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.
Boston, today a city rich with world-class hospitals and medical schools, has a long history of medical innovation. This week, we take a look at the characters who laid the foundation for these advancements – Resurrection Men. What founding father was a member of a secret grave robbing club? What were the steps to pulling off the perfect heist? Tune in this week to find out!
Despite what a lot of people think, the victims of the Salem witch trials were hanged, not burned at the stake. However, in the history of Massachusetts, two women were executed by burning them at the stake, one in 1681 and another in 1755. If witchcraft was a crime against both the state and God, what crime could be worse in Puritan Boston? A note about the content this week. We frankly describe acts of brutal violence, and we at times use the racial language of our 17th and 18th century sources. If you usually listen with children, you might want to listen to this episode alone first and decide if it’s appropriate for them.
In 1849, Boston was rocked by the crime of the (19th) century when Professor John Webster murdered Dr. George Parkman in his lab at Harvard Medical School. The world was riveted by the investigation and trial that ensued, while the Boston Brahmins were shaken to the core by the scandal in their ranks. The courtroom drama lived up to our modern-day CSI standards, offering one of the earliest uses of forensic evidence and a legal standard still in use today. Listen to the show!
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!
In August of 1801, a young man named Jason Fairbanks showed up on his sweetheart’s doorstep. He was covered in blood, and telling the story of a suicide pact gone wrong. This tale of a rich kid gone astray could be ripped from today’s tabloid headlines. Fairbanks and his presumed sweetheart Eliza Fales were the center of a sensational trial, a daring escape from jail, and a manhunt that stretched to the Canadian border. Does this story of star crossed lovers have a happy ending? Listen to this week’s show to find out!
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.