One of the only photos of Boston serial killer Kenneth Harrison, aka “The Giggler.”
Serial killer Kenneth Harrison began his Boston murder spree that would span the course of three years in 1967. His first victim was a six-year-old girl who had accepted a ride from Harrison while he was working as a Boston cab driver. Harrison somehow convinced the child to exit the cab with a promise of a “piggyback ride” on a bridge on the Fort Point Channel that separated South Boston from downtown. Harrison allegedly flew into a rage and thrust the girl over the bridge into the water. Her body was found almost two months later on a popular patch of beach and her death was ruled “accidental.”
When Harrison claimed his second victim, he would also acquire his macabre Batman villian-like moniker of “The Giggler.” On June 15th, 1969 Harrison was drinking his way to oblivion in the various bars and titty-clubs in the mythical downtown Boston den of sleaze, known as the Combat Zone. While at a standard Zone dive, the Novelty Bar, Harrison joined ex-Marine and city employee Joe Breen on the shuffleboard court and the two drank and carried on together for the rest of the evening. After Breen’s pals came back to the Novelty to collect their friend after checking out a few more of the Zone’s watering holes, Breen and Harrison were gone. And that’s because Harrison had already taken Breen out to the back of the Novelty and smashed his skull in—leaving the 31-year-old face down in a puddle of dirty water. Later, Harrison dropped a dime on himself by calling the Boston Police Department switchboard in the early morning hours of June 16th. Here’s a transcript of the chilling call which you can listen to here:
Switchboard Operator: Boston Police
Harrison: My dear, at the corner of Washington and Kneeland Streets in a construction site there’ll be a man down in the water, dead. The Giggler…Ah ha ha ha…
Harrison would add two more victims to his list in 1969 with the heinous murder of a nine-year-old boy he strangled with a piece of twine before disposing of his body in a train tunnel in South Station, and a 75-year-old woman who he also he tossed from the Fort Channel Bridge. Following the murder of the boy, Harrison once again tipped off the Boston PO on January 6th telling them where to find the child’s body. Unfortunately the cops weren’t able to put the two calls together. When he was finally apprehended a few weeks after the murder of his shuffleboard partner Joe Breen, Harrison would confess to all four murders and in November of 1970 he was convicted for the first degree murder of Breen, for which he received a life sentence. He would also received three additional life-terms, one for each of his other victims. During his confession Harrison also tried to take responsibility for the arson of the transient-friendly Paramount Hotel that claimed the lives of eleven, and injured more than 50. According to Harrison, and keeping true to his ominous nickname, he noted that he set the fire for “shits and giggles.” Harrison was never indicted for the blaze. In accordance with a plea bargain for the murders, Harrison ended up serving his time at a place we used to hear horrific stories about as kids growing up in Boston, Bridgewater State Hospital.
On April 20th, 1989 Harrison took his own life by swallowing as many of his anti-depressants as he could, most likely inspired to do so in order to avoid being killed by an inmate at Concord State Prison where Harrison was due to be transferred to on April 21st.
An article on Harrison’s murder of Joe Breen and his subsequent arrest in ‘The Boston Globe.’