The Boston Strangler and The Malden Murderer
The home at 11 Florence Street Park is long gone as is the parking lot which replaced it, one that I once used as a short cut to Malden Square. The wind stirs in my imagination as those painted yellow lines in my memory lift up fluttering like police tape in the air. They hover above the paved-over perdition of where the suspected Boston Strangler once rested his head at night as the women of Greater Boston lay restless, tossing and turning, each terrified that they might be his next victim.
So what do the infamous Boston Strangler and the historically forgotten Malden Murderer have in common?
Working in Boston television news for almost thirty years and editing scores of news video packages covering criminals and criminal cases from the spectacle of Whitey Burger’s capture in Santa Monica after years on the lam to countless murderers or mere petty thieves hiding sheepishly behind a wall or a court officer – just out of view of the television news pool camera during arraignments … no two criminals (in my knowledge) share such an unique historical link as Albert DeSalvo and Edward Green.
For both men were apprehended along the very same street… Summer Street in Malden, Massachusetts – one hundred years apart and more than likely just about a hundred feet apart as well.
Edward Green, “The Malden Murderer” was arrested in 1864 for committing the first murder during a bank robbery in American history. On December 15, 1863, the Malden postmaster shot seventeen-year-old bank teller Frank Converse twice before stealing $5000 from the First National Bank of Malden. In 1964, Albert DeSalvo was arrested and charged with being the “Green Man” after a series of sexual assaults across four New England states. The following year, he confessed to being “The Boston Strangler” while at Bridgewater State Hospital which houses the criminally insane and those being evaluated by the court system. In 1967, he was convicted for the Green Man sexual assaults and sentenced to life in prison.
This aerial map of Summer Street in Malden is a few years old. The city looks far different now than it did in 1964, never mind how it appeared in 1864.
DeSalvo was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1931. Serving in the army in post-war Germany, he met and married Irmgard Beck. By 1955, the couple and their infant daughter were living at 11 Florence Street Court in Malden, off of Florence Street and opposite Clement Street. By 1960, a son was added to the family.
I am a lifelong Malden resident. From the late nineties until ten years ago, I lived close to the corner of Clement Street. In 2012, I started writing my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank.
Since I was a boy, I had gazed at the portrait of Frank Converse in The Malden Public Library built as a memorial to the slain son of grieving parents and bestowed to the city in a trust.
Frank’s father, Elisha Converse, was the founder of the Boston Rubber Shoe Company. A few years after Elisha’s death, his distant cousin, Marquis Mills Converse, established the Converse Rubber Shoe Company which became world famous with the introduction of the Chuck Taylor All-Star and the rising popularity of basketball.
I had become obsessed with writing a novel about Frank’s murder. Immersing myself in a cocktail of history, imagination and persistence, I finally published Abel Bodied in the summer of 2021.
Since it’s release, the novel has inspired a local craft beer, a series of sold-out interactive pub crawls, (six more are planned for this summer) and an opera which is currently in development.
But back more than a decade ago when I was typing the first pages of Abel Bodied about an indebted Malden postmaster desperate to solve all his financial issues at once by shooting his young friend and robbing the bank, I had no idea that one of the most notorious suspected criminals in American history had lived directly across the street four decades prior.
I believe the Converse murder is the ultimate Malden story lost to history. Albert DeSalvo’s story is not a Malden story per se – but his nine-year residence and arrest in Malden have elicited but a scant few printed words, either barely mentioned or just entirely skipped over in each telling.
According to the Malden Police Department, DeSalvo committed no known crimes in the city but it’s simple prudence for any criminal to avoid drawing any undue attention to the location they call home. Much easier to blend into a larger city like Boston and then return home for the night to a nearby suburb safely ensconced from both detection or suspicion. Eight of the murders connected to The Boston Strangler occurred in the city for which the killer is named with two in Lawrence and one each in Lynn, Salem and Cambridge. While the City of Malden did not hold any of The Strangler’s victims, its residents, like all of those in the entire Greater Boston region, lived under the duress of a serial killer’s whims, while being completely unaware that one may have dwelled amongst them the entire time.
In the early 1970’s, all the homes on Florence Street Park were razed as well as any physical connection of DeSalvo to city. The Heritage Apartments, built as elderly housing, was constructed closer to the Pleasant Street section of the old neighborhood.
The area closer to Clement Street where the DeSalvo family once resided was paved over as a parking lot. Their home, located to the top left of the looped dead end, had only recently been built when this map from 1897 was drawn. The house was about seventy years old when DeSalvo was apprehended.
Note the large parcel with Elisha S. Converse’s name nearby. The father of the murder victim at the Malden Bank owned this and many plots of land throughout the city.
While in 1964, the women of Greater Boston were terrified and uncertain if and when the Strangler would strike next, a century before, three thousand residents in the town of Malden, an idyllic community with growing industries such as the Boston Rubber Shoe Company, were also on edge with a murderer on the loose.
To put this era in perspective; the Smith & Wesson Model 1 revolver, based on the invention by Samuel Colt, that Green employed to shoot his friend had just been introduced in 1857. Until the local doctor arrived and confirmed the cause of Frank’s injuries, the townspeople who discovered Converse bleeding on the bank floor thought he had either struck his head or had a boil burst. They had no concept of what a gunshot wound looked like and they reacted in pure horror at the revelation. Had a Confederate taken the train into town to rob the bank, killed the young teller and then departed as quickly as he had arrived? Or even more frightening, was one of their own neighbors responsible for the murder?
This bank robbery murder occurred more that two years before the James Younger Gang held up a bank in Liberty, Missouri, killing an innocent bystander as they rode away. While the perpetrator at the Malden Bank, Edward Green, was far from a famed gunslinger, he was someone just as dangerous – a desperate opportunist. A newlywed with a child due in mere days, the postmaster sought out any solution he could find to solve his debt, retain his position and provide for his family. Frank was alone in the bank with a pile of cash in plain view. The temptation to solve his problems all at once was too strong for Green to resist. He shot Converse twice and stole the money.
Malden, a few miles north of Boston, only had a single constable on duty at the time. The Boston Police force founded in 1854 contained a team of five detectives. The day after the murder, two of these detectives, Benjamin Health and William Jones, arrived at the local depot to investigate the crime. Decades before the use of fingerprints, the main means they had at their disposal to solve the case was to pound the pavement and speak with as many witnesses as possible who could reveal pertinent details of the crime. One such witness, the barber, William Shiloh plays a key role in my novel. Shiloh’s Razor, the upcoming opera will be based on his part in the drama.
There is some disparity of the number of victims connected to The Boston Strangler; some sources claim eleven while others say thirteen but DeSalvo confessed to killing thirteen women. You may ask why there was such a panicked reaction to a single victim in the 1863? Even with thousands of men dying on Civil war battlefields each day, this single murder was so unique, a crime so startling and implausible at the time that it was not only splashed across the Boston papers but also reported in the New York Times the next day. The news of the crime and the search for the criminal was covered by newspapers from as far west as San Francisco and as far east as London. The killer was dubbed The Malden Murderer.
For more information about Abel Bodied, read my recent interview with A Daily Dose of History.
When I had started writing my book I had no notion that, some thirty-eight years earlier, police had converged just across the street waiting to arrest a man who is suspected of being one of the most infamous criminals in American history.
I was aware of The Boston Strangler. Who wasn’t? However, if the knowledge ever crossed my mind that DeSalvo held a Malden connection, I couldn’t have conjured at the time that his former residence was just a couple hundred feet away from my own.
Last week, in preparation for this blog, I walked around my old neighborhood with a new perspective. Just as I had imagined Edward Green exiting the bank, as I walked along Pleasant Street, one of his pockets stuffed with money and the other with his recently-used revolver warming his side – now as I stood on the corner of Clement and Florence Streets looking at where Florence Street Park once existed, I sensed similar echoes from the past. I visualized DeSalvo approaching from the other side of Florence Street in the direction where I stood – neither of us aware or seeing the other. If he was indeed responsible for all of the Strangler’s crimes, he passed unnoticed just as he did for so long while residing at 11 Florence Street Park.
Years ago, I crossed here at Florence Street every day and continued obliviously toward the paved-over remnant of a side street I never knew existed. Now, as seen in the photo above, it contains The Residences at Malden Station Apartment Building. While I was living on Clement Street, it was a parking lot. Passing through a pedestrian entrance in a short chain link fence, I walked over blacktop in-between rows of yellow painted lines and then under the opening in The Heritage where cars could pass through into the courtyard of Malden City Hall towards the Square.
As I journeyed to Pleasant Street, I did not see the erased residence of a man some have likened to America’s Jack the Ripper. All I noticed was multi-story senior housing and a mundane parking lot. The only thing I ever paused to consider about this spot as I traversed it was that whoever owned it was making a bundle on parking from commuters that took the MBTA into the city. The Malden Center MBTA Station, built in 1975, was so close that if I chose to take a right on Florence instead of entering this lot, it would have been a mere ninety second walk from my front door.
The home at 11 Florence Street Park is long gone as is the parking lot which replaced it that I once used as a short cut to Malden Square. The wind stirs in my imagination as those painted yellow lines in my memory lift up fluttering like police tape in the air. They hover above the paved-over perdition of where the suspected Boston Strangler once rested his head at night as the women of Greater Boston lay restless, tossing and turning, each terrified that they may be his next victim.
I don’t believe Malden has ever been the focus of Albert DeSalvo’s story before this blog. Why would it be? There is a lot more to unravel in his life, among them his difficult childhood and his long criminal history. Many still question if the Strangler victims had multiple killers. Others question the extent of DeSalvo’s involvement and even describe him as a blowhard who sought the notoriety of being an infamous serial killer.
My focus the last decade or so has been on Edward Green and his confessed murder of Frank Converse. I know quite a bit about that and at the end of the day, I am a novelist first and foremost and writing a novel based on an untold story in my hometown was what interested me most. But as far as Albert DeSalvo – what draws my intrigue to him is the surprising proximity to where he lived and where my novel began.
DeSalvo confessed to being The Boston Strangler claiming responsibility for the murders of thirteen women between the years of 1962 and 1964. Later, he recanted these admissions. In 1973, he was stabbed to death in Walpole State Prison. He was never tried or convicted of any of the Strangler crimes.
However, in 2013, authorities were able to connect him to the only victim of which they had retained any usable forensic evidence. They retrieved a discarded water bottle from his nephew. That DNA tested as a familial match with the seminal stains left at the crime scene of the last known victim of the Strangler, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan. DeSalvo’s remains were then exhumed from his grave in Peabody, Massachusetts. DNA extracted from his femur and three of his teeth conclusively determined he was her killer.
“DNA specialists calculated the odds that a white male other than DeSalvo contributed the crime scene evidence at one in 220 billion.”Joint statement from Boston Police, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
“We may have just solved one of the nation’s most notorious serial killings.”
“This leaves no doubt that Albert DeSalvo was responsible for the brutal murder of Mary Sullivan, and most likely that he was responsible for the horrific murders of the other women he confessed to killing.”Martha Coakley- Massachusetts Attorney General
The Boston Strangler, the best-selling book written by Gerold Frank, mentions that police waited for DeSalvo at his Malden home. It states he tried to back his vehicle away but was cornered and captured. A film, based on this book, released in 1968 forgoes his arrest near his residence in Malden altogether by showing DeSalvo, portrayed by Tony Curtis, attempting to break into a Boston apartment only to find the husband waiting inside the door. A chase soon ensues and the police, on the alert for the Strangler, arrest the suspect after he is struck by a car and pointed out by the pursuing husband of this fictional intrusion.
In fact, DeSalvo, who had served time before for other crimes, was initially arrested at his Malden home on Monday, November 2nd after police determined he matched a composite sketch of a suspect who assaulted a Cambridge woman on October 27th. (Perhaps this the arrest in which Frank is referring) He was arraigned the next day and released on bail. Authorities in other local communities as well as those from Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire thought DeSalvo fit the profile of sexual assaults in their jurisdictions. Connecticut State Police believed he was “The Green Man” who posed as a repairman in green work pants to gain access to homes and prey on women.
An article from WickedLocal.com dated July 12, 2013 reported about the new DNA evidence which linked DeSalvo to the last victim of the Boston Strangler. But for the purposes of this blog, the most vital information it contains is the location of where DeSalvo was apprehended.
DeSalvo was arrested by three Malden police officers. He reportedly fled when investigators from the Connecticut State Police showed up at his home, only to be arrested off Summer Street by Malden Police according to a Nov. 5 report in the Malden Evening News.
Around that same time, former DeSalvo neighbor Patricia Whitcomb told The Malden Evening News she remembered seeing DeSalvo flee from police.WickedLocal.com
The Boston Globe reported this the day after DeSalvo’s arrest:
A 32-year-old Malden father of two is undergoing psychiatric observation today as police from four New England states charge him with being the notorious “Green Man” wanted for sexual attacks on at least a dozen housewives.
He was arrested last night by Malden Police accompanied by Cambridge officers and Connecticut State police following a chase through Malden Square.
Police staked out DeSalvo’s home for a half-hour and then chased him through a back yard and over a fence to make the arrest.Boston Globe, November 6, 1964
This article is copyrighted but the advertisements which surrounded the news of the arrest of an accused serial rapist are not. The Jordan Marsh Company advertisements for panties, sleepwear and what appears to be a nurse’s uniform take up more than seventy percent of the page. There are a couple of other short articles including one about about Vice President Hubert Humphrey placed above these ads, however the arrest of DeSalvo is squeezed right down the middle of these images of women.
DeSalvo lived just off Pleasant Street, where many of the events in my novel took place. It is likely that the family shopped at the Jordan Marsh located there. This department store was adjacent to where The First National Bank of Malden once stood. The original 1850 structure was replaced by a larger one in 1901 and held a series of banking institutions until very recent years when it was converted into a brewery. It’s possible that DeSalvo banked there and if he did, he might have stood in the exact same spot where Edward Green murdered Frank Converse. Maybe he also shopped at the Converse Rubber Shoe Company, a world famous sneaker company which is unlikely to have existed without the original Boston Rubber Shoe Company founded by Frank’s father.
When I requested some information on DeSalvo’s arrest from the Malden Police Department. They stated this:
Malden Police Department
Our records indicate that he was arrested by the Malden Police Department on a warrant from Cambridge PD. The date of arrest was Thursday, November 5, 1964. The time of the booking was 12:15pm. Sergeant Cronin was the Officer-in-Charge and the arresting officers were, Lt. Houghton, Sergeant Desmond, and Officer W. Hook. The address, which no longer exists, was 11 Florence Street Park. DiSalvo was then handed over to Cambridge PD Sergeant M. Neil and J. Galligan.
I wasn’t alive in 1964 but I have read messages from several people who were living in Malden then. They describe a tunnel that led from Summer Street under the Summerside Lodge function hall which is now the Pearl Street Station Restaurant and Bar.
This is speculation on my part, but was that where DeSalvo was heading to avoid capture by jumping a fence by the tracks to enter this tunnel? Or did he hop another fence and flee down Pleasant only to be apprehended on the lower portion of Summer Street?
Is it possible that DeSalvo ran directly behind my former home on Clement Street to escape capture, jumped a fence and then crossed the train tracks to get to Summer Street? That would make his arrest just south of Pearl Street Station – perhaps about 20 feet or so. If he was attempting to enter the tunnel, he would have been apprehended right on what is now the Pearl Street Station property.
The restaurant’s structure was originally built as a station in 1891 along the Boston and Maine Railroad. Later, it was converted to The Summerside Lodge. Pearl Street Station, opened as a restaurant and bar over thirty-five years ago, has the unique distinction to be in close proximity to both the capture of DeSalvo and of Green.
With the tunnel so near to his home, DeSalvo surely was aware of it. Yet crossing the these railroad tracks to evade police contained its own perils.
Here is how one former resident explained the close call he incurred while hopping fences and crossing the tracks:
From the Summer Street side you could walk right onto the tracks just below the Summerside. I walked up those tracks hundreds of times as a kid in the 60s. The tunnel smelled strongly of pee. I can’t quite remember now where either end of the tunnel came out, but I seem to remember it was blocked in some way that didn’t matter to a kid. In other words, they didn’t want you in there, but nothing much kept you out. I used to walk those tracks past the Summerside up to the wooden steps that went up to Mountain Ave. Those steps were also blocked on either end, but it was just a matter of hopping fences. I lived on Sterling Street but was in fifth and sixth grades at the Holmes School, so I did that every day. One day, I was daydreaming as I walked north on the southbound tracks. I heard a sound, looked up, and saw a train bearing down on me. I jumped toward the other, northbound, tracks only to realize just in time that there was a train there, too. I was stuck between the trains as they passed each other. I was incredibly lucky not to have been hurt or killed, and I realized it. I remember sitting in class trembling, really traumatized.Carl Chimi
In 2008, David Faustino, known for playing Bud Bundy on Married with Children, portrayed DeSalvo in Boston Strangler The Untold Story but the 1968 film, The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, is by far the best-known depiction of the Boston Strangler. Now a new film, Boston Strangler, has just debuted on Hulu. Keira Knightly portrays Loretta McLaughlin, a reporter for the Boston Record American. She and her colleague, Jean Harris, played by Carrie Coon, investigated the series of murders and sexual assaults and are credited with coming up wih the moniker of the killer. The movie also stars Oscar winner, Chris Cooper.
In January of 2022, some scenes in the film were shot in Malden. Pearl Street Station was a staging area and catering location for cast and crew.
The Lyrics of Midnight Rambler written by The Rolling Stones allude to Albert DeSalvo after he confessed to being the Boston Strangler. I wrote The Ballad of Edward Green after completing the final draft of Abel Bodied. Joseph McShea sings and plays guitar on the song.
Henry Fonda and George Kennedy filming scenes in Malden near Albert DeSalvo’s former home
Lincoln was president when Green committed his crime. Kennedy was president during the majority of the Strangler’s crimes. Like the connection between the assassinations of President Lincoln and President Kennedy, such that Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and both had Vice Presidents named Johnson – Green and DeSalvo have interesting parallels besides the location of their arrests.
- Even though he was labeled with such names as The Boston Strangler and The Measuring Man, DeSalvo was arrested as The Green Man, known for his green work pants while committing sexual assaults.
- DeSalvo was born in Chelsea as was Frank Converse, the murder victim of Edward Green.
- Both Green and DeSalvo were arraigned in the East Cambridge District Court after their arrests on Summer Street.
The Strangler murders occurred in the decade before I was born. However, I was drawn to a crime much further in the past because I gazed at the portrait of Frank Converse each and every day when I was a small boy. When I looked at Frank Converse, he looked back at me. He was familiar, like an older brother from another era. Now I’ve grown far older – while Frank’s image in his portrait has never aged a day.
Malden is mostly erased from the story of DeSalvo’s arrest but this is where it occurred. DeSalvo walked the same streets as Green did and they both lost their freedom on the same stretch of Summer Street one-hundred years apart.
Florence Street is a connection between the crafting of my novel on Edward Green at Clement Street and this blog on Albert DeSalvo and his residence at Florence Street Park. A sort of crosswalk between killers. With Summer Street, the scene of their captures, juxtaposed just on the other side of the tracks.
An army of investigators, both professional and amateur, have sought either to incriminate or exonerate DeSalvo. Was Desalvo solely responsible for the crimes attributed to Strangler? Six decades after the sexual attacks and murders, it seems unlikely the other dozen murders will ever be conclusively solved.
However, his confession, retracted before his own murder, along with articles, books, and films fixated on him as the villain of these crimes will forever affix the name Albert DeSalvo with that of The Boston Strangler.
DeSalvo is said to have frequented the West Side Grill beside his home. In my novel, many of the scenes with Green and the townspeople of Malden are set in Hill’s Tavern, also known as The Rising Eagle. It was frequented by John and Abigail Adams and the Sons of Liberty plotted for revolution within its walls.
On Wednesday, April 12th, I will be at The Rising Eagle in Melrose, named after the original tavern. I will be reading from Abel Bodied at this signing event. Chalk Outline Hoppy Amber Ale, brewed by Bone Up Brewing Company in collaboration with my novel will be on tap!
4 thoughts on “This killer has a historical connection to The Boston Strangler? You may never have heard of him… but his crime was the first of its kind in American history?”
I first read of Eddie Green and the bank robbery in a book titled Bloodletters and Badmen, years ago. Growing up in Malden in the 60s and 70s I saw some of the filming of Tony Curtis’s portrayal of The Boston Strangler in The Square near Jordan Marsh. My best friend lived on Florence Street and Pat Whitcomb’s daughter Jill, babysat me and my siblings. Pat had been an actress in England before moving to the USA. Yes, the tunnel under the tracks on Summer St smelled strongly of pee but us kids did use it to cut through.
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Hi Kevin, I will look for that book. Thanks for the comment and the details about your time in Malden. I only recently watched the Tony Curtis film. The photos of Fonda and Kennedy I included on blog were shot on Florence Street but I find them in the film or determine which scene of Curtis was shot in Malden since he appears so late in the movie. Wonderful connection to Pat Whitcomb. Thanks for sharing those details. I am going to look more into that tunnel since it is very interesting.
Having grown up in Malden in the 60’s and my grandfather Curtis Sanford being a former Sargent with the Malden police, and my Uncle Steven Jordan also with the Malden Police. We head stories and in fact my Aunt Eleanor who was my grandmothers sister said that someone came to her apartment “The Heritage” over by the Malden City Hall before it closed off Pleasant Street around that time and was asking to be let into the building and was later identified as Albert DeSalvo.
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Very interesting! Thanks for sharing, Craig!