The Shadows of Albert DeSalvo
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Dedicated family man or psychotic rapist ...
extraordinary con or simple dupe ... promising trooper with the 2-14
ACR or brutal serial killer responsible for the deaths of thirteen
women in greater Boston in the early 1960s ... the life of Albert
DeSalvo is largely a series of unanswered questions. He admitted to
the murders in great detail but was never charged. The arc of his
life included a brutal childhood and a violent death. He claimed to
love his wife more than life itself; his confessions to murder
recalled rape without anger and murder without hate. He is the only
trooper to pass through Daley Barracks and have a movie made about
his life; he liked the fact that Tony Curtis was cast in the central
Thirty-one years after he was murdered in a Massachusetts high
security prison, Albert DeSalvo, the "Boston Strangler" is still the
subject of controversy, court fights and mystery. The dead never
rest easily in affairs such as these; recently, both Albert and one
of his victims were exhumed for medical examination and to extract
DNA samples. Albert admitted to the murders in excruciating detail
but was never convicted of these crimes. His plan, built with
careful coaching from both celebrity criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey
and George Nasser, a fellow inmate many consider the real killer,
was to provide for his family by selling the rights of his infamous
story to Hollywood and to escape a possible death sentence for a
long string of brutal rapes by pleading guilty as a serial killer.
If he was deranged, the state could not execute him and he planned
to spend his life as the subject of study in a mental institution.
He had been a model cavalry trooper, numerous times, the top soldier
at inspection and designated as the "Colonel’s Orderly". With a
photographic memory, in 1951, he could recite Army regulations and
all the special orders of the recon battalion. Years later, the same
memory recalled the most trivial aspects of the murder crime scenes.
Did he actually remember what had occurred or was he reciting facts
provided by Nasser? On occasion, there were errors in his
statements, the same errors appeared in the gruesome tabloid
newspaper accounts of the murders that he may have read. He was a
champion Army boxer with a charming personality, a broad smile and a
fast left hook. He had overcome a horrific youth, was a skilled
handy-man and a serial rapist. He loved his wife and in the modern
medical vocabulary, was a psycho-sexual serial predator. Was he also
the murderer of thirteen women?
We are not going to retell all the circumstances of the life and
crimes of Albert DeSalvo or explore the theories that he was, or was
not, the "Boston Strangler" in this piece. It is a long and
complicated story, many books have been written on this topic, the
average length, 300 pages. Two of the best, The Boston Strangler, by
Gerold Frank and The Boston Stranglers, by Susan Kelly carefully
sift and review the vast evidence and come to completely opposite
conclusions as to whether Albert was the murder. Frank asserts that
Albert did it, Kelly allows that Albert may have murdered one or two
of the women but by no means was responsible for thirteen deaths.
Both authors provide compelling cases built to support their
On the Internet, a fast moving and sufficiently detailed study of
Albert, the murders and possible culpability can be found here:
At a different web site, a shorter version may be found here. This
site makes reference to Albert’s possible homosexuality and is the
only source to make that claim. Almost all print sources agree that
Albert was "hyper-sexualized".
In this Hidden Story, our efforts are to bring fresh light to some
of those aspects of the story that were not deeply researched. We
provide details, images and updates related to the very early days
of Albert Desalvo and his time in a Massachusetts reform school,
then working on Cape Cod followed by service in the Army to include
duty with the 2-14 ACR in Schweinfurt and Bad Kissingen. Authors
Kelly and Frank touch on these areas but because the events did not
directly relate to the serial murders, their coverage was brief. We
conclude with the intersection of Albert, the Internet and the on
line auction business. If fame has a price and infamy can be sold to
the highest bidder, what were Albert’s last letters and prison made
gifts, sent to a teen age girl in the year immediately prior to his
murder, worth? Crime finally did pay but who cashed the check?
Through much of this, we are searching for a last glimpse of
Albert’s shadow, in state and university archives, in decaying
buildings and in minds of men who knew him.
The Lyman School, Westboro, Massachusetts:
The Noble Dream and a Grim Reality
Massachusetts considered itself a pioneering state for municipal
operated training and reform schools designed to intervene in the
lives of youths before they would fall into the adult system of
crime, punishment and corrections. State mandated training schools
and "reform schools" were established and funded through the later
half of the 19th century as replacements for failed poor houses,
farm and ship based prisons and youth jails that had served the
state’s population of juvenile offenders, orphans, outcast children
and troubled adolescents. Powered by the dreams of reformers and
laws passed by the legislature, with the most noble ideals, the
state crafted a system doomed to produce at best, marginal results.
The Lyman School, in Westborough Massachusetts was a first in the
nation boys facility beginning operations in 1860 based on a
communal cottage system for troubled male children as pioneered in
France. The state mandated goal was to separate juvenile offender
children from the cities, seen as breeding grounds for crime, and in
the country, under blue skies and in the farm fields, provide one
more chance to grow into productive citizens. The environment was to
include a formal educational program, vocational training,
counseling, productive work, recreation and religious worship. A
safe but disciplined world, controlled by caring adults, not quite a
prison camp but certainly not a children’s Summer camp.
Departing from the centralized, institutional wards seen in the
failed earlier Massachusetts reform school, the boys and teens were
to live in groups of 25-35 in a "home" type environment under the
stern but fair oversight of a "cottage master" and his small staff
of assistants and matrons. This was a large scale operation for
Massachusetts, at peak capacity, there were over 350 beds. Other
state schools stressed nautical training and "industrial training"
but Lyman was to be the leader in terms of new approaches. The
system could accommodate children as young as seven years and
thousands passed through its doors while in operation.
The campus existed on a hill looking into broad valleys to both the
north and south. In 1945, the area was rural and farming was still
an active part of the local economy. The campus was built in a
series of tiers ascending one side of Powder Hill. Storage, support
buildings, the power plant and the superintendent's residence were
at the lower level. Still near the base and running back towards
Lake Chauncy were the farm buildings in support of the nearby fields
and orchards that made up the school agriculture program as well as
a small group of staff residences. Towards the middle and top of the
hill were the brick residence "cottages". These had been built over
the years primarily through the labor of the Lyman boys. Also in the
mix, a school, an administration building, assembly building, parade
field and clinic. While the prisons and state mental hospitals built
in this era featured massive buildings with cell blocks or patient
wards in long radiating wings, Lyman represented a very early
attempt at the "group home concept" in a non institutional setting.
It was designed to resemble a typical New England village to include
an indoor roller skating rink.
The records of the Lyman School are held in the Massachusetts State
Archives and the holding abstract indicates that the majority are
client files, sealed by state law. What operational records were
saved are a mixture of documents running from 1840 to the early
1960s. In 1988, however, James G. Leaf, a candidate in the Ph. D.
program in the School of Education at Harvard University wrote his
thesis on the history of the staff organization of Lyman School. His
thoroughly researched work, based on interviews with former staff
members, extensive readings and analysis of surviving reports sent
from the Lyman and located in other state agency historical files
allows us to create an image of the reform school as Albert DeSalvo
Albert DeSalvo at the Lyman School
After a series of early brushes with the law, Albert DeSalvo was
removed from his home in Chelsea, a working class city just north of
Boston and sent, like his brother a few years earlier, to the Lyman
School in Westborough in December 1943. Albert was just thirteen at
the time and had previously received a suspended sentence to Lyman.
His home life had been particularly difficult, his father
sadistically beat his wife and children, brought home a string of
prostitutes and had taught Albert to shoplift. The police and social
workers knew the home address very well. About thirty miles west of
Boston, rural Westborough and the Lyman school must have seemed like
a different planet as he arrived.
Albert’s first stop was for a two or three week period at the Lyman-Chauncy
cottage, one of the oldest buildings on the campus, it served as the
initial in-processing point for those arriving. This entry phases
was to familiarize the youth with the many daily routines that
allowed Lyman to function and also, provide time for an extensive
series of interviews, psychological and intelligence related tests
to assess how the school could best address the needs of this
particular client. Some appropriate combination of academic and
pre-vocational training goals was to be determined as well as the
number of "credits" the individual needed to attain to qualify for
parole consideration. That was the plan.
The reality was that both constant budget shortfalls and severe
staff loses related to the war years had turned Lyman into little
more than a very productive, low security prison farm. The staff had
lost the key psychiatrist who could accurately interview a newly
arriving boy. The psychologist was also gone, all that remained of
the assessment team was a staff pychometrician, skilled at giving a
vast battery of tests but of very limited further clinical value.
Dr. Leaf points out that during this period at Lyman, the annual
reports that once proudly detailed the psychological testing and
counseling system, contained very little information on the mental
health programs at the school because they had become virtually non
existent. If there were any indicators to what Albert was, or was to
become, that could have been identified by some level of
psychological screening, the opportunity was missed at Lyman.
Following the in-processing period, Albert would have been assigned
to one of the residential cottages.
The nine stone and brick cottages, individual home style
dormitories, were built in two waves, through the early years of the
twentieth century and into 1930s. Each featured a distinctive New
England name, Oak, Westview, Sunset and Worcester for example. The
top floor had open bay sleeping quarters, the second floor contained
the staff quarters of the "cottage master", the adult overseer of
all cottage activities. The ground floor held communal areas for
dining, recreation and socialization, the basement had cold water
shower-latrine area, changing rooms and at least one detention cell.
One particularly remote cottage, Riverview, the only wood frame
building in the group, was closed whenever possible because the time
and distance always interfered with the otherwise clockwork
scheduling that organized each day. One cottage was used as a
"disciplinary home", one was reserved for children who had been
classified as clinically retarded or having a particularly low IQ.
Elms cottage was reserved for the oldest teenagers. There were no
fences and beyond the cottage overnight staffs, only a sufficient
watch force to prevent outside theft or vandalism was present during
the night hours.
In the cottages, the "cottage master" ruled all aspects of life by
combination of force of character, guile, experience and brute
strength. The most successful were those who knew how to maintain
order for the then average population of 35-45 delinquent boys with
a glance or a word rather than constant beatings. Corporal
punishment was allowed at Lyman when Albert was there; it ran from
slaps to clinched fists to a ruler across the back of the hand to
flogging with a bicycle inner tube nailed to a wooden handle. For
assistance, the master had a thin staff of matrons, an assistant, a
night relief and "house boys", Lyman trustees or underage parolees
with no where else to go. From start of day at 0500 to lights out at
2000, the cottage master was responsible for all aspects of life
except for when the boys were turned over to the school or work
There is no known record to which residence cottage Albert was
assigned. All aspects of Lyman life were structured, running on
familiar patterns with military precision made life somewhat easier
for both boys and staff. Nevertheless, the master needed to be
constantly vigilant for bullying and abuse by older teens of younger
cottage residents. DeSalvo would have been no easy prey in that
environment. As a middle teenager, Albert would have been at about
the average age for Lyman boys. He certainly knew how to take care
of himself and in determining cottage pecking order, one cannot
imagine DeSalvo anywhere but near the top.
During the war years, the formal educational part of the Lyman
School had virtually ceased to exist. Academic classroom training
was to have occurred in both the early morning and afternoon but the
program had all but collapsed during the war due to staff shortages
and the need to insure that the farm was as productive as possible.
Likewise, the pre vocational programs that Lyman was mandated to
provide also ended as most of the instructors went off to war. The
only major program that survived, in fact expanded, was the farm
program. Always intended to help control costs and make the school
self sufficient, the farm, with minimal supervision and requiring
only a few hired "experts" was an ideal program to occupy the Lyman
boys for long, productive hours. Notably, the food at Lyman was
always recalled as plentiful and of sufficient variety. The boys
were fed all meals at the cottages in the communal setting, the food
delivered after preparation at the school’s central kitchen.
When Albert DeSalvo arrived in January 1944, the agricultural work
would have been done for that year. The major occupations in the
Winter months were building repair projects, snow shoveling as
needed and shoveling coal for all the buildings. The oil heat
systems had been converted back to coal fired boilers as a wartime
austerity measure. Tons of coal and ash were handled by the cottage
residents. Using hand carts and wheel barrows, the boys and teens
made the round trip haul from the Westborough town railroad siding
up the long hill to the school, a total distance of over three
miles. As Spring arrived, Albert would have gone to the fields and
orchards in the blue work pants, suspenders and work shirt that was
the standard state supplied uniform. Movements around the school
area were almost always done in long lines of pairs at the "convict
shuffle", not a run but more than a walk. The steam whistle signals
at the power house helped control an already well regimented day.
The whistle also signaled the staff of individual or group escapes.
Residents of the surrounding towns could earn a dollar or two bounty
by apprehending a boy and calling the school.
Life at Lyman for DeSalvo could have stark contrasts. On the one
hand, in many respects, it resembled a youth prison without walls
more than at any other time in its history. With the loss of staff
to the war, Dr. Leaf notes that reading between the lines of the
Superintendent’s Official Reports, it was clear that runaways, mass
escapes, riots and assaults were not uncommon. Even with the demands
of the farm, however, there still were periods of free time and the
school offered a gym, pool and under funded but probably still
available programs such as the chorus, games and sports programs.
The cottage masters enforced discipline but also tried to play a
positive role in the lives of the boys by structuring enjoyable
activities for the few available hours of free time. Each boy
received a daily ration of cigarettes distributed to the group one
at a time. Staff insured that if 25 were given out, 25 butts and
spent matches were collected at the end of the break.
Albert DeSalvo reached his required number of credits for parole in
November 1944. Credits were earned for each month spent at Lyman,
125 for the first month and then 145 each successive month and, in
theory, for successful participation in the education, counseling
and vocational programs. With these virtually gone during the war,
credits may have accumulated for not creating trouble on the work
details. His stay, seven months, seems just at the longer end of
what would have been normally expected. Whether he was a discipline
problem or lost credits at some point is unknown. Throughout his
life, DeSalvo seemed adaptable and easily fit into a regimented
environment. He returned home to Chelsea and found a much improved
domestic situation. His brutal father was gone and Albert returned
to public school, a series of part time jobs and eventually, his
life of petty crime.
In August, 1946, despite many positive developments in his life,
DeSalvo was remanded to Lyman for a second time, the offense was car
theft. Reverend Robert Brown, Lyman School Chaplain from the late
1950s until the school closed, doubts that any second in-processing
would have occurred. The long standing policy was that someone
returning to the school would have been placed in an age appropriate
cottage without further testing or screening. Dr. Leaf did not write
in depth on the immediate post war period at Lyman, in all
probability, the school was still on the war years budget with
limited staff. Not until the opening of the Gabler Center in Waltham
as a youth oriented psychiatric center and a legislature mandated
major attempt at reform in 1947, were there any reported significant
positive changes from the war years version of Lyman.
Albert briefly escaped in September and was returned. One would
expect another seven or eight month period at Lyman with eligibility
for parole in March or April. Rather, Albert is back in Chelsea
months early. There is no apparent reason for this fast return. In
The Boston Stranglers, Kelly speculates that the staff at Lyman
found a way to expedite his departure. In his thesis, Dr. Leaf never
reports encountering patterns of early release from the school
although the post war years saw a burgeoning client load. The state
made sure that while it was fairly easy to be remanded to Lyman,
return to society would occur only when the necessary number of
credits were earned. If a Lyman boy felt he could either intimidate
the staff or create such trouble as to earn parole so the school
would be free of him, this was a serious miscalculation. At any
rate, Albert once again went to public school and finally graduated
from the ninth grade, one of his major goals, in the Spring of 1948.
Could the Lyman School have made any potential difference in the
outcome of Albert DeSalvo’s life? The answer is probably "no". Even
in the middle 1930s, when for a few rare years, the school had a
strong mental health staff and reasonable funding, there never was
the luxury of in-depth individualized therapy programs and DeSalvo
apparently exhibited no psychotic or other mental health related
symptoms of particular note. The in-processing staff had been
successful in shunting truly dangerous youths or those clearly
mentally ill into the prison system or to Bridgewater State Hospital
respectively, in the pre war years. With the war years staff
reductions, both the dangerously mentally ill as well as feeble
minded were allowed into the normal Lyman population. The staff made
efforts to at least segregate them to their own distant cottage.
What Lyman did provide Albert DeSalvo was an opportunity to get into
great physical shape through many hours of hard, manual labor. He
had the chance to hone his fighting skills, Albert certainly was
never afraid to take "matters into his own two fists" and in the
boy’s pecking order of cottage life, although he was not an imposing
figure, he learned the advantages of being the "top dog". Finally,
he received a lengthy and early exposure to a regimented life very
similar to the US Army. All of this paid dividends in 1948. Albert
DeSalvo, later in his life, through the investigations, "Green Man"
serial rape trial and subsequent imprisonment, was always willing to
talk to any reporter or detective that passed by. As to the Lyman
School, his flat comment was, "I hated that place and all the time I
was there, I kept saying to myself that I was going to get into the
Army and go overseas, as far away from Chelsea, Boston and Lyman as
I could get.".
Cape Cod, Harwich, Massachusetts
The Summer Sun
The Summer of 1948 found Albert and an older brother working in the
resort area of Cape Cod. The story becomes confusing as the two
major authors, Kelly and Franks, provide remarkably different
accounts of the period. Susan Kelly, convinced that Albert was not
guilty of the serial killings briefly covers this period,
"... and spent the Summer of 1948 working as a waiter in a sandwich
shop on Cape Cod.".
On the other hand, Gerold Frank goes into much more lurid detail as
he builds the psycho-sexual case of Albert as the murderer,
"... upon graduating in June, 1948, from Williams School, he took a
summer job as a dishwasher in a Cape Cod motel. He spent most of his
spare time on the roof, from where he could look directly into some
of the rooms and see couples making love. Watching, he would relieve
himself by repeated masturbation. He had been an involuntary voyeur
during his childhood: since puberty voyeurism had become a regular
means of sexual stimulation and fulfillment.".
Certainly a strong statement but where did Franks get this very
detailed story? His book provides no set of end notes or sources but
this was common in the middle 1960s. Susan Kelly’s book came to
print twenty years later and while not annotated in the academic
sense, does list her primary and secondary sources. Embellished or
not, much of the Gerold Franks book seems to particularly emphasize
the narrative to support the Albert as sex driven murder theme. In
Harwich, where ½ million dollars will now buy a small beach home, no
memory of DeSalvo is recalled by the local historians. The telephone
book at the historical society from that period records several
different hotels and motels as well as four different coffee shops.
That Fall, with a waiver of his most recent parole from Lyman, he
joined the Army.
Albert Desalvo, US Cavalry Trooper
Schweinfurt and Bad Kissingen
The 1952 14th Reconnaissance Regiment unit yearbook features no
recognizable photos of trooper Albert DeSalvo. Fully ½ of the
soldiers appear to be absent from the company group photographs. The
end of the yearbook does, however, include a full list of all
soldiers assigned to the Regiment as of the printing date and their
homes of record. Albert DeSalvo appears on that list.
We talked with nine troopers from the 2 Battalion, 14th
Reconnaissance Regiment who were in Germany during Albert DeSalvo’s
period. In their early seventies now, they were Albert’s
contemporaries, interestingly, many were also from the New England.
We heard great stories of the very early days of the unit in
Schweinfurt and then Bad Kissingen. Tanks that wouldn’t start and
then ... wouldn’t stop, gunnery training and the first jeep patrols
on the border, one trooper so enjoyed the area that after his
enlistment was over and he left the Army, he caught the first
passenger ship back to Germany and moved into Bad Neustadt for five
years. His new German wife’s family ran a Gasthaus, he drank beer
every day at 1600 and watched the US scouts go by. The unit was big
and busy and none of the first men we reached recalled DeSalvo.
Fifty years is a long time but then we found two men who did
remember. One asked that after all these years, his name not be
"I recall those days very well, I was with the unit from 1951-1953.
We came over on the troop ship Alexander Patch, got off at
Bremerhafen and then by train to Schweinfurt. The city was still in
bad shape, I was assigned to Recon Company F as an infantryman. We
had the ½ track carrier and once we made the move to Bad Kissingen,
we did all the regular training and helped the scouts on the border.
Those were interesting times."
"Albert DeSalvo was in my company and I won’t say he was my friend
but I do recall him. In the 14th Cavalry, the unit sports thing was
really big and I participated in as many events as I could,
football, basketball and boxing in particular. I guess I was best as
a boxer and recall DeSalvo from that sports program. I think he was
kind of a "loner", maybe just a regular guy but he sure could box.
He was a left handed fighter and not a big guy, maybe 5 ‘ 10"or so
but he could fight."
"We boxed with the amateur rules, three minute rounds without
headgear, three rounds and then a decision. We tried to train as
much as possible, in the infantry squad with the border and all,
sometimes it was difficult. I guess I did good in the preliminary
bouts, went on to represent the company in my weight class. DeSalvo
never had any trouble in his class and became the company-then
battalion-then maybe regimental champion as well, I guess as a
"I think he was a tanker, I don’t remember him on the border with
the scouts and he wasn’t with me in the infantry. The tankers didn’t
go to the border so maybe that gave him more time to train."
Some written reports recall DeSalvo rising to the EUCOM boxing
champion for his weight class. Authors Kelly and Franks did not
pursue this period in any detail. Another trooper, who requested
that his name not be used also recalled Albert DeSalvo in the Bad
"I came to know DeSalvo in the Germany, he was in the armored
cavalry with me, different company. I guess I first was aware of him
as a boxer. The ‘ Friday night fights ‘ were a big event for us at
the barracks. There were a series of preliminary fights as each
company determined its champions, then they boxed to find the
battalion level champs and so on. It stretched out over several
weeks and was very popular. DeSalvo was a left handed fighter, a ‘
south-paw ‘ and certainly knew his way in the ring ... maybe he even
had a job in the gym, something makes me think he did."
"Later, I got to ‘ know ‘ him better because I was dating a German
woman in BK and she had a friend who was dating DeSalvo. Now and
then, we went out as couples. He was not a drinker and certainly was
a sharp dresser in those days. I guess you would call him a ‘ real
operator ‘ and what ever you had, he had to do one better. So, if I
had new shoes, he would show up the next time with more expensive
new shoes, that’s the way it was. He certainly was a ‘ ladies man ‘
and could ‘ charm a snake ‘."
"He always turned out in a perfect uniform for guard duty, and many
times got the job of being on the roving jeep patrol that would keep
watch on the troops who had passes to go into BK. I guess as a
champion boxer with a great uniform, that was a natural choice."
"I wouldn’t say he was a friend, just someone you came to know.
Honestly, I always thought there was something really odd about him.
And, many years later, our paths crossed a few times again in
Boston. I was interviewed by all the police and investigators
working on the murder cases and even some of the newspaper and book
authors. After the fact, one of the investigators told me they even
were checking into unsolved murders and rapes going all the way back
to Bad Kissingen and the early 1950s. I’ll tell you this, writers
can write what they may to sell their books, but there is no doubt
in my mind. Albert DeSalvo was a serial rapist and murderer. He did
the strangler murders and in prison a few years later, he got what
The Bidding is Open
DeSalvo was convicted of a long string of sexual assaults in New
England called the "Green Man rapes" . The name was coined because
victims consistently recalled their attacker wore a green set of
work clothes. He had spent seven and one half years in the Army, had
risen to the grade of sergeant but then, following Bad Kissingen and
the 2-14 ACR, had been reduced in grade in New Jersey for striking
an officer. He had married the German girl he dated in Bad Kissingen
and brought her to America. Back in Boston, a steady string of
construction and handy-man jobs and the life of a serial rapist
began. The first murder attributed to DeSalvo occurred in mid 1962,
twelve more occurred over the next 19 months.
Albert DeSalvo’s confession to the murders was never allowed in
court. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the
rapes and initially was remanded to the state mental hospital prison
at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He had escaped the death sentence and
landed in the high security hospital, seemingly the strategy had
worked, however, Albert soon was bored with the environment and,
much like at the Lyman school several years earlier, planned and
executed an escape. He did not go far, just a few towns over, walked
around for a day or two then called his attorney to arrange being
picked up by the police. The next stop was the maximum security
prison at Walpole.
Massachusetts never went forward with an indictment and trial
against DeSalvo for the serial murders. These were the days before
DNA evidence and there were no witnesses who could place Albert at
any of the crime scenes sufficient to build a solid case. The
prosecution would have been built on Albert’s confessions and
circumstantial evidence. With the "strangler" at Walpole for life,
it just wasn’t worth the expense or political risk. On the books,
technically the investigations are considered " cold cases ", open
At Walpole, DeSalvo was kept in the prison hospital ward, there was
a fear for his life if allowed into the general population. He
adapted well and, in one of the therapy programs, made costume
jewelry for sale in the prison gift shop. His specialty, ear rings
and choker necklaces.
In 1973, Albert DeSalvo was stabbed to death in bed, in the secured
ward of the prison hospital. An amazing coincidence of seven doors
unlocked and two guards conveniently elsewhere created the
opportunity for the murders to have sufficient time and access. They
were twice indicted, twice the jury could not reach a decision.
According to Susan Kelly, one is now free and one remains in prison
on his initial conviction. The murder was generally attributed to
DeSalvo’s involvement with the prison drug ring.
About a year prior to his murder, a local teenage girl began a
series of correspondences with DeSalvo, misguided infatuation on the
one side, the opportunity for the "smooth operator" to reach out to
a young woman on the other. The letters and jewelry gifts collected
by the girl came up for auction at a specialty Internet site a few
years ago; follow this link to view the contents, images and closing
On E Bay, there is a steady string of DeSalvo related items, copies
of the various books written about the "strangler", odd artifacts
and old magazine articles. With limited bidding action, the items
come and go. Each time the Tony Curtis "Boston Strangler" movie is
shown, a very small residual fee is paid to the surviving key actors
and production staff associated with the film. Fifty years after the
crimes, the shadow of Albert Desalvo still scuttles across the floor
and the screen.
Thanks to the following: Harvard University Widner Library, Archives
Office and the Doctoral Thesis of James G. Leaf Ph. D.,
Massachusetts State Archives, Westborough Public Library and
Westborough Historical Society, Harwich Library and Historical
Society and Reverend Robert Brown, last Chaplain of the Lyman
Postscript by Reverend Robert Brown
I was a member of the Lyman School staff from the 1950s until it
closed in 1972 and saw much that went both right and wrong in our
efforts. In that there is virtually nothing about the Lyman School
on the Internet, I would like to write a short epitaph, an end note
to an experiment that so many of us tried to make work.
Lyman, for all its years, was a work in progress. The reformers had
a vision of a desired result for their reforms, but they had no
capacity to develop a game plan to chart the course. They always
believed that a boy could be "made" to reform. We approach these
problems differently now.
It took us a long time to finally see that reform would only come in
a boy’s life when he chose to reform and begin a new path in life.
In the last days of Lyman, we were making progress in creating a
program which coaxed a boy to choose to become a non-delinquent.
Rather than stressing the negatives and rushing to use punishment as
a tool of choice, we struggled to create programs which allowed a
youth to see how great he could become. An example of this was when
we integrated the Outward Bound program to the school. We enrolled
as many boys as possible in the local school systems, created a
cottage solely for them and found meaningful true pre vocational
training and jobs with local businesses and tradesmen. A volunteer
program brought local citizens on to the campus to further provide
enrichment. New training began with educational programs such as
auto shop, weight lifting, the farm Heifer project (the last stand
of the once proud farm program), heavy equipment operation and
maintenance were all added to the mix. Each cottage had a Sunday
School teacher from the community; each boy had a birthday party
celebration, all the local churches were active in trying to help
out. We did much in the last years to combat the new problems of
race and drugs that so dominated the youth services programs of the
1960s. Were there still runaways and fights, yes, had we found new
ways to try and adapt, yes!
I felt we made tremendous strides in the final years although there
were still many problems and programs that did not work well. The
final years of the school saw an ill conceived effort to make the
campus co-educational. But through it all, particularly in the years
of new reforms following World War II, there was steady progress
from what Albert DeSalvo encountered. We were far from perfect and
now new methods have largely replaced state administered programs.
Much of the work is done now by the private sector with supervision
and assistance from social workers and educators. Considering the
past, failed alternatives, the Lyman School program did much more
good than harm, and to this day, I am in contact with boys who
passed through the school on the hill and became wonderful and