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The Future of the City

The Mad Strangler of Boston

The Editors

In 1964, residents of Boston were terrified by a serial killer believed responsible for eleven murders at the time this article was published. Its author, Erle Gardner, a distinguished criminologist, is best known for creating one of the most widely read fictional characters in the English language, Perry Mason. The Atlantic invited him to the Boston area, then home to the magazine, asking that he shed light on the murders. One of the most arresting details in the resulting article is the description of women so fearful that some left the city and others saw their health suffer from stress.

"What do you do about the door when you enter?" one of the women said. "You look in the closets, under the bed, and in the bathroom. If a man is in there you want to be able to run out, screaming for help. Therefore, you should leave the door open. But if you leave the door open while you are making a search, what is to prevent the Strangler from following you in and standing between you and your means of escape when you first see him?"

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