The Story Of One Of The Most Notorious Serial Killers In America- The Gorilla Man

Even though the term “serial killer” hadn’t yet been coined and the public wasn’t nearly as intrigued by these murders as it is today, there were plenty of serial killers roaming the United States before the likes of Ted Bundy and the Zodiac Killer perpetrated horrible crimes of murder.

And during that time, before serial killers were commonplace on newspaper front pages and movie screens, Earle Nelson was one of America’s most gruesome and prolific killers.

Early Years of Earl Nelson

Earle Nelson’s tragedy started just 15 months after his May 12, 1897, birth in San Francisco. His maternal grandparents, Lars and Jennie Nelson, took him in after his parents passed away from syphilis at that time. The Nelsons were puritanical people who suppressed their sentiments, emotions, and particularly their sexual appetites.

For a young troublemaker like Earle Nelson, these circumstances were especially difficult.

He was expelled from school for misbehavior at the age of seven. His teachers expressed displeasure that the youngster quoted passages from the Bible that alluded to a powerful beast and conversed with unidentified figures. He also enjoyed sneaking a peek at his cousin Rachel while she undressed.

His maternal grandparents, Lars and Jennie Nelson, took him in after his parents passed away from syphilis

When the youngster was 10 years old, he was involved in a streetcar accident while out riding his bicycle. Doctors believed he wouldn’t survive because he was bleeding heavily from a wound in his temple. Nelson amazingly pulled through after spending a few days in a coma. He suffered from memory loss and regular migraines for the remainder of his life as a result of the accident, and his conduct also became erratic.

The Start Of His Crimes

At age 21, Earle Nelson’s criminal tendencies grew increasingly obvious as he looked for a means to escape his oppressive environment. He impersonated a plumber on May 19, 1921, so that he could enter a San Francisco residence and sexually assault a 12-year-old girl. But as she yelled, he ran away, only to be found and captured hours later.

Due to his hallucinations and paranoid beliefs, the authorities decided that he was dangerous and should go back to Napa State Mental Hospital, where he had previously spent time (he heard voices and believed that people were constantly trying to poison him, for example).

He threatened to kill the hospital employees there, so the medical professionals advised him to remain there permanently. Nelson swiftly made his way out of the hospital, choosing not to stay and live out the rest of his days. This was the start of the time when he committed his most notorious atrocities.

In Philadelphia in October 1925, Nelson began a violent rampage. Three weeks later, three women died from being strangled. In their homes, Olla McCoy, May Murray, and Lillian Weiner all passed away following a struggle. After their deaths, each body was sexually molested. Every house featured a window sign that read “room for rent.”

Earle Nelson matched the description provided by a pawnbroker of the man who bought clothing belonging to the victims

The knots used to bind the victims, for instance, resembled those of his later murders, and Earle Nelson matched the description provided by a pawnbroker of the man who bought clothing belonging to the victims. Nevertheless, certain authorities do not formally ascribe these killings to Earle Nelson.

Nelson went back to San Francisco a few months later, in February 1926, and started killing more innocent women there. From February to August, five more women died. All of the instances followed the same general pattern: middle-aged women who advertised their rooms for rent ended up being raped and strangled to death. Some of their belongings were later sold off, but the perpetrator was never identified.

A potential offender may have been seen in San Francisco, according to several witnesses. The attacker was characterized by a few as being a dark, stocky man with long arms and massive hands. Some publications started calling this serial killer “The Gorilla Man” because he resembled a gorilla. Others referred to him as the “Dark Strangler” because of the way he killed people and because no one could get a good look at him.

Earle Nelson Moves Away

Authorities started to notice more strangulation and sexual assault incidents comparable to those in San Francisco later in 1926 and into 1927, including in Portland, Oregon, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Chicago, Kansas City, Missouri, Buffalo, New York, and Winnipeg, Canada.

Nelson murdered two people in Winnipeg. Lola Cowan, who was only 14 years old, was one of them. On June 8, Nelson sexually abused, murdered, and severed her before concealing her body beneath the bed and spending the entire night there.

The attacker was characterized by a few as being a dark, stocky man with long arms and massive hands.

On June 10, 1927, Emily Patterson, the other Canadian victim, was strangled to death but not before she was able to remove some of Nelson’s hair off his head. The following day, Nelson made the decision to get a haircut and shave before pawning some of her and her husband’s stolen property.

Once the stolen items were located, police followed Nelson’s movements from the pawn shop to the barbershop, where the owner described Nelson’s appearance and noted that Nelson had blood on his head (from where Patterson had grabbed his hair).

The police assumed they were seeking this notorious killer, spread the word about his description, and went out to find him because they thought that this man’s description and his method of operation matched information they had obtained from other police departments about the “Gorilla Man.”

The “Gorilla Man” is brought to justice

On the night of June 12, 1927, the murderer booked a room from another  woman. However, he noticed his description in the newspaper the following morning. It was time to throw away the last of the stolen clothing and leave the city.

The subsequent brief chase for Nelson was described in a variety of ways, but we do know that he was apprehended on June 16 after a citizen in Killarney, Manitoba, reported seeing him. He was able to escape that evening, nevertheless, by picking the lock on his cell door.

He was apprehended after a police officer in Crystal City, Manitoba, saw him attempting to board a train

However, he was apprehended the following day after a police officer in Crystal City, Manitoba, saw him attempting to board a train.

After his fingerprints and teeth prints matched those at some of the crime scenes, Nelson was finally detained and charged with murder. Authorities asserted that throughout the 20-month period from the fall of 1925 to the summer of 1927, Nelson killed at least 22 persons in the United States and Canada. The actual number of victims could be much higher.

Nelson was executed by Canadian authorities in Winnipeg on January 13, 1928, following a brief trial. In terms of the total number of victims, he was the worst-known serial murderer at the time.

Doctors and law enforcement officials at the time were never really able to agree on a clear motivation for why he killed all these people, and they even debated as to whether or not he was genuinely insane.

Earle Nelson was America’s most prolific killer up until the 1970s, when the true age of the serial killer had started, regardless of his motivations or the precise number of victims he actually claimed.

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