The twisted murder and suicide of Barbara Daly Baekeland and her son Antony Baekeland is both unbelievable and tragic. The story itself are crazy enough to make a movie about, which they did called Savage Grace, but it features all the scandalous factors that copywriters absolutely love to sell newspapers: money, greed, sex (well… incest), infertility, and of course blood and murder.
Barbara Daly Baekeland was exquisite. Her bonfire red hair and milky-white skin turned a lot of heads. She was beautiful, and she knew it.
Born and raised in Cambridge, MA, she and her mother and her to New York City after her father gassed himself dead while sitting in his car parked in the family garage. He had finally had enough of his wife’s mental instability, which unfortunately for 11-year-old Barbara, was genetic.
Luckily, her father had enough compassion to make his suicide look like an accident. Barbara would grow up on his insurance pay out.
At a young age, Barbara felt Hollywood called her name. Or at least the modeling world, which as it turned out suited her better than an acting career.
Barbara modeled for Vogue and began catching the eyes of New York’s wealthiest men. She became an American socialite and began attending extravagant parties and balls.
It was at one of these that she met and became friends with Cornelia Baekeland, heir to the Bakelite fortune, who had a younger brother that became interested in Barbara.
Brooks Baekeland was a Royal Air Force Canadian pilot in training and the two soon hit things off.
He didn’t see the diminishing mental capacities in his lover, or maybe he simply looked past it all. Either way, the couple got married after Barbara faked a pregnancy to lock Brooks and some of his Baekeland family fortune.
Brooks Baekeland had all the qualities that fitting a person most people would want to punch in the face. His grandfather, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, invented the first synthetic plastic (Bakelite) and made his family and heirs a great fortune.
Arrogant, entitled, and self-absorbed, Brooks, on the other hand, was really only great at one thing. Spending the family fortune on lavish parties and humping anything with a pulse.
“Thanks to my grandfather, I have ‘fuck-you money. Therefore, I need not to please or seek to please; astonish, astound, dazzle or be approved of by anyone.” Brooks Baekeland
Brooks didn’t know of his wife’s mental baggage until it was already too late.
Barbara had constant breakdowns, worsening depression, an excessive drinking habit, and suicidal tendencies nearly every week.
Foster Kennedy, a celebrated psychiatrist who treated Barbara Baekeland in New York City, went on record to say about the couple, “God forbid that they have a child.”
“God forbid that they have a child.”
And, of course, they did.
Underweight and sickly Antony Baekeland entered the world on August 28, 1946.
His life was doomed from the start.
Antony was born to a mother who had severe mental health problems and a father who didn’t care about him at all.
Schizophrenic and paranoid, one of Antony’s favorite hobbies was “pulling wings off butterflies” and watching them slowly stumble and die.
His mother and father touting him as a genius savant who was on his way to be a brilliant painter, or writer, or whatever boastful exaggeration his parents could conjure up at the moment for their socialite friends.
"Antony Baekeland, in fact, was simply another plaything for two selfish Gatsby-like individuals who counted Salvador Dali, Dylan Thomas and Tennessee Williams amongst their entourage."
Antony wasn’t talented, just super creepy.
Antony Baekeland was gay and his mother could not accept it. She was so determined to "cure her son's gayness" that she brought home prostitutes for him to have sex with.
Barbara brought home a nice and young French girl for her son, but this too backfired when her own husband started a secret affair with her.
In 1968 while Antony and Barbara were living in Majorca, Barbara raped her own son.
'She was very honest about it - she said she had done it to break him of his homosexual tendencies,' remembered Bernard Pfriem, a painter who met Barbara on a cruise shortly afterwards. 'She talked about it as though it were a therapeutic act.'
In July of 1972, Antony attempted to kill his mother by pushing her into traffic. Barbara refused to press charges.
It was 6 months later when Antony finally killed his mother with a filet knife, stabbing her multiple times in the chest.
Barbara was warned 2 weeks before her murder about her impending doom.
“I saw Antony Baekeland for the first time on 30th October 1972 – eighteen days before the crime – and afterward I told his mother, ‘Your son is going to kill you’. She replied, ‘He’s been murdering me since he was born – whether for him or his father, I don’t know. I’m used to murder’. ‘This isn’t a metaphor’, I told her. ‘This isn’t an analyst’s game. I think you’re at grave risk’. And she said, ‘I don’t’.”