CONTENT WARNING: This final part of the Downtown Ghost Ride – with three (3) different stops – tells the particularly gory tale of Earle Leonard Nelson – also known as the Gorilla Man, Gorilla Killer or Dark Strangler. Nelson is the first known serial sex killer in North American history – so this tale is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart!
Caution: Sexual content.
Earle Leonard Nelson was born and raised in San Francisco, California. Growing up, he exhibited bizarre and disturbing behaviour which grew worse after he sustained a head injury while bicycling at age 10 (don’t forget to wear your helmet, folks!)
Nelson’s killing spree began with the murders of three young women in Philadelphia in October 1925.
His murderous rampage lead him to criss-cross the United States, working up the West Coast, then through the Midwest and Eastern Coastal cities. Nelson’s victims were primarily landladies and he would pose as a prospective boarder, carrying a well-worn Bible to disarm the women. Once they were alone, Nelson would strangle them. He is known to have killed at least 20 young women in the United States, but suspected of at least an additional four more, before he headed up into Canada for what would be his last two victims.
With the authorities catching up, Nelson walked across the North Dakota/Manitoba border at Emerson, and made his way to Winnipeg.
The location of the Parkade in front of you is the spot where Katherine Hill’s Boarding House used to stand, at 133 Smith Street. Within hours of taking a room at the boarding house, Nelson killed 14 year old Lola Cowan, who had been selling artificial flowers door-to-door and had made the fateful error of knocking on the door of the boarding house shortly after Nelson arrived. A day later, he killed his final victim, Emily Patterson, who had advertised a room for rent in her home at 100 Riverton Avenue, in Elmwood.
In a June 2nd, 1927 police search of boarding houses, the Winnipeg police discovered Cowan’s body underneath the bed in Nelson’s room at 133 Smith Street. The body had been mutilated in a way that was described as “reminiscent of Jack the Ripper”.
Now – using the map – head on over to the Manitoba Law Courts at 408 York Avenue to find out more about the fate of Earle Leonard Nelson.