In late 1950s Los Angeles, serial killer Harvey Glatman raped and murdered three aspiring models — but not before taking some disturbing photos of them first.
Hollywood was a dangerous place for up-and-coming young actresses in the late 1950s. From 1957 to 1958, the City of Angels was gripped by a series of sadistic murders perpetrated by a man named Harvey Glatman — or, as he came to be known, “The Glamour Girl Slayer.”
The modus operandi was more or less the same for each victim. Glatman would pose as a photographer and offer aspiring models gigs in pulp magazines. Other times, he’d look for a “date” in the “lonely hearts” ads.
Instead, when these unsuspecting young women met up with him, Glatman tied them up and posed them for “glamour” shots before sexually assaulting them. When he was done with them, he strangled them and dumped their bodies in the desert. Later, Glatman would confess to murdering at least three women in this way: Judith Dull, Ruth Mercado, and Shirley Ann Bridgeford.
It wasn’t until a fourth would-be victim fought back and brought the police to her attacker that Harvey Glatman was finally caught, bringing an end to the Glamour Girl Slayer’s reign of terror. But indicators of Glatman’s murderous tendencies — and his perverse obsession with rope — were evident from a shockingly young age.
Early Signs Of A Killer
Harvey Glatman was born in New York City in 1927, but spent his early formative years in Denver, Colorado. His parents began noticing odd behaviors in him from an incredibly young age.
“When he was three, I noticed some instances of strange behavior,” his mother Ophelia told the New York Daily News, noting that he displayed certain sadomasochistic sexual tendencies. According to a report from Radford University, he started choking himself with a noose for sexual gratification at the age of 4.
“It seems like I always had a piece of rope in my hands when I was a kid,” he later said, according to Rope, Michael Newton’s biography of Glatman. “I guess I was just kind of fascinated by rope.”
Once the family moved to Denver, Glatman’s mother noted that was extremely “girl shy” and was often teased in school. Soon, however, he acquired some interesting “hobbies,” like burglary, purse snatching — and assaulting women. By the age of 12, he was following women home and forcing them into their rooms at gunpoint, where he would tie them up and assault them.
When Glatman was 17 and still in high school, he was arrested after one of these women managed to identify him from a series of mugshots. After he graduated, he continued to rob and sexually assault women for years, often being arrested and serving short stints in prison for these crimes.
During one of these stints, Glatman was diagnosed as a “psychopathic personality schizophrenic type having sexually perverted impulses as the basis of his criminality.”
Then, in 1957, Harvey Glatman moved to Los Angeles, where he picked up photography and began working as a television repairman to support himself — and where his crimes would quickly escalate.
The First ‘Glamour Girl’ Victim
Under the guise of being a photographer for a pulp modeling agency, Harvey Glatman began reaching out to young up-and-coming actresses and models to enact his murderous desires.
His first victim was a 19-year-old model by the name of Judy Ann Dull. She was engaged in a protracted, expensive custody battle with her estranged husband over their baby daughter, so when a “photographer” called offering her a much-needed $50 to pose for the cover of a pulp novel, she jumped at the opportunity.
When Glatman arrived to pick her up, none of Dull’s roommates saw any danger in the small, bespectacled man.
However, once he brought Dull to his apartment, he held her at gunpoint and repeatedly raped her — thus losing his virginity at the age of 29, according to Killer Book of Serial Killers by Tom and Michael Philbin.
He then drove her out to a secluded location in the desert outside of Los Angeles, where he strangled her to death. It was there that Harvey Glatman would continue to take women, tie them up, sexually assault them, and finally murder them.
“I would make them kneel down. With every one it was the same,” Glatman later told police. “With the gun on them I would tie this 5-foot piece of rope around their ankles. Then I would loop it up it up around their neck. Then I would stand there and keep pulling until they quit struggling.”
Harvey Glatman’s Crimes As ‘The Glamour Girl Slayer’
Harvey Glatman’s next victim was Shirley Ann Bridgeford, 24, a divorcee and model he met through a “lonely hearts” ad using the false name George Williams.
Glatman picked up Bridgeford under the pretense of taking her to a dance club. Instead, he took her out to the desert, tied her up, photographed her, and raped her. After he killed her, he left her body unburied, to be ravaged by animals and the desert wind.
As he had with Dull, Glatman found his next victim, Ruth Mercado, 24, through a modeling agency. When he arrived at her place for a planned photoshoot, he learned that she was feeling too ill to proceed.
Undeterred by this fact, Glatman returned to her house hours later. This time, Glatman let himself in and raped her repeatedly at gunpoint throughout the night. In the morning, Glatman forced her to walk out to his car, and then drove her to the desert where he killed her in his usual manner.
“She was one I really liked,” Glatman later revealed during interrogation, according to Last Meals: The Final Suppers of Serial Killers & Murderers by Dylan Frost. “So I told her we were going out to a deserted spot where we wouldn’t be bothered while I took more pictures. We drove out to the Escondido district and spent most of the day out on the desert.
“I took a lot more pictures and tried and tried to figure out how to keep from killing her. But I couldn’t come up with any answer.”
Glatman attempted to continue with this modus operandi — but his plans were foiled when he chose the wrong victim: 28-year-old Lorraine Vigil.
Harvey Glatman’s Failed Fourth Murder Attempt
Lorraine Vigil had just registered with a modeling agency when Glatman contacted her about a photoshoot in July 1958. She got in the car with him, but worry quickly took hold when she realized that he was driving in the opposite direction of Hollywood.
“I did not become alarmed, however, until we entered the Santa Ana Freeway and he began driving at a tremendous speed. He wouldn’t answer my questions or even look at me,” Vigil later said.
Then, Glatman claimed his car had a flat tire and pulled over to the side of the road. Once the car was parked, Glatman pulled his gun on Vigil and attempted to tie her up.
Vigil, however, was able to grab the gun by the muzzle and tried to wrest it from Glatman. He then tried to convince her that if she let go, he would not kill her, but Vigil knew better. As they fought over the gun, Glatman accidentally fired a bullet that passed through Vigil’s skirt, grazing her thigh.
At that point, Vigil bit Glatman’s hand and was able to get hold of the gun. She pointed it at Glatman and held him there until police arrived on the scene.
Harvey Glatman Sees Justice
Police arrested Harvey Glatman for the assault, at which point he willingly admitted to his previous three murders. He eventually led police to a toolbox that contained photographs of the three murder victims, as well as other souvenirs from the murders, like ID cards and undergarments.
Glatman spoke openly about his crimes to law enforcement. When put on trial for his crimes, Glatman pled guilty and repeatedly requested that he be given the death penalty, even attempting to stop the automatic appeal given to all death penalty cases in California.
Ultimately, Harvey Glatman was killed with cyanide in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on Sept. 18, 1959, bringing his horrifying killing spree to an end.
After this look at Harvey Glatman, discover how 33 of history’s most famous serial killers finally met their ends. Then, read serial killer quotes that will chill you to the bone.