Before his murder spree that resulted in the deaths of 16 people, Charles Whitman left a note requesting an autopsy to see if there was a biological explanation for his actions, and increasingly intense headaches. The autopsy performed found that he a “pecan-sized,” brain tumor.

Charles Whitman

This article is about the tower sniper. For the politician, see Charles Seymour Whitman. For the professor of English, see Charles Huntington Whitman. For the American zoologist, see Charles Otis Whitman.

Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 – August 1, 1966) was an American mass murderer who became infamous as the “Texas Tower Sniper”. On August 1, 1966, he used knives to kill his mother and his wife in their respective homes, then went to the University of Texas in Austin with multiple firearms and began indiscriminately shooting at people. He fatally shot three people inside the university tower. He then went to the tower’s 28th-floor observation deck, where he fired at random people for some 96 minutes, killing an additional 11 peo… Continue Reading (13 minute read)

8 thoughts on “Before his murder spree that resulted in the deaths of 16 people, Charles Whitman left a note requesting an autopsy to see if there was a biological explanation for his actions, and increasingly intense headaches. The autopsy performed found that he a “pecan-sized,” brain tumor.”

  1. acornmishmash

    If I remember correctly, the tumour was in his pre-frontal cortex, an area associated with personality and higher reasoning. The damage would explain the sudden personality changes and violence. Phineas Gage is another classic case study of this.

  2. BSB8728

    He also stabbed his wife and mother to death before heading to the clock tower.

  3. Maus_Sveti

    Yeah my great-great-whatever grandfather in the 19th century got in a fight with his nephew and killed him. Lots of people in the village testified that his personality had changed since he had suffered a head injury, so instead of the death penalty, he got sent to Australia.

  4. sharrrper

    I think it’s fallen out of use now with time, haven’t heard it in years, but referring to someone as potentially “going up in a clocktower” or similar was commom slang for someone going crazy probably at least through the early 90s. I remember hearing that used all the time as a kid and knew exactly what it meant from context but never read about this actual incident until years later.

  5. waffle-machine

    Reminds me of that [case study](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12633158/) (pubmed article) presented in class when I was studying physiology, where a man suddenly developed pedophilia because of a brain tumor – and that behavior stopped once it was removed. Fascinating stuff

  6. scarchelli

    Interesting. I had an ependymoma on my cerebellum. It grew to the size of a walnut by the time I had my brain surgery. I was increasing aggressive in the months prior. I started fights with people, etc. I had suspicions something was wrong, I actually got my testosterone level checked like 3 days before they found the tumor and when I got the results a day after the diagnosis, my testosterone levels were actually DOWN, so the tumor was clearly causing the behavior changes.

  7. marabou22

    My mom is a social worker. She once had a patient, who came to her suffering from severe depression. There was no reason for his depression, but it was very intense and almost physical. She suggested he get a CAT scan. It turned out he had a brain tumor, and he received an operation which saved his life.Ever since that happened, Ive been incredibly fascinated with how a tumor or a chemical imbalance can change somebody’s personality or emotions.

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