The Gorilla ManPosted: October 7, 2011
Another drawing I did of a serial killer: Earle Leonard Nelson (1897-1928). Nelson was nicknamed ‘The Dark Strangler’ and ‘The Gorilla Man’ by the press:Nelson was called ‘The Gorilla Man’ because he strangled women and usually stashed the corpse in some out of the way place in the victim’s own home before leaving (an M.O. that apparently reminded some newspaper readers of Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue“). He eluded capture for over a year, murdering at least 22 women across the U.S. and Canada. He preyed mostly upon women who ran boarding houses or who wanted to rent rooms to lodgers. He was well spoken and polite, ofter claiming to be a weary traveler who needed a place to stay. When he got a woman alone, he would attempt to convince them to look at the ceiling, saying something like, “Is that water damage? I think that plaster is about to go…” and then grab them from behind and strangle them. After she passed out, he would knot a cord, cloth or clothing tightly around her neck and then have sex with the corpse. After stealing cash and valuables, he would visit pawn shops, second hand clothing stores and barber shops and change his appearance before moving on.
His early life is filled with examples of bizarre behavior, but, when traveling or setting up a victim, he was always polite and well spoken and made a favorable impression on people. He enjoyed talking at length about religion and usually carried a Bible.
Nelson was skilled at picking locks and slipping away. A Canadian sheriff captured Nelson and put him in a cell fastened with two padlocks. After the deputy left the room for less than two minutes, Nelson picked the locks and escaped. He was recaptured the next day and handcuffed; Nelson was able to slip out of the handcuffs right in front of his captors and hand them back with a smirk.
When he was hanged in Winnipeg for the two murders he had committed in Canada, Nelson maintained he was innocent and claimed to have never visited many of the cities in which murders credited to him took place.
Recommended reading: Bestial by Harold Schecter (2004)