Hulu's 'Boston Strangler' Approaches a Well-Trodden True-Crime Story From a New Angle

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Mar. 16 2023, Published 10:10 p.m. ET

'Boston Strangler'
Source: Hulu

'Boston Strangler'

After the success of The Dropout, Hulu is once again capitalizing on the true-crime craze with another fictionalized version of a well-known case. However, this particular movie is taking a different approach.

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Boston Strangler isn't focusing on the crimes themselves, though they're of course touched on, but rather two female reporters who connected the various killings. It's a film that addresses the speed bumps created by the male ego. So, is Boston Strangler based on a true story?

'Boston Strangler' is indeed based on a true story.

The press is usually responsible for bestowing a nickname upon a serial killer. For example, according to CBS News, Richard Ramirez was first called Night Stalker by the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. In the early 1960s, Boston was terrorized by a series of horrifying murders that targeted women of all ages and backgrounds. The victims all had one thing in common, they were strangled.

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Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon
Source: Hulu

Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon in 'Boston Strangler'

Two female reporters were the first to suggest these crimes were related and now Hulu is telling their story. Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) were working at the Boston Record American (now Boston Herald) when they "advanced the theory that the crimes were the work of a single killer, whom they dubbed the 'Boston Strangler,'" per Smithsonian Magazine.

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As per usual for the times and let's face it today as well, misogyny got in the way of a very credible idea. Looking back on this time, McLaughlin would later tell The Boston Globe that "an editor disputed the worth of a series on the four dead women, noting that they were ‘nobodies.'" For McLaughlin, that was what drew her to the story. She was also a nobody and referred to herself and these women as "sisters in anonymity."

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The first piece McLaughlin and Cole wrote together about the murders was a bit cheeky though still respectful. Titled Two Girl Reporters Analyze Strangler, it laid out gruesome details of the crimes. Some thought that was a road map to more killings while Cole and McLaughlin thought of this as a means to warn the women of Boston. Regardless, their reporting is widely thought of the best done on the Boston Strangler.

Was the Boston Strangler ever caught?

The quick answer is yes and no. In July 2013, ABC News reported that a "water bottle recovered from a construction site where Tim DeSalvo — whose uncle Albert DeSalvo had confessed to being the internationally notorious Boston Strangler — gave police the DNA evidence they needed to bring closure to a case that has been a mystery for nearly 50 years, murders for which no one has ever been charged."

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Albert DeSalvo
Source: Getty Images

Albert DeSalvo prays in the chapel at Walpole State Prison

Per The Daily News, DeSalvo was in prison on other charges when he confessed to the Boston Strangler murders. He later recanted but the DNA evidence unearthed 50 years later was enough to prove he was in fact the Boston Strangler. So, while he was technically not caught and charged as the Boston Strangler, DeSalvo was still caught.

Boston Strangler will be available to stream on Hulu Friday, March 17, 2023.

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