Yes, Dr. Hannibal Lecter Was Based on a Real-Life Person Who Did Horrific Things

Dr. Hannibal Lecter may not be an actual person. However, Thomas Harris reportedly got his inspiration from a real-life doctor with a gnarly record.

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Mar. 4 2021, Published 10:26 p.m. ET

Hannibal Lecter
Source: Orion Pictures

There are some movie and TV characters who seem to captivate our imaginations more than others, and they're usually people who aren't the nicest of folks. Tyler Durden in Fight Club, for example. Or the Joker, who has kind of become like the modern version of Hamlet — in a way, it's a role that's become a huge and heavy honor for actors to play. Another infamous cinema character is Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who's been portrayed by several people. But is Hannibal a real person?

Article continues below advertisement

While Dr. Hannibal Lecter isn't exactly real, he is based off of an actual individual.

In the 1960s, writer Thomas Harris was visiting the Topo Chico Penitentiary in Nuevo Leon, Mexico while working on a story for Argosy, which was an American pulp fiction magazine that ran for 96 years, between 1882 and 1978. The 23-year-old Harris was interviewing prisoner Dykes Askew Simmons. Simmons was committed to the prison's mental ward and was sentenced to death for a triple murder, and he bribed a guard to help him escape.

The guard took the money and let Simmons escape — but only temporarily. He shot Simmons during his break instead, double-crossing the prisoner who was expecting the guard to double-cross the prison he worked for. As Simmons laid on the ground, bleeding out, another inmate, Dr. Alfredo Balli Trevino, rushed to his side and not only stopped his bleeding, but treated the gunshot wound, saving his life.

Article continues below advertisement
is hannibal lecter real
Source: Orion Pictures | Marcianosmx

This led Harris to develop an interest in Trevino, and he began seeking permission to interview the doctor. After he did, he learned that Trevino was convicted for murder — he reportedly killed his boyfriend Jesus Castillo Rangel in what was characterized as a "crime of passion" after they had gotten in an argument. The story goes that Rangel had attacked Trevino with a screwdriver and then the doctor administered anesthetic to Rangel's body.

Article continues below advertisement

He then dragged Rangel to a bathtub, and slit his throat and drained all of the blood out of his body. Doesn't really sound like a knee-jerk reaction to someone hitting you with a screwdriver, does it? Trevino then chopped up Rangel's body into small pieces and packed them into a box. He drove to a relative's farm and then asked if he could bury medical waste there, but when another worker on the farm saw the mound, he decided to call the police.

is hannibal lecter real
Source: El periódico El Norte
Article continues below advertisement

Thomas Harris would say that the doctor "had a certain elegance about him," even as he was discussing dismembering his boyfriend in a bathtub. A prison guard said of Trevino to Harris after their interview, "Hombre! He will never leave this place. He is insane."

It turns out that the guard was wrong, however. Trevino was released in the year 2000 and continued to practice medicine, providing healthcare for poor families until he died in 2009. Many people view Trevino's tale as one of personal penance and redemption.

Article continues below advertisement
hannibal lector manhunter brian cox
Source: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Four actors have portrayed Hannibal Lecter in film and TV.

While Anthony Hopkins and Mads Mikkelsen are probably best known for their portrayals of Dr. Lecter, there are other talents who've played the erudite cannibal. Actually, Brian Cox had played Dr. Lecter some five years before Hopkins took on the role in 1986's Manhunter. Gaspard Ulliel would go on to play a teen Dr. Lecter in Hannibal Rising, whereas Mikkelsen would give his rendition of Dr. Lecter in the TV series Hannibal.

Article continues below advertisement

F. Murray Abraham also played a spoof version of Dr. Lecter (Harold Leacher) in Loaded Weapon 1, a spoof movie that contained plenty of bits that lampooned popular culture of the day. And technically, Aaran Thomas also played Lecter as a child in Hannibal Rising.

hannibal mads mikkelsen
Source: NBC

Who's your favorite Dr. Lecter? It's hard to choose for me, quite honestly, but I'm gonna have to go with my man Tony Hopkins. No offense to Mads and Cox.

More from Distractify

Latest FYI News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2023 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.