Thursday, September 22, 2011

Suzi Olah, Prolific Serial Killer of Men for Profit - 1929

From: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Susie Olah, a midwife of Szolnok, Hungary, was proved to have run a veritable poison factory to which no less than 105 murders have been traced. The bodies of 100 men were exhumed by the Hungarian authorities and found to contain enough arsenious oxide to kill a regiment. Forty-six women were charged with having administered the poison, with a view of expediting inheritances or promoting illicit love affairs. There are few pages of criminology more appalling than that which was unfolded during the trial of the 46 prisoners in the district court of Szolnok 1929-30. The defendants who had acted strangely unperturbed during the trial received the death sentences with stony silence. The chief culprit, Susie Olah, escaped earthly retribution by committing suicide.

[Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, “Yesterday’s Explanations,” syndicated, Feb. 22, 1933]

Suzi’s sister, Lydia had this to say about the mass murder of husbands she participated in:

“We are not assassins! We did not stab our husbands. We did not hang them or drown them either! They died from poison and this was a pleasant death for them!”

[Nash, Robert Jay, Look for the Woman: A Narrative Encyclopedia of Female Poisoners, Kidnappers, Thieves, Extortionists, Terrorists, Swindlers and Spies from Elizabethan Times tom the Present, Evans, 1981, p. 159]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): The tiny Hungarian villages of Nagyrev and Tiszakurt are unlikely locales for murder, but from 1909 to 1930, a series of murders took place that made headlines throughout Hungary and all of Europe.

The villages are isolated agricultural communities. In the winter, they are snowbound. The closest railroad is 40 kilometres away.

The male inhabitants work hard and play hard. They are forever sloshed on the rather vile wine they produce, mainly for their own consumption. For relaxation and to give a boost to their faltering egos, they often abuse their wives. That is, until Susi Olah arrived on the scene in 1909.

Susi was stout, short and not that good looking. In fact, she was a carbon copy of most of the other ladies who were forever cleaning, cooking and having babies. Susi followed the great demand. Her popularity wasn't due entirely to her dexterity around those with expanding tummies.

You see, the farms in the area were small, the soil poor. In most cases, a peasant couldn't expand his farm because rich men's large estates and imposing walls shut off any expansion. The laws were stacked against the peasants as well. Upon the death of the head of the family, offspring would inherit only a fraction of the father's land. Clearly, the more children, the grimmer the future. Pregnancy was not always a happy occasion in Nagyrev and Tiszakurt.

Susi gained in popularity when she added abortion to her repertoire. One has to keep in
mind doctors were not available in the villages. On occasion, when Susi lost a patient, the only official, a sort of modern medicine man, examined the body. This gentleman always attributed the cause of death to pneumonia, consumption, heart failure and other common maladies. Of course, this couldn't go on forever. Susi was concerned about the number of women dying while she performed abortions.

That's when she got her great idea. Arsenic. Wonderful, deadly arsenic was the solution to all her problems. Why not let the women give birth and poison the infants? The results would be exactly the same as an abortion without any risk to the mother.

No sooner said than done. Susi soaked arsenic laced flypaper in water. The subsequent solution, placed in the unwanted baby's milk proved to be deadly. Business boomed. Susi's reputation as a purveyor of death spread throughout the two villages. For the equivalent of a few dollars, you could purchase a bottle of the solution and, quick as a gypsy's fiddle, the unwanted child was gone.

Now, Susi wasn't the only midwife in the area. Her competitors became jealous of her success. Not to worry. Susi held a meeting with the four other midwives. She explained they shouldn't compete against each other. To solve their problem, they should divide the territory. Everyone agreed it was a super idea. They arranged to meet again at Susi's home.

A few weeks later, the midwives met for the second time. Susi served tea. Shortly after the meeting, one of the ladies took ill and died. Funny thing, after every meeting one of the women took mysteriously ill and went to her great reward. So much for competition. Susi's fame and power grew. She had a husband and son of her own. Up to this point, they add little to the strange tale of the arsenic-slinging midwife. Unfortunately, Susi grew tired of her husband. He died suddenly, supposedly of pneumonia. Susi's son smelled a rat. Armed with a revolver, he faced his mother on the village's main street. He aimed and fired. Susi stood unharmed as her son fell to the ground in agony.

The villagers were impressed. What they didn't know was that Susi, anticipating the problem, had laced her son's dinner with arsenic. Suffering stomach pains, his aim was off and, quite by chance, he was overcome by excruciating pain the instant he fired. Susi's son recovered, but so fearful was he of his mother that he fled the territory, never to return.

The long-suffering women of the two villages had a bona fide heroine. Susi became their confidante and leader. The dominance of men over women in the villages gradually disappeared. Under Susi's guidance, an unwanted husband was easily dispatched via her ever faithful arsenic. The stout women of the village, once stuck with unloving husbands, took on lovers. If hubby objected, a little meeting with Susi usually straightened him out — permanently. She didn't charge much for her service, normally the equivalent of $25. For those ladies in better financial circumstances, the price rose to about $200. Kindhearted Susi often dispensed her deadly concoction at no charge to those who couldn't pay.

For years Susi serviced the women of the area. Men died, women took on new husbands and lovers. A sort of secret sisterhood existed, with Susi acting as high priestess. She expanded her operations, dispensing her "medicine" to women who wanted to rid themselves of the elderly.

Of course there were rumours, insinuations and downright suspicions, but they were all put on hold with the outbreak of the First World War. The men of the villages went away to war. Some were killed. The survivors returned to the villages. Shortly after their return, seriously wounded former soldiers took ill and died.

The first news of the drama taking place in the villages reached the outside world when a Mrs. Bulenovenski reported that her 77- year-old mother, Mrs. Purris, was missing. A few weeks later, the elderly woman's body was found beside a river bank.

Clearly discernible wheelbarrow tracks were found leading to and from the body. When the wheelbarrow was located, it was traced to Mrs. Bulenovenski.

Well, the goulash hit the fan. Bulenovenski was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life
imprisonment. The cat was out of the bag. Now the men of the village knew evil forces were at work.

In July 1929, a new pastor came to the village of Tiszakurt. No sooner was the man of the cloth ensconced in his new pulpit than he heard rumours about Mrs. Ladislas Szabo, who had recently buried her aged father and uncle. The pastor decided to pay her a visit. He explained his suspicions to the dear woman, who broke into tears. Between sobs, she served the reverend tea. That night, he was seized with convulsions. A vacationing doctor saved his life. He never bothered Mrs. Szabo after that.

Someone who has never been identified informed police in Szolnok, the closest city, that Mrs. Szabo had certainly murdered her father and her uncle. The police popped up in Tiszakurt one fine day and questioned her in the street. The terrified woman confessed, implicating several other women, including Susi Olah. The suspects were questioned. Five women broke down and confessed. They were all taken into custody.

Susi refused to talk and was released. She made her way to her home village and visited several of her women friends. She told them to keep their mouths shut. Unknown to Susi, the police had let her go, hoping she would lead them to the other conspirators. The scheme worked. All the women were taken into custody. All except Susi. When the police called at her home, there was no answer. They found the mass murderer in a closet. She had hanged herself. Thirty-one women were placed on trial in Szolnok for the arsenic poisonings.

The trials took place that summer and spring of 1930. The pressure was too much for five of the accused. They took their own lives. Others were found guilty and jailed from five to 20 years.

Today, in the two villages, it is difficult to find a home that wasn't affected by the diabolical wave of killings instigated by Susi Olah.

[Max Haines, “If You Knew Suzi… - Arsenic Gave the Lady the Power of Life and Death in Two Simple Hungarian Villages,” Lethbridge Herald (Mi.), Jul. 8, 2008, p. A-4]







For more than two dozen similar cases, dating from 1658 to 2011, see the summary list with links see: The Husband-Killing Syndicates


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


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