That night was back in the early '70s, when I was
young and idealistic and dumb as dirt. I was a student
at Boston University when the guards went on strike
at Walpole prison, Massachusetts's infamous
maximum-security joint. With the guards gone and the National
Guard waiting outside, poised for trouble, I, along
with a dozen or so other do-gooders, volunteered to go
inside the prison one night as "civilian observers."
<br><br>In other words, I was locked inside the state's most
notorious penitentiary with nobody to protect me from
hundreds of the state's most vicious felons. Good Lord,
what was I thinking? <br><br>Fortunately, the
prisoners, hoping to win public sympathy, were on their best
behavior. I was chatting with a couple of cons when a short
guy with curly black hair and a big nose walked up.
<br><br>"Hi," he said, "I'm Albert DeSalvo, the Boston
Strangler." <br><br>I shook the hand of the man who'd
confessed to killing 13 women in the infamous Boston
Strangler slayings of the early '60s, thus inspiring a
best-selling book and a movie starring Tony Curtis. <br><br>He
reached out and pulled my shirt collar open and mimed a
studious appraisal of my throat. "Nice neck," he said.
<br><br>Everybody laughed and then DeSalvo and I chatted. He told
me he was running a lucrative business making
"choker necklaces" and selling them in the prison gift
shop. Occasionally, women came to the prison for
dances, he said, and he enjoyed waltzing them across the
floor, then handing them a card that read:
"Congratulations! You have just danced with the Boston Strangler."
<br><br>He got a kick out of being an infamous killer and I
got a kick out of telling the story of my chat with
him, particularly after he was murdered in prison in
1973. But now Talk magazine has published a piece by
veteran crime reporter Gerald Posner that makes a
convincing case that DeSalvo might not have been the
Strangler. <br><br>There was always some doubt about
DeSalvo's story because he was never tried for the
Strangler murders. He was a serial rapist serving a life
sentence when he confessed to being the Strangler. The
cops interviewed him, concluded that he knew details
about the crimes that only the murderer would know, and
then declared the case closed. <br><br>But last
spring, DeSalvo's family and the family of one of the
Strangler's victims petitioned the state to reopen the case.
That inspired Posner to investigate. He interviewed
dozens of people and obtained thousands of pages of
files on the case as well as one of DeSalvo's taped
confessions. He concludes that the original investigation was
"badly botched" and that there are "serious questions"
about whether DeSalvo committed all--or any--of the 13
murders. <br><br>"The vast majority of [the information
in] DeSalvo's confessions could easily have come from
other sources," he writes. "Of those things that only
the murderer could know, DeSalvo was wrong more often
than he was right." <br><br>Posner does not try to
push his conclusions further than the evidence allows.
But he suggests that DeSalvo's prison buddy,
convicted murderer George Nassar, might be the real
Strangler. In a rather chilling interview, Nassar denies the
charge. <br><br>Why would DeSalvo confess to heinous
crimes he didn't commit? One reason was money: He hoped
to get rich off the book, although his lawyer, F.
Lee Bailey, took DeSalvo's $ 15,000 cut for legal
expenses. Another reason was fame: "He really did like
being the Strangler," says his brother Richard. "He
needed to be the center of attention." <br><br>That
jibes with the DeSalvo I met. And now it looks as if my
encounter with an infamous psycho killer might have been
merely a brief chat with a demented wannabe.