Is Hulu movie Boston Strangler based on a true story?

Boston Strangler -- The film follows Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a reporter for the Record-American newspaper, who becomes the first journalist to connect the Boston Strangler murders. As the mysterious killer claims more and more victims, Loretta attempts to continue her investigation alongside colleague and confidante Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), yet the duo finds themselves stymied by the rampant sexism of the era. Nevertheless, McLaughlin and Cole bravely pursue the story at great personal risk, putting their own lives on the line in their quest to uncover the truth. Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), shown. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.)
Boston Strangler -- The film follows Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a reporter for the Record-American newspaper, who becomes the first journalist to connect the Boston Strangler murders. As the mysterious killer claims more and more victims, Loretta attempts to continue her investigation alongside colleague and confidante Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), yet the duo finds themselves stymied by the rampant sexism of the era. Nevertheless, McLaughlin and Cole bravely pursue the story at great personal risk, putting their own lives on the line in their quest to uncover the truth. Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), shown. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.) /
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Keira Knightley is such a talented actress, and we’re so excited to see her in Hulu‘s new movie Boston Strangler. The film debuts on the streamer Friday, March 17, 2023.

The star takes on the central role of Loretta McLaughlin, a reporter at the Record American newspaper in, you guessed it, Boston, Massachusetts. Carrie Coon as Jean Cole, Alessandro Nivola as Detective Conley, Bill Camp as Commissioner McNamara, Chris Cooper as Jack MacLaine, Morgan Spector, and David Dastmalchian as the titular character round out the cast.

The film, directed by Matt Ruskin, follows Knightley and Coon’s characters, two reporters at the newspaper who are working to figure out just who this murderer is. Loretta is the first journalist who is able to put together that the multiple murders in the area are connected, per the synopsis. But she needs more help, and that comes in the form of her colleague, Jean. As the two women face sexism, they’re not going to give up so easily. Even if this quest to find the answer is putting their lives at risk.

So is this production based on real-life events or is it all fiction? We’ve got the answer for you below!

Is Hulu’s Boston Strangler based on a true story?

The film is based on a true story. There really were two reporters of the same name as the characters. In 1963, the real-life Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole wrote a four-parter about the killer, even though they didn’t know who it was yet. But they were able to make the connection between the murders, and dubbed him “The Boston Strangler.” And it’s also true that Loretta was the first journalist to put the pieces together.

Albert Desalvo, American sex offender and self-confessed ‘Boston Strangler’, just after his escape from mental hospital and subsequent recapture. (Photo by Harry Benson/Getty Images)
Albert Desalvo, American sex offender and self-confessed ‘Boston Strangler’, just after his escape from mental hospital and subsequent recapture. (Photo by Harry Benson/Getty Images) /

Who was the Boston Strangler?

The real man connected with the crimes is Albert DeSalvo. He grew up in an abusive home where his father was an alcoholic, beat DeSalvo and his mother, and would have sex with prostitutes in front of his wife and children, according to PEOPLE. He’s always had some run in with the law, starting from when he was a young teen for battery and robbery.

Before he became the Boston Strangler, he had a couple of other names connected to him. One was “The Measuring Man” because he would pretend to be a scout looking for models. When women let him inside their homes to take measurements, he would touch them inappropriately. Several women reported him and he spent about a year in prison. Then there was “The Green Man.” He broke into women’s apartments dressed in green and sexually assaulted them as they were tied up.

Did they ever catch the Boston Strangler?

In 1962, the murders began. There’s been a total of 13 women ages 19 to 85 who were sexually assaulted and strangled to death, hence giving DeSalvo the nickname. It’s assumed that the women knew him and let him into their homes.

In 1964, DeSalvo was arrested and charged with assault, burglary, and sex offenses, according to PEOPLE. But at that time, authorities didn’t know he was the Boston Strangler yet. Once arrested, it was DeSalvo himself who confessed to the killings. However over the years following the confession, many, including certain District Attorney offices, believed it wasn’t just one person but multiple people behind the killings. While there were certain details DeSalvo got wrong during his confession, there were others no one in the public knew about.

He received a prison for life sentence, but it wasn’t for the charges for being the Boston Strangler. It was for the other three reasons mentioned above due to no evidence proving his confession to be true at the time. However in July 2013, DNA tested between fluid found at the murder of one victim, Mary Sullivan, and DNA from DeSalvo’s nephew turned out to be a match. The strangler died in November 1973 after being stabbed to death by an unknown inmate in prison. He was 42 years old.

The movie Boston Strangler premieres Friday, March 17, 2023 on Hulu.

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