Thursday, September 22, 2011

Serial Killer Lizzie Halliday Was Known in New York State as “The Worst Woman On Earth” - 1893

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Monticello, N. Y. Aug, 24 – Sheriff Harrisoneecher, whose name is familiar to the readers of newspapers in connection with his office as Sheriff of Sullivan County during the trial of Lizzie Halliday, the triple murderess, is suffering severe pain from a swollen hand, the result of a bite from that notorious prisoner. The case of a peculiar one, inasmuch as nearly two months have elapsed since it occurred. On June 27, as the Sheriff was taking her from the courtroom after the sentence had been pronounced by Judge Edward sh. turned upon him with tigress ferocity and planted her teeth in his hand. Anticipating an attack of a similar nature, the Sheriff had provided himself with gloves, which he wore all the time. The teeth entered the glove and produced abrasion of the akin, but nothing was thought of it at the time. Three or four weeks since the scratch began to itch and burn. A few nights ago the Sheriff was awakened by a severe pain in the injured member, since then he has suffered acutely and now the swelling is extending toward the elbow. Should it continue to swell, it is thought that it will result in the loss of the arm.

[“Poisoned By Mrs. Halliday’s Bite. – The Sheriff County In Danger of Losing His Arm.” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Aug. 25, 1894, p. 5]

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2, with factual errors corrected): July 15, 1918 – Lizzie Halliday, who in 1893 killed her husband, an imbecile step-son, and two women near Burlingham, Sullivan county, in New York state – and during her long term of imprisonment at Matteawan State Hospital, attempted, in 1895, to murder one of her attendants and nine years later succeeded in murdering another.

The career of Lizzie Halliday, known for many years as “the worst woman on earth”, because she killed those who loved her, is one of the most remarkable in American criminal history. Born with the desire to kill, the woman exacted a heavy toll of lives before she was finally sent to Matteawan. And once in the institution she took – or attempted to take – the lives of the only two women who pitied and befriended her.

For more than twenty years Lizzie Halliday was the most dreaded of the inmates of the women’s hospital at Matteawan. In 1895 she attempted to murder attendant Catherine Ward, by strangulation. In 1906, when she killed Nellie Wickes [or “Wirks], stabbing her in the face more than 200 times with a pair of scissors, she had been closely guarded to prevent another display of her craftsmanship.

She was Elizabeth McNally, born in Ireland fifty-seven years ago [in 1861], and came to this country in 1887 [?], where she married Charles Hopkins. Hopkins died suddenly and the only son of the couple found his way into a Pennsylvania institution.

The woman married Artemas Brewster. He died within a year and his widow married Hiram Parkinson, from whom she separated. George Smith was her next husband. After trying to poison him she fled to Bellows Falls, Vt., where she was the wife of Charles Pleysteil for two weeks.

She burned a small store in Philadelphia for the insurance and served two years in the penitentiary. Later in Newburgh she married Paul Halliday, a septuagenarian with an imbecile son. Her first step was to set fire to the Halliday home, burning to death her newly acquired step-son.

In 1893 Mr. Halliday disappeared. A search of the cellar revealed the bodies of Margaret McQuinlan and her daughter, Sarah. A day or two later Paul Halliday’s body was found buried under the house. She is also suspected of having murdered a peddler named Hutch some time earlier.

Gov. Flower commuted Lizzie Halliday’s sentence of death after a commission of doctors had pronounced her insane.

[“Notorious Woman Dies – Lizzie Halliday Had Earned Terrible Name Of ‘Worst Woman On Earth.’ – She Murdered Six Persons – Husband, Step-son, 2 Friends And Two Attendants In State Hospital.” The Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), Jul. 15, 1918, p. 1 (spelling error in orig. “Holiday”)]




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


For more Violence by Women cases involving axes and hatchets, see: Give ‘Em the Axe


For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


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