A Brief History
On January 18, 1967, self-confessed “Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo was convicted of several rapes and related crimes, but not of murder.
Digging deeper, we find no one was actually convicted of the murder of the 13 victims of the “Boston Strangler” although DeSalvo had confessed.
Due to some inconsistencies in his details of the murders and in analysis of the manner of each murder, there is much disagreement about whether or not DeSalvo really was the murderer he said he was, with some researchers claiming there must have been more than one killer.
Raping and strangling from 1962 to 1964, the Boston Strangler somehow managed to talk his way into the apartments of many women even though the media was blaring warnings and sensationalizing the current serial killer du jour. Women all over Boston were known to reinforce their locks, arm themselves with all manner of weapons and worry themselves silly. Still, the killer found unprepared victims!
DeSalvo was represented in his trial by F. Lee Bailey, the greatest trial lawyer of the day. Bailey believed DeSalvo to be guilty of the “Boston Strangler” murders, but also believed that DeSalvo was criminally insane and as such should be in a hospital, not a prison. The court disagreed, and DeSalvo was given a life sentence.
DeSalvo had a brief single day of freedom in 1967 when he escaped and then turned himself in, alleging that the escape was to publicize the poor conditions at the hospital he was being held in. He also tried to recant his earlier confessions but since he had been convicted, he was off to prison where he was stabbed to death 6 years later!
The debate over whether or not DeSalvo was the Strangler continued, with some of those convinced that he was indeed guilty pointing to how he had the childhood that is typical of many serial killers, including a violent and abusive father and a history of torturing animals. In 2013, his body was exhumed to obtain a DNA sample which definitely connected him to the most recent of the “Boston Strangler” murders. Still, there are those who claim there had to have been more than one killer.
DeSalvo and the moniker of “The Boston Strangler” are continuously popping up in cultural references from movies such as the 1968 film The Boston Strangler (starring Tony Curtis), to books, television allusions (even The Sopranos), rock and roll songs, the name of a rock group and even a character in the video game Silent Hill 4.
The most bizarre historical event stemming from the “Boston Strangler” phenomenon has to be the Texas state legislature’s passing of a resolution in 1971 honoring Albert DeSalvo for his work in “population control!” Apparently, the resolution had been presented as an April Fools’ prank, but the oblivious legislators blindly passed it anyway. Such actions make one wonder what else they pass without knowing what they are doing! Question for students (and subscribers): What is the most ridiculous resolution your state legislature has ever passed? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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To learn more about the Boston Strangler, please read:
Hoblin, Paul. The Boston Strangler (Unsolved Mysteries). Essential Library, 2012.
Rogers, Alan. The Boston Strangler (New England Remembers). Commonwealth Editions, 2006.
For more on The Boston Strangler’s popular culture depictions, see…
Fleischer, Richard, dir. The Boston Strangler. 20th Century Fox, 2004. DVD.
Murakoshi, Suguru. Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami, 2004. PlayStation 2.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – Strangler Bureau of DeSalvo after escaping Bridgewater State Hospital and being caught in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1967, is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
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