Earle Nelson, The Gorilla Man – A 1920s American Serial Killer Who Took Atleast 22 Lives

The Gorilla Man Earle Nelson was America’s worst murderer long before the term “serial killer” was even invented.

Early Life Of Earle Nelson:

Earle Leonard Nelson
Earle Leonard Nelson

Earle Leonard Nelson’s mother and father both died of syphilis before Nelson reached the age of two years. Subsequently, he was sent to be raised by his maternal grandmother, a devout Pentecostal.

Around the age of 10, Nelson collided with a streetcar while riding his bicycle and remained unconscious for six days afterward.

After he awoke, his behaviour became erratic, and he suffered from frequent headaches and memory loss.

Earle Nelson’s Criminal Activity:

Nelson began to show his criminal acts early, and was sentenced to two years in San Quentin State Prison in 1915 after breaking into a cabin he believed had been abandoned.

Later, he was committed to the Napa State Mental Hospital after behaving oddly and erratically during a short stint in the United States Navy. He managed to escape three times from the mental hospital before staff stopped trying to find him.

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Earle Nelson
Napa State Mental Hospital

Nelson began committing sex crimes when he was 21 years old. In 1921, he attempted to molest a 12-year-old girl named Mary Summers but was thwarted when she screamed and attracted help.

He has committed once again to the Napa State Mental Hospital. After several escapes and attempted escapes, he was released from the institution in 1925. He started his killing spree early in 1926.

He killed his first victim, Clara Newman, on February 20, 1926, and two weeks later killed his second, Laura Beal.

Nelson’s victims were mostly landladies, whom he would approach on the pretext of renting a room. He often studied his worn Bible, using it to keep his victim at ease and off-guard.

Once he had gained their trust, he would kill them (almost always by strangling) and sometimes engage in necrophilia with the corpse. He would often hide the body, leaving it under the nearest bed.

Earle Nelson’s Capture And Trial:

Nelson was arrested twice in Canada, where his murder spree ended.

“The Gorilla Killer” Earle Nelson

He was first arrested on June 16, 1927, in Wakopa, Manitoba, not long after murdering two women: Nelson’s final victims were 14-year-old Lola Cowan, murdered on June 8, 1927, and a housewife, Emily Patterson, whose husband discovered her body on June 9, hidden underneath their bed.

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He was incarcerated in a local jail in Wakopa after giving police the alias “Virgil Wilson“. He escaped from jail that same evening.

However, he made the mistake of trying to catch the same train that was transporting members of the Winnipeg police.

He was then recaptured and arrested again the next morning. He was arrested by an officer from the Crystal City, Manitoba, police department.

The Gorilla Killer – Earle Nelson:

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