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Who Was The Real Boston Strangler?

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Boston Strangler.

Hulu’s new Boston Strangler movie suggests several people were behind the real-life Boston Strangler murders, making the question of who the real Boston Strangler was all the more confusing. Boston Strangler follows Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightly), who broke the story of the Boston Strangler with fellow female reporter Jean Cole (Carrie Coon). McLaughlin, Cole, and the Boston Police Department identify several suspects over the course of the film, which roughly covers 1962 to 1965.


Both in the true crime movie Boston Strangler and in real life, Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian) confessed to the 13 Boston Strangler murders. But because there was no physical evidence, DeSalvo was never convicted for the murders, although he served life in prison for other crimes. At the end of Boston Strangler, McLaughlin writes an article suggesting DeSalvo may have killed some of the women, while other men killed the rest, leaving the true crime case a confusing matter when it comes to the perpetrator themselves.

Related: The Best True-Crime Shows Of 2022, According To Rotten Tomatoes

The Boston Strangler’s Real Identity Was Even Less Clear In Real Life

jean cole loretta mclaughlin in boston strangler

Though Boston Strangler leaves the identity of the killer open, it still wraps up the story in a relatively neat bow. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t always work that way, and the mystery of the Boston Strangler is even stranger and more ambiguous in real life, as is often the case with fictionalized true crime stories. As seen in the movie, there were inconsistencies in DeSalvo’s confession, and he may have been coached. He also later recanted his confession completely.

Something that muddies the waters further is that the Boston Strangler’s modus operandi seems to have changed halfway through the killing spree. The first several victims were all elderly, while later victims were suddenly young. And while most of the victims had stockings tied around their necks, some of them did not. There were also similar murders in other cities and states.

For 50 years, there was no evidence linking a specific killer to any of the murders. As Boston Strangler states at the end, DNA analysis in 2013 finally linked DeSalvo to the final Boston Strangler murder, that of Mary Anne Sullivan. Her case is now officially closed and DeSalvo, who was himself killed in 1973, is considered the murderer – but 12 cases remain open.

Why The Boston Strangler Movie’s Multiple Identity Theory Might Be Right

boston strangler man with newspaper

The true crime movie Boston Strangler raises the theory of multiple killers, which has been discussed since early on in the case and might just be the truth. The film proposes that the first few murders of elderly single women could have been committed by one man killing elderly women, while DeSalvo could have then been a copycat killer targeting young women. Other Boston Strangler murders could have been committed by Daniel Marsh, one of DeSalvo’s fellow inmates who supposedly coached him on his confession. Singular murders may have been committed by ex-boyfriends, family members, bosses or strangers, who just knew copying the Boston Strangler would better cover their tracks.

Related: Top 10 Serial Killer Documentaries, Ranked By IMDb Rating

Hulu’s original movie, therefore, accounts for the inconsistencies in DeSalvo’s story, the modus operandi of the killer seemingly changing, and the fact that various suspects were in prison during some of the murders. This theory relies on multiple murderers knowing about the silk stockings tied around most of the victim’s necks, so they could copy that calling card. Ironically, without McLaughlin’s articles, this detail may not have come to light. The identity of the real murderer or murderers will likely never be known, but the Boston Strangler movie’s final hypothesis appears to have the most weight to it.

Next: Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story Sparked An Important True Crime Debate

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