Friday, January 17, 2020

Jane Shusko, 15-Year-Old Mass-Murderess – New York, 1959

FULL TEXT: Elmira, N. Y., July 12 – An attractive 15-year-old high school girl told police today that she deliberately set a fire which killed her brother and six sisters last night.

Police said sandy-haired Jane Shusko’s 10 children.

The seven victims, trapped on the second floor when the fire raced through the house, ranged in age from 2 to 12 years. A neighbor rescued two other girls.

Coroner M. Eunice Pittman said the deaths were caused by asphyxiation and that he would issue a certificate of homicide.

Police Capt. J. William Maloney said Jane signed a four-page statement in which she said she had thrown a lighted match on papers in a first-floor clothes closet, then left the house. The fire flared minutes later.

Jane, tall for her age, appeared calm at arraignment on a charge of juvenile, but later wept.

Her distraught parents, also weeping, pressed her hand as she was taken to the Chemung County Jail where she will await court-ordered psychiatric tests.

The victims were Michelena, 12; Delores, 11; Laura, 9; Donald, 8; Patsy, 6; Sarah, 4, and Christine, 2.

[“Girl, 15, Fires Own Home; 7 Children Die,” Daily News (New York, N.Y.), Jul. 13, 1959, P. 2]


FULL TEXT: Elmira, N. Y., Aug. 6 – A 15-year-old girl who police say admitted setting a fire that cost the lives of her brother and six of her and six of her younger sisters was indicted on seven counts of first-degree murder Thursday.

The reconvened June Chemung county grand jury handed up the indictment against Jane Shusko, of Elmira, before County Judge Donald A. Monroe. The jury recommended that the girl’s case be moved to Children’s Court.

A decision on this recommendation was withheld pending the girl’s assignment before a Supreme Court justice. No date was set for the arraignment.

District Attorney Paul McCabe presented final evidence and psychiatric reports to the jury Wednesday.

Miss Shusko admitted touching off the fire the night of July 11 in her family’s half of a two-story, two-unit dwelling. The second section of the house was not damaged.

According to authorities, the girl had set two other fires the day before seven of the ten children of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Shusko perished. She showed no remorse and offered no reason for her action, police said.

[“Sister Indicted In 7 Fire Deaths,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Pa.), Aug. 7, 1959, p. 4]

FULL TEXT: Jane Ann Shusko, 15-year-old Elmira girl alleged to have caused the deaths of her brother and six sisters last July 11 when fire wrecked their home, was transferred yesterday from Elmira to a state institution for treatment and rehabilitation.

Judge Daniel J. Donahue of Children’s Court ordered the girl committed too the mental institution, but did not reveal its name.

The girl, who admitted setting the fire in which the seven children died, was originally indicted for the first degree murder but it was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Floyd E. Anderson of Binghamton, who ordered the case transferred to Children’s Court.

Jane Ann had been held in the Chemung county jail since that time on a charge of juvenile delinquency. Although she has now been transferred to a state institution, she still remains in the custody of the Chemung Children’s Court.

[“Jane Ann Shusko Transferred to Mental Hospital,” Oct. 16, 1959, p. 5]







FULL TEXT: A missing Elmira Free Academy student was an object of an intensive search by Chemung County law enforcement authorities last night.

She is Jane Ann Shusko, 14, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Shusko of 116 ½ Washington St., who has not been seen since she left school yesterday about 9:30 p. m.

Police said they were notified of the missing girl by her parents after they became alarmed when she did not return home by 4:50 p. m. the girl’s father said last night his daughter always returns home from school promptly.

After hearing of the missing girl, on the radio, an unidentified woman telephoned police and said she had seen someone answering the girl’s description talking to a man in a car on Lake St. near the Academy. The woman did not know whether the girl entered the car.

City police notified the Chemung County Sheriff’s Department and Horseheads state police and sent out an all-points teletype alarm.

Mrs. Shusko told police last night that his daughter “is a good girl” and “never would enter a car without being forced to do so.”

He said he received a telephone call about 9:30 p. m. when someone said simply, “Hello,” and then hung up. “I am sure it was my daughter,” said Shusko.

Police checked all of the girl’s friends, but none knew of her whereabouts.

Shusko issued the following plea last night:

“Janie – If you see this in the paper, please come home. Daddy wants you to come home. If you can and we will not punish you.”

[“Missing EFA Student Object of Police Hunt,” Elmira Advertiser (N.Y.), Nov. 5, 1958, p. 2]


FULL TEXT: Missing since Tuesday afternoon, Jane Ann Shusko, 14, of 116 ½ Washington St. was located by city police yesterday morning and returned to her home.

Police said the Elmira Free Academy student was found about 8:25 a. m. at the home of a friend.

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Shusko was reported missing after she left school for the day and did not return home by 4:50 p. m.

An all-points teletype alarm was sent out after police were notified of her disappearance.

 [“Missing Student Found,” Elmira Advertiser (N. Y.), Nov. 6, 1958, p. 14]





Circa 1944 – Jane Ann Susko born.
Nov. 4, 1958 – Jane goes missing, evening.
Nov. 5, 1958 – morning, found at a friend’s home, returns home.
Jul. 10, 1959 – Jane (15), sets 2 fires in home without incident.
Jul. 11, 1959 – sets fire that kills siblings.
Jul. 12, 1959 – questioned by police.
Aug. 6, 1959 – indicted; case closed to the public and the press.
Oct. 15, 1959 – transferred to unidentified mental hospital.


Lavinia Fisher, Legendary Serial Killer – South Carolina, 1820

A legend, which has no documentary support, has it that Lavinia Fisher is The US’s first female serial killer.


WIKIPEDIA: Lavinia Fisher (1793 – February 18, 1820) is reported by some legends to have been the first female serial killer in the United States of America. Her origins are unknown; however, Fisher resided in the United States for much of her life. She was married to John Fisher, and both were convicted of highway robbery—a capital offense at the time—not murder.

Historians have begun to question the veracity of the traditional legend and some assert that Lavinia Fisher never killed anyone. She was, however, an active member of a large gang of highwaymen who operated out of two houses in the backcountry near Charleston, the Five Mile House and the Six Mile House. It is not clear whether the Six Mile House was a hotel, but it served as a hideout for a number of outlaws.

~ Residence ~

Fisher and her husband resided in Charleston, South Carolina for most of their lives. Together, they owned an inn, the Six Mile Wayfarer House, which they managed in the early 19th century. The hotel was located six miles north of Charleston, hence the name. During the couple's time there, reports were made to the local sheriff about guests disappearing. Due to lack of evidence, and the popularity of the couple with many locals, these complaints came to nothing.

~ Alleged crimes ~

Lavinia Fisher would invite lone travelers into the Six Mile Wayfarer House to dinner and ask them questions about their occupations, trying to determine if they had money. She would send them up to their rooms with a cup of poisoned tea. Once the men drank their tea and went to bed, her husband would go to the room to make sure they were dead by stabbing them.

Another version of the legend was that the tea would only put the men to sleep for a few hours. Then, when they were almost asleep, Lavinia would pull a lever and the bed would collapse and drop the victim into a pit.[2] Some believed that there were spikes waiting at the bottom of the pit.

Much of what actually occurred in the alleged murders at the hands of John and Lavinia Fisher has become wildly exaggerated through time, so factual details are hard to find. However, contemporary news accounts in the Charleston Post and Courier, claimed that a vigilante gang went to the Fishers' neighborhood in February 1819 to stop the purported 'gang activities' that were occurring there.
Satisfied that they had accomplished their task, the group returned to Charleston, but left a young man by the name of David Ross to stand watch in the area.

Early the next day, Ross was attacked by two men and dragged before the gang that had terrorized the region. Among them was Lavinia Fisher, to whom he looked for help. However, rather than help him, she choked him and then smashed his head through a window. Ross managed to escape and immediately alerted authorities.

Immediately following this incident, another traveler named John Peeples asked if there were any vacancies; Lavinia replied that there was unfortunately no room, but he was welcome to come inside and rest and have some tea. John happened to hate tea, and not wanting to seem rude, he dumped it when she wasn't looking. She interrogated him for hours and eventually said she discovered that in fact, they did have a room. He then went to bed. He had felt suspicious about the interrogation and was worried about being robbed, so he decided to sleep in the wooden chair by the door. In the middle of the night, he awoke to the loud sound of the bed collapsing and discovered the Fishers' plan. He jumped out the window and rode to Charleston to alert the authorities.

Based on these two accounts, the assailants were finally identified by name, something that law enforcement had previously lacked. Police were immediately dispatched to the location and during the ensuing investigation Lavinia and John were located, along with two other gang members. John Fisher surrendered the group in an effort to protect his wife and shield her from possible gunfire. Later, during interrogation, he again attempted to protect Lavinia by giving the identities of all involved in the gang.

~Trial and execution ~

Nearly a full year elapsed between the time of their arrest and their execution. At their arraignment the Fishers pleaded not guilty but were ordered to be held in jail until their trial, which would take place in May, while their co-conspirators were released on bail. At their trial the jury rejected their pleas of innocence and found them guilty of highway robbery, a capital offense. However, the judge allowed an appeal and they were given a reprieve until the January session of the court.

During this time the Fishers occupied themselves with plans to escape, as they were housed together at the Charleston, South Carolina jail (the "Old City Jail") in a 6x8 cell and not heavily guarded. On September 13 they put their plans into action and began their escape. Things did not go as planned as the rope they had made from prison linens broke, leaving Lavinia trapped in the cell and John set free. He was unwilling to continue the escape plan and was recaptured. The two were then kept under much tighter security.

The Constitutional court rejected their appeals and on February 4, 1820 both were sentenced to be hanged.  Awaiting execution, John accepted the counsel of the Reverend Richard Furman, a local minister, but Lavinia became even more vitriolic.

On the gallows in front of the Old City Jail before John Fisher's execution, Rev. Furman read aloud a letter John had composed, which stated that since he had become a Christian he could not be executed with a lie held to his account. Therefore, he insisted on his innocence and asked mercy on those who had done him wrong in the judicial process. After the minister read the letter, Fisher then began to plead his case before the gathered crowd of some 2,000. He then seemingly contradicted himself by asking for their forgiveness.

Believing that she would be pardoned up until the moment she was hanged, Lavinia, according to legend, used her last breath to scream, "If any of you have a message for the devil tell me now, for I shall be seeing him shortly". Her ghost is believed by some to haunt the Old Charleston Jail House, and tourists still claim sightings of her ghostly apparition.


·         Lavinia was buried in a potter's field near the Old City Jail. Claims of her burial at 150 Meeting Street (The Circular Congregational Church) or at 4 Archdale Street (The Unitarian Church) appear to have been fictions promoted by tour guides.
·         In popular culture
·         Lavinia Fisher is prominently featured in the American Murder Song project from Terrance Zdunich and Saar Hendelman.
·         The story of Lavinia Fisher is told in the episode "Aftershocks" of the folklore podcast Lore by Aaron Mahnke
·         She is mentioned on the last episode of the season 5 of "Ghost Adventures"
·         She is mentioned in the "Old City Jail" episode of the online web-series "Buzzfeed Unsolved"



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Augusta Nack, Serial Baby-Killer – New York, 1897

The Nack case involved a sensational murder mystery – featuring a headless body – followed by a sensational trial. Augusta Nack was convicted as accomplice in murder of William Guldensuppe. But there was another part of the Nack story involving homicide. She was a midwife and in additional to accidental deaths due to abortions and the induced miscarriages she was known to have murdered a large number of healthy newborns.


FULL TEXT: New York, Sept. 3. District Attorney Olcott made public yesterday a remarkable statement made by Herman Nack, the husband of Mrs. Augusta Nack, who, with Martin Thorn, is charged with the murder of William Guldensuppe. In the statement Nack says that his wife has been killing infants for a number of years.

Nack states that his wife made a living through illegal operations involving the murder of children. He said that she was a so-called midwife, but that she never had a diploma. At one time, Nack states, there were as many as six dead infants preserved in spirits in bottles in his room in their house. He also states that she murdered from two to three children a year.

Nack also alleges that his wife was assisted in the details by a number of physicians. He also drags in undertakers' names, charging all of them, both physicians and undertakers, with complicity with bis wife. He says they aided her in" making away with the bodies of the children.

Nack further alleges that many of the children were born dead, the result of Mrs. Nack’s illegal business.

The statement of Nack was got from him through the persistent efforts of Assistant District Attorney Mitchell.

[“Mrs. Nack’s Crimes. – Remarkable Statement by the Alleged Murderess’ Husband. – Has Killed A Score of Babes. – Nack Declares that his wife made a living through child murder, charges several physicians and undertakers with aiding her.” Harrisburg Independent (Pa.), Sep. 3, 1897, p. 2]



FULL TEXT: AUGUSTA NACK, a woman of striking appearance, was married to a happy-go-lucky husband, who paid small attention to his marital duties William Guldensuppe, a boarder, took up the family tasks where the husband left off and became Mrs. Nark's lover. Martin Thorn, a typical stage barber, became another member of the household and a rival to Guldensuppe for Mrs. Nack's affections. Thorn and Guldensuppe fought; Guldensuppe beat Thorn, and Thorn aroused Mrs. Nack's jealousy by proving Guldensuppe unfaithful to her.

Together Mrs. Nack and Thorn plotted one of the worst murders. New York ever knew, and this is the story of how a white-breasted duck silently led the steps of Justice to the bringing of Thorn to the electric chair.

JUSTICE had some queer allies in untangling the mystery of the murder of William Guldensuppe. A Pekin duck solemnly led the detectives to the scene of the murder when nobody could find the house. A newspaper reporter, seeking a Turkish bath after a long and fruitless night of toll on the mystery, ran bang into the key to the baffling case in the Murray Hill Baths. A bit of red oilcloth bearing a pretty gold design was traced by the detectives to the Long Island dealer who sold it, and at the end of the chase Martin Thorn paid the death penalty for killing Guldensuppe, while his woman accomplice, turning State's evidence, saved herself with a prison sentence.

SOMEWHERE in this vale of team, if Death has rot halted her weird wanderings, there is the ghostly figure of a woman, sitting about from place to place, strangely attracted now and then to return to the scene of her crime, and ever met by the discovery of her identity, and the condemning jeers of her new neighbors. For years she haunted Ninth Avenue, establishing one and then another business only to find herself under the necessity of leaving it when her mask dropped.

Old German residents of the district came to the family supper table to hear the hausfrau tell how she had seen and recognized Augusta Nack as the proprietor of the new delicatessen, and then the small boy of the family, bolting his food, ran to the streets to tell his waiting companions:

"Hey, fellows, the murder woman is back again."

And the small boy aggregation, following the bent of tireless youth, flocked to the place to taunt and jeer until the weary ghost packed her kit and sought a new haven. And still the part of New York where she had plotted one of the worst crimes of her time held her after her release from, prison as a mighty magnet might compel the dancing of attendance on the part of a bit of steel which clicked poles.

~ The Devil's Bait ~

Augusta Nack was a comely woman of twenty-four, large, handsome and dark, when she married Herman Nack at Lauenburg, on the Elbe River in Germany, Jan. 28, 1883. She had learned the business of standing guard when newly arrived souls entered the world, to facilitate the reproduction of the species by the methods of science. Nack, a year older, had ambition to come to America and engage in business. She earned the money that brought the twain from Hamburg to New York.

She financed him in the sausage business in Tenth Avenue, near Twenty-eighth Street. One night when she came home from business on her own account she found a new boss in the shop. Nack, convivial and careless, had sold out without notice and decamped. When his spree was over, he came back, was forgiven, and staked to another shop in West Sixty-second street.

Nack disappeared again. His wife took a couple or rooms in Ninth Avenue, rear Forty-fourth Street. Her happy-go-lucky spouse became the driver of a bakery wagon. One morning in February of 1896 Mrs. Nack hung a Room to Let sign in her front window.

Answering the ad, William Guldensuppe, big, handsome and forty, a rubber in the Murray Hill Baths in Forty-second Street, became an innate of the little flat. Nack, displeased, threw his wife down stairs. That was before the days of the Eighteenth Amendment and such procedure went in Ninth Avenue. Guldensuppe, at the bottom of the steps, rescued the wife and took her to a room in West Forty-third Street, whence they moved to a fiat at Ninth Avenue. Mrs. Nack continued her business sign in the window and the neighbors came to know Guldensuppe as Mr. Nack.

The dapper barber and his woman said took the Thirty-fourth Street Ferry on June 20 and made their way to Woodside, L. I. There they rented a cottage at 346 Second Street. Mrs. Nack paid $15 for the first month, registering at the office as "Mr. and Mrs. F. Braun."

The selfsame night, before Guldensuppe went to his work, she told him that she intended to start a baby farm on Long Island and had rented a place. She added that she would not take it unless he approved the final decision and insisted that he go the following Friday to see it, in order that he might pass judgment upon its convenience with reference to his own work.

"It's all right; I don't care to see it," said Guldensuppe.

~ Death in a Closet. ~

She insisted. So on Thursday night Guldensuppe told his boss that he would be late Friday night, and might not come in at all that night, as "the old woman wants me to see a place she has taken for a baby farm." He was right. He was not to come in at all Friday night nor any other night thereafter.

Before the tour of inspection started, "Mr. and Mrs. F. Braun” went shopping. They bought s-ix yards of red oilcloth, with a pretty gold figure on it, and two pounds of plaster of paris. Thorn, otherwise 'Mr. F. Braun." took the key to the rear door, "Mrs. F. Braun" the key to the front door, when these purchases had been placed in the Woodside cottage.

Guldensuppe came home at 3 o'clock Friday morning. Mrs. Nack aroused him at 8. They went out to Woodside to see the farm. Guldensuppe sat on the front steps of the house.

"It's a good enough place," he opined. "It will do."

"But you haven't seen the inside yet," said Mrs. Nack, "and you might not like it."

Guldensuppe following the example of most men, reluctantly entered, taking that masculine inspection that resembles nothing so much as a cop investigating a speak-easy where the boss sits easily with the Assembly district leader and the Alderman, and is liberal with the weekly assessments.

He was out in a minute.

"It suits me," he grunted.

"But you did not go upstairs," urged the woman. You haven't looked at the closets. You go and look in every room and closet, or I won't take this place."

Now men who are attached to women without marriage formality are vastly more obedient and hog-tied than the conventional husband, and Guldensuppe obeyed. Mrs. Nack remained in the yard.

The last closet to be opened by Guldensuppe was on the east side of the front bedroom. Inside that closet, crouching and waiting the signal of the turning knob, death awaited. Martin Thorn, pistol cocked and levelled, stood behind the door.

~ River Hides Crime. ~

In a few moments Mrs. Nack heard footsteps coming down the staircase. They were not the heavy steps of the giant Guldensuppe, but the cat-like footfalls of the dapper Thorn.

'"It's done," he said simply to the woman.

"I know I heard," she said, referring to the shots that had come, muffled by the closet, to her waiting ears.

"You go home," continued Thorn, "and come back at 5 o'clock."

She went back to the fiat in Manhattan. There she took the faded old yellow roses from her hat and replaced them with rotes of a bright red the one thing that occurred to her as befitting the event.

When she got back, there were only some packages to be seen. Martin Thorn, the slayer

"You take this one," said Thorn. "It only contains his clothes. I'll take this one –

"It's his head," he added as nonchalantly as though referring to a pound of cheese.

They went by trolley to the Astoria ferry. The head had been weighted by a coating of plaster of Paris. Thorn dropped it from the stern of the ferry into the East River. In the flat, Mrs. Nack burned the packages of clothing in the kitchen stove.

The following morning they returned to the cottage at 11 o'clock. Thorn took another package holding Guldensuppe's legs, boarded the Thirty-fourth Street ferry and dropped them in the river. Then he got a drink at a saloon on the Manhattan side and went back to Woodside by the next boat. He doubled on his trail and came to the flat, and the day after went back for the bundle containing the chest and arms of his victim. This time he chose the Greenpoint ferry to Tenth Street, dropping his parcel in the river. There remained the trunk. Ife went back for it, and now switched to the Astoria ferry, landing at Ninety-second Street, Manhattan. Here he made a cardinal error.

~ A Reporter's Bath. ~

For, instead of dropping the package in the river, he threw it in Ogden Woods, just south of Fordham. The package fell into brushwood at a point where 176th Street cuts through the town. Thorn wrote to the baths saying that Guldensuppe was kept away by illness. He signed Guldensuppe's name to the note. He also forged another will to Mrs. Nack in which Guldensuppe asked that his clothing be given to the bearer. A third note to the agent for Woodside cottage, gave up the place with the explanation that Mrs. Braun's illness made it necessary to five up the home.

On the following Tuesday two small boys, playing about the East Twelfth Street docks in Manhattan, fished a package from the river. They opened it and found the chest and arms. Sunday two other small boys, playing in Ogden's Woods, ran smack onto the lower half of the trunk.

The newspapers on Monday buzzed with the yarn. The names of all the missing persons reported to the police were carried in tabulated form. Curiously, no list held the name of Guldensuppe. The town sizzled for three days over the sensation.

Wednesday morning, a newspaper reporter, worn out from a long night on the mystery, went to the Murray Hill Baths for refreshment. He heard two rubbers talking about a missing comrade. The reporter began asking questions when was he last seen? Where did he live? A great light broke over the reportorial mind.

In fifteen minutes he was dressed, had three rubbers in a cab. and was whizzing for the morgue. They could not tell for certain from the discovered parts, but the legs floated to the surface almost at once, and the three rubbers identified their comrade by the peculiar formation of the toes. They had been accustomed to see him barefoot at the baths and the toes conveyed as much to them as a face might to an ordinary man.

~ Three "Laborers.” ~

One rubber knew that a Mr. Nack came to see Guldensuppe sometimes, and the manager reported that his man had gone away to see a baby farm on Long Island with a woman.

In a single hour the police had Mrs. Nack under arrest. By night a Long Island shopkeeper identified the oilcloth as having been sold by him, and Mrs. Nack as its purchaser. They tried the ultimate of the third degree on the woman, taking her to view the dismembered body at the morgue. She never batted an eye nor faltered a moment.

"I don't believe they are Willie's legs," she said coolly.

The police rounded up Nack, her husband, happily and carelessly driving the bakery wagon.

"I've known far eighteen months that she was living with Guldensuppe, she said, and he added, with a convincing air of sincerity, "What's more, I don't care."

He was too open; they let him go.

But Thorn had not been suspected. He owed his fall to a time-honored institution – the absolute necessity of conversation as an attribute to the barber's trade. From the days of Gil Blas it has been an axiom that the best broadcasting station known to man, barring, perhaps, the sewing circle of a small town church, is a barber shop.

Thorn told the story of the crime to John Gartha, a fellow harbor. Gartha. following the ethics of the trade, told his wife. She told the police. The police frightened Gartha into making a date with Thorn to meet him at Eighth Avenue and 125th Street. Thorn kept the appointment.

For an hour before, three overalled laborers of the elevated line had been loafing on the job around the station. They were Capt. Steve O'Brien and two of his detectives. When Gartha signalled Laborer O'Brien that Thorn had arrived, the three la borers got as busy as a man trying to cross Fifth Avenue at 5 o'clock P M. They pounced on Thorn, led him to a drugstore, and took his pistol.

Meantime, the industrious Mrs. Herman Nark, the husband Nack had scrubbed the Woodside flat after the murder and before her arrest to remove all traces of blood.

Whereupon a plain Pekin duck waddled on the stage as a star detective.

Said duck, owned by the village lamplighter, had found a cooling pool. Thorn had left the water running in the cottage all of Saturday and Sunday, thinking that the sewer would carry it off. There were no sewers in Woodside then and the water formed the pool. And when the lamplighter's duck waddled home for food it bore on its white breast the stains of blood.

They trailed the duck bark to its Paul, and the stream of water led the detectives to the house that had been the scene of the murder and a bloodstained saw and knife were found there

Queens County indicted both Thorn and Mr. Nack. On the third day of Thorn's trial, Mrs. Nack appeared as a witness for the people. The Nack defense was against. Manny Friend, then a famous criminal lawyer, engaged for Mrs. Nack, smilingly remarked:

~ Ninth Avenue's Ghost. ~

"It was merely a case of which squealed first, and we beat them to it.”

One juror got appendicitis on the first trial, a mistrial followed and on the second Thorn's lawyers turned the table by insisting that Mrs. Nack committed the murder; that Thorn found her with the windows when he went to help wash windows and then aided her to conceal the crime by taking the part to the river. The jury could not see the plea and it convicted Thorn, Nov. 30, 1897, in jig time.

He was executed Aug. 1, 1898, at Sing Sing.

As for Mrs. Nack, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree – a bargain made for her damning story against Thorn – and she got the usual “twenty years to life” sentence. She passed nine years in prison. Then under the beneficent parole system that shrinks a life sentence as a pair of wool socks shrink under hot water treatment, she was released in July of 1908.

Since that time she has been a flitting, shadowy, ghostly figure, ever seeking peace and repose; ever finding exposure and flight. She started a fancy goods store in Ninth Avenue – harking back to the scene of her crime plot by the mysterious, magnetic lure that always brings them back – and the discovery of her identity drove her from the neighborhood of her old flat. Then came a delicatessen shop in Tenth Avenue, under a different name. Again discovery. Again disappearance.

Which is the reason why the old faith in Ninth Avenue today speak of the ghost that haunts the section of the crime’s conception.

[“Turkish Bath Clew Results In Slayer's Conviction – Barber’s Conviction Betrays Him As Murderer of Rival.” Sunday News (New York, N. Y.), Jan. 27, 1924, p. 21]




Sunday, January 12, 2020

Bertha Courtmanche, Mass-Murderess of Babies – Canada, 1918

FULL TEXT:  Montreal, Sept. 19. - The disastrous fire of the Grey Nunnery on February 14 last, in which 65 victims were burned to death, was purposely caused by a female orderly of the Institution, Bertha Courtmanche, who was supposed to have perished in the flames. The woman was still working at the institution this afternoon when she was arrested. After keeping Courtmanche under observation at the Grey Nunnery for a week past Detective Proulx, of the Provincial police department, taxed, taxed the woman with the crime and obtained a full confession last night. She was arraigned on a charge of arson.

“I crept out of bed,” she told the police, “and set fire to a pile of newspapers, which I had placed behind the radiator in the room where the babies were sleeping. The curtains caught fire then I went back to bed. God knows why I did it. After I had in bed some minutes I heard cries of ‘Fire’ and rushing back to the nursery in my night clothes I carried two of the babies to safety. I was then taken to the Khaki Club for the night, and afterwards to the Notre Dame Hospital, where I was sick for two days.”

~ Two Other Attempts ~

Courtmanche admits having made two other attempts to set fire to the Nunnery. She is a woman of 27 and is well connected in the Eastern Townships, where she has lived most of her life. she came to Montreal in February last to enter the service of the Grey Nunnery as an orderly it the babies’ orphanage. Her removal to Montreal was brought about, the police state, as a result of a discovery that she possessed fire mania, and had attempted incendiarism in her home.

[“Pyromaniac Set Nunnery On Fire - Blaze in Which 65 Victims Were Burned to Death Was Deliberately Caused by Female Orderly.”  Daily World (B. C., Canada), Sep. 19, 1918, p. 1]


Saturday, January 11, 2020

The “White Witch,” Rose Palmer, Legendary Serial Black Widow - Jamaica, Late 1700s

The name of Annie Palmer may have become confused with Rosa Palmer, the original mistress of Rose Hall who did have four husbands but was said to be unwaveringly virtuous.


FULL TEXT: Montego Bay – The old Church of St. James stands on high ground above canalized Montego River, a few blocks inland from the busy Town Square and it stands there looking as if it were some village church In England, though of course the tall royal palms in its yard do blur the Old Country illusion.

As I approached the main door a man walked slowly towards me.

"You want to get inside?" said he, as if the door weren't wide open.

"Why, yes," I said, walking in, and he with me. It is a grand old building, in which a first service was held on Christmas Day, 1782, as a posted notice tells.

It is a grand old building, in which a first service was held on Christmas Day, 1782, as a posted notice tells.

It is in the form of a Greek cross, end as I stood in the middle of It. looking around for one particular memorial, my hitherto silent attendant said "the Palmer statue Is over there."

He wasn't clairvoyant. It was Just that probably everyone who comes wants to see the monument so Mrs. Rosa Palmer, once identified as the White Witch or Obeah woman. Guides used to tell (some perhaps still do) the story of this Mistress of Rose Hall, and how

She kill tree husbins
An' the fort kill she.

The memorial, which Is in the left front corner, is a magnificent marble from the hand of John Bacon, R. A., one of the notable London sculptors of the 1700's. Done in 1794, it shows a beautiful young woman laying a floral garland upon an urn bearing a low-relief portrait of an older woman, who is doubtless Mrs. Palmer.

And the inscription tells that it was erected by Hon. John Palmer in memory of his beloved wife, a lady of "open, cheerful and agreeable disposition" Which are odd qualities for a witch.

She wasn't one, of course. Yet guides have been known to point to a stain on the neck of the young woman laying the floral tribute, and tell that it appeared there in some mysterious way "because she was strangled by her husband."

The grim, confused story of the White Witch provides a study in the development of folk-lore.

 Rose Hall I had visited.

While I was still at the Half Moon hotel, nine miles east of town on the North Shore road, I learned that it stood on part of the old plantation grounds. Then Bill Thompson, the Montego representative of Colombian National Airways, whom I'd met when I stepped off the plane from New York, phoned to say that he had a spare hour.

Shortly we were traveling through fields of tall sugar-cane, and in a mile or so not far, anyway I saw the tall chimney of what turned out to be the Rose Hall sugar-works.

We turned in through the factory gate, stopped at the office for a moment "It's all right," a, man aid, "but I wouldn't go into the hall; it's too dangerous" and then we were going straight back through the fields to where the ruin of the wonderful old stone Great House stands on a hillside . . . Its roof caved in, its windows gaping; a dramatic, and, yet beautiful thing even with the horror of decay and vandalism upon it. Marbles from Italy, the richest of woods had been used in building it.

The plantation road swung around and climbed the rise at the left of the hall. And where a gate barred further driving we found three or four young men waiting to lead us on.

"One's enough," Thompson said.

Now the language spoken today by the Jamaican masses is English with various trimmings from other sources. A shift of ac-CENT alone will baffle the stranger. Mosquito is MOSSkito, for instance. Poor enunciation completes the confusion.

So though our guide did his earnest best, I can report only that he said something about Rose Hall having been the home of "a very wee-ked woman called White Witch . . . and she had plenty slaves up here. She keel tree bus- bins and" then I lost It. "

'Was strangled by the fourth,' " said Thompson, interpreting.

"Name Taku," the young man added.

By then we had got up to the hall, and had mounted the great double stair that now leads up into only thin air. There is a gap between it and the door. But I could see enough of the ghost-filled wreck to appreciate what must have been its palatial grandeur.

And there ARE ghosts or were one ghost, anyway. Some of the countryfolk were so certain that the wraith of the White Witch used to appear in the place that a lady-exorcist came two or three years ago and drove her out.

From the hall's height we looked down over the plantation fields, and to the open Caribbean beyond them.

"She was buried over there," said the guide, pointing to a spot over on the hillside, where there's a tomb.

"An' her husbins she bury down There ... at the trees."

A clump of coconut palms is in the canefleld, close to the highway.

"But there are four trees I Said. "She killed three. . . ." He had no solution to that problem.

We walked around to the side of the hall, and looked into the basement to see the cells in which the Mistress of Rose Hall used to imprison slaves who displeased her and from which their anguished cries when undergoing torment used to reach down into the slaves-cabins end chill the hearts of the poor blacks.

Death was in her look, they said. She was an obeah-woman who knew  the magic of Africa, and could make a death-producing charm. But above all she was unspeakably cruel.

She charged a young house-slave named Princess with having tried to poison her; and when the girl was convicted and hanged here in Montego Town, Mrs. Palmer had her head carried to Rose Hall and put up on a pole as a warning to the others.

The tale gets confused ... but in the end either a slave who had been her lover strangled her; or when a lad attacked her, other slaves Joined him and smothered her under a mattress.

So runs the story which you'll find novelised in "The White Witch of Rosehall," which has gone into many editions.

Now though this is folk-tale it deals with persons and happenings of only 125 years ago, and so must have some sound basis. Yet the "open, cheerful, and agreeable" lady of this monument in St. James Church seems to have been drawn into it through a confusion of identities. She did live at Rose Hall. She did have four husbands.

But there were two Mrs. Palmers ana two John Palmers at Rose Hall . . . and Rosa Palmer was dead probably before the While Witch was born.

Back in 1746 Henry Panning, who'd just bought the plantation, married Rosa Kelly, a daughter of Irish-born Rev. John Kelley of neighboring St. Elizabeth Parish.

In six months he was dead; and, to be brief, there followed him in succession George Ash, who built Rose Hall, Hon. Norwood Witter, and finally John Palmer, a widower with whom Rosa lived happily until her own death In 1790.

Jump now to 1819, when Palmer's grandnephew, John Rota Palmer comes from England to take residence, and in the next year marries Annie Mary Patterson. He died in 1826. but she lived on to became the mad mistress of the plantation, and to die somehow in 1833.

It Is easy to see how the tradition of the three murdered husbands could have developed, for there must have been talk among the slaves of Rosa Palmer's day. Then came the cruel Anna Palmer . . . and the two women became one.

Where the "agreeable" lady's husbands are buried I've never heard. Perhaps it is they who rest near the coconut trees that nearly every Jamaica visitor passes in the course of island sightseeing.

[Jamaica Journey With Willard de Lue -III, “The Confusing Tale of the White Witch,” Boston Evening Globe (Ma.), Nov. 30, 1955, p. 7]


Wikipedia: The White Witch is a legendary story of a haunting in Jamaica. According to the legend, the spirit of "Annie Palmer" haunts the grounds of Rose Hall, Montego Bay. Despite many years of speculation, modern scholarship has shown the story to be untrue.

According to the legend, the spirit of "Annie Palmer" haunts the grounds of Rose Hall Plantation near Montego Bay. The story states that she was born in Haiti to an English mother and Irish father and spent most of her life in Haiti. When her parents died of yellow fever, she was adopted by a nanny who taught her witchcraft and voodoo. She moved to Jamaica and married John Palmer, owner of Rose Hall Plantation. Annie murdered Palmer along with two subsequent husbands and numerous male plantation slaves, later being murdered herself by a slave named "Takoo". A song about the legend called "The Ballad of Annee Palmer" was recorded by Johnny Cash.  For many years Cash owned the nearby Cinnamon Hill Great House.

~ Investigations of the legend ~

Geoffrey S. Yates, Assistant Archivist, Jamaica Archives, claimed that the story started with an account by Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell of the strangling of Mrs. Palmer at the adjacent Palmyra Estate in 1830. However the passage in Waddell's memoirs simply includes a footnote claiming that "The estate furnished scenes and characters for Dr. Moore's novel Zeluco. The cellars and spikes used by a lady owner therefor the necks of her slaves I have seen, and also the bed on which she was found dead one morning, having been strangled." However whilst the novel has an anti-slavery theme, the only scenes set in the Caribbean are located in Cuba and feature none of the details claimed by Waddell. Waddell, himself an abolitionist, was also writing in the context of the Baptist War of which Waddell was a first-hand witness. He stated that the Palmyra Estate was set on fire alongside the Kensington Estate, located further in land as a signal for a general insurrection.

The legend was elaborated by the journalist John Castello in 1868. Castello was the owner of the local Falmouth Post when he published a small pamphlet Legend of Rose Hall where he erroneously describes a memorial in St. James church to "Anne Palmer".

An investigation of the legend in 2007 by Benjamin Radford concluded that the story was fictionalized, modeled on the title character in a famous Jamaican novel, The White Witch of Rosehall by Herbert G. de Lisser, published in 1929. An Annie Palmer unrelated to Rose Hall did exist, and by all accounts had no tendencies toward sadism or lechery. Rough Guide To Jamaica author Polly Thomas writes that the name of Annie Palmer may have become confused with Rosa Palmer, the original mistress of Rose Hall who did have four husbands but was said to be unwaveringly virtuous.

~ Popular culture ~

·         Barry Reckord's 1975 play White Witch of Rose Hall is based on the legend.
·         The television series Ghost Adventures featured an episode at Rose Hall.
·         The 1993 novel Voyager by Diana Gabaldon features Rose Hall as a setting while the main characters are in Jamaica.
·         Coven featured the song "The White Witch of Rose Hall" on their first album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls (1969).
·         The 19th-season finale of America's Next Top Model featured its final runway show taking place at Rose Hall.
·         Scariest Places on Earth featured Rose Hall in Season 2 Episode 3, "White Witch".
·         Ghost Brothers featured Rose Hall in Season 2 Episode 5, "Rose Hall"
·         Ghost Hunters International featured Rose Hall season 2 episode 13
·         The Dead Files



MORE Discredited Female Serial Killer Legends & False Reports


Anna Neumann von Wasserleonburg – Legendary Serial Black Widow – Austria, 1500s-1600s

NOTE: Anna Neumanin, alternatively.


FULL TEXT: Noetsch, Austria – Memoirs of a lady bluebeard lie deep about the castle of the Duke of Windsor chose for his honeymoon home.

Neighboring peasants call the place a haunted house because of the lady who once lived there.

Six portraits hang in the castle halls to remind the former English king of her pictures of the six men who died suspiciously soon after marrying her.

The duke just laughs about it end says something like "Noetsch to you!" to the portraits, but the dark and gory story keeps going the rounds of the countryside as Edward prepares for his marriage to Mrs. Wallis Warfield.

The Lady Bluebeard's name was Anna Neumann. She was born in 1535, the youngest daughter of Wilhelm Neumann, well to da mine owner of nearby Villach. He bought the castle in 1522 and assumed aristocratic airs by adding "Von Wasser-Leonburg," the name of the property, to his own name.

Medieval chronicles frequently mention Anna Neumann as a bad, bad woman, and mothers used to tell naughty children, "the Neumann will get you if you aren't good."

Anna married six times. After each marriage, she had a portrait painted of the husband. Soon after that, the husband would die. She was 82 when she married the last time. Her husband was 30-year-old Count George Ludwig von Schwarzenberg. He died after the customary period.

Anna's own picture hangs in the hall with those of her six mates. It was painted when she was 40; she posed with a daughter of her first marriage, to the long-suffering Jakob van Tannhausen.

The castle is a gray, sturdy pile of masonry crowded against a southern slope of one of the Villach Alps. From its windows one can look into Yugoslavia and Italy, and have a magnificent view of the Julian Alps to the south and pine forests to the north.

To reach it, one takes the train from the border town of Arnold stein to the next station, Noetsch (pronounced almost as though it rhymed with lurch without 'R' sound), and then climbs 20 minutes up forest paths.

There is a garden terrace before the castle, which has a handsome stone gateway and a small courtyard curving right to lead to the living quarters on the second floor. North of the gate is a chapel with a decorated ceiling and a baroque altar.

A massive, tin covered tower dominates the castle. It was built some time after 1570. Left of the castle are work and out buildings, and to the right is the forester's house.

Records dating back from 1250 name the property, which once was called Loewenburg and Leuenburg. Old maps in the Vienna national library call it castle Waserlemburg.

Its history is a fascinating recital that reflects the changing fortunes of this corner of. Europe near the state came to losing a of petty rulers who gave it future supreme court justice and away, lent it, or let in fief; or legal and military struggles for its possession; of an earthquake which destroyed it in 1348, and it lay in ruins for 120 years; of various owners who grew tired of it and let it decay, and of one family line after one another which died out while in possession of the property.

Once it was held in fief by Judge Rudolph thus tells the Freidrich von Zollern (1261-1297) an early member of the line Gene Vidal and I were room- from which the German Hohenzollerns and the former German Kaiser stem.

The present castle was rebuilt in 1747. In 1958 it was offered for public sale, and bought by the mine-owner Roumauld Holenia

Since 1925 Wasser-Leonburg has been owned by Count Paul Muenster, of Hanover, Germany.

The latest of the misadventures connected with the castle occurred just after the Duke of Windsor inspected it early this Spring. A wolf harried animals belonging there for weeks until all gendarmes of the district were called to find and kill it.

[“’Haunted House ‘ Duke’s Honeymoon Spot; Lady Bluebeard Who One Lived There Killed Six Husbands, Report,” The Birmingham News (Al.), May 26, 1937, p. 8]


FULL TEXT (translated from German): Over time, several historians have dealt with the extraordinary life of Anna Neumann. Because of her six marriages, she is a reason to be looked at more closely.

In addition, she was pretty, extremely rich, and strict and just as the landlady, but also kind to the poor. Despite her huge fortune, she practiced economy and always claimed tithes and interest on time. The great wealth, austerity and many marriages caused jealousy, derogatory criticism and unfavorable talk among the people.

So it happened that she was involved in witch trials several times and had to accept unjustified attacks.

Anna-Neumann was born on November 25th, 1535 as the daughter of the Villach merchant Wilhelm Neumann von Wasserleonburg and his wife Barbara. You spent your youth at this castle in the Gailtal near Nötsch. At the age of 22 she married Hans Jakob von Thannhausen and gave him two daughters - Elisabeth and Barbara. Anna's beloved husband died after three years of marriage. Further child blessings and thus the hope of a male heir were denied in subsequent marriages. Her two daughters, Barbara and Elisabeth, died childless. Barbara still young and single, Elisabeth after her first husband died, after a second marriage.

Anna married Baron Christoph II of Liechtenstein in 1565, whose family had been sitting on Murau for several centuries. The minstrel Ulrich von Liechtenstein (owner of Murau around 1290) was, among other things, the most famous offspring of this old Styrian aristocratic family, which was, however, heavily in debt. Anna acquired a large fortune from the death of her family and became the main creditor of the Liechtenstein family. Since the five brothers of Christoph were unable to pay, the RULE MURAU was sold to Anna in 1574. Her husband Christoph died in 1580.

Two years later, in 1582, the 46-year-old widow married the 56-year-old nobleman Freiherr Ludwig Ungnad von Weissenwolf, a leader of the Protestants. The motives for marriage were certainly not property and money, but probably pleasure in the person and the same belief. Anna's previous two husbands had both been Catholics.

Ludwig Ungnad died after only three years.

From 1586 until his death in 1610 she was married to Baron Karl von Teuffenbach, whose ancestral castle is located near Murau. Karl took a lively interest in his wife's business, bought land in Kraków, for example, and had the Etrachsee lake built there. Because of her increasing wealth, she was called a witch by ill-willed people. However, there was no conviction because there was no clear evidence and credible statements.

The reason for these witch trials was mostly the talk of the people, among other things a "white liver" was given to her and that she had instigated wizards and witches to make the weather - and this despite the fact that her subjects could deposit their savings with the government and received interest for it.

A modern business woman of our time. When Carl Freiherr von Teuffenbach died, Anna was all alone at the age of 75, without heirs and without descendants.

No wonder that the old lady found a client again - the thirty-year-old Count Ferdinand von Ortenburg from Salamanca. This marriage was actually intended instead of an adoption. Unfortunately, the young count of Ortenburg suffered from constant "physical weakness", which also caused his early death after five years of marriage. Anna was once again at a husband's coffin.

In 1617, at the age of 81, she married the Imperial Count Georg Ludwig von Schwarzenberg. The sixth marriage can also be seen as an adoption.

With the donation certificate of October 20 of the same year, she transferred to him the city and the rule of Murau.

Anna-Neumann died on December 18, 1623 at the age of 88 as a Protestant. For this reason, she was denied a burial site in the parish church. The Archbishop of Salzburg permitted an ecclesiastical burial, but the body was buried in the Elisabethkirche (today the Evangelical Church) so that the head came to rest outside the church. It was not until 1873 that she was finally put to rest in the church of the Capuchin monastery.

Anna-Neumann managed one of the largest properties in Styria during her lifetime. In the year of her death, among other things, Emperor Ferdinand was also in Anna's debt (according to today's value it was around S 620 million = € 45.05 million).

The city of Murau owes the "Mistress of Murau" the re-establishment of the community hospital.
Furthermore, it regulated the wood and wicker servicing for the 101 existing town houses, as well as the financial situation of the parish church.

Some of these servitute still exist today. The former "Lange Gasse" in Murau was named "Anna Neumann Strasse" in memory of the lady of Murau.

[“Anna Neumann Von Wasserleonburg ... the lady of Murau, Stadtgemeinde Murau]

Book: Wolfgang Wieland, Anna Neumanin von Wasserleonburg: Die Herrin von Murau. 1986, Mlakar, Judenburg.




MORE Discredited Female Serial Killer Legends & False Reports


Mrs. Frey, Suspected Double Black Widow – Pennsylvania, 1847

FULL TEXT: We learn from the Cumberland Mountaineer that a foul murder was committed by a woman upon the person of her husband, some few days ago. The woman is the same identical Mrs. Frey, who was accused of being accessory to the murder of a former husband, (Mr. Frey), in the upper part of Allegheny county Md., some two or three years since, and for which S. Crise suffered death upon the gallows. She committed the foul deed while her husband was sleeping, by pouring hot lead in his ears. This last tragedy was performed in Pennsylvania, and near the Maryland line. She is now confined in the jail to await hospital.

[“Murdered Two Husbands.” Lancaster Examiner and Herald (Pa.), Sep. 15, 1847, p. 2]



For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.