Was Hannibal Lecter Based on a Real Person?


Quick Answer

For many years, Thomas Harris, author and creator of the Dr. Hannibal Lecter character, did not give any specific information about how he had come up with his most famous character, but in 2013, he revealed that a real-life Mexican prisoner, a doctor who was serving a life sentence for murder, helped to inspire the character of Dr. Lecter. This doctor has since been identified as Dr. Alfredo Ballí Treviño, a successful doctor from a wealthy family in Monterey, Mexico. Harris didn't identify this man by name but described Dr. Treviño as small in stature and possessing of "a certain intelligence and elegance."

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Was Hannibal Lecter Based on a Real Person?
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Full Answer

Though Dr. Treviño matches several of the character aspects of the fictional Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Treviño's crimes, while violent, illegal and immoral, do not approach the level of masochism and fascination that Hannibal Lecter's crimes, which typically include cannibalism, tend to have. Treviño was convicted of murdering and dismembering a lover, stuffing this man's remains into a small box. He is also suspected, but not necessarily convicted, of murdering and dismembering hitchhikers, slowly disposing of their body parts by throwing them out of a moving car. While in jail, Treviño continued to practice medicine, helping to save the lives of fellow inmates.

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