On this day, Dec. 5, in 1873, the "Boston Belfry Murderer" killed his first victim.
Thomas Piper bludgeoned and strangled Bridget Landregan in the snow and was scared away by a couple who said the killer looked "batlike," with a flowing black opera cloak. In 1874, another young girl was clubbed to death by a man with a cape. A third victim was bludgeoned in 1875.
Police began to stop and question all men in opera cloaks, causing the garment to go out of fashion.
In 1876, Piper, a church worker, was questioned after he was last seen with 5-year-old Mabel Young, who was found dead with a crushed skull in the church's belfry. Piper confessed to the four killings and was hanged.
- Scott McCabe