Barbara Daly Baekeland Tried To Cure Her Son’s Homosexuality With Incest — Instead He Killed Her

Published March 16, 2018
Updated September 18, 2022

Wealthy socialite Barbara Daly Baekeland attempted to "cure" her gay son by getting him to sleep with her, then Antony Baekeland stabbed her to death.

In the 1940s, Barbara Daly Baekeland had it all. She was married to the attractive and charming Brooks Baekeland, whose grandfather was chemist Leo Baekeland, the inventor of plastics. She was a prominent socialite, she had been called one of New York’s ten most beautiful girls, and was a model for esteemed magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

But beneath the glittering surface of money and power, lay a troubled past and a world of madness.

Barbara Daly Baekeland

YoutubeBarbara Daly Baekeland with her newborn son Antony Baekeland in 1946.

Her father killed himself in 1932 when she was 10 years old. He made it out to look like an accident so that his family would be able to claim the insurance money. On the other side, her mother had a nervous breakdown a few years before she was born. Baekeland inherited her mother’s genetics, as she was prone to erratic behavior.

Brooks Baekeland admitted that Barbara was beautiful and self-assured, but their marriage was a result of Barbara’s trickery. She told Brooks she was pregnant when she wasn’t so that he would marry her.

In 1946, the couple had a child for real, Antony “Tony” Baekeland. The Baekelands toted Tony as a child prodigy and an enchanting, charming kid.

Barbara Daly Baekeland And Antony Baekeland

YouTubeBarbara Daly and Tony Baekeland.

When Tony revealed that he was gay, it didn’t fit into the world his parents had created. Barbara Daly Baekeland desperately wanted her son to get married, so she brought him prostitutes in an attempt to “cure her son of his homosexuality.”

Barbara and Brooks’s marriage was on the rocks. After an affair with one of Tony’s female classmates, in addition to his inability to cope with their son’s homosexuality, Brooks divorced Barbara in the mid-1960s.

Barbara Baekeland, who was already a worldly traveler, moved to London with Tony. That’s when the relationship between Barbara Daly Baekeland and her son truly spiraled.

It was co-dependent, complicated, and volatile. All the while, Baekeland remained fixated on her son’s sexuality. When pairing him with other women didn’t work, she took it upon herself.

Barbara Daly Baekeland’s sister-in-law recalled Barbara saying, “You know, I could get Tony over his homosexuality if I just took him to bed.”

Antony Baekeland was becoming more and more unraveled within the confines of his toxic household.

In 1972, he snapped. He reportedly lurched at his mother with a kitchen knife, an attack that she managed to flee from. Baekeland didn’t press charges, but Tony did go to see a psychiatrist.

So alarmed by their session, the shrink reached out Barbara Daly Baekeland, warning her that her son may attempt to kill her.

He told her, “I think you’re at grave risk.” Baekeland’s was response, “I don’t.”

Almost three weeks later, on Nov. 17, 1972, Tony Baekeland did just as his psychiatrist had warned. In their London penthouse, Tony stabbed Barbara in the heart.

A detective on the case is reported as saying that when help showed up, Tony was totally disconnected from what had happened. In fact, he was calmly ordering Chinese food on the phone.

In the aftermath, Tony Baekeland underwent intensive treatment at a high-security psychiatric hospital.

He was released on July 21, 1980, thanks to the help of influential friends that came with his family’s status.

Upon his release, he moved to his grandmother’s apartment in New York. After less than a week living there, he attempted to repeat the actions he took on his mother, stabbing his grandma with a knife as well. She managed to survive and Tony Baekeland was sent to Rikers for attempted murder.

On the day of his court appearance, Tony Baekeland, son of the glamorous socialite Barbara Day Baekeland, was found in his prison cell with a plastic bag over his head. He had killed himself via suffocation.

In an epitaph written by Brooks Baekeland, he called his son “an enormous failure of intelligence.” Later, the tumultuous relationship between Barbara Daly Baekeland and her son would be captured in the film Savage Grace.

After reading the sordid tale of Barbara Daly Baekeland and Antony Baekeland, you may also want to take a look at famous people who probably got away with rape and murder. After that, you can read shocking real-life incest stories throughout history.

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City who holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College and hosts a podcast for Puna Press.