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Living within the history of the Boston Strangler murders

50 years ago today the Boston Strangler started his notorious spree.

On a recent evening, the door to 79 Gainsborough St. was propped open as young men and women came and went from the apartment building in the charming Fenway neighborhood.

It's not a remarkable occurrence, but it is a stark contrast to the fear and sense of danger that was about to come over Boston because of what happened inside that building.

Anna Slesers, a 55-year-old seamstress, was murdered in her apartment at 77 Gainsborough St., (the row of apartment buildings have since been changed and renumbered) 50 years ago today.

It was the first in a string of 13 murders between 1962 and1964 in and around Boston that authorities attributed to a suspect dubbed the Boston Strangler. The man would convince his way into the women's apartments and then strangle and sexually assault most of them.

Many of the buildings where the murders occurred are now occupied by young students, but that doesn't mean they haven't heard of the notorious spree.

Kristen Jones, a Northeastern student from New Jersey, lives in the Gainsborough Street building that is a short walk to the university and other colleges. On a recent evening she was on her way out of the building with her Northeastern classmate Katherine Windgate who didn't know a murder had occurred there.

"Seriously? I'm not coming to visit you anymore," Windgate said jokingly.

Not far from that building is 515 Park Drive where another Boston Strangler murder occurred. That building is now owned by Boston University and is used for student housing.

At the time the murders sent the city in to a panic as police searched for the killer. The fear caused some women to buy dogs, change their locks and even carry tear gas, according to reports from the time.

Another murder took place at 1940 Commonwealth Ave., a short walk away from Boston College.

BC graduate student Beth Morton has lived in the apartment building for four years. She said she read a book about the Strangler and then realized she lived in the same building as one of the murders.

"It's kind of cool because it's such a big part of Boston, not a good part, but a big part about it," she said. "I'm not sure which apartment it happened in. I don't want to know."

The strangler?

No one has ever been charged with the murders police attribute to the Boston Strangler.

However one man did confess.

Albert DeSalvo was already in jail for a sexual assault charge when he confessed to an inmate that he was responsible for the murders.

Police at the time said he provided them with unpublished details about the crime scenes and murders, but he was never charged.

Despite that, many people widely believed he was indeed the Strangler. Other theorists have said he wrongly confessed for fame. He later recanted his confession.

He was fatally stabbed while in prison in 1973.

Years later family members of some of the victims even teamed up with DeSalvo's relatives to try and clear his name.

His body was exhumed and in 2001 researchers said DNA evidence found on the last victim was not a match to DeSalvo's DNA.

Made for media

The horrific crimes have been featured in various media:

Multiple books have been written about the Boston Strangler and related murders believed to be associated with the case.

Tony Curtis played Albert DeSalvo in the 1968 movie "The Boston Strangler."

The Rolling Stones song "Midnight Rambler" is said to be influenced by Albert DeSalvo's confession.

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