Everyone knows the story of the Boston Strangler. Fewer people know the tale of The Giggler, Boston’s lesser known serial killer. The victims fit no pattern, they were a young boy and girl, a grown man, and an old lady. The Giggler would simply feel what he described as an irresistible urge to kill.
Wonder Woman debuted in a December 1941 issue of All Star Comics, just as the attack on Pearl Harbor was drawing the US into World War II. In the comics, Wonder Woman’s origin story said that she was born to a race of Amazon women from Paradise Island, then disguised herself as the Boston career woman Diana Prince. In real life, Wonder Woman was inspired by early feminist fights for suffrage and access to contraception, and she was the brainchild of one very unique family who called Cambridge home. Wonder Woman drew as much inspiration from pinup girls in Esquire Magazine as she did from the suffragists who chained themselves to the gates of Harvard Yard and the founders of Planned Parenthood. And she was directly inspired by the women in her creator’s life. Her trademark exclamation “Suffering Sappho,” was taken from one of these women, and her looks and bulletproof “bracelets of submission” were taken from the other.
This week, we take an in depth look at the 1919 Boston Police Strike and ensuing riots. In the post-WW1 inflation of the summer of 1919, Boston police officers were earning wages set in 1857. Around the country, workers were striking, while the upper classes feared a Bolshevik-influenced revolution. When 72% of the police force walked off the job, lawlessness ruled in Boston for several days. Governor Calvin Coolidge sent in the state militia, and emerged a hero, paving his way to the White House. Listen to the story!
This week’s episode examines two people who chose to live as hermits in and around Boston. When you think of a hermit, your mental image is probably a monk or an aging eccentric in a cabin in the woods somewhere. But our subjects this week sought out that kind of solitary existence among the hustle and bustle of the growing city of Boston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. James Gately was known as the Hermit of Hyde Park, and Ann Winsor Sherwin was the Hermit of Boston Harbor. Listen to the show to meet these unique characters!
On August 22, 1927, Bartolomeo Sacco and Nicola Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair at Boston’s Charlestown State Prison. They were foreigners, accused of murder and ties to a shadowy terrorist group. Yet there were worldwide protests, and their funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Boston, with as many as 200,000 Bostonians in attendance. On the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths, Governor Dukakis officially cleared their names and declared a day of remembrance for them. How did these men go from hated foreign enemies to victims of a politicized justice system? Find out in this week’s episode!
There is a long history of shipwrecks in Boston Harbor. Many are terrifying, some are tragic. But one shipwreck is such an oddity that Boston hasn’t stopped talking about it for the past 75 years. When a freighter called The City of Salisbury steamed into Boston Harbor in 1938, it was loaded with exotic, tropical zoo animals. When it ran aground near Graves Light, you’ll never guess what happened next!
In 1901, a woman named Jane Toppan was arrested on Cape Cod for murder. By the time she went on trial, she had confessed to killing 31 people in Boston, Cambridge, on the Cape, and around the region, and she’s suspected of killing 100 or more. From a tragic childhood, she grew up to be a nurse. She tortured and murdered her patients in dark experiments, while being praised for her caring bedside manner. Before she was caught, she had graduated to killing entire families. Learn about the life and crimes of Jane Toppan, Nightmare Nurse in this week’s show.
At the end of World War II, the Allied powers raced across Germany, competing to capture technology related to Nazi super-weapons and the scientists who developed them. The US military operated a secret program that located high-value scientists, smuggling them into the US and falsifying their wartime records. For many of the scientists who went on to work on the Manhattan Project or the space race, their first stop in America was a secret base in Boston Harbor.
When an industrial tank collapsed in Boston’s North End in 1919, a wave of molasses destroyed the surrounding neighborhood. 21 people were killed and at least 150 were injured, along with an untold number of horses. This tragedy is made all the worse by the fact that it was entirely preventable. Find out more in this week’s episode!
Continue reading Episode 3: Slower Than Molasses