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Is Hannibal Lecter Based on a Real Person?

May 31, 2020
4 min read

Talk about one of the most iconic characters of all time and you’ll find Hannibal Lecter on the list. He first gained notoriety after Sir Anthony Hopkins’ terrifyingly terrific performance in Academy Award winning film, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. The actor portrayed the character two more times, but it wasn’t until NBC’s ‘Hannibal’ started airing in 2013 that the character got another taste of spotlight, this time due to Mads Mikkelsen’s captivating portrayal.

One of the reasons that Hannibal has been so intriguing is due to his dark allure. He is mysterious, and the actors who brought him alive on the screen have only added to his appeal. While Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is classily dressed, Hopkins got him in all-white to resonate  with the fear of doctors and dentists, which most people already have. He also added that unnerving “th-th-th” sound to his conversations, owing to the trick he used to employ to scare girls while telling the story of Dracula.

Hannibal Lecter, as a character, has developed a lot over the years, but where does he come from? Was he a real person? Here’s all you should know about him.

Is Hannibal Lecter a Real Person?

No, Hannibal Lecter is not based a real person. He is a fictional character created by Thomas Harris and first appeared in his 1981 novel, ‘Red Dragon’. The inspiration for Lecter came to Harris when he was working as a reporter for Argosy Magazine in the 60s. He was sent to the Nuevo Leon State Prison at Monterrey, Mexico, to interview Dykes Askew Simmons, who was on death row for killing three people.

Simmons had tried to run away from prison by bribing a guard. But he got double-crossed and the guard shot him in the leg. This was when the services of a certain “Dr Salazar” were called upon. He performed surgery and saved Simmons. Intrigued by this, Harris met with the doctor. He described him as “a small, lithe man with dark red hair. He stood very still and there was a certain elegance about him.” The conversation between them was as intriguing as the doctor himself. Salazar talked about Simmons, torture, torment, and killing. About his patient, Salazar said that “early torment makes torment easily… imagined.”

Harris was later told by one of the guards that Salazar was insane. It turns out that he was convicted for killing a person and then cutting them into small pieces and packaging them in “a surprisingly small box.” Their meeting left such an impact on Harris that he imagined Hannibal Lecter in the same cell as Salazar, as his colleague and fellow practitioner. He based Lecter’s persona on Salazar, whom he didn’t want to name. However, some digging by several investigators into the records of the Mexican prison has revealed Dr Salazar to be Alfredo Balli Trevino.

Where is Alfredo Balli Trevino now?

Photo courtesy: Juan Carlos Rodríguez / Milenio Monterrey

Alfredo Balli Trevino was convicted of killing Jesus Castillo Rangel in May 1961. He is also said to have been responsible for the deaths of several hitchhikers in Nuevo Leon. Termed by the press as “The Werewolf of Nuevo Leon”, it is claimed that he would dismember his victims. However, it couldn’t be proved due to lack of evidence.

His conviction got him a death sentence, but, it was commuted and he was let out after serving 20 years in prison. He helped treat prisoners while serving his sentence, and when he was released, he cared for and treated the poor and downtrodden. He spent the rest of his life in Colonia Talleres, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. He is believed to have died in 2010 of unknown causes.

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