Written By: Naomi
“The Silence of the Lambs” came out in 1991 but it was based off of the book by the same name that was published in 1988 by Thomas Harris. “The Silence of the Lambs” was the 4th installment of his series that started with “Red Dragon” in 1981. When Thomas Harris was asked what inspired the infamous doctor / psychiatrist in 2013 he finally revealed the trip to Monterrey, Mexico in the 1960’s that would shape the character.
Harris was a 23 year old bright eyed magazine reporter and was visiting Topo Chico Penitentiary in Monterrey to interview an American by the name of Dykes Askew Simmons, a former mental patient who was on death row for a triple murder in Mexico. While Simmons had been in prison he had attempted to escape but was shot by a prison guard and brought down. Harris then spoke to who he thought was the prison doctor and the man who had treated Simmons' gunshot wound, referring to this man as only “Dr. Salazar” in an attempt to hide the identity of this inmate. However resources had later traced Harris’ description of the, “small, lithe man with dark red hair…(who) stood very still” to an Alfredo Balli Treviño. When Harris had interviewed Treviño he said that, “there was a certain elegance about him”. But the regular little prison doctor, who in description resembles a cabbage patch kid, revealed his morbid side quickly to the reporter.
Treviño, like a small child, asked prying questions of Harris and his original story. If he had noticed how Simmons' face was disfigured, though in Harris’ writing from 2013 he mentions that Simmons' only had a scar from a surgery to correct a cleft lip and some other scars on his head. Treviño asks if he knew how attractive Simmons' victims had been as well as if he had seen the picture of them. Harris goes on to say that after he left the infirmary there were a group of townspeople waiting to be seen by Treviño since his services were offered for free to these people. It was not until the warden clarified for Harris that Treviño was not a prison doctor, but actually a murderer serving time in that prison that would never be released by reason of insanity.
Treviño had been a surgeon prior to being incarcerated, coming from an upper class family. He earned his doctorates at age 35 and he had been believed to have killed multiple hitchhikers and vagrants in the late 1950’s early 1960’s on the city’s outskirts, he was called The Werewolf of Nuevo Leon by the press. But it was the murder of his close friend and lover, medical intern Jesus Castillo Rangel that resulted in his arrest. Treviño and Rangel are said to have known each other since high school but had an argument that resulted in Treviño drugging Rangel and then administering other drugs to his unconscious lover before dragging him into a bathtub. He then slit Rangel’s throat with a scalpel, drained his blood, mutilated his body by dismembering him and chopping him up into small pieces, then compacted him into a very small box before burying it on a relative’s farm, convincing a farmhand to help him bury the box telling him it contained medical waste. The following day another worker noticed the disturbed earth and called the authorities recognizing it was a grave.
Treviño was sentenced to death but it was later changed to 20 years imprisonment, being released in 1981. He went on to work in the poorest neighborhood in Monterrey serving the poor and elderly until he died of natural causes at the age of 81 in 2009. He was interviewed for the last time one year before his passing by local news and was recorded saying, “I don’t want to relive my dark past. I don’t want to wake up my ghosts, it’s very hard. The past is heavy, and the truth is that this angst I have is unbearable.” He never once charged anyone for his services and lived with guilt of his actions until the end.
Harris brought Treviño’s character to life years after their meeting, incorporating him into both Buffalo Bill and the cannibal whose piercing gaze and distressing mask hides in the corners of our minds and the shelves of Halloween stores to this day.