Was Benjamin Franklin a serial killer?
August 27, 2004 11:16 PM   Subscribe

If my wife and I ever have a child, and it is a boy, I would like to name him after Benjamin Franklin. However, she says he was possibly a serial killer. Is this true? What's the skinny on ol' Ben?
posted by geekhorde to Society & Culture (22 answers total)
Your wife is lying to you.
posted by keswick at 11:56 PM on August 27, 2004

You mean the Benjamin Franklin?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:01 AM on August 28, 2004

The Discovery Channel Store suggests that the bones found beneath Franklin's house were medical specimens, and that's probably what they were considering his interest in medical research.

Like most geniuses he had more than his share of peculiarities, but I'm fairly certain they don't extent to mass murder. :)
posted by moift at 12:01 AM on August 28, 2004

Said to have been hung like a horse.

Wandered around in Paris taking "air baths" (nude).

The King of France was so jealous, he had Ben's image painted on the bottom of his chamber pot.

Truly, one of America's greatest founders, and my personal favorite.
posted by Goofyy at 1:23 AM on August 28, 2004

D'oh! I meant storY, and I'm ashamed of my tense switching.

*slinks away*
posted by moift at 2:25 AM on August 28, 2004

the serial killer thing is BS. on the other hand, he was a British spy. but a great, great man nonetheless
posted by matteo at 4:22 AM on August 28, 2004

Are you serious about the british spy thing? What's the best biography out there?
posted by mecran01 at 6:11 AM on August 28, 2004

It was his friend, the mouse, who was the serial killer.
posted by ph00dz at 6:52 AM on August 28, 2004

. . . and don't forget to read the mouse's book to young Ben.
posted by caddis at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2004

Franklin was a not a British spy (though he likely did spy on the British). One of his cohorts, Edward Bancroft, however, was hired to spy on the British but actually turned out to be a double agent.
posted by mkultra at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2004

Cecil Adams did a column on Benjamin Franklin just last week. He did not, however, mention anything about ol' Ben being a serial killer.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:41 AM on August 28, 2004

...and a womanizer
posted by scarabic at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2004

I would reconsider impreganting this person.
posted by yerfatma at 9:16 AM on August 28, 2004

"However, she says he was possibly a serial killer."

Your wife is either pulling your leg and taking advantage of your gullibility (a word that obviously does have a listing in the OED but interestingly is not in most versions of M-W, which is where that old "not in the dictionary" gag comes from), in which case you should appreciate her sense of humor; or the Yerfatma Decision applies.
posted by majick at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2004

I would have been really upset if my parents named me after a famous person. It sounds like great fodder for childhood trauma and taunts.

My grandfather was named after the current president when he was born, Willam Howard Taft (the family name WAS taft, so I guess his parents thought William and Howard would make good first and middle names). He HATED it and went by "Howard" all his life.

Similarly, my wife's father's given names were Theodore Roosevelt. He hated it and called himself "Bill."
posted by grumblebee at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2004

I would have been really upset if my parents named me after a famous person. It sounds like great fodder for childhood trauma and taunts.

I was once introduced to a guy named Lennon Picasso- don't recall his last name... College girls thought it meant he was interesting. I thought it made him a massive tool. I'd have hated my parents...
posted by crank at 10:52 AM on August 28, 2004

You know, people that accuse others of being serial killers are usually trying to cover up their OWN horrific crimes.

...sleep with one eye open. I'm just sayin', is all.
posted by aramaic at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2004

Crank: Maybe girls liked him because they thought it made him a massive tool, too...
posted by SpecialK at 11:18 AM on August 28, 2004

You should read his autobiography. It's great.

He ran one of the first newspapers in the Americas, was a successful self-made businessman, tried to be perfect but was riddled by human vice, had lots of lovers, was an early scientist, helped develop the philosophical underpinnings of the United States, was a popular diplomat among the French, was simultaneously respectful and suspicious of religion, lived a very long life, taught himself foreign languages by reading books. He founded some of the first libraries in the Americas, and possibly the first fire department. I think he also invented bi-focals and a certain kind of wood-burning stove.

He was brilliant, but he also managed to have normal human flaws (like cheating on his wife) without being as much of a hypocrite as some of the founding fathers (like the "all men are created equal" slaveholders--Jefferson, Washington).
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:24 PM on August 28, 2004

....he was a Freemason too.
posted by keswick at 4:19 PM on August 28, 2004

My high school gov't teacher read us an impressive quote of Franklin saying that the first and foremost priority of a political party is reelection. I've never been able to find the quote, though, since then. Biting political cynicism from a trusted and revered American founding father so early in the game is noteworthy and persuasive.
posted by Shane at 8:20 PM on August 28, 2004

Franklin shouldn't be considered a serial killer, then, just a graverobber, like most men of medical science in his day!

It seems that first name-middle name combos like Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Leonhard Euler, what have you, are unpopular these days, though we just had a POTUS of that ilk. Why, really? I think folks are too worried about "saddling" their kids with odd names. Anyway, who's really going to know that "Ben F. Horton" is named after the author of a treatise on flatulence by the name of "To the Royal Academy of *****"?

You could always play it safe and go with a classic name like Zurishaddai.
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:43 PM on August 29, 2004

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