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Alfredo Ballí: The Mexican Doctor That Allegedly Inspired Hannibal Lecter

This doctor allegedly inspired one of the most transcendent fictional characters in the history of cinema.

Surely you have heard of Hannibal Lecter, probably the most iconic fictional psychopath in film history. However, few know that his true origin was likely inspired by a real-life story, the one of a Mexican doctor named Alfredo Ballí Treviño.

Who was Alfredo Ballí Treviño?

Alfredo Ballí Treviño, was born in Méndez Tamaulipas in 1931. He was a doctor and later became a murderer.

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In 1963, Ballí had been in prison for three years, at which time, a 23-year-old journalist named Thomas Harris, a reporter for Argosy, obtained permission from the warden of a prison in Mexico to interview inmate Dykes Askew Simmons. However, the warden told him that the inmate he was going to interview had tried to escape and was in a delicate condition due to serious injuries. Still, they had someone Harris could talk to, Alfredo Ballí.

After the interview, the journalist and Ballí had a long and pleasant talk. Thomas was surprised by the presence and the correct way Ballí expressed himself; he even told him about Simmons' psychological profile. Upon returning from the excellent conversation the journalist had with Ballí, he asked the prison director how long Ballí had been working at the prison, but the director was surprised and immediately told him that Ballí was there because he was an inmate, a psychopath, and a murderer. From that moment on, Thomas Harris became interested in Alfredo Ballí and his story.

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Who was the real Hannibal Lecter?

The warden of that prison told the story of the crime committed by Ballí in great detail to the journalist. Thomas Harris was inspired by Alfredo Ballí to create Hannibal Lecter and years later he published his book The Silence of the Lambs. In 1991, the movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster was released. 

Harris stated that the only resemblance between his character and Ballí is his elegance, cultured, subtlety, and refinement to murder with a scalpel.

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Alfredo Ballí, the story of his crime

Ballí, at 28 years old, was a respected citizen and surgeon. Many of his patients were grateful for his services, and he even gave medicine to those who needed it most. But when his work was over, in that same office, Ballí had his love niche: he was visited two or three times a week by Jesús Rangel, a 20-year-old medical student. Both were happy with their love situation, which, although it was nothing formal, kept their love to themselves. After several months of a relationship, Jesus asked Ballí to borrow a certain amount of money, the doctor refused, but Jesus insisted and swore to pay him back; finally, Ballí accepted the deal and gave him the money.

Sometime later, the doctor began to demand his money, but Jesús gave him the runaround, their relationship began to crumble little by little. A month later, Jesús Rangel came to his office and gave him less than half he had borrowed. Ballí angrily gave him a blow that made him lose consciousness. He immediately gave him an injection of sodium pentothal, dragged him to the bathroom, and cut his throat with a scalpel. 

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Alfredo Ballí quartered him in perfect cuts that only a surgeon could make. Then he put the body in a box and put it in the trunk of his car. His grave mistake was to go to his victim's aunt's house to borrow a shovel. The doctor buried the remains in a vacant lot on a ranch called La Noria. Given the strong suspicions, Jesús' aunt denounced him to the police.

Alfredo Ballí was arrested and rapidly confessed he had killed Jesús Rangel. He was imprisoned for 20 years in the Topo Chico prison. He regained his freedom in 1981; he was 49 years old. He finally died in 2009 at the age of 81.

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Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards

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