Albert DeSalvo was born in Massachusetts
, the son of a violent alcoholic who was physically and sexually abusive, beating his wife and often forcing the children to watch him have sex with prostitutes. DeSalvo was a troubled child, and at an early age took to torturing animals and engaging in petty larceny. His first arrest came at the age of twelve, when he was arrested for battery and robbery, and sent to a reform school for a further charge of robbery, from which he was paroled the following year. He was returned to the reform school two years later after stealing a car. Following his release at the age of 17 he joined the army, from which he was honourably discharged. While stationed in Germany
he met a German woman named Irmgard, and married her. He re-enlisted after this first discharge, and was eventually court-martialed. Despite this, he was honourably discharged again. He had returned to America by this point, and continued to have brushes with the law, including a charge for sexually assaulting a child which was eventually dropped. He moved his family to Boston
In Boston he established a ruse in which he posed as a fashion photographer and asked young women to allow him to take their measurements in order to see if they would fit the requirements for a modelling contract. This ruse was fairly successful, and he was able to have sex with a number of his victims; at this point he gained his first nickname: "The Measuring Man". He also began breaking and entering, for which he was arrested several times. In 1961 he was arrested again, and gave an unsolicited confession to the Measuring Man assaults. He was ultimately sentenced to eleven months, and released in April of 1962. In mid-June of 1962 the first Boston Strangler murdered occurred, with the sexual assault and strangling of a 55-year-old woman. Between this point and early January of 1964 a further 12 women were murdered in a similar way, most of them sexually assaulted in their homes, strangled with an article of clothing and then posed. The ages of the victims ranged between 19 and 85. After the final known Strangler victim was discovered, DeSalvo began a different series of crimes, becoming a serial rapist identified as "The Green Man", dressing as a workman and randomly selecting female victims. Using this ruse he would gain entry to the house of the woman and sexually assault them. He was first identified in relation with these crimes in late October of 1964, and was arrested soon after. After being arrested, he confessed to a number of the Green Man rapes. He was sent to a mental health facility, where he confessed to a cellmate that he was the Boston Strangler. Initially declared competent to stand trial, he began claiming that he was experiencing hallucinations, and was promptly returned to the hospital, where he was declared incompetent. He continued confessing to the cellmate, who alerted his own lawyer. The lawyer asked DeSalvo a series of questions to ascertain his guilt in the case of the stranglings. DeSalvo hoped to translate his involvement to the crimes into fame and wealth. He began confessing to police after receiving a guarantee that the confessions would not be used against him. Despite this, police were unable to connect DeSalvo to the crimes with anything aside from his word. Because of this, he never went to trial, and to this day no one has ever been convicted for the stranglings.
DeSalvo was tried for the Green Man cases, however, with the trial beginning in January of 1967 and concluding eight days later. He plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but was found to be both sane and guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison. In February of 1967, while awaiting transport to prison, he escaped from the mental hospital along with two other inmates. He made it to the city of Lynn before being recaptured the next day. He was sent to a maximum security prison, then called Walpole, now Cedar Junction. Prison life was not easy for him. He got involved in the production of women's jewelry in order to make money, specializing in chokers. However, he was a walking target among the other inmates, many of whom hated him. He was stabbed to death in his cell on November 25th, 1973 at the age of 42. His murder remains unsolved.
In Other Media
Albert DeSalvo has had a prominent place in popular culture, most of them assuming his guilt for the stranglings. He appears in the highly fictionalized 1968 movie The Boston Strangler
, where he is played by Tony Curtis. He also appears in spirit in the episode entitled "Strangler" from the the television series American Gothic
; he is played by Gareth Williams. A waxwork figure of him comes to life and sings along with a number of other killers in the television series Psychoville
, episode "Joy". Killings based on the stranglings feature in the 1995 film Copycat
and the Rizzoli & Isles
episode "Boston Strangler Redux". Songs based on or referencing him include "Midnight Rambler" by The Rolling Stones
, "Dedicated to Albert DeSalvo- Sadist and Mass Murderer" by Whitehouse, "Boston Strangler" by Church of Misery, and "God Bless" by Combichrist