Red Sox stats guru Bill James asks: Did the Boston Strangler take the Green Line?
BILL JAMES infamously changed baseball by applying the science of deep, sustained statistical analysis to the game -- and by proving many of the game's deepest-held convictions to be little more than superstitions. It took a couple decades between the publication of James's first Baseball Abstract and the evolution of Moneyball -- baseball as we know it, based around the Jamesian field of Sabermetrics. But for nearly as long as James has been applying his intellect to baseball, he's also been applying it to crime. His new book, Popular Crime (due out May 3), collects essays begun as far back as the 1980s. In the May issue of Wired, James talks to the magazine's Brian Rafferty about one of the cases he examines in the book: the case of the Boston Strangler. Rafferty writes:
A few years ago, Bill James was in a Boston hotel room, relaxing with a book about one of hte city's most accomplished and yet least admired sons: the Boston Strangler. There are numerous accounts of the killer's grisly 1960s spree -- which left at least 14 women dead -- and James had read a lot of them, possibly all of them. But this particular book stood out, mostly because the author's research was sloppy. James kept findng mistakes. n one case, even the location of one of the murders was wrong. "The guy really irritated me," James says. . .
. . . What if, James wondered, the police had arrested the wrong man? What if some key pattern to the murders had been overlooked? In the months after he first started thinking about that one book;s errors, he repeatedly found himself running into some of the Strangler's old haunts and eventually decided to map out the crimes.
As he explored, James noticed that several of the murders had been committed near the city's Green Line train -- but the police had claimed the Strangler drove to his victims. James doesn't buy it. Why would the killer take a car to an area that was so famously hard to navigate? Wouldn't it have been easier simply to pick victims from along the Green Line, then jump back on the train after each murder? What if the Boston Strangler wasn't actually from his namesake city but from nearby Brookline?
So: add another to the loooooong list of theories about Albert DiSalvo not being the Boston Strangler. DiSalvo, who confessed to the killings, was killed while in prison in 1973 but was never officially charged with the murders. There has been wide speculation that the murders often attributed to the Strangler may have been the work of multiple killers -- including, perhaps, copycats who hopped on the bandwagon after the murder spree began generating headlines.