- This article is about the character from the novels and films. You may be looking for the television series version of the character, or the Manhunter version.
Doctor Hannibal Lecter M.D. (born 1933) is a Lithuanian-American serial killer, notorious for consuming his victims, earning him the nickname "Hannibal the Cannibal".
Orphaned at a young age, Lecter moved to the United States of America, becoming a successful psychiatrist. He was eventually caught by Will Graham, who later consulted him for advice on capturing the "Tooth Fairy". He escaped incarceration whilst assisting Clarice Starling in capturing "Buffalo Bill".
- 1 History
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 References
Hannibal Lecter was born in 1933, within an ancient castle in Vilnius, Lithuania, into the wealthy aristocratic family that lived there; his father, simply known as Count Lecter, was a descendant of the warlord "Hannibal the Grim" (1365-1428), who defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, and built the castle within five years, using as labor the soldiers he took prisoner. His mother, Madame Simonetta Sforza-Lecter, was descended from both the Visconti and Sforza families, who separately ruled Milan for a total of 250 years. He is the eighth in his blood-line to bear his ancestor's forename. Lecter was born with the rarest form of polydactyly, his left hand had six perfect fingers, the middle finger perfectly replicated.
Lecter may have also been descended from Giuliano Bevisangue ("Bevisangue" means "Blood-Drinker"), a feared and ruthless figure in 12th-century Tuscany, and from the Machiavelli bloodline. Lecter himself would pursue this subject, to determine from the records of the Capponi Library if there was any true connection to Bevisangue, but he was unable to answer the question. Lecter was a distant cousin of the artist Balthus.
Childhood and Bereavement
Lecter grew up well-educated under the eyes of his father, who out of silent curiosity spoiled him with learning English, German and Lithuanian every day in the castle’s study. At age 6, he discovered an old edition of Euclid’s Elements with hand-drawn illustrations, which he used to determine the height of the castle towers over the summer. That fall, he was introduced to a baby sister, Mischa, with whom he formed a strong, affectionate bond. When she grew old enough to wander, Lecter gave her a feeling of discovery.
In the winter of 1941, the castle was overrun by Nazi military forces who were taking part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Lecter, who was 8 years old at the time, fled with his family to a lodge in the forest, where they spent three years feeding on animals. However, one winter's day in 1944 a Soviet tank stopped by the lodge demanding for water, only to be bombed by a Nazi Stuka. Lecter's parents, tutor, and family retainers were all killed by the resulting blast, and he and Mischa were held captive when a group of former Lithuanian Hilfswillige led by Nazi collaborator Vladis Grutas stormed and looted the lodge. With all sources of food exhausted, Mischa was killed and cannibalized by the group, but Lecter escaped. However, he was severely traumatized by his sister's death and rendered temporarily mute for a short while. Mischa's death would haunt him for the rest of his life; he would later explain that it destroyed his faith in God, and thereafter he believed that there was no real justice in the world.
After the looters fled, Lecter wandered the forests with a shackle around his neck which stripped away pieces of his skin (leaving a scar that would never truly heal), and carrying his father's binoculars, which stayed with him for many years. He was found by a Soviets tank crew, who returned him to his family's castle, which had been converted into an orphanage. The war had many lasting effects on the children, and many of them became bullies. While living there, he frequently attacked and severely wounded many of his fellow orphans, but only those who bullied, hurt or insulted others. Lecter called on his memories of Grutas to inspire the anger necessary to hurt the bullies. He was well-behaved around the younger orphans, often letting them tease him a little, letting them believe him to be a crazed deaf-mute, and giving them his treats that he rarely received.
Adoption and Revenge
By age 13, Lecter was picked up from the orphanage by his uncle Count Robert Lecter, who brought him back to his estate on the banks of the Essonne in France. There, he formed a close relationship with his aunt, the Lady Murasaki, with whom he instantly fell in love. His uncle encouraged him to take up painting while his aunt taught him aspects of Japanese culture. Still mute and disturbed by his sister's death, he saw the psychiatrist, Doctor Rufin. He attacked a local butcher, Paul Momund, in retaliation for an obscene insult to his aunt. Robert Lecter died from a heart attack during a further confrontation with Momund. An enraged Lecter then committed his first murder, slashing Momund with a Tanto that had belonged to his aunt's samurai ancestor, Date Masamune. He then beheaded Momund and, after receiving a tip from his aunt's chef whilst they prepared a fish, sliced off his victim's cheeks, cooked them with mushrooms and ate them, his first willful act of cannibalism. He then presented the decapitated head to Masamune. The murder brought Lecter to the attention of Inspector Pascal Popil, who intuitively grasped that he was guilty and pressed him to confess. Lecter proved impenetrable, even passing a lie detector test; thanks to Lady Murasaki's intervention, he escaped any blame. Following her husband's death, Lady Murasaki moved to a flat in Paris, where Lecter attended a boarding school. Popil, who was fascinated by both Lecter and Lady Murasaki, remained in close contact with them.
Lecter excelled at the Lycée and graduated early, becoming the youngest person admitted to a medical school in France, where he was mentored by a Doctor Dumas. He had been alerted to the survival of the Totenkopfs who had held him prisoner, when he found a painting looted from his father's collection for sale in a Paris gallery.
In 1951, he returned to Lithuania and the scene of his sister's murder. He excavated the ruins of the lodge where his family died and, upon finding Mischa's remains, gave her a proper burial. He also unearthed the dog-tags of the group of deserters who had killed her. One member of the group, Enrikas Dortlich, now an officer in the Soviet Border Guards, arrived at the scene intent on killing Lecter. Lecter, however, was not caught off guard and instead murdered Dortlich. Once again, Lecter consumed his victim's cheeks.
Dortlich's murder put the group on alert and, due to the similarity of Lecter's first murder, placed him under renewed suspicion from Popil. Grutas dispatched a second member of the group, Zigmas Milko, to eliminate the problem by either bribing Lecter or killing him. Lecter killed Milko instead, drowning him in formaldehyde. Both Popil and Lady Murasaki try to dissuade him from hunting the gang. During a confrontation with Lady Murasaki, Lecter almost had sex with her, but relented at the last minute, claiming he had made a promise to Mischa. He attacked Grutas in his home, but Grutas was rescued by his bodyguards. Grutas kidnapped Lady Murasaki and used her as a lure to draw Lecter to his death. Lecter, donning the Tanto, tracked Grutas to his houseboat. In a final confrontation, Grutas claimed that Lecter too had consumed his sister in broth fed to him by the soldiers, and it was to keep this fact secret that he was killing them. Enraged, Lecter eviscerated him by repeatedly carving his sister's initial into his body. Lady Murasaki was disturbed by his behavior and fled from him, even after he told her that he loved her.
Popil arrested Lecter for the murders, but there was little incentive for a trial; no evidence could be conclusively tied to him, and all the victims had been slavers and war criminals. His victims' association with the Nazis led Lecter to become something of a cause for celebration in France, with communists and students marching for his release. Lady Murasaki visited him one last time while he was being held by the police, and saw that he had become completely emotionless. After receiving references from Doctor Dumas and from the head of the Police Forensic Laboratory, for whom he has worked as a volunteer, Lecter was released. He left France, killing the final member of the group, Bronys Grentz, while on a vacation in Montreal, before returning to his internship in Baltimore.
Career as a psychiatrist
Lecter's drawings led to an internship at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, where he graduated with a degree in medicine and eventually settled. Lecter established a psychiatric practice in Baltimore. He became a leading figure in Baltimore society and indulged his extravagant tastes, which he financed by influencing some of his patients to bequeath him large sums of money in their wills. He was also on the board of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra. He became world-renowned as a brilliant clinical psychiatrist, but he had nothing but disdain for psychology; he would later say he didn't consider it a science, criticizing it as "puerile", and comment that most psychology departments were filled with "ham radio enthusiasts and other personality-deficient buffs". He also mocked the way serial killers were categorized into "organized and disorganized" but wasn't interested in offering an alternative. Jack Crawford speculated that Lecter deliberately did not treat some of his more violent patients and allowed them to indulge in acts of violence upon the public, just for fun. At some point he bought a cottage where he hid a fake passport and money, anticipating a time as a fugitive.
Hannibal the Cannibal
During the mid 1970s in America, Lecter continued his killing spree. During this series of murders, of which he was convicted of, he killed at least nine people and attempting to kill three others.
Mason Verger was one known survivor, having gone through psychiatric counseling with Lecter as part of a court order after being convicted of child molestation, and for viciously raping his own sister, Margot, who also went to Lecter for counseling. Verger invited Lecter to his home in Owings Mills one night after a session, and showed Lecter two caged dogs that he intended to starve and turn against each other. Lecter offered Verger a recreational amyl popper (amyl nitrate), but this was actually a cocktail of dangerous hallucinogenic drugs. He then suggested Verger try cutting off his own face with a mirror shard. Verger complied and, again at Lecter's suggestion, fed most of his face to his dogs and ate his own nose. Lecter then broke Verger's neck with a rope Verger used for auto-erotic asphyxiation and left him to die. Later, the dogs were taken to an animal shelter to have their stomachs pumped, which led to the retrieval of Verger's lips and parts of his forehead; however, the skin graft was unsuccessful. Verger survived but was left hideously disfigured and forever confined to a life support machine.
Benjamin Raspail was Lecter's ninth and final known murder victim in the Chesapeake series before his incarceration. Raspail was a not-so-talented flautist with the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra, and it is believed that Lecter killed him because his musicianship, or lack thereof, spoiled the orchestra's concerts; he was also a patient of Lecter's. Lecter would claim to Clarice Starling that the reason for Raspail's death was that Lecter "got sick and tired of his whining" during their appointments. Raspail's body would be discovered sitting in a church pew with his thymus and pancreas missing, and his heart pierced. It is believed Lecter served these organs at a dinner party he held for the orchestra's board of directors. The president of the board later developed an alcohol problem and anorexia after learning what was in his meal. Raspail was the former lover of Jame Gumb, who would later be involved in Lecter's life as the serial killer dubbed "Buffalo Bill".
Not much is known about most of his other victims in this series or how they were killed. They can be presumed to have been mutilated and in most cases, eaten. Lecter likely killed them for discourtesy, as he preferred to “eat the rude”. Will Graham described Lecter's actions as "hideous". They were likely to have been his patients. In at least one case, he prepared his victim as an eloquent meal and shared his remains with the victim's fellow musicians. Victims included a person who initially survived, and was taken to a private mental hospital in Denver, Colorado, a bow hunter, a census taker whose liver he ate with "fava beans and a big Amarone", and a Princeton student whom he buried. Lecter was given sodium amytal by the FBI in the hopes of learning where he buried the student; but Lecter, instead of giving them the location of the buried student, gave them a recipe for potato chip dip, the implication being that the student was in the dip. Jack Crawford, when discussing the MO of Buffalo Bill, implied that Lecter had personal experience of hanging another person, suggesting that Lecter used this against at least one victim. He had trained himself previously by administering self-hypnosis in case he was ever administered hypnotic drugs. Lecter committed his last three known murders within a nine-day span. Since one officer retired after seeing Lecter's basement, it can be presumed that parts of his victims were stored there, traumatizing the officer. In later years, pictures of Lecter's crimes gained a macabre following on the internet.
In the novel Hannibal, there are suggestions that Lecter was the serial killer Il Mostro di Firenze. Il Mostro operated in Florence, killing couples in the 1980s and 1990s, arranging their bodies as art tableaux and taking anatomical trophies. There was also an eight-year hiatus, the same length of time Lecter was imprisoned. However, Lecter was in prison between 1975 and 1983. Despite similarities between Lecter’s murders and Il Mostro, it is likely the Florentine killer may have been inspired by Lecter.
Lecter was caught on Sunday 30th March 1975 by Will Graham, an FBI Special Agent and profiler who was investigating a series of murders in the Baltimore area committed by a cannibalistic serial killer. Graham had first sought Lecter out after discovering he'd treated one of the victims, the sixth, for two hunting wounds in his leg. When Graham questioned Lecter at his psychiatric practice, Lecter was polite but claimed not to remember anything about the victim. Soon after the ninth victim was murdered, Graham, unsatisfied about Lecter’s behavior, decided to question him again. This time he noticed some antique medical books in Lecter’s office. Upon seeing these, Graham instinctively knew Lecter was the killer he sought; the sixth victim had been killed in his workshop and laced to a pegboard in a manner reminiscent of Wound Man, an illustration used in many early medical books. Graham realized that the hunting wound that led him to Lecter was similar to one in the illustration, which inspired Lecter to further emulate the illustration. Graham left to call the police, but Lecter crept up from behind and stabbed him with a linoleum knife, nearly disemboweling him. However, Graham managed to survive the encounter, while Lecter was then apprehended by FBI agents and Maryland State Troopers. After Lecter's arrest, Graham was briefly committed to a mental institution and retired upon recovering from his wounds. Ironically, the sixth victim that exposed Lecter was not eaten. Lecter was analyzed by police and psychiatrists. He deliberately fabricated some facts about himself, such as his age and that he was sadistic towards animals as a child. He refused a medical check up, as he had utter contempt for medical practitioners. His fingerprints were taken, the card containing the prints from his left hand became a cult object. After his escape years later, the card was sent around the world and became a collectible.
The courts found Lecter insane; this spared him the death penalty. He was instead sent to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for nine consecutive life terms, under administrator Frederick Chilton. Many of the families of his victims pursued lawsuits against Lecter to have their files destroyed. The FBI exhumed the graves of four patients, as well as two wealthy benefactors, who had died under Lecter's care for further investigation into the cause of their deaths, but were inconclusive. He was nicknamed "Hannibal the Cannibal" in the National Tattler, a tabloid that, thanks to Freddie Lounds, also published unauthorized photos of Graham in the hospital after being attacked by Lecter. Another officer retired from the FBI after being traumatized after discovering Lecter's basement. Lecter's electroencephalogram (EEG) showed a highly unusual pattern and, given his history, was ultimately branded "a pure sociopath" by Chilton, although this was because they did not know what to call him. Many in the field of psychiatry labeled him a "monster". The National Tattler described Lecter's crimes as "unspeakable practices".  Lecter was considered one of the most savage serial killers that had been captured in recent history.
Lecter, while in custody, was said to be "far too sophisticated" for most forms of psychological evaluation, especially as he enjoyed staying abreast of all of the latest developments in his field. Since he knew how the tests worked, he could easily come up with the typical answers that would brand him as not being psychologically disturbed, and he also mocked the psychiatrists' attempts to profile him by folding their tests into origami. Because Lecter gave wrong answers to questions in these tests, Chilton diagnosed him with Ganser syndrome, sometimes known as syndrome of approximate answers, much to Lecter's amusement. Lecter would learn a lot about Chilton, then publish papers to humiliate him. Lecter was considered a prize asset, due to the fact he was a pure sociopath. He was designated as prisoner B5160-8.
Lecter was a model patient until the afternoon of July 8, 1976. After complaining of chest pains, he was taken to the infirmary. After his restraints were removed for his electrocardiogram (ECG) he attacked a nurse, tearing out an eye, dislocating her jaw, and biting out her tongue and eating it. Chilton would later note that Lecter's pulse never went above 85 beats per minute," even when he swallowed [her tongue]." During the struggle with the orderlies, his shoulder was dislocated. Following this incident, especially when Barney arrived a year after, Lecter’s security was maximized. He was often outfitted with heavy restraints, a straitjacket and muzzle, and transported only when strapped to a hand-truck. After cleaning his cell, the orderlies would secure Lecter to his bed using heavy cloths, so Lecter could exchange his restraints for his meals. His cell was fronted with a double barrier, the first being a wall of standard bars and the second a nylon net stretched across the opening, with a gap between the two too wide for Lecter to reach across. Visitors were warned not to approach the cell, nor give him anything that could either aide escape or to injure. Chilton often showed the photograph of the nurse, partly to warn, partly for shock value. Despite these high security measures, Lecter managed to create a handcuff key from a pen and a paperclip left in his cell by visitors, both times on Barney's day off. Despite being commuted soon after his arrest, Lecter did not go on trial until 1977. Lecter was eventually deemed sane enough to stand trail, and was found guilty of nine counts of murder. He was sentenced to life in the institution without the possibility of parole.
Chilton and Lecter's relationship was marked by mutual hatred; Chilton's status as a psychologist, his mediocrity and inflated self-importance offended Lecter, who often humiliated his keeper; while Lecter's constant mockery and elusiveness infuriated Chilton, who punished him by removing his books and toilet seat. At the end of Red Dragon, Lecter diagnosed this form of punishment as indicative of the damnation of society by half-measures: "Any rational society would kill me, or give me my books." By contrast, Lecter reached a mutual respect with his primary caregiver and warden, Barney Matthews, and the two often shared thoughts over Barney's correspondence courses. During the investigation of Buffalo Bill, the two would also discuss Clarice Starling. During his time in the hospital, Lecter corresponded with many people from the psychiatric world, writing and publishing excellent essays and theories, as long as they were not related to his case. One article he wrote on Surgical Addiction was highly rated. Lecter's mail was enormous when he was first committed, taking an orderly ten minutes to remove staples, but his mail declined over the years. One journalist offered to buy one of Lecter's cook books to sell for £250,000. He would also heavily criticize articles, in one instance he made Dr. Doemling cry after an extremely harsh review.
During his stay in Baltimore State Hospital, Lecter would help with two FBI cases. Graham came out of retirement in 1978 to offer his insight on the "Tooth Fairy" case and upon arriving at a dead end, went to Lecter for help. Lecter gave Graham some valuable insights into the Tooth Fairy, but upon learning about the case, secretly sent a coded message to the killer, Francis Dolarhyde, to kill Graham and his family (which would later result in Graham's permanent disfigurement and decline into alcoholism).
Five years later, Jack Crawford sent FBI trainee Clarice Starling to Lecter to administer a psychological questionnaire. Starling, initially assuming the assignment was related to her studies, ended up getting him to help the FBI in the Buffalo Bill case, a serial killer who was skinning young women. As with the Red Dragon case, Lecter used wordplay and subtle clues to help Starling arrive at the conclusions herself. With Starling, he played a perverse game of "quid pro quo", sharing what he knew of Buffalo Bill in exchange for details of Starling's childhood.
Buffalo Bill's last abducted victim was Catherine Martin, daughter of Senator Ruth Martin. Lecter told Chilton he would reveal Buffalo Bill's real name to Martin and was promptly flown to Memphis, Tennessee, and held at the Shelby County Courthouse. During his stay in Memphis, Lecter lied to Martin, giving her the fake name "William Rubin," or "Billy Rubin". (Bilirubin is a pigment found in feces. It is the same color as Chilton's hair, Lecter's hint that the name was fake. The film adaptation changed the name to "Louis Friend," an anagram for "iron sulfide" - fool's gold.) Starling then visited Lecter at his makeshift cell, and he gave her some final clues before making a bloody escape. Using his handcuff key, he slipped his cuffs and brutally killed two police officers during the ordeal. He escaped by making a "mask" from the face of one of the officers, donning the officer's uniform and pretending to be his own still-living victim so that he would be hurried away by ambulance while the authorities hunted for him. The murdered officer, Pembry, was dressed up to look like Lecter and dropped onto the elevator. He also murdered two paramedics and a tourist, stealing the latter's clothes and identity. He was soon placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. After Buffalo Bill (revealed to be Jame Gumb) was killed by Starling, Lecter sent letters stating he wanted revenge on Chilton for the mistreatment he suffered at the hospital. Chilton soon disappeared, probably killed by Lecter. He also sent a "thank you" note to Barney for how decently he treated him, and gave him a generous tip, and a letter to Starling wishing her well. He returned to his cottage, where he hid money and another identity.
Life on the Run
After plastic surgery and the removal of his sixth finger while in Brazil, Lecter eventually relocated in Florence, Italy. Lecter avoided reconstruction of his nose to protect his uncanny perception of fragrances. In Florence, he took the pseudonym "Dr. Fell," possibly a reference to the Tom Brown translation of Martial's epigram "Non amo te, Sabidi" ("I do not love thee, Doctor Fell / The reason why, I cannot tell." Fell also means "cruel" or "fierce") As Dr. Fell, Lecter's charisma and expertise won him the recently vacated position of museum curator; Lecter had, of course, murdered the position's previous occupant and buried him in concrete. While on the run and before he met Pazzi, this was the only murder he committed, though it is implied he may have committed at least one more, the murder of an inept viola player who was a cousin to his rival Sogliato in Florence.
Lecter's identity would be discovered by Florence detective Rinaldo Pazzi seven years after his escape from Memphis. Lecter had been going by the false name Dr. Fell and Pazzi, who had been disgraced when he bungled the "Il Mostro" case, saw a chance for redemption when he realized Dr. Fell's true identity. Pazzi struck a deal with one of Lecter’s surviving victims, Mason Verger to get the doctor alive so that Verger could exact his revenge by feeding Lecter to a group of specially trained boars. In his efforts to capture Lecter, Pazzi found himself the doctor's prisoner, and he informed Lecter of his plot. After disemboweling and hanging Pazzi, and killing a Verger henchman, Lecter returned to the United States. Both Verger and Starling would hunt him, hoping to get to him before the other. Lecter murdered a hunter for meat, which alerted Starling. Lecter was captured by Verger's men, but Starling rescued him. In the ensuing fight, Verger's men shot her with two darts filled with sedatives. Lecter carried her away from the boars and convinced Margot Verger to kill her brother. Lecter left a voice message claiming responsibility for Verger's death.
Lecter kept Starling in total isolation during the next few months, subjecting her to various conditioning techniques in order to systematically replace Starling's memories and personality and make her believe she was Mischa. After breaking Starling down, Lecter kidnapped her nemesis, Paul Krendler, who was trying to discredit her, as a final test. At the rented home that Lecter was living in, Lecter performed a craniotomy on a drugged Krendler and tastefully prepared and shared his brains with Starling and himself while Krendler was still alive.
However, Lecter's plan to brainwash Starling into believing she's Mischa ultimately failed, as he utterly underestimated her strong will; Starling refused to have her own personality sublimated, mocking his efforts to turn her into his sister. Then, she exposed her breast to Lecter and seduced him.
The couple then vanished. In 1993, Lecter's former caregiver, Barney Matthews, spotted the two in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is stated on the last page of the novel that both Lecter and Starling were capable of murder at any time; in essence, whatever of Lecter's conditioning took created a "counterpart" of himself in Starling.
The relatively short relationship between Graham and Lecter is marked by mutual hatred. By the end of Red Dragon, Lecter is directly responsible for ruining Graham's life twice - nearly causing the deaths of Graham's wife and stepson as well. Prior to Red Dragon, Graham had only met Lecter twice, both times very briefly, for Graham to ask Lecter routine questions; however, during their second meeting, Graham realized that Lecter was the killer he'd been seeking. When Graham left to call in reinforcements, Lecter snuck up behind Graham, gutted him, and escaped for a brief period before authorities ultimately caught him. This was only the first time that Lecter would cause Graham's hospitalization; the second time would be by proxy, through Francis Dolarhyde. After his life was ruined for the second time, Graham sank into an alcoholic depression in Florida. Eventually, Jack Crawford and the others at the FBI, along with everyone else, stopped visiting because they saw that Will was killing himself and there was nothing they could do - it was too hard on them to see this empty shell of what Graham used to be.
While asking for Lecter's help, it was clear that were hostile feelings from both parties. Graham tried to conduct a civil partnership with Lecter but ultimately found that he needed Lecter's help in putting himself in the right frame of mind to catch Dolarhyde. After his attack by Dolarhyde, Graham resented Lecter and spiraled into depression and alcoholism. Lecter, on the other hand, wanted revenge on Graham for his imprisonment, secretly messaging the Tooth Fairy to attack Graham. Lecter believed that he and Graham were very much alike, hence why he was captured.
Starling and Lecter's relationship began with Starling's assignment from Jack Crawford to interview Lecter. On their first meeting, Lecter was courteous and pleasant towards Starling until she handed him the VICAP questionnaire. After mocking this attempt and giving her an unflattering cold reading, Starling leaves shaken. After Miggs flings semen at her, Lecter is more willing to help Starling, giving her clues to help apprehend Buffalo Bill. Their next few meetings prove to be instrumental in their relationship. Lecter agrees to help with the Buffalo Bill case, as long as Starling plays a game of "quid pro quo", offering horrific childhood memories in exchange for information. On the advice of Crawford, Starling offers Lecter a fake transfer offer. Lecter sees through this, however. After being genuinely transferred to Memphis, Starling gives Lecter the information about herself that he craves, about her rescuing a lamb from slaughter on her relative's farm. Lecter escapes that evening, killing five in the process. Using Lecter's cryptic clues, she discovers and kills Buffalo Bill, a disturbed man named Jame Gumb. Lecter congratulates her, and hopes that the lambs have finally stopped screaming. He promises not to come after her.
Seven years later, after Starling kills five people in a failed drugs raid, Lecter sends her a letter offering condolences. In his attempt to capture Lecter, Crawford sends her to interview Mason Verger, a sadistic pedophile who survived Lecter but was horrifically disfigured during the ordeal. Verger, a wealthy pig farmer, uses his fortune to breed vicious boars to eat Lecter alive. He also uses his resources to discredit her, working with her hated enemy Paul Krendler. After Lecter is found living in Florence, Starling and Verger are desperate to catch Lecter. After Lecter brutally kills Rinaldo Pazzi, an associate of Verger, he returns to America. He is eventually captured by Verger's henchmen and brought to his pied de terre. Ultimately, Lecter is rescued by Starling and Verger's sister Margot, Starling being injured during a shootout. Margot kills several henchmen, then murders her brother, in revenge for years of sexual abuse.
Lecter takes Starling to a rented property in order to treat her injuries. He kidnaps Krendler, and Lecter and Starling eat a meal together, the main course being Krendler's brains while he watches. After Krendler's death, Lecter attempts to brainwash Starling in becoming Lecter's beloved dead sister Mischa, but fails due to Starling's strong will. The two become lovers and moved to Buenos Aires.
It is unknown if Jack Crawford ever met Lecter. However, the two men despised one another. Crawford resented Lecter for ruining Will Graham’s life. Like many others, he thought of him as a monster. Crawford warned Clarice Starling to not indulge in any personal information with Lecter. Crawford was disdainful of Lecter’s ego and need to look more intelligent than everyone. When Lecter escaped custody, Crawford was desperate to recapture him. He was pleased of the thought that should Dr Lecter be caught, he would be executed.
Lecter in turn hated Crawford, deeming him untrustworthy, and awful. He mocked Crawford for using Starling during the Buffalo Bill case, believing the FBI to be desperate. However, Lecter seemed to be genuinely upset on hearing the news of the death of Crawford’ wife, sending him a sympathy note. When he escaped, he didn’t try to harm Crawford.
Physical Appearance and Attributes
Lecter was a small and sleek man but was deceptively strong, described as being as strong as an ant. His left hand had an extremely rare condition called mid-ray duplication polydactyly, i.e. a duplicated middle finger. After his escape, he later performed plastic surgery on his own face on several occasions and removes his extra digit. Lecter's eyes were a shade of maroon and reflected the light in "pinpoints of red". He also had small white teeth and dark, slicked-back hair with a widow's peak. His voice was described as having a metallic rasp to it, likely from the lack of use during his imprisonment. Due to his imprisonment and lack of natural light, his skin became extremely pale.
Lecter was deceptively strong for his size, being strong enough to lift a body with ease. He has exceptionally developed senses. His sense of smell was perhaps his keenest sense. He instantly recognized Will Graham by his aftershave, despite not seeing him in three years, and could identify Clarice Starling’s perfume and skin cream from the day before. He could even identify Sammie’s condition through his sweat. After his escape, he refused to alter his nose, wanting to keep his keen sense of smell. He had unnerving control over his emotions and bodily readings. He could walk among vicious man eating boars with no fear, he could also control his pulse rate when committing brutal acts, such as his attack on the nurse, and a pulse rate of just over 100 when beating an officer to death.
Perhaps his most incredible attribute was his intellect. His genius was considered immeasurable, being perhaps one of the most intelligent people on the planet. His intellect was on par with Stephen Hawking, being able to understand virtually any subject he wished. He was a criminal mastermind, being able to elude the authorities with his expertise in forensic knowledge, only being caught initially through luck. He also used his cunning to forge a handcuff key in a maximum security hospital, escape prison and remain on the run. His success on eluding the authorities after his escape was due to minor plastic surgeries, and several excellent fake IDs, as well as not spontaneously moving about.
Lecter was unique for a serial killer, as he did not fit any known psychological profile, though Frederick Chilton classified him as a "pure sociopath." However, unlike subjects with sociopathy, Lecter did not exhibit pleasure from killing, which would have resulted in an accelerated heart rate. This was shown when Lecter viciously attacked a nurse, and his pulse was noted to have never exceeded 85 beats per minute. When he killed two police officers upon his escape from custody, his pulse exceeded over 100; the heightened rate was due to the exertion of beating one of the officers to death with a police baton. He also wasn't shallow or a drifter, as noted by Will Graham. Those with sociopathy also display superficial charm and glibness, something that Dr. Lecter did not possess. Lecter was genuinely charismatic and hated rudeness, often killing those who were rude. However, he was very manipulative. Lecter also showed no remorse for his actions. He found it pleasant, remembering killing Benjamin Raspail. Will Graham stated that Lecter enjoyed the hideous crimes he committed. Many in the field of psychiatry, as well as Graham, described Lecter as a "monster". Graham speculated that Lecter wasn't “crazy“ in the way most would class him as crazy. Lecter appears to be perfectly normal to the outside world, but his mind is similar to children born with defects. Another officer labelled Lecter as a "vampire". Lecter himself seemed to live the nomadic lifestyle of the traditional vampire, such as sleeping during the day and always being awake at night. Lecter was an enigma to medical science, and that the term "sociopath" was only applied to him because it was a convenient label. Lecter himself simply described himself as being evil, stating that psychiatry is "puerile", and was wrong to categorize different kinds of evil as different behavioral conditions, and that people should be responsible for their actions. Lecter then supported this by stating that the inconsistencies in his behavior were traits of pure evil and that he did not possess a behavioral abnormality. In his youth, he was assessed by a doctor, who was disturbed by the fact that Lecter could run several trains of thought at the same time due to the two hemispheres of his brain working independently. Lecter often refused to discuss his nature or the reasons behind his crimes. Chilton suspected that Lecter was afraid that if he was "solved" then people would lose interest in Lecter.
It is likely that Dr. Lecter suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The memories of his sister's murder and cannibalism triggers strong emotions in Lecter. While on a plane after leaving Florence, the memories cause the usually unflappable Lecter to cry out. In his memory palace, there is a room that even he cannot enter. Lecter has a deep interest and fantasy of time reversing, in order to bring Mischa to life. This event shaped Lecter's life of murder and cannibalism. As he was forced to eat his sister's remains, in some of his later crimes, he did the same to others.
Despite his brutal nature, he was adamant in social graces, frowning on discourtesy and rudeness. To those who treated him with respect, he extended the courtesy. This was true with Barney, his caregiver in Baltimore. Barney was firm but fair and always treated him with respect. After his escape, Lecter sent Barney a generous tip and a "thank you" note for the decency he was shown at the hospital, and promised not to harm him. He was also fond of Sammie, the man who replaced Miggs in the next cell, showing him kindness and sympathy despite Sammie's crime and fragile mental state.
Lecter was considered to be one of the most brilliant minds in the field of psychiatry, despite his contempt for the subject. Socially, he was considered exceptionally charming and an excellent host, who put on many extravagant dinner parties for his friends. One associate commented on Lecter’s generosity in giving gifts. He indulged in many cultured hobbies and fields of expertise, from art, music, especially opera, literature and of course culinary. He was particularly keen in buying extremely rare and expensive ingredients, often spending thousands on cases of wine. He loved Florence, and settled there after his escape. He was particularly fond of the fragrances from a particular street. He was saddened to leave Florence after killing Pazzi and Matteo Deogracias. He was an excellent artist, being able to draw with both hands and could draw entire landscapes from memory. His exceptional memory was thanks to the development at a young age of a memory palace. His palace was said to contain at least a thousand rooms, and vast even by Medieval standards. In the physical world, his palace was said to be as large as the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. This allowed him to not only remember virtually anything he had learned, but to retreat to rooms within his mind whenever he was without his books or being tortured. He was known to be a first class gourmet chef, who cooked delicious meals for friends. During his killing spree, he used his culinary skills to gruesome effect, sometimes serving his victims to others. He was a proficient musician who could play piano to a high level, but showed stiffness in the left hand after having his sixth finger removed. He was an admirer of Glenn Gould, particularly his interpretation of the Goldberg Variations. He held a belief in God when he was young, however he lost that belief after the death of Mischa. In his later years, he would collect articles on church roof collapses and air disasters, amused by the idea that God would kill devoted followers. However, he did at least entertain the possibility of a God. In a letter sent to Will Graham after Freddie Lounds' murder, Lecter believed that God would not begrudge Will for that death and the murder of Hobbs. Since people are traditionally made in God's image, Lecter reasoned that killing is fine, as God also kills all the time.
According to Barney, Lecter never lied. However, this was not true, as Lecter often misled the authorities and anyone who tried to categorize him. When arrested for his murders in America, he lied about his age and that he tortured animals as a child, in order to confuse the authorities. Lecter was feared among his peers for his savage and cruel wit, many of his reviews of other people's work destroyed their reputation, even causing Dr. Doemling to cry. He was always courteous and was described by Barney as having perfect manners.
Unlike many cannibalistic serial killers, Lecter did not kill for sexual or sadistic pleasure, his mentioned victims did not suffer extensive pain. This was likely because torture produces certain hormones that would affect the quality of his victim's flesh. However, Will Graham believed that Lecter did enjoy the hideous things he did to his victims, and likely still does. His primary motives for murder were discourtesy, inferiority to himself, revenge and public service. Lecter preferred using knives in his murders rather than guns, however he showed skill with a crossbow and was adept with a shotgun in two of his early murders. He also attacked with his teeth at least three times, tearing at a victim's face. Revenge and retribution was prominent in his murders before moving to America. He first murdered a butcher who was rude to his aunt. He then became obsessed with hunting Mischa's killers and inflicted brutal revenge, often beheading and eating the cheeks. During his killing spree as a psychiatrist, he murdered those who he deemed inferior to himself or to serve a public justice. This was certainly the case when he attacked Mason Verger, a highly sadistic pedophile. His murder of Benjamin Raspail was to improve the quality of the orchestra and also found the musician to be boring and self-pitying.
From his love of art and history, Lecter would inflict poetic justice on some victims. His sixth American victim, the bow hunter, was murdered and arranged in the style of the medieval drawing Wound Man, which depicted many battle injuries. Rinaldo Pazzi was hanged and disembowelled in the same manner as his ancestor. Pazzi's death also paralleled the death of Judas, who was said to have hanged himself and his bowels spilling out after his betrayal of Jesus. His penultimate victim, Donnie Barber, was arranged in the style of the Blood Eagle, a supposed Norse execution method. Clarice Starling, when examining Barber’s corpse, theorized that Lecter arranged his victims in a show of whimsy. She explained to an agent that Lecter’s sixth victim led to his capture and would likely do so again. Mason Verger's feeding his face to his dogs mirrored the biblical Jezebel, who was thrown out of a window and was eaten by dogs.
Rudeness was especially heinous to Dr Lecter, describing it as "unspeakably ugly". Lecter killed his cellmate by proxy for flinging semen at Starling. Lecter's caregiver Barney Matthews told Starling that Lecter would, whenever feasible, eat the rude, or "free-range rude" as he termed them.
When preparing a victim to be eaten, Lecter used his expertise to create delicious meals from them, either for himself or others. In at least one case, he cooked human flesh for the Baltimore Orchestra. Lecter often saw his victims as inferior to his high standards, and his sophisticated preparation of his victim's flesh elevated to them as art.
Lecter had killed at least 29 people and tried to kill four others. In his youth and travels through Europe and Canada, he murdered eight men. In the USA, he was convicted of nine murders and three attempted murders. In the asylum, he savaged a nurse, eating the woman's tongue. He drove a fellow patient to suicide, effectively murdering him. During his escape, he killed five people. While in Italy and his return to America, he killed another six people. The FBI knew of at least 17 victims. Lecter falsely claimed that he killed Mason Verger, and was likely involved in the disappearance of Dr Frederick Chilton and a viola player in Florence. From hints in the novel Hannibal, it is implied that Lecter was Il Mostro, the Monster of Florence. If Lecter was indeed Il Mostro, his body count would be 45.