ man and confident social king. This assertion is ludicrous.

    Cullen writes that Eric “got lots of girls” and had sex with a 24-year-old woman named Brenda Parker. He even quotes Parker in his book. The truth is that Parker had no connection to Harris or the tragedy; she was a “fangirl” who sought attention by making up stories. She has *zero* credibility.

    Eric tried to get a date to the prom; he failed. He asked several girls, all of whom turned him down. He finally convinced a girl he met at the pizza place where he worked to spend a couple of hours at his house on the night of the prom; they watched a movie. She declined to attend the after-prom party with him, so he went alone.

    Harris was fairly short (5’8″) and very skinny, with a deformed chest due to his pelvus excavatum. As his body language in the following video (recorded in a hallway at Columbine and shown in a documentary about the massacre) demonstrates, he was no match for the larger boys he encountered on a daily basis:

    In his final journal entry, Eric wrote:

    “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t — say, “well thats your fault” because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh — nooo.”

    Does that sound like someone who was confident and socially successful?

  19. Cullen claims that Eric Harris was a swaggering ladies’ man and confident social king. This assertion is ludicrous.

    Cullen writes that Eric “got lots of girls” and had sex with a 24-year-old woman named Brenda Parker. He even quotes Parker in his book. The truth is that Parker had no connection to Harris or the tragedy; she was a “fangirl” who sought attention by making up stories. She has *zero* credibility.

    Eric tried to get a date to the prom; he failed. He asked several girls, all of whom turned him down. He finally convinced a girl he met at the pizza place where he worked to spend a couple of hours at his house on the night of the prom; they watched a movie. She declined to attend the after-prom party with him, so he went alone.

    Harris was fairly short (5’8″) and very skinny, with a deformed chest due to his pelvus excavatum. As his body language in the following video (recorded in a hallway at Columbine and shown in a documentary about the massacre) demonstrates, he was no match for the larger boys he encountered on a daily basis:

    In his final journal entry, Eric wrote:

    “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t — say, “well thats your fault” because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh — nooo.”

    Does that sound like someone who was confident and socially successful?

    Cullen perpetuates the long-standing myth that Dylan was a sad little emo follower who was totally led by Harris.

    The truth is that Dylan was the one who wrote about going on a killing spree before Eric; he even wanted to do it with someone else.

    (Keep in mind that Eric and Dylan intended the massacre to be a bombing event with a shooting element. Their plans went awry.)

    On Monday, November 3, 1997, Dylan wrote in his journal:

    “[edited] will get me a gun, ill go on my killing spree against anyone I want. more crazy…deeper in the spiral, lost highway repeating, dwelling on the beautiful past, ([edited] & [edited] gettin drunk) w. me, everyone moves up i always stayed. Abandonment. this room sux. wanna die.”

    He wrote “*my* killing spree”, not “*our* killing spree”.

    Those who have seen the basement tapes have said that, on them, Dylan appears far more eager and enthusiastic than Eric.

    On the tapes, Eric apologizes to his family; Dylan does not.

    On one tape, Eric is seen alone, tearing up when he thinks about his friends back in Michigan. He even turns the tape off so he will not be captured crying on camera.

    If he truly was a pure psychopath, as Cullen claims, is it likely that he would have cried while thinking about old friends?

    Cullen writes that Dylan had doubts about “going NBK” – NBK was the killers’ code word for the massacre – *during* the attack. One wonders how he came to this conclusion.

    At the school on 4/20, Dylan was the one who seemed to be enjoying himself. Eric was subdued in comparison.

    At one point, Dylan saw one of his victims writhing in pain.

    “Here, let me help you,” he said – and shot the boy in the face.

    Was that the action of someone who had doubts about what he was doing?

    This is not the forum for a thorough debunking of Cullen’s claims. The bottom line is that the book, while useful in some respects, is *not* the definitive, myth-busting account it purports to be.

    Read Mr. Cullen’s book, but also read Columbine: A True Crime Story” by Jeff Kass; “No Easy Answers” by Brooks Brown; “Comprehending Columbine” by Ralph Larkin; and as many other books as you can find. Read the killers’ journals and other writings (www.acolumbinesite.com is a good starting point). Read the documents (*very* begrudgingly) released by law enforcement over the years.

    Keep an open mind and remember that the “truth” is always very elusive.

  20. I accidentally submitted my comment more than once. Sorry.

    • At first, “Your comment is awaiting moderation” did not appear, so I thought that perhaps my message didn’t go through. You can delete the second and third messages – they’re redundant.

      (In the second posting, I tried posting only part of the message, in case there was a word limit.)

      You might also want to consider that Dylan was considered something of a bully himself.

      The following is from a Washington Post interview with one of his classmates:

      Last year, she said, she and Klebold were in a coed gym class. She said Klebold had a habit of shoving girls to the ground, even tackling them, during flag-football games. Finally, she yelled at him to knock it off, and he turned on her.

      “He was like a loner in that class,” she said. “Nobody liked him. And he hated me, because I yelled at him. And then he started bothering me, calling me a b—- and basically yelling at me and stuff.”

  21. Cara Ellison says:

    Stan, LPorter, etc.: there is no need for three comments that say essentially the same thing. I’m not sure what your angle is. That Eric was a victim? I’ll address a couple of points.

    –Brenda Parker, a “fan girl” of what? A fan of massacre? I don’t know the lady, but I find it odd that any woman would admit to nailing an underage boy. Even in 1999 that would land someone in prison.

    – Dylan does say goodbye to his parents and offers an apology.

    – You seem to be indicating Eric was bullied (ie, “Eric was 5’8” (he was actually a little taller than that). Thus we get into the “bullying = permission to slaughter” argument.

    – Dylan was far more animated. He was emotional, garish, outlandsih. Eric, in true psychopath form, was calm, cool, and collected. This isn’t unusual.

    – I’ve never heard the “here let me help you” statement anywhere. In any case, I don’t really care; they were both freaking psycho killers. What do you expect him to do, offer a snuggly bunny to cuddle while he dies? No, he wanted death too.

    – Eric’s Michigan friends. Do you not believe he could have faked some crocodile tears? I never heard he was close to any of his Michigan friends. Sounds like a ploy for sympathy to me, another way to manipulate.

    So, again, what’s your angle?

    • As I said, my posting the comment three times was an accident. I didn’t know that moderation was required – the message did not appear, for some reason – and I thought that there was a technical malfunction or something. I apologize.

      And, even if you disagree with me, at least give me this: I am not being rude, or hysterical. I am simply stating my viewpoint. I invite you to disagree with me, or even to doubt my intelligence and/or sanity, but I remind you that I am trying very hard to be polite and (hopefully) coherent.

      Brenda Parker was an attention-seeking person who was drawn to a nationally-prominent tragedy – it’s as simple as that. She wanted her fifteen minutes of fame. The police concluded that her claims were baseless.

      My “angle”, essentially, is that Cullen’s thesis is far too simplistic – “Eric was a psychopath and Dylan was a depressive.” I happen to believe that the truth is more complicated – perhaps Eric had psychopathic traits, and Dylan depressive ones, but if you look at all the evidence there are a lot more shades of gray than Cullen admits.

      A lot of people want to make excuses for Dylan – they always have. Initially, many people who knew him refused to believe that he was a willing participant. It wasn’t until word of the basement tapes leaked out that people began to realize just how equal a partner he was in the attack.

      Cullen asks us to believe that Dylan had doubts during the attack – but, by all accounts, he was the one who was whooping and hollering and enjoying himself.

      (You attribute Eric’s relative lack of apparent “enjoyment” to his lack of emotion, but also keep in mind that he broke his nose when the shotgun recoiled. Also keep in mind that Eric and Dylan were both *very* frustrated by the failure of their bombs.)

      As for “crocodile tears” – well, your interpretation is as good as mine. But according to the description of the tape – obviously, I have not seen the basement tapes and probably never will – he actually turned off the recorder once it was apparent that he was starting to tear up. That sounds like a fairly “normal” human reaction – he wanted to portray himself as a (forgive the language) “badass” persona, but his true emotions came through.

      He had to move several times during his childhood – his father was in the Air Force. Childhood psychologists will tell you that such rampant instability during childhood – the formation and abrupt dissolution of friendships, in particular – rarely contributes to mental well-being.

      My personal belief is that the attack was a “perfect storm” of numerous factors – mental illness, definitely, but also profound social alienation (it is *very* hard for an independent, objective observer to conclude that Eric and Dylan were very far from the bottom of the high-school social structure); lax parenting (to some degree); *massive* police incompetence before and during the attack; and pure, random chance. I don’t believe that the “truth”, whatever it is, will ever be fully known.

      I simply object to what I regard as an oversimplified, even somewhat trite account of an event which I have sought to understand since the day it happened. That is my prerogative as a thinking human being.

      If Eric was a psychopath with grandiose tendencies, why would he admit to feelings of inferiority?

      This is the *last* line in his journal – his final message to the world:

      “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t f—— say, “well thats your fault” because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh f—— nooo.”

      Yes, there are expressions of rage – but how many young men (in particular), faced with constant rejection (Eric struggled valiantly to get a date to the prom and even told his mother “Sometimes being a teenager sucks”) and the usual pressures of adolescent life, retreat into a fantasy world of violence? *A lot*. The difference is that, in this case, the fantasy became real.

      Cullen a very good writer – I’ll grant him that. And his book contains some interesting information not found elsewhere. But his portrayal of the two killers borders on the ludicrous.

      It might interest you to know that Dwayne Fusilier has a huge conflict-of-interest: his son knew the two killers and, in fact, made a “joke” video with them in which the school was blown up.

      Cullen portrays Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis as a hero, but quite a few people (including those who knew the killers personally, such as Brooks Brown) believe that he presided over a bully-tolerant atmosphere at Columbine.

      It is true that the killers do not mention bullying in their diaries … it is equally true that there was a bullying problem at Columbine, especially in the 1997-98 school year (when the idea for the attack was first forming in the killers’ heads), and that Eric and Dylan’s friends have testified that they were bullied on numerous occasions. My own interpretation of this is that whatever bullying they experienced contributed to their overall sense of social alienation.

      I suspect that their resentment of “jocks” (which was very real – a prominent Columbine wrestler/football player was at the top of Eric’s “s— list”, and Dylan disparages “jocks” numerous times in his journal) was due more to jealousy than anything else.

      This jealousy – a constant sense of craving the social attention, prominence (and, yes, opportunities for sex/romance) afforded to students at the top of the social structure – was, I believe, a significant contributing factor in their mental decline.

      They developed a sense of entitlement for things which they did not have, which mutated into alienation, which hardened into hatred, which exploded into deadly violence. (That is, of course, a vast oversimplification of an oversimplification, but I think it has some validity.)

      You might find the following article interesting:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/june99/columbine12.htm

      I realize that this post has meandered all over the place. Part of the problem is that Cullen’s book is so off-base, in some respects, that there is no good place to begin.

      If you take anything away from my somewhat feeble attempt to counter the misinformation in his book, let it be this:

      Don’t read one book on Columbine and think that you know everything there is to know about it.

      I would also recommend this series of articles. Keep in mind that it was written by Jeff Kass, who wrote a book on 4/20 (released at the same time as Cullen’s) that has received *very* little press attention.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_537860.html

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_539312.html

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_546312.html

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_548142.html

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_549852.html

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_555498.html

      Let me also say that you are obviously an intelligent and perceptive individual. I simply wanted to expose you to a different viewpoint.

      • Cara Ellison says:

        And, even if you disagree with me, at least give me this: I am not being rude, or hysterical. I am simply stating my viewpoint. I invite you to disagree with me, or even to doubt my intelligence and/or sanity, but I remind you that I am trying very hard to be polite and (hopefully) coherent.

        Absolutely. No doubt. That is why I didn’t just send you to the killfile and be done with it; you really are illustrating a viewpoint and it is done calmly and rationally.

        Brenda Parker was an attention-seeking person who was drawn to a nationally-prominent tragedy – it’s as simple as that. She wanted her fifteen minutes of fame. The police concluded that her claims were baseless.

        Where can I (or Dave Cullen if he chooses) confirm this?

        My “angle”, essentially, is that Cullen’s thesis is far too simplistic – “Eric was a psychopath and Dylan was a depressive.” I happen to believe that the truth is more complicated – perhaps Eric had psychopathic traits, and Dylan depressive ones, but if you look at all the evidence there are a lot more shades of gray than Cullen admits.

        Maybe. But I think that part of the genius of Cullen’s work is that he opened up the world of Eric and Dylan for us enough to make some judgements of our own. Also, incidentally, I noticed that he really captured the high school experience very well. I think part of being in high school is having very intense feelings, being awkward, trying out different ‘personalities’, etc. It’s a time of great change and upheaval and I think Cullen captured that beautifully.

        A lot of people want to make excuses for Dylan – they always have. Initially, many people who knew him refused to believe that he was a willing participant. It wasn’t until word of the basement tapes leaked out that people began to realize just how equal a partner he was in the attack.

        I am not trying to make excuses. Cullen’s book did not read to me like he was making excuses for Dylan.

        Cullen asks us to believe that Dylan had doubts during the attack – but, by all accounts, he was the one who was whooping and hollering and enjoying himself.

        Sheila, if you’re still reading, could you post the links for your psycho and duo-psycho posts?

        There was a symbiotic relationship at play. I think Dylan was whooping it up partly because Eric was there. That is classic behavior; he was trying to impress Eric. During his Basement Tape rants, he would discreetly look over to Eric for approval. He was showing off.

        (You attribute Eric’s relative lack of apparent “enjoyment” to his lack of emotion, but also keep in mind that he broke his nose when the shotgun recoiled. Also keep in mind that Eric and Dylan were both *very* frustrated by the failure of their bombs.)

        I agree with both those. I think Eric probably physically felt like crap. It wasn’t as much fun as he thought it would be since he was walking around with broken nose. And I agree, the failure of the bombs was huge to both of them.

        As for “crocodile tears” – well, your interpretation is as good as mine. But according to the description of the tape – obviously, I have not seen the basement tapes and probably never will – he actually turned off the recorder once it was apparent that he was starting to tear up. That sounds like a fairly “normal” human reaction – he wanted to portray himself as a (forgive the language) “badass” persona, but his true emotions came through.

        You know what I thought? I thought turning off the camera actually brought attention to the tears. It reminded me of Scott Peterson during his interview with Diane Sawyer (it could have been a different anchor). A long tear fell from his eye and he made no attempt to brush it away. He wanted the world to see the tear. I think turning off the camera basically has the same effect: it brings attention to the tears. As in: Oh look at me, I’m tearing up, so dramatic, don’t watch me cry. Boo hoo.

        He had to move several times during his childhood – his father was in the Air Force. Childhood psychologists will tell you that such rampant instability during childhood – the formation and abrupt dissolution of friendships, in particular – rarely contributes to mental well-being.

        Yes and no. I’ve never read any report that said having a parent in the military or moving around a lot is a formula for creating a mass killer.

        My personal belief is that the attack was a “perfect storm” of numerous factors – mental illness, definitely, but also profound social alienation (it is *very* hard for an independent, objective observer to conclude that Eric and Dylan were very far from the bottom of the high-school social structure); lax parenting (to some degree); *massive* police incompetence before and during the attack; and pure, random chance. I don’t believe that the “truth”, whatever it is, will ever be fully known.

        I don’t see a lot of mystery here. I see the perfect storm you’re talking about but I think Dylan’s suicidal ideation and Eric’s psychopathy was a lethal combination. Something was bound to blow up.

        I simply object to what I regard as an oversimplified, even somewhat trite account of an event which I have sought to understand since the day it happened. That is my prerogative as a thinking human being.

        Absolutely. I’m not criticizing you for that at all. I don’t think Cullen’s account was trite or oversimplified, however.



        If Eric was a psychopath with grandiose tendencies, why would he admit to feelings of inferiority?

        Because he was a psychopath! Because they use things like that to gain credibility. Exactly like when he conned the Diversion counselor by confessing to smoking and drinking.


        This is the *last* line in his journal – his final message to the world:

        “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t f—— say, “well thats your fault” because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh f—— nooo.”

        Yes, there are expressions of rage – but how many young men (in particular), faced with constant rejection (Eric struggled valiantly to get a date to the prom and even told his mother “Sometimes being a teenager sucks”) and the usual pressures of adolescent life, retreat into a fantasy world of violence? *A lot*. The difference is that, in this case, the fantasy became real.

        This reminds me of the “Nice Guy” conversation we had few weeks ago. Like it’s everyone else’s responsibility to make sure the fragile male ego never gets bruised. Bullshit. I call bullshit. Teenager years *are* hard. No doubt. But that didn’t give him the right to blow people up or shoot them.

        Kids who are beaten, raped, and hurt go to school every day, and they don’t make pipe bombs and try to kill people.


        Cullen a very good writer – I’ll grant him that. And his book contains some interesting information not found elsewhere. But his portrayal of the two killers borders on the ludicrous.

        It might interest you to know that Dwayne Fusilier has a huge conflict-of-interest: his son knew the two killers and, in fact, made a “joke” video with them in which the school was blown up.

        I know about Fusilier. I’m not sure why that’s a conflict of interest. Care to explain?


        Cullen portrays Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis as a hero, but quite a few people (including those who knew the killers personally, such as Brooks Brown) believe that he presided over a bully-tolerant atmosphere at Columbine.

        So? Seriously: so what? Cullen addressed that in the book, and secondly, being bullied does not turn normal kids into killers.

        It is true that the killers do not mention bullying in their diaries … it is equally true that there was a bullying problem at Columbine, especially in the 1997-98 school year (when the idea for the attack was first forming in the killers’ heads), and that Eric and Dylan’s friends have testified that they were bullied on numerous occasions. My own interpretation of this is that whatever bullying they experienced contributed to their overall sense of social alienation.

        I don’t buy it. I accept that you do, but for me it rings hollow. I was abused as a child. I was raped. I was kept out of school and fell hopelessly behind for the 4th grade and the 7th and the 10th. I was put in resource math with people who were literally dumb as rocks. When my dad was 16, I ran away to London and didn’t finish high school. When I returned to the US, I got a degree in electrical engineering from a good university out of pure spite; I wanted to prove I was smart. I suppose I could have killed 13 people and probably gotten away with it but it never crossed my mind to do so. So serve up all these excuses about social alienation, but I was there, and I didn’t kill anyone.


        I suspect that their resentment of jocks” (which was very real – a prominent Columbine wrestler/football player was at the top of Eric’s “s— list”, and Dylan disparages “jocks” numerous times in his journal) was due more to jealousy than anything else.

        Agreed.


        This jealousy – a constant sense of craving the social attention, prominence (and, yes, opportunities for sex/romance) afforded to students at the top of the social structure – was, I believe, a significant contributing factor in their mental decline.

        Oh good lord. That sounds exactly like a male. A girl didn’t put out so I became all cray-cray. Newp. Not buying it. Eric and Dylan had jobs and other opportunities to meet girls, as you said yourself.

        They developed a sense of entitlement for things which they did not have, which mutated into alienation, which hardened into hatred, which exploded into deadly violence. (That is, of course, a vast oversimplification of an oversimplification, but I think it has some validity.)

        I don’t think it does. I’m not criticizing you as a person, but this doesn’t make sense to me.


        You might find the following article interesting:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/june99/columbine12.htm

        I will check it out.


        I realize that this post has meandered all over the place. Part of the problem is that Cullen’s book is so off-base, in some respects, that there is no good place to begin.

        If you take anything away from my somewhat feeble attempt to counter the misinformation in his book, let it be this:

        Don’t read one book on Columbine and think that you know everything there is to know about it.

        I don’t do that with anything. I say a lot regarding Enron, in fact.


        I would also recommend this series of articles. Keep in mind that it was written by Jeff Kass, who wrote a book on 4/20 (released at the same time as Cullen’s) that has received *very* little press attention.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_537860.html

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_539312.html

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_546312.html

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_548142.html

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_549852.html

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-kass/columbine-and-the-end-of_b_555498.html

        Wait. You say that Cullen is somehow biased or wrong and you quote the HuffPo? Okay, I’ll give them a read and see what happens.


        Let me also say that you are obviously an intelligent and perceptive individual. I simply wanted to expose you to a different viewpoint.

        Thank you. I appreciate that. I’m happy to argue and discuss, so please feel free to extrapolate on anything here that you disagree with.

    • And, not to nitpick, but the coroner stated that, on the autopsy table, Eric was 5’8.5″. (Cullen states 5’9″.)

      Dylan was between 6’2″ and 6’3″.

      All of Eric and Dylan’s closest friends were well over 6′ tall … Eric was the shortest by about six inches.

      This image is taken from “Hitmen for Hire”, a project the two killers did for a marketing class (in which they promoted their “bully eradication” service.

      “Hitmen for Hire” is available online … if you know where to look.

  22. Cara Ellison says:

    You’re making a lot of rhetorical flaws. You are using one example and attempting to extrapolate a whole personality profile from that. For instance, you said:

    Cullen claims that Eric Harris was a swaggering ladies’ man and confident social king. This assertion is ludicrous.

    Cullen states that Eric did get dates. He never said that Eric was a “confident social king”. I have no idea about Eric’s sex life, and I am willing to bet you don’t have intimate knowledge of it either. If Eric got chicks, it would fit the profile of a psychopath very well.

    Eric tried to get a date to the prom; he failed. He asked several girls, all of whom turned him down. He finally convinced a girl he met at the pizza place where he worked to spend a couple of hours at his house on the night of the prom; they watched a movie. She declined to attend the after-prom party with him, so he went alone.

    Yes, that is true, but again you’re making a fallacy by connecting that one thing to your assertion that Eric was the timid, undersized nerd.

    The boys were 17 and 18 years old. I have no doubt that they were not getting laid as often as they wanted to.

    As for Dylan being a bully, I assume he was something of a dickhead. He certainly would not have been my idea of a High School dreamboat. But I’m not really sure what your point is by saying this.

    Your angle seems to be that Eric was meek, Dylan was the boss. Okay. Why is it important to you that we believe that?

  23. My latest message is not showing up … in case it doesn’t, I just want to say the following:

    I am not saying that people should not read Dave Cullen’s book, or that the book is “wrong”, per se. I merely object to his depiction of his book as the ultimate “myth-busting”, “definitive” account of the 4/20 massacre. I resent the arrogance implicit in such an assertion.

    At the very least, Mr. Cullen’s book is highly controversial, at least among people who have studied the massacre. (I am not a professional, but I have devoted quite a bit of my life to studying the attack, for reasons which I won’t go into here.)

    I’m merely asking – “begging” is too strong a word – people to keep an open mind, and to remember that while Dave Cullen has written an important, interesting book on the 4/20 massacre, his is not the only work. I would encourage everyone reading this post to seek out other works (including the killers’ journals, which are available online) and to avoid drawing quick, easy conclusions.

    That’s all.

  24. Cara Ellison says:

    For some reason your post went to Spam. I just rescued it. Will answer now.

  25. And let me also say that there is such a creature as a “Columbine fangirl”. There are actually “fans” of Eric and Dylan, mostly girls (in my experience – and I’ve delved into some weird corners of the Internet, believe me), who have stated that the killers (Eric, especially) were “cute”, and that they were “taking a stand”.

    I’ve even seen Columbine “fanfic” in the manner of say, “Twilight” fanfic.

    I, personally, find the phenomenon disturbing.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      Yech. That is truly scary. I guess it is sort of like women who fall in love with serial killers behind bars. You have to wonder what is going on in their warped little brains.

  26. The documentation on Brenda Parker is available in the 11K (the documents released *very* begrudgingly by law enforcement) … I don’t recall the exact page.

    (There are 11,000 pages – hence, the term “11K” – including hundreds of police interviews.)

    There is a *ton* of information on Columbine out there, including obscure trivia such as the killers’ last meal (at Outback Steakhouse, the night before the massacre – among other things, they ate potato skins). It’s very easy to lose perspective and immerse oneself in the morass of data, without ever giving full consideration to the human implications of what they did (and, of course, what they were *trying* to do).

    The one question I like to ask is, “Did Eric and Dylan fully understand why they were ‘going NBK’ (their codeword for the massacre)?”

    My answer to that is “Probably not.”

    I mean, what do you make of someone who plays fantasy baseball with his friend on the 19th … and aims a gun at the same friend’s head on the 20th? What word do you use to describe that person’s impulses and motivations?

  27. Cara Ellison says:

    I want to point out that Cullen spent ten years writing Columbine, and though the book is comprehensive, it could not possibly contain every tidbit he learned.

    Also, what do I make of that? I make a psychopath. A cold blooded psychopath.

  28. Cara – following along here. Here are the posts you mentioned. At least I think these are the two you mentioned:

    Psychopaths and Morality:
    http://www.sheilaomalley.com/archives/011843.html

    Review of “Don’t Deliver Us From Evil” (on a criminal pairing):
    http://www.sheilaomalley.com/archives/011499.html

  29. Cara Ellison says:

    Thank you Sheila!

    Stan, please read Sheila’s links. I think it might illuminate evil pairings.

  30. Part of the draw, I think, is the thought illustrated by the friendliness the day before the massacre… the thought, “They have NO IDEA what I’m going to do, what I’m really capable of.”

    The dream of greatness and of potential about to be realized runs in all of us in some form, but the sociopath dreams of horrors. The other difference is that in many ways it’s easier to imagine and plan horrors and visit them on others. If I want to be a great baseball player or a virtuoso cellist or a rocket scientist, I have to work my ass off pretty much every day – and more importantly, I have to work in such a way as to take myself out of myself. Baseball and music and engineering make me focus on something other than self. Being a sociopath means working just as hard (in a way) but entirely inward, making an art form of one’s own darkness and alienation.

    From there, if I still want to make the majors or an orchestra or work for NASA, I have to go out and prove myself to others, by stardards of their choosing, and submit to their judgment. If I want to go up to the bell tower with a sniper rifle, all I need is the weapon and an opportunity. I already have my own approval and a complete disdain for the standards and feelings of the world.

    It is terrifying.

  31. Cara Ellison says:

    I found out where Stan and a few others are coming from: http://columbinegame.com/discuss/viewtopic.php?t=2757

    Basically, it appears to be a group of high schoolers who really FUCKING HATE jocks, and therefore, they think that Eric and Dylan basically had the right idea.

    I’m mentioned as an “annoying lady” which I find just absolutely charming for some reason. I guess it reinforces my impression that they’re all sixteen and grumbling about adults and how it totally sucks they can’t buy wine coolers.

    They also don’t like Dave Cullen. Go figure.

  32. Cara Ellison says:

    Amended to add that Stan has been very polite and does not appear to be quite as batshit insane as his cohorts.

    • Thank you for your kind words … I, personally, would say that I am only *mildly* insane.

      I’m actually a few years past high school at this point. In fact, quite a few of the posters are in their early-to-mid 20s. I’m probably “immature for my age”, but I am perfectly legal.

      And I, personally, don’t hate jocks. (I had a fairly crappy high-school experience, but I wasn’t bullied … just heavyset, acne-ridden, and socially awkward.) In fact, I’ve been asked if I play football more times than I can count.

      I don’t hate anyone – not even Mr. Cullen. In fact, I commend him for his marketing aplomb. I resent the success of (what I perceive to be) his highly flawed book, but I have to admit that it’s an engaging, intriguing read.

      I even concede that, if I’d picked up his book “clean” – that is, not having read thousands of books, articles, and documents on the massacre – I’d probably have loved it. I might even have gone to Amazon or a blog like this and written a glowing review of it.

      You didn’t seem too impressed by the board, but I’ll still invite you to join.

      (The above post is not totally representative, BTW – never judge a discussion board by a single post.)

      The forum gets a fair amount of traffic. I post a lot of obscure articles.

      While some of our discussions may be “out there”, there *are* some intelligent, thoughtful, insightful posters – including people who have personal connections to 4/20. At any rate, you could balance the anti-Cullen sentiment.

      Just a thought.

  33. “I even concede that, if I’d picked up his book “clean” – that is, not having read thousands of books, articles, and documents on the massacre – I’d probably have loved it. I might even have gone to Amazon or a blog like this and written a glowing review of it.”

    I’ll admit, Stan, I was one of those people. The first book that I read about Columbine was Dave Cullen’s book. I was quite impressed with it, especially the smooth writing style. Luckily though I didn’t stop at Cullen’s book but instead went on to read the others that you mentioned, the ones by Brooks Brown, Jeff Kass and Ralph Larkin, in that order. With each successive book I became more disillusioned with Cullen’s work but at the same time more interested in the subject matter itself.

    I know that for a lot of people just reading one book about Columbine might be difficult to do given the harsh subject matter but I would urge anyone who has read Cullen’s book to please give the ones by the authors mentioned above a try. If you’re willing, too, do as Stan mentioned and read the official reports and documents as well. Read, read and read some more. Visit the forum that Ms. Ellison provided a link to as well; despite her derogatory comments regarding that forum there are a lot of intelligent people there who have made a great deal of thoughtful posts and provided some well-researched information.

    Regardless of what anyone’s opinions are on any or all of this I guess I’m just glad that even though it’s now been 11 years since the attack on Columbine High School happened people haven’t forgotten. People are still interested in learning more about it, and are still asking questions and seeking the truth.

    P.S. I’m 28 and I hate wine coolers.

  34. Outstanding thread.

  35. Cara Ellison says:

    Stan, you still haven’t answered any of my points. Are you able to?

    • “I am not trying to make excuses. Cullen’s book did not read to me like he was making excuses for Dylan.”

      No, but he perpetuates the myth that Dylan was nothing more than a follower who was totally led by Eric.

      If Dylan was so influenced by Eric, why did he write this more than a year before the massacre:

      Monday, November 3, 1997
      “[edited] will get me a gun, ill go on my killing spree against anyone I want. more crazy…deeper in the spiral, lost highway repeating, dwelling on the beautiful past, ([edited] & [edited] gettin drunk) w. me, everyone moves up i always stayed. Abandonment. this room sux. wanna die.”

      He says “*my* killing spree against anyone *I* want”. Also note that [edited] is *not* Eric.

      Cullen claims that Dylan had doubts during the attack … there is *no* evidence to suggest that Dylan had doubts during the attack.

      Dylan was able to kill people with whom he had *eye contact* – including Lance Kirklin, to whom he said “Let me help you” before aiming and firing into Kirklin’s face.

      Eric, the emotionless psychopath, actually spared someone with whom he had eye contact.

      Now, you can argue that he was playing God or something, but it’s more likely that he was merely extremely exhausted – his nose was broken and he was bleeding all over the place. In fact, at one point, Dylan said to him, “Are you still with me?” (I don’t remember if Cullen mentions that, or attributes that line to Eric … it’s been a while since I’ve read the book.)

      And here’s a case where Dylan might be said to have been playing God:

      Eric: Who’s under there? Identify yourself!
      John: It’s John!
      Dylan: John Savage?
      John: Yeah… what are you doing?
      Dylan: Just killing people.
      John: … Are you going to kill me?
      Dylan: What?
      John: Are you going to kill me?
      Dylan: No, man, just get out of here. Just run.

      Dylan apologizes to his parents *once*, in the final tape … “I just wanted to apologize…”.

      Eric actually apologizes numerous times, by saying that he’s “Sorry” … you, no doubt, will interpret this as evidence of his psychopathy – his “duping delight”.

      Here are some examples from the basement tapes (as recorded by reporters and other observers – taken from http://www.acolumbinesite.com):

      The tape stops again and when it starts, Eric Harris is alone in a moving car. The camera seems to be mounted on the car’s dashboard. It’s dark out and there are raindrops on the window. At one point he passes a street sign that reads “Federal”. There’s music playing loudly, making it hard at times to understand what Eric is saying. At one point he mentions “The Black Jack Crew” [Eric and Dylan worked at Blackjack Pizza], specifically mentioning “Jason” and “Chris”.

      Eric: “You guys are very cool. Sorry, dudes. I had to do what I had to do.”

      “We’re proving ourselves,” they tell the camera and go on to discuss their philosphies. Eric says he isn’t spending much time with his family, so that there won’t be any “bonding” and “this won’t be harder to do”.

      Eric: “I’m sorry I have so much rage, but you put it on me.”

      Eric then complains about his father and how his family had to move five times. He says he always had to be the new kid in school, and was always at the bottom of the “food chain”, and had no chance to earn any respect from his peers as he always had to “start out at the bottom of the ladder”. He hated the way people made fun of him: “my face, my hair, my shirts.” He’s wearing a t-shirt that has the words “Wilder Wein” printed on it — he references the shirt several times during the video but never explains what it means. [Wilder Wein is a song written by Rammstein.]

      Eric: “More rage. More rage.” (motions with his hands for emphasis) “Keep building it on.”

      Dylan: “If you could see all the anger I’ve stored over the past four fucking years…”

      Dylan then recalls how popular and athletic his older brother Byron was and how he constantly “ripped” on him, as did his brother’s friends. According to Dylan, with the exception of his parents, his extended family treated him like the runt of the litter.

      Dylan: “You made me what I am. You added to the rage.”

      Dylan says that as far back as the Foothills Day Care center he hated the “stuck-up” kids who he felt hated him. “Being shy didn’t help. I’m going to kill you all. You’ve been giving us shit for years.”

      [lporter101: Dylan is 17 years old at this point … and he’s still talking about things that happened in *day care*.]

      Dylan: “Fuck you Walsh.”

      Eric: “Shut the fuck up, Nick, you laugh too much! And those two girls sitting next to you, they probably want you to shut the fuck up, too! Jesus! Rachel and Jen.. and.. whatever.”

      Dylan: “I don’t like you, Rachel and Jen, you’re stuck up little bitches, you’re fucking little.. Christian, Godly little whores!”

      Eric: “Yeah.. ‘I love Jesus! I love Jesus!’ — shut the fuck up!”

      Dylan: “What would Jesus do? What the fuck would I do..?” (he acts like he’s shooting the camera with his hand, with sound to accompany it)

      Eric: “I would shoot you in the motherfucking head! Go Romans! Thank God they crucified that asshole.”

      Eric and Dylan: “Go Romans!” “Go Romans!!” “Yeah!!” “Wooo!”

      Eric “If only we would have searched their room. If only we would have asked the right questions.” (talks about his mother being thoughtful, bringing him candy and Slim Jims) “I really am sorry about all this.”

      Dylan: “They gave me my fucking life. It’s up to me what I do with it.”

      Eric: (shrugs) “My parents might have made some mistakes that they weren’t really aware of.”

      Dylan: (talks about how his parents taught him to be independent and self-reliant) “I appreciate that.”

      The final tape

      Eric: “Say it now.”

      Dylan: “Hey mom. Gotta go. It’s about a half an hour before our little judgment day. I just wanted to apologize to you guys for any crap this might instigate as far as (inaudible) or something. Just know I’m going to a better place. I didn’t like life too much and I know I’ll be happy wherever the fuck I go. So I’m gone. Good-bye. Reb…”

      Dylan takes the camera then and begins filming Eric. Eric’s also wearing a plaid shirt that’s either dark blue or black with white, with a white t-shirt on underneath. His lower half can’t be seen.

      Eric: “Yea… Everyone I love, I’m really sorry about all this. I know my mom and dad will be just like.. just fucking shocked beyond belief. I’m sorry, all right. I can’t help it.”

      Dylan: (interrupts) “We did what we had to do.”

      Eric: “Morris, Nate, if you guys live, I want you guys to have whatever you want from my room and the computer room.”

      Dylan adds that they can have his things as well.

      Eric: “Susan, sorry. Under different circumstances it would’ve been a lot different. I want you to have that fly CD.”

      Eric: (eventually) “That’s it. Sorry. Goodbye.”

      Dylan: (sticks his face in the camera) “Goodbye.”

      We hear so much about how Dylan was just a follower, and Eric a leader … what do you make of the fact that Eric repeatedly referred to Dylan as his best friend, and in some cases his only friend, while Dylan referred to Eric as a “good” friend?

      Dylan had more friends than Eric, who was pretty much a loner. He wasn’t bullied as much as Eric, mainly due to his height.

      He was able to get a prom date – he went as a “friend” with Robyn Anderson, whose unrequited romantic interest in him he callously exploited to acquire guns for the massacre. (His parents offered him $250 to attend … no doubt he spent it on materials for the attack.)

      As for Fusilier … well, if you don’t agree that he has a conflict-of-interest, then I guess there’s no point in arguing about it.

      After the attack, many of Eric and Dylan’s friends and associates were arrested, hounded, and blamed … but Fusilier’s son, who actually made a video with E&D in which *the very act they attempted to perform was depicted*, never came under any suspicion at all.

      “Don’t blame the school. Don’t fucking put cops all over the place. Just because we went on a killing spree doesn’t mean everybody else will. The admin. is doing a fine job as it is. I don’t know who will be left after we kill, but dammit, don’t change any policy just because of us. It would be stupid. If there’s any way in this fucked up universe we can come back as ghosts, we’ll haunt the life of any one who blames anyone besides me and V [vodka].”

      I see nothing so unusual about this statement. Eric and Dylan obviously wanted people to believe that they were their own (im)moral agents, acting on their own volition to achieve their goal of immortality through death and destruction … they *didn’t* want people to perceive that they were just a couple of angry, mixed-up kids, which is essentially what they were.

      I don’t blame the school, per se … I think that Eric and Dylan created most of their own unhappiness. I think most unhappy people are unhappy because they lack perspective on life.

      You have to remember that Eric and Dylan were teenagers. They lacked perspective … they didn’t know how good (or bad) their lives were because they hadn’t really lived. They were angry, bitter, and resentful – not because their lives were horrible, but because they didn’t have the things they felt entitled to. They were eminently selfish.

      I can empathize with them, but I’ve never had any desire to emulate them. No matter how shitty my life has been over the years, I’ve always had enough perspective to realize that you have to take things one day at a time.

      My basic idea is that “NBK” was their own private apocalypse … it was their chance to play God. They got off on the idea of destroying the social arena where they had so often met with frustration and humiliation.

      • Another under-mentioned aspect of Dylan is his affinity for vodka (his self-chosen nickname was VoDKa – a rather clever use of his initials) … the kid was well on his way to becoming a full-blown alcoholic.

        His friends have stated that he was a “weepy” drunk. No doubt most of his gushy-wushy/pseudo-schizo “romantic” rantings were written while he was on the sauce.

        He was also considered a bit of a hothead … quite a few people at Columbine avoided him because he was considered an “asshole”.

        Even if he had ended up finding the “true love” he craved (someone who was “good enough”, that is – Robyn Anderson had a thing for him, but he didn’t care for her), he probably would have ended up acquainting his “true love”‘s nose with his fist before too long.

      • CORRECTION: Dylan did not kill Lance Kirklin. I meant to say “shoot” instead of “kill” … although Dylan did, indeed, *kill* people with whom he had eye contact.

  36. Jessicarrot says:

    This thread reminds me of the old RTG ones. Interesting conversation here. 🙂

  37. Cara Ellison says:

    I know, I had the same thought. Ah, those were fun days. : )

  38. Cara Ellison says:

    Stan didn’t answer my other question, but I’d like to know what he and the others make of this journal entry:

    “Don’t blame the school. Don’t fucking put cops all over the place. Just because we went on a killing spree doesn’t mean everybody else will. The admin. is doing a fine job as it is. I don’t know who will be left after we kill, but dammit, don’t change any policy just because of us. It would be stupid. If there’s any way in this fucked up universe we can come back as ghosts, we’ll haunt the life of any one who blames anyone besides me and V [vodka].”

  39. Is there anything else you’d like me to add?

    Have I in any way impacted your thinking about the two shooters? (I doubt it, but I had to ask.)

    I suppose it’s futile, at this point, to try to dispel the myths that Cullen creates. For every one person (like me) who criticizes the book, there must be 20 people who praise it unconditionally. I’m like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills of hype dotting a vast plain of fresh, steaming manure.

    (I am prone to hyperbole, I suppose.)

    If there’s anything I’ve learned from all this, it’s that the news media are even more gullible than I thought. I’ve never really had much use for the MSM – even though my childhood idol was Dan Rather – but seeing how readily they swallowed Cullen’s BS has almost totally turned me off from the likes of even The New York Times. I guess it just goes to show you that there is no such thing as truth when it comes to the news – only degrees of falsehood.

    • Ah, you’re doing God’s work Istan. The fact that Cullen turned chicken when you arrived, I think, shows that you won the debate. He knew he couldn’t stand up to ya so he just quietly hid while hoping his lackeys would beat you off. That’s how he is, like some kinda cowardly genie. Praise his name 3 times and he shows up delighted- criticize it but once and he retreats to the lamp.

      It’s good what you do- talking to people and helping them to make sense of things. If I were ya, I’d try e-mailing media figures who write articles praising Cullen and questioning their unrelenting praise and getting others to do so too.

      And Kara, you aren’t annoying, just confused. Go on and read “No Easy Answers” by Brooks Brown and look up “Cult of the Athlete.” Cullen doesn’t own the Columbine tragedy no matter how much he acts like he does.

  40. I wonder what the families think about Cullen’s book (and all the other books published about Columbine, for that matter).

    I’ve read that both Cullen and Kass approached the families, but were turned down.

    The Harrises have never spoken publicly about the massacre. The Klebolds have, twice – to the New York Times in 2004:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/15/opinion/15BROO.html?pagewanted=1

    and to O! Magazine in 2009:

    http://www.oprah.com/world/Susan-Klebolds-O-Magazine-Essay-I-Will-Never-Know-Why

    The Harris family seems to have accepted the “Eric as psychopath” theory:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-24/the-last-columbine-mystery/

    (I might point out that Cullen’s “exclusive” is actually based on a blog post the Mausers wrote last year, then deleted.)

    Notice that he emphasized the “Wayne and Kathy conceded that Eric was a psychopath” line from the article – as if to say, “Look – even the parents of this nutjob agree with my expert diagnosis!”

    It behooves the parents to conclude that Eric was a psychopath – after all, if he was crazy from the get-go, then it really wasn’t their fault at all. They have just as much stake in believing that Eric was an irretrievable psychopath as the Klebolds have in believing that their son was an innocent emo who blindly followed along.

    And, of course, it must be noted that the Harrises (and the Klebolds) raised *two* sons.

    Eric’s brother, by all accounts, was the perfect teenager – straight-A student, tight end on the football team – confident, easygoing, popular. He overshadowed his younger brother figuratively *and* literally – Eric was several inches shorter.

    If anything, this would lead the Harrises to conclude that they probably didn’t make any fundamental mistakes – “How could we have been such horrible parents when one of our sons turned out so well?

    I still maintain that the “Eric was crazy and Dylan was depressed, period” theory is too clean, too simple, too tidy. At the very least, I’ve yet to be convinced that Dylan was the weak-willed follower everyone makes him out to be.

    I guess I’m in the minority, but that’s where I’m accustomed to being.

  41. Cara, read these pages of the report…

    JC-001-010843 to 010851

    Download the report here….

    http://www.acolumbinesite.com/reports/cr/report.html

    ————–
    Brenda Parker- “Ok, so I see I can’t trust anyone in this club so I took my pics and saying I am outa here!

    Oh GAWD why didn’t I go along with them! I could have gone along with the plan but no, I WAS TOO CHICKEN SHIT”

    …..

    Cops- “After a lengthy conversation she admitted that she wrote the above, but that it was not true. She just made it up to get attention. She stated she has no life and spends way too much time on the internet.”
    ————-

    This is from the official police investigation interview with Ms. Parker. Are you satisfied now that Cullen was very mistaken in taking her word at complete face value?

  42. Cara,
    It does seem as though you side more so with Dave than anyone else and that is your right. But, and everyone should know this, to be a good investigator you look at the facts. To be a great investigator you look at everything and cross reference. Dave’s book had a lot of conflicting points in the book and while he stated he did get it from police reports and such (not that Jeffco would lie), he should have double checked before writing. As far as the conspiracy thought, again a great investigator has to look at everything. You have to admit that there are a lot of coincidences that validate that theory and link it to the Platte Canyon incident. Jeffco is hiding something and they are lying and El Paso, the team to double check, is covering for them. I come from a law enforcement family and I have seen how the brotherhood is stronger than anything else.

  43. Amy Lynn Swiatczak says:

    I’m reading the book Columbine too. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that its so interesting. When killers strike like these two did, I’m always curious about their upbringings, their parents, etc. I know that part of who people become as adults is related to their primary caregivers as a child/adolescent. I’m fascinated by these two. Not by the evil, but by the WHY of it all. A+B+C+D= Serial Killer. But what are A, B, C and D really? Violent video games they were allowed to play? Parents that criticized way more than they loved? Bullying in school? What was it? Something tells me its just plain old evil. Satan doing his dirty work.

  44. I have to agree that I can’t find Cullen’s book to be too factually accurate, he did a good job of marketing it though. If only he spent that kind of marketing effort on a slightly better researched book it could have opened a lot of eyes to Columbine, instead it serves as simply a good way for the uninitiated to begin learning about it, but not provide any truly accurate details.

  45. starviego says:

    Does Cullen’s book even mention Robert Perry, the ex-Columbine student who was identified as a shooter by over a dozen witnesses?

  46. flowersinthegarden says:

    Bullying does turn normal kids into killing. You need to read up more on bullying, what other forensic psychologists have to say about Columbine and shootings/bullying as many top psychologists have stated the cause was bullying . One psychologist who has done research for 20 years said 71 percent of shootings are because of bullying. Look at how many people commit suicide because of bullying, you really believe when people feel so bad about themselves because of life and being put down and verbally tormented and is going to end their lives, they won’t have the rage to do an eye for an eye? The killers said on the day of the massacre they were getting revenge for all the crap people in that school caused them for 4 years and screamed though out the massacre ‘THIS IS REVENGE” “YOU MOCKED US AND GAVE US SHIT FOR TOO LONG” why do you read one little book and think you have all the answers?

    http://workplaceviolencenews.com/2008/08/28/prevent-future-massacres-by-curbing-bullying/

    I can tell you me personally I was tormented and bullied for a long time and had thoughts of suicide and HOMICIDE, I had so much rage and depression and wanted to kill.

    Ever hear of Park Dietz? He created the Dietz warning signs for mass murder, he is a forensic psychologist and a top criminologist, him and his team did a psychological autopsy on Eric and Dylan and said the main factor was bullying and wanting to bring attention to the problems of bullying. Brooks Brown knew both killers for years, take a look at his book “no easy answers” he talks about how Eric especially was tormented in the school daily. Maybe Cullen gives you what you want to believe so you shut yourself out of other expert opinions, the killer’s own words of revenge…Also their good old bully Evan Todd made a statement in Time Magazine in December of 1999 how much of the school bullied the two and they were hit, threatened, beaten, head dunk in toilets , called fags and freaks daily as well as having human feces thrown at them, tampons with ketchup and other objects, glass bottles, thrown into lockers, girls ignoring them because they were not jocks or popular …..Eric was no match for the over six feet steroid boys who tormented him and younger kids picked on them too, even nerds would call them names. There is a lot of testimony from classmates and students just how bad the two were tormented daily in that school . Also Eric does talk about revenge for everyone making fun of him , in his journal on September 1998. And the other guy is right, Dylan first thought about the killing and tried to get another kid involved before Eric was even into the thought of killing so there was no way Dylan was a “follower” and Cullen’s book is laughable at best if you have done years of research. Look into what bullying does to people, look into more of what the killers said, what their friends and classmates and peers said , what other top experts have said, read Brooks Brown’s death at columbine, he was a student and knew both killers well. Eric had a few dates, he had a lot of rejections and was resentful about it. Eric was a little taller than five foot eight , he was five foot ten at death but the coroner had him at five foot eight and a half, maybe because of the inch of missing scalp, anyways Brooks Brown said Eric was picked on a lot and still shorter than a lot of guys there. Many students there admitted the two were singled out and picked on a lot.

  47. flowersinthegarden says:

    Added on from my above message. And Dylan Klebold had more Dietz warning signs for mass murder than Eric had according to forensic Psychologist Park Dietz and it was Dylan who called people names and laughed during the massacre while Eric was silent. It was Dylan yelling YAHOOO and whoooing and insulting while shooting people. It was Dylan who first wrote about shooting people at his school in 1997. And after shooting a kid outside many times, Dylan said to this kid “sure I’ll help you” when the kid was crying for help and blew the entire side of his face off. if you want to believe Dylan was just a follower, you better do a lot more research on this topic and Cullen’s book as most people who have done years of research will tell you the same thing, is very inaccurate

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  1. […] Tavis’ passing shot, that the Columbine shooting had something to do with Christianity, simply has to be addressed.  According to the investigation into the 1999 Colorado massacre, the acts of the two deranged […]

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