The Silence of the Lambs: Was Hannibal Lecter Really Inspired By a Real-Life Psycho?
The appearance of popular culture's most famous killer was no accident.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a talented psychiatrist, surgeon, art connoisseur and part-time violent maniac, became one of the most popular movie killers in the history – the details of his life formed the basis of four novels, five movies and one TV series.
No less than his biography, however, fans are interested in what inspired writer Thomas Harris to create this character, and who became the prototype of the cannibal?
The character of Hannibal Lecter first appeared in Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon in 1981. Seven years later, Harris wrote The Silence of the Lambs, which became the basis for the movie of the same name, in which Lecter received his most famous incarnation – he was played by Anthony Hopkins.
As it turns out, the character of Dr. Lecter is a collective image created by Thomas Harris. It was based on the personalities of several serial killers at once, but the main name in this story is Dr. Salazar.
According to the author, in the 1960s he went to one of the Mexican prisons to meet a prisoner who had committed a triple murder. But instead of meeting the anti-hero of his next novel, the author met a confined doctor he would later introduce to the public as Dr. Salazar.
On the day Harris arrived at the prison, one of the prisoners attempted to escape, resulting in a gunshot wound, and Dr. Salazar saved his life by providing the necessary assistance. This story caught the writer's attention.
After talking to the doctor for a while, Harris learned about his past, childhood traumas, and the reasons for his imprisonment – this conversation will later form the basis of the conversation between Clarice Starling and Hannibal during their first meeting.
In order to maintain anonymity, Harris called the doctor by the fictitious name of Salazar, but especially resourceful fans were able to calculate the doctor's real name. It turned out to be the surgeon Alfredo Balli Trevino, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his lover.
But it was not only Trevino who inspired Harris to create Hannibal. The mad doctor "learned" to be a cannibal from a serial killer named Albert Fish, a madman who had been terrorizing the US since 1910.
Another psychopath who inspired Thomas Harris to create his most famous character was Robert Maudsley, who was sentenced to life in solitary confinement in a special cell with thick glass for four murders and sophisticated torture of his victims.