The Real Hannibal Lecter

The inspiration behind this gruesome character was not revealed until ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ celebrated it’s 25th anniversary. Thomas Harris, the writer of the original novels that featured Hannibal Lecter, revealed that the famous character was inspired by a real murderer. Back in the 1960s, Harris was working on a new story, and he visited a prisoner named Alfredo Treviño, who was a doctor, just like Hannibal. Treviño had an argument with his boyfriend after which he murdered and buried him. He used surgical methods to separate his victim’s body parts, and his methods and attitude were the inspiration behind Hannibal.

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Perhaps even scarier than the fictional Hannibal Lecter was the fact that the writer based his creepy character on an actual person. No one knew that Dr. Hannibal Lecter was based on a real-life doctor. That is, not until 2013, when the 25th anniversary edition of The Silence of the Lambs was released. Harris updated the introduction to the book, finally revealing that Hannibal Lecter was based on an actual doctor in Mexico, a surgeon by the name of Alfredo Ballí Treviño, who was convicted of murdering then chopping up his gay lover.

Harris met Dr. Treviño in the early 1960s at Topo Chico Penitentiary in Nuevo León, Mexico, while working on a story for Argosy, an American pulp fiction magazine (published from 1882 through 1978). Harris, who was 23 years old at the time, was interviewing another prisoner for his story, a man named Dykes Askew Simmons, who was committed to the mental ward inside the prison. Simmons had been sentenced to death for a triple murder. While in prison, Simmons bribed a guard, offering him cash in order to escape, but the guard took his money, double-crossed him, and actually shot Simmons during his attempted prison break. Fellow inmate, Dr. Treviño, performed life-saving surgery on Simmons by stopping the bleeding and treating the gunshot wound. When Harris learned of the story, he was intrigued by the convict doctor and got permission to interview Treviño. Harris discovered that Treviño was a surgeon who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death.