Between 1962 and 1964, 13 women were stalked, sexually assaulted and strangled in the Boston area. By July of 1962, word of the “Mad Strangler” or the “Phantom Strangler” had begun to spread and with that word spread fear among women in the area who believed they might be next. With the murders taking place in multiple different jurisdictions within the greater Boston area, police were slow to see the potential serial nature of them; Boston Record American journalist Loretta McLaughlin, however, was not. Working with Jean Cole, McLaughlin began investigating the murders and tying them together through evidence. In 1963, the pair published a four-part series in the Record American about the murders committed by the Boston Strangler. Though their work in connecting the cases was groundbreaking, the pair of journalists are rarely discussed in connection with the case.
The Hulu original movie Boston Strangler, starring Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin and Carrie Coon as Jean Cole, looks to shine a light on the important work done by McLaughlin and Cole in helping police tie the murders together and, eventually, identify a killer and put a stop to the serial killings. While there’s still some doubt that all 13 murders were the work of one man, the killings stopped with the arrest of Albert DeSalvo. During the global press junket for the film, Knightley spoke on the role the two women played in stopping the murders and why the story of their work, which has been ignored for so long, needs to be shared.
Well, I think for me, this whole film is really a love song to female investigative journalists. And really highlights how important it is to have women in position of power in storytelling because it was these two women that really went, “This is an important story. This is
information that needs to be in the public in order to keep women of Boston safe.” And I think, largely, it was a story that had been, at that point, ignored by the male establishment.
Knightley went on to indicate that given the climate and culture at the time, it’s possible the string of murders may have gone unnoticed much longer had McLaughlin not made the connection.
And I don’t know that their male colleagues would have seen the importance of it. So I think it’s wonderful to be part of something that is really highlighting how important it is to have as many good female journalists as you possibly can for the safety of our communities.
Given the prominence of McLaughlin and Cole’s persistent work–even in the face of discrimination– in helping save the lives of potential victims and noticing the serial nature of the killings, Boston Strangler certainly works as a reminder of the challenges faced and overcome by women in predominantly male fields. As part of Women’s History Month, you can check out Boston Strangler on Hulu beginning March 17th.