Top 50 Stories: 1955 - Boys of Boise

Homosexual scandal involved teens, sparked witch hunt, put city in spotlight

csewell@idahostatesman.comJune 13, 2014 

On Halloween night 1955, when Boise was a sleepy, idyllic town of 34,000 residents, police arrested three members of an alleged homosexual underworld for preying on young boys.

In the ensuing weeks, prosecutors charged 13 more men in the "morals case," including the vice president of the city's largest bank, an attorney, a clothes salesman, a shoeshine man, a teacher and a freight worker.

Of the 16 men arrested, 15 were sentenced, including one to life in prison (he actually served nine years).

The arrests ignited a witch hunt in which police and private investigators interviewed nearly 1,500 people, including consenting adults who had done nothing with minors. Homosexual sex itself was also a crime then.

Statesman editorials fed public panic. In an editorial titled "Crush the monster," the Idaho Statesman called homosexuals a "cancerous growth" and declared the young boys were "infected by the monstrous evil here."

The scandal received nationwide coverage, including a 1955 Time Magazine article called "Idaho Underworld."

In 1966, author John Gerassi chronicled the scandal in his book, "The Boys of Boise: Furor, Vice and Folly in an American City."

On the event's 50th anniversary, Boise filmmaker Seth Randal revisited the case in his documentary film "The Fall of '55."

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