What Happened on Good Friday in 1964

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Fifty years ago, on Good Friday, a 7-year-old girl was found with a scarf tightly bound around her neck in Allenstown, N.H. a few blocks from our home on Valley Street. Susan Fanny was in the next-door home of a 48-year-old woman, Loretta Fanny, first reported to be her aunt. It was determined a few days later that Loretta was actually a second cousin.

There was no school that day, because it was Good Friday. I was home alone, not uncommon if my mother had errands to run. My dad was at work as always. This was a small town of about 1,000 people, considered safe, where neighbors watched out for each other’s children. The longtime fire chief lived next door. On March 27, 1964 — the day on which Good Friday fell a half-century ago — my mother was just six weeks away from giving birth to her youngest son, Gregg. It is possible she had a doctor’s appointment and had taken Scott, my younger brother — barely 6 and likely considered too young to leave along. I was 8, would be 9 in August, and was in third grade.

I recall the St. John The Baptist Church bells ringing in early afternoon and wondering why. There were police cars and an ambulance going up and down School Street, an unusual occurrence. Word spread quickly, though I don’t remember how I learned the news. Most likely I walked around the corner to the store where we kids always hung out. That is where I bought my first comic book, spending 12 cents of my proceeds earned from shoveling snow to buy the premier issue of “Fantastic Four.” I wish I still had that issue. It is worth a lot

Or maybe Chief Amadee Courtemanche told me. Somehow I found out.

A girl had been strangled. Right down the street. And I was home alone and scared.

The Boston Strangler was making headlines at the time in that city, 90 minutes south of Allenstown. By January 1964, 11 women between the ages of 19 and 85 had been murdered in and around Beantown. Lurid headlines filled the pages of the Boston Record-American, the tabloid my parents preferred to read along with the Concord Monitor, our hometown newspaper. I was already an avid newspaper reader at 8, and immediately considered the possibility that the Boston Strangler had made his way north to the Granite State, to our little town.

A little girl, a year younger than me, was possibly dead and her killer was loose. My dad was at work, my mother nowhere to be found. I decided to hole up in the barn that my dad converted into his art studio, to regroup. I could have gone to stay with the Courtemanche family next door, but perhaps he was busy at the rescue scene. Memory is tricky. I just recall holing up in the cold barn for a while, wondering where the Boston Strangler might be lurking, a scared kid with a vivid imagination.

The sad, unexplainable truth remains that Susan Fanny was strangled by her much-older cousin, Loretta. She died four days after the attacks, on April 1, 1964.  A judge quickly ruled Loretta insane, according to newspaper accounts I found online. She was committed in mid-May to the New Hampshire Mental Hospital for life and died in 1976, presumably in that facility. I found a photo of her grave marker online.

Meanwhile, a convicted rapist named Albert DeSalvo, who had been arrested in October 1964 for a sexual assault, confessed to being the Boston Strangler.

He was never convicted of the crime and briefly escaped from a mental hospital three years later. That prompted new fears in our town that he might end up in New Hampshire, but DeSalvo was captured 37 hours later outside of Boston.

DeSalvo was stabbed to death in a prison infirmary in 1973. For decades, doubts persisted about whether he truly was the Boston Strangler, until DNA testing taken from his last victim in 2013 confirmed he committed the crime.

Later that day on Good Friday 1964, a major earthquake struck Alaska. It is the most powerful quake recorded in the United States. The quake killed 15 people, and 139 others died in the subsequent tsunami. Anchorage received the most damage from the quake.


I said a prayer for Susan Fanny this Good Friday, and for her family. Fifty years have passed, and not many people may remember what happened that day in a little town in New Hampshire. But I guess I always will.


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  • Sheila Sarabia


    my mother remembers this day as well. She had been telling me the story of her aunt that had TB and was a guest of the sanatorium in pembroke. You may also remember that. She then went on to tell me of her other aunt, Loretta, who strangled Susan. She remembers her father's heartbreak as he told her what his sister had done. You're not alone in this memory, that's all I wanted to share. Thank you, Sheila

    • admin


      Thank you for taking the time to write. It was one of those tragedies that has been seared into my memory. I do not remember the place in Pembroke, but I was just a kid. Take care.

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