The Terrifying Hannibal Lecter Was Based On A Real Criminal

“Remarkable boy. I do admire your courage. I think I’ll eat your heart.” —Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Red Dragon (2002)

In A Nutshell

One of the all-time scariest fictional villains, Hannibal Lecter has terrified moviegoers and book lovers for over 30 years. However, what’s even scarier is the fact that the liver-eating cannibal was based on a real killer. Alfredo Balli Trevino was a Mexican doctor who met Thomas Harris in the 1960s and left a very strong impression on the young writer.

The Whole Bushel

In 1981, Thomas Harris published his second novel, Red Dragon, introducing the world to Hannibal Lecter. Three more novels, five movies, and one TV show later, and the world is still obsessed with the charming cannibal killer. However, there’s one question that’s haunted fans for a very long time. Was the character of Hannibal Lecter inspired by a real-life murderer? And if so, who? Plenty of names have been tossed around over the years, including Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish. Of course, there’s one man who knew the answer, but Thomas Harris preferred to keep his mouth shut, letting readers fight it out among themselves.

All that changed in 2013. When the 25th anniversary edition of The Silence of the Lambs novel was released, Thomas Harris included a new introduction that sent shivers up and down the spines of Hannibal fans. According to the author himself, Lecter was based on a little-known Mexican murderer he dubbed “Dr. Salazar.” The two met in the early 1960s when Harris was a journalist doing a story on Dykes Askew Simmons, an American murderer serving time in a Monterrey prison. While visiting the Mexican penitentiary, Harris learned Simmons had once been shot trying to escape. Critically wounded, the American was taken to Dr. Salazar who performed life-saving surgery. Intrigued, Harris wanted to interview the surgeon, mistakenly assuming Salazar was a prison doctor. It was an understandable assumption. Since he had medical training, Salazar worked with the poor and even had his own office inside the prison.

When the two finally met, Harris shook hands with “a small, lithe man with dark red hair.” He later described Salazar as a man who stood very still and had “a certain elegance about him.” The men began talking, but very quickly, Harris lost control of the conversation. Salazar began probing the writer, asking questions about Simmons’s victims and lecturing about the nature of torment. When the interview was over, Harris asked the warden about Salazar’s medical career. The shocked official replied, “Hombre! The doctor is a murderer! As a surgeon, he could package his victim in a surprisingly small box. He will never leave this place. He is insane.”

However, there’s one last question: Who is Dr. Salazar? According to both The Times and Mexican author Diego Enrique Osorno, Salazar’s real name was Alfredo Balli Trevino, and the evidence is pretty conclusive. Trevino was a surgeon and convicted murderer, he was in jail during the ‘60s and, most importantly, he treated Dykes Askew Simmons while in prison. But what did the good doctor do to end up behind bars?

On October 9, 1959, Trevino and his lover, Jesus Castillo Rangel, had a fight. Some say Rangel wouldn’t loan Trevino any desperately needed cash. Others claim Rangel wanted to end their relationship. Whatever happened, Trevino knocked Rangel unconscious, slit his throat with a scalpel, chopped him up into little pieces and put the bloody chunks into a box. With the help of an accomplice, Alfredo buried the remains, but he was eventually found out and sentenced to death. Fortunately for Trevino, his sentence was commuted, and he eventually left the prison in 2000. A free man, he continued his medical practice, helping the poor until he passed away in 2009. Despite his good deeds, chances are good he would’ve loved swapping stories and sharing a nice Chianti with everybody’s favorite cannibal.

Show Me The Proof

Vice.com: My Girlfriend And I Found The Real Hannibal Lecter For Thomas Harris
Latin Times: Who Was The Real Hannibal Lecter?
Latin Times: The True Story Of Hannibal Lecter: How The Real Life Hannibal Murdered His Last Victim And Tried To Bribe Arresting Officer

  • Abraham Bristol

    The first half of this article had me interested.
    Unfortunately, that’s all there is to it.
    Some things are better left a mystery.

  • Hillyard

    Interesting. People like that seem to inspire lots of writers. Ed Gein inspired a number of characters, I occasionally wonder if Albert Fish has inspired any horror/mystery characters.

  • Clyde Barrow

    Just sayin’…

    • Valkyrie

      I wouldn’t want to be at his table when the body parts started flying -_-

      • Clyde Barrow

        LOL, It could have been worse, I suppose. Now just imagine if Andre the Giant was a cannibal…

        • TheMadHatter

          My saliva glands were active enough at the mention of liver, keep talking and I’ll be slobbering all night!

        • Valkyrie

          I don’t know who that is lol but I can imagine with a name like that 😛

  • dracolder

    there is not death penalty in México, if you are found guilty of any crime, you can accumulate lots of years but never the death penalty.

    • Micah Duke

      He was actually the last prisoner sentenced to death in the country, and his sentence was later reduced.

      • dracolder

        Would you please tell me where can i find this information because i searched and could not find anything about this sentence but i found that the death penalty exists in the mexican law but has not been enforced in a long time, probably since the XIX century, thank you

        • Micah Duke

          Yes, we linked to our sources at the bottom of the article above.

          • dracolder

            The death penalty was abolished in the state of Nuevo Leon in 1968, maybe that is the reason why it was commuted and had to serve time instead, thank you very much

  • OzellaBonham

    This Lecter is explain the reality for make a story of the real Criminals.
    http://antiwrinklefrance.com

  • moco25

    So did he eat any of the body parts? It didn’t clearly state this or not.

    • justanotherwebsurfer

      thats what i noticed… no mention of him eating anything..

    • Rusty Shackleford

      pretty sure he did not.

  • John Schiller

    Unfortunately a profusion of defects gird the “truth” encompassing Hannibal Lecter. The art of ratiocination, analytical observations and analogous theories is incredibly prevalent. Whenever feasible it is best to do some adept research and consult with a professional Criminal Psychologist. One major and vital misrepresentation stated above is the fact of where Thomas Harris obtained his critical information, how he gathered it, and from who or whom allowed him to receive it. Believe none of what is construed to be “true” on social media because it is false erudition and it is indeed peril.

    The quantitative analysis of the transgressor (in this case Lecter) varies due to the primary interest of the unsub. What has little to no value to one may mean the world to another. To substitute the psychological profile of the unsub with a faded denunciation of fallacy is not in accord to the precision of the unsub’s particular behavioral analysis. The problematic character of the unsub is in proclivity to enigmatical parameters — in essence to the lack of harmonical psychosis. The paradigm that is of attune in harmony, is not transitioning into the art of ratiocination, nor analytical observations, nor analogous theories. The astute paralysis of helpless inactivity is to the whispering of hegemony amongst deviates. To acerbate or galvanize an unsub — would become ascendant of aspersion instead of alleviate deviance to consistent malfunctioning. The repulsion of the psychopath, unlike any other transgressor, towards passion–is because the psychosis of the psychopath can not offer an appropriate means of adoration. Ergo, they can not canonize the germination of love. The evaluation of the psychopath is that the psychopath is incapable of feelings. The psychopath does not feel remorse, fear, pity, or love in a sense of being human. This solely applies to the lack of nurture pre manifestation of the nature being psychopathic.

    “Let us consider that we are all partially insane, it will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles.”
    ~ Mark Twain

  • John Schiller

    Unfortunately a profusion of defects gird the “truth” encompassing Hannibal Lecter. The art of ratiocination, analytical observations and analogous theories is incredibly prevalent. Whenever feasible it is best to do some adept research and consult with a professional Criminal Psychologist. One major and vital misrepresentation stated above is the fact of where Thomas Harris obtained his critical information, how he gathered it, and from who or whom allowed him to receive it. Believe none of what is construed to be “true” on social media because it is false erudition and it is indeed peril.

    The quantitative analysis of the transgressor (in this case Lecter) varies due to the primary interest of the unsub. What has little to no value to one may mean the world to another. To substitute the psychological profile of the unsub with a faded denunciation of fallacy is not in accord to the precision of the unsub’s particular behavioral analysis. The problematic character of the unsub is in proclivity to enigmatical parameters — in essence to the lack of harmonical psychosis. The paradigm that is of attune in harmony, is not transitioning into the art of ratiocination, nor analytical observations, nor analogous theories. The astute paralysis of helpless inactivity is to the whispering of hegemony amongst deviates. To acerbate or galvanize an unsub — would become ascendant of aspersion instead of alleviate deviance to consistent malfunctioning. The repulsion of the psychopath, unlike any other transgressor, towards passion–is because the psychosis of the psychopath can not offer an appropriate means of adoration. Ergo, they can not canonize the germination of love. The evaluation of the psychopath is that the psychopath is incapable of feelings. The psychopath does not feel remorse, fear, pity, or love in a sense of being human. This solely applies to the lack of nurture pre manifestation of the nature being psychopathic. I am in proclivity to denote that Lecter is an entirety in apposition to being contrary of a psychopath.

    “Let us consider that we are all partially insane, it will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles.”
    ~ Mark Twain