Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rae Anderman Krauss, Indiana Stepmother-From-Hell & Suspected Serial Killer - 1904


Rae Anderman Krauss confessed to the murder of Chrystal, her step-daughter, and was sentenced to life in prison. The other mysterious deaths which she was suspected of possibly caused were apparently never fully investigated.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): People are whispering to one another, says a New York contemporary, as they pass the Blackford County Gaol, Indiana, and lift their eyes to the upper window on the left,  that it has been reserved for this little country town in the humane twentieth century to produce a reincarnation of that woman who stands in history as the symbol of all that was terrifying in the cruel sixteenth century. They arc asking one another if it is possible that the young, handsome, and smiling woman locked in a cell behind the bars of that window is the modern Borgia.

This woman is Mrs. Rae Anderman Krauss. The Coroner and the Grand Jury have held her trial on the charge that she poisoned her step-daughter, pretty, gentle Crystal Krauss. There is no other charge against her, but since the preliminary examination the police have learned many things which incline them to think that the woman has had at least three other victims, two besides Crystal Krauss being dead. Their total list to date reads thus: —

Crystal Krauss, dead, poisoned with strychnine; Mrs. Krauss, her stepmother, held for the crime.

Mrs. Anderman, mother of Mrs. Krauss, who was convalescing in a Cincinnati hospital, and died mysteriously twenty-four hours after her daughter had visited her.

Mat Collins, a former sweetheart of Mrs. Krauss, who died suddenly and mysteriously in his room shortly after he discovered that she was about to marry Mr. Krauss.

W. R. Krauss, her husband, who had mysterious spells of illness during the weeks before the poisoning of his daughter, and who is now quoted as believing his wife guilty.

Another circumstance which is attracting great scientific interest to this case is the fact that Mrs. Krauss, the accused poisoner, has for years made a study of poisons. She is the daughter of a physician, and thus had opportunities in this direction which do not come to the majority of people. As a young girl it is related that she spent hours poring over technical volumes in her father’s library, showing always a morbid interest in those books that dealt with strange drugs which product death in a longer or a shorter time.

It is said that she also procured books re counting the history of poisoning as a fine art in the Middle Ages, and it is assumed by the prosecution that she became familiar with the careers of famous Italian poisoners — members of the Borgia and Medici families, and others — though there is no attempt yet to show that, she experimented upon human beings until she found little Crystal Krauss standing between herself and her husband’s fortune, the deaths of her mother and former sweetheart and the unaccountable illnesses of her husband simply directing suspicion against her as having successfully practised her murderous art before Crystal Krauss crossed her path.


The woman thus fearfully accused and suspected is only 27 years old, and for 10 years has received the homage of men in Blackford County — where she has always lived — on account of her almost blonde beauty, her natural graces of motion and manners, and her amiability. But under all was recognised a firm will and impatience against any sort of opposition. It had been noticed that her presence was magnetic, yet there was a sort of subtlety sometimes revealed in her language and actions that convinced those who knew her well that she could be unscrupulous in great things undertaken for her personal benefit.

At the time the engagement of Miss Ander man to marry W. R. Krauss was announced she was known to have received many attentions from Mat Collins, a bartender, of Hartford City, A short time before the Krauss marriage Collins died suddenly in his room. It is now gossiped that Miss Anderman feared that he might in some way interfere with her marriage to the wealthy druggist.

When she became mistress of the handsome Krauss home, the bride exerted herself in a marked manner to win the affections of her husband’s daughter by a former marriage — Crystal Krauss, a very pretty girl, aged eighteen, and socially one of the most popular in that part of the State. This affectionate attitude continued even after she learned that an anti-nuptial contract, willing the estate, valued at £8,000, to the daughter, left only £500 for the widow in the event of the husband’s death.

In view of Mrs. Krauss’s intimate know ledge of mysterious poisons, it is considered strange that she should have chosen strychnine, the commonest of rat poisons, as the means of putting her step-daughter out of the way. But now it is revealed that not only Crystal Krauss, but her father had several strange spells of illness, beginning almost with Rae Anderman’s advent as mistress of the Krauss home.

The theory of the prosecution is that the bride and stepmother was experimenting upon both with unfamiliar poisons with the purpose of getting both out of the way without directing suspicion against herself, and that her knowledge of the drugs was insufficient. The evidence before the Coroner’s jury throws light upon her change of plan — granting that it eliminates the theory of suicide.

At the trial Mrs. Krauss appeared calm and unperturbed. Her light blue eyes, golden hair, and fair complexion were brought into bold relief by a black picture hat, white silk waist, and black skirt. She sat facing one thousand neighbours end acquaintances who had known her for years, charged with murder, with no emotion or apparent concern. Her only remark at the beginning of the trial was:

“Why don’t they hurry. This delay seems to me to be unnecessary.”

[“Poisoning Mystery. A Modern Borgia.” The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW, Australia), Feb. 18, 1905, p. 13]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Hartford City, Ind., June 20.— If Rae Krauss, serving a life sentence for murdering her step-daughter, Chrystal Krauss, is released from prison by the state board of pardons. It will be over the protest of more than 500 citizens in this vicinity. Petitions against her pardon to-day contained 500 names. Petitions asking for Mrs. Krauss’ pardon also are being circulated, one by Harry Calhower, who says his petition will contain at least 500 signatures.

[“Feeling Divided In Krauss Case,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Ind.), Jun. 21, 1914, p. 5]

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Photo source: [“Principals in Indiana Poisoning Case,” The Washington Times, Oct. 24, 1909, p. 1]

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For more examples, see Step-Mothers from Hell.

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