Question: On Sunday’s (April 8) “Mad Men,” characters kept referring to the grisly Chicago nurse murders. What was that all about?
Answer: On July 14, 1966, 24-year-old drifter Richard Speck broke into a Chicago townhouse shared by nine nursing students. With just a knife, Speck held the women in one room — systematically leading them out of a room, raping and killing each one. Just one woman — Cora (Corazon) Amurao — survived by hiding under a bed. That detail was chillingly echoed in “Mad Men” by Don’s fever dream which ends with him shoving strangling victim Andrea under his bed and by Sally Draper, who at the end of the episode is revealed as sleeping soundly under a couch.
In the episode, Peggy’s pal Allison, who works at TIME, brings the SCDP gang a set of unreleased crime scene photos at which to gawk. In fact, TIME included the Speck murders among it’s Crimes of the Century.
Speck was sentenced to death for the murders, but the sentence was commuted to 100 years in prison when a Supreme Court moratorium on death penalty cases went into effect in 1972. He granted one media interview in 1978 and for the first time publicly confessed to the murders. He believed he would get out of prison sometime before the year 2000 and told Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene he spent his time in prioson “getting high.”
“I had no feelings at all that night,” Speck told Greene. “They said there was blood all over the place. I can’t remember. It felt like nothing… I’m sorry as hell. For those girls, and for their families, and for me. If I had to do it over again, it would be a simple house burglary.”
Speck was also invoked in an episode of “American Horror Story” when a man breaks into a house and systematically kills the nursing students living inside.
Speck died in prison in 1991. In this video, Speck discusses the murders and his bizarre prison transformation (slightly explicit, so be warned):