The Boston Strangler & Me by
25
(29 Stories)

Prompted By Broadcast News

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In the late winter of 1963 our town was rocked by a sex murder two streets from my house. On a normal weekday afternoon our quiet suburb became part of one of the biggest news stories of our time.

One day murder came to town

Between 1962 and 1964 thirteen women ages 19 to 85 were strangled in and around Boston. When murder came to our town, eight had been killed over the previous nine months. With each murder the media coverage grew more intense. Our local story went national.

It is hard to overestimate the terror women felt during this time, especially vulnerable women who lived alone in the city. A friend’s story illuminates.

In 1963 my brother’s classmate “Mike” had a summer job with a rug company. Mike had the massive physique of the linebacker he had been coupled with the tender nature of the minister’s son he was.

One morning he and his crew drove in to Boston to pick up a rug for cleaning.  Mike had brought along a thick rope for the task. When he entered the building he heard a stifled scream. It came from an older woman cowering behind her apartment door. Mike, rope in hand, started moving toward her — Lady, is there anything wrong? Can I help you, Lady?–which elicited a louder scream this time and a No! No! as she slammed her door and locked it. Police cars swarmed the area just as the truck was pulling away. Mike laughs about it now, but at the time it was no joke.

………….

“Our” murder shocked us silent. We didn’t talk about it at school or at home. I averted my eyes when we drove past the murder house, which was visible from the main street. I devised a new route of walking to avoid the place. It was all inescapably horrible.

Although it was revealed later that “our” strangler’s modus operandi matched The Strangler’s, authorities arrested, convicted and dispatched to prison a black handyman who had been sent out that day to clean the woman’s house. At the time it seemed plausible he had committed the crime, but a woman we knew who knew him said he could not have done.

A  Malden family man was arrested in 1964 on other charges. In 1965 he confessed to the 13 Strangler killings–but not to ours. In his 2006 book Sebastian Junger makes a compelling case for this man’s having been our murderer. He reveals that “Al” was working construction at Junger’s family’s residence in town before, after and on that day.

Oh, and before I conclude: Mike’s family’s home backed up to the murder house.

Eight months later the President was assassinated. It was a terrible year. I will remember it always, not least because the girl I was realized there would be no sure safe place.

————-

If you’re coming over tonight ring the doorbell, will you please? The door is always locked.

Profile photo of Susan Bennet Susan Bennet
I'm so happy to have joined the gracious Retro family. The basics:
I have a background in marketing and museums.
I come alive when the leaves turn red.
I regret every tech mistake I have made or will ever make on this site.
I want a dog.



Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wow, super-creepy story, Susan. I grew up in Detroit and there was an overgrown Gothic-style house down the street that we were sure was haunted, but we had NOTHING like you describe. Detroit, at least my neighborhood, was still safe and tame while I lived there. How terrible to have the murder coincide with the Boston Strangler’s outings, but not be done by him! Very scary, indeed. And you’ve let the story unfold in a frightening manner as well. I have goose bumps.

    • Susan Bennet says:

      Thanks, Betsy.

      But that’s the thing: it now looks like it must have been “Al” (I prefer not to use his full name) and not “Roy” the handyman, but the more you read about the Strangler case the more confounding it becomes. And then F. Lee Bailey gets into the mix.

      Like your haunted house, our “murder” house just stood there, uninhabited, for a number of years. I sometimes think they should have torn it down.

  2. Marian says:

    Very sobering and scary, Susan, hard to imagine what you must have felt. I imagine the news only amplified the fear at the time, but this was so close to home, you didn’t need amplification.

    • Susan Bennet says:

      Thanks, Marian. At first it seemed impossible that this could happen in our town. In the first few days we assumed it must be The Strangler. And then we were told it was not. And now, with Junger’s book, it looks like it was. I highly recommend the book. There is a scene that will take your breath away, having to do with Junger’s mother.

  3. Thanx Susan for your story, however unsettling, and of course the news these days is horrifyingly bloodier.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    So true that there are no safe spaces, especially these days. The 4th of July parade shooting in Highland Park, IL took place in a suburb to the north of ours. I know lots of people there, including some who were at the parade but thankfully escaped the slaughter. It was eerie to watch the media coverage from a place I know.

  5. Suzy says:

    Wow, Susan, this is quite a story! Love the part about your brother’s friend trying to pick up a rug for cleaning and terrifying the woman who lived there. As you say, funny now, but not so much then.

  6. Susan Bennet says:

    Thank you, Suzy. “Mike” is still a lovely man, quiet the intellect in a wrestler’s body (though I called him a linebacker, let’s just say “big guy”). Thank goodness our area has seen nothing like this series of crimes over the past 60 (!) years.

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    That does sound traumatic, and I’m sure women were afraid to go out–just as they are still in lots of situations. I was just down visiting my sister for her birthday when the recent shooting near Indianapolis was reported—one of the guests was from the town and had to call to see if her mother were okay. Doesn’t seem like it has gotten any safer since the Strangler terrified everyone.

    • Susan Bennet says:

      Actually, I think women were afraid to be home…
      Re the friend’s call home, isn’t it sobering how close to us violence can be. I imagine social scientists have analyzed the causes of what made and makes crime a commonplace in our country. Too much change in too short a period of time? A loss of civic cohesiveness? Family disruption? It is a lot to contemplate.

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