Sunday, September 25, 2011

Maria Gerzsany: Professional Husband-Exterminator – Hungary, 1911


Maria Gerzsány – Proper Hungarian orthography: Gerzsány Maria. Spelling variants – in German: Gerszan, Gersan; in English: Gerzan.


Wikipedia (Translated from Hungarian; edited) – Gerzsány Maria (Kiskunmajsa , 1864 - ?), lived in Kistelek, Hungary.  She was a black widow serial killer who poisoned husbands and took “orders” for murdering others. She initially murdered her own family members and later moved on to build an entire business to kill people who were a burden to their families. In the 1911-12 trials only three women were convicted.

~ Gerzsány's activities ~

Mária Gerzsány lived as a simple peasant woman in the Great Plain, so no documents have survived about her life. She was born into a Catholic family in Kiskunmajsa in 1864. In the era without social security, the woman also worked as a midwife: she helped around patients and gave birth. (An investigation by the Kistelek gendarmerie revealed that Gerzsány had 95 births as a midwife in the years before his unveiling, of which 78 reported dead children to the registrar. also, which has been expressed by contemporaries with contempt, described by the word kurzslás. Later on, Gerzsány was suspected of prostituting and selling girls, as well as carrying out illegal abortions, but was never convicted. Before the 1911 murder trial, Gerzsány was prosecuted in almost two dozen cases, all of which were unsuccessful.

At the time of her murder trial, Gerzsány was living with a shoemaker Antal Török on Szegedi Street in Kistelek, where she advertised herself as a midwife on their house’s facade. Gerzsány was a real husband-eater, he had no less than five husbands, some in wedlock, others in cohabitation. Her ex-husbands (the names of only two of are known, Mátyás Fülöp in 1898 and Ferenc Laczkó in 1905) left the ranks of the living in very similar circumstances, with tragic suddenness. Another common feature of the deaths was that at the time of his death all Gerzsány husbands were covered by life insurance, the beneficiary of which was Mária Gerzsány. The court was later able to prove the murder of Ferenc Laczkó to Gerzsány alone.

In 1905, Gerzsány lived with a farmer from Kistelek, Ferenc Laczkó, in an illegal marriage. She took out a 340crown life insurance policy on Ferenc Laczkó. The hitherto healthy peasant fell ill in December 1905 and died on the 11th of the month. The cause of his death was the arsenic Gerzsány delivered to his body. Following the testimony from a later trial, it became clear that Gerzsány had built a real practice of arsenic genocide in the years following this murder. In addition to the production of arsenic for customers wanting to murder someone, she herself would also give the poison to the victim (as in the case of József Lévai). Sometimes, for a higher fee she would give a stronger poison in case of insufficient effect (as in the Pálinkás case).

Gerzsány not only accepted these murder orders, but also offered her services in her own village to those who mingled with her. The gendarmes in the village had a very difficult task, as neither the village quack accompanying the patients nor the family members were interested in revealing the truth after the suspicious deaths, and the accusing testimonies uttered were contradictory. In any case, the authorities tried to deter Gerzsány: In both 1909 and 1910, fines were imposed on her.

~ Exposure of the poison-mixer ~ 

In June 1911, Mária Gerzsány offered her service to Mrs. János Pálinkás. Mrs. Pálinkás had complained a about her husband, and Gerzsány recommended that she use arsenic, which she offered for a fee of for 60 crowns, so she could murder János Pálinkás. Mrs. Pálinkás, however, notified the Kistelek police of the offer. Police had already been suspicious of Gerzsány, they knew the stories about her activities in the village. Pálinkás was persuaded by police to assist them in arresting the poison-mixer.

The fee requested by Mária Gerzsány was handed over to her; the money was secretly marked. Mrs. Pálinkás, ordered the poison and handed it over to her a few days later to the authorities. The poison-mixing woman saw János Pálinkás healthy a few days later, so she urged Mrs. Pálinkás to give the poison to her husband. He also offered to make it stronger for another six crowns. Mrs. Pálinkás presumably ordered the stronger poison, and then forwarded it to the police as well. The police arranged for the bottles of poison to be analyzed by local pharmacist. The evidence was now sufficient for court, so on July 24, 1911, Maria Gerzsány was arrested. In her home, police found the marked money given her for the poison by Mrs. Pálinkás, as well as several bottles of salt wine spirits, in which they found large quantities of arsenic.

~ After the trial ~

The exhumations at the Kistelek cemetery commenced. The outraged people of Kistelek talked of 40 poisonous deaths at the time, but the authorities did not undertake to investigate them all. Prosecutors examined disinterred corpses that could sampled and be linked to the case. Arsenic was detected in the remains of Ferenc Laczkó and two other people in contact with Mária Gerzsány: György Sisák and József Lévai. Several summoned witnesses also claimed that the woman offered to kill some of their relatives and offered poison to carry out the homicide. The accusations were rejected by the woman on the grounds that she had a bad personal relationship with these witnesses, asserting they merely sought revenge on. However, the evidence was sufficient to convict her.

The court sentenced Gerzsány to life imprisonment for murder and complicity in murder, who, in 1912 , she began serving his sentence in the Marianostra prison. The outside world, as revealed in a 1914 Evening Newspaper article, caught up with him in prison, but not with the truth that struck the culprits: she inherited 4,600 crowns after the death of her brother's wife, whose life insurance beneficiary was not surprisingly Aunt Mari of Kistelek.

The woman spent the next seven years in prison, but was released during the turbulent period following the defeat of the Hungarian state in World War I.  Gerzsány traveled home to Kistelek and presumably began to revive her practice in Kuszslo. She even found her old clientele and was commissioned to poison an alcoholic husband. Following the reports that erupted in the wake of the case, the authorities decided it was too risky to allow this already convicted dangerous criminal to remain free. In March 1920, Mária Gerzsány was transported to Szeged to complete her life imprisonment. The poison-mixing woman from Kistelek died in prison.


Wikepedia article’s Sources

„Royal Prosecutor's Office of Szeged No. 1911/16931 indictment in the case of Mária Gerzsány”, Southern Hungary, Jan. 5, 1912, 3-6. page (Accessed on September 14, 2015) (in Hungarian) 

„Ekszhumálnak Kisteleken”, Southern Hungary, Jul. 17, 1911, page 5 (Accessed on September 14, 2015) (in Hungarian) 

“Forrong Kistelek - The Accomplices of Mari Gerzsán in Trap”, Southern Hungary, Jul. 29, 1911, page 5 (Accessed: September 14, 2015) (in Hungarian) 

“The dead testify in the Kistelek cemetery,” Southern Hungary, Jul. 30, 1911, 5-6. page (Accessed on Sep. 14, 2014) (in Hungarian) 

“The Crime of Poison Mixers in Kistelek,” Southern Hungary, Mar. 16, 1912, 4-6. page (Accessed on September 14, 2015) (in Hungarian) 

He killed the unnecessary husbands for forty crowns (in Hungarian). Southern Hungary, 31 Aug. 2015 (Accessed: 14 Sep. 2015)

The legacy of the "death puppet" (in Hungarian). Index , 16 May 2014 (Accessed: 14 Sep. 2015)


CHRONOLOGY (Proper Hungarian orthography: Gerzsány Mária)

1864 – Mária Gerzsány. Final husband: Antal Török (married name: Török Antalné)

born Kiskunmajsa, Hungarian.

1898 – Mátyás Fülöp, husband, dies.

Dec. 11, 1905 – János Laczkó, husband, dies.

June 1911 – Mária Gerzsány offered her service to Jánosné Pálinkás. Mrs. Pálinkás complained a lot about her husband, and Gerzsány recommended that she use arsenic for 60 crowns. gives it to him, with which he can poison János Pálinkás. However, Ms. Pálinkás turned to the gendarmes after the offer was made.

Jul. 24, 1911 – arrested. Kistelek.

1912 – sentenced to life in prison.

1912 – Marianostra prison. The woman spent the next seven years in prison, but was released during the turbulent period following the defeat of the Hungarian state in World War I.  

1918 – released from prison.

Mar. 1920 – Mária Gerzsány was transported to Szeged to complete her life imprisonment; died in prison.


FULL TEXT: Some suspicion was caused at Szegedin, a town in Southern Hungary, recently, by the number of deaths resulting from a mysterious wasting disease, which medical men failed to diagnose. It was noted as a singular circumstance that all the victims were married men, and post-mortem examinations ordered in eight cases showed that death had resulted from poisoning. Further investigation resulted in the arrest of Marie Gerzan, a professional nurse, on a charge of wholesale poisoning. A young woman named Levai was also arrested as Gerzan’s accomplice. It is alleged that Gerzan undertook to rid wives of burdensome husbands, hence all her victims were married men. Her arrest was brought about by the suspicion excited on the death of Levai’s husband from the “wasting disease” that so puzzled the doctors. A quantity of poison was found by the police in Gerzan’s house, which she stated she used to destroy vegetable parasites.

[“Exterminating Husbands,” Sunday Times (Perth, Australia), Aug. 6, 1911, p. 16]


FULL TEXT: Vienna, Sept. 9. – On a charge of having made widows to order by poisoning unwanted an old woman named Marie Gerzan has been arrested at the little Hungarian town of Szegedin.

Frau Gerzan is a well known local figure and has been employed as a nurse by practically every family in the town. A skilled herbalist, she had a flourishing trade in her homemade quack medicines. For some time past an unusually large number of married men have died of a mysterious wasting disease but hitherto there had been no suspicion of poisoning

A short time ago however when Herr Josef Levai died his relatives communicated with the police and demanded an autopsy. Distinct traces of poison were revealed by the postmortem and following further investigations. Frau Levai, a young woman and Frau Gerzan were arrested.

The authorities ordered the exhumation of several bodies of men whose deaths had been shrouded in mystery and in eight cases traces of the preparation with copper as its been found in Frau Gerzan’s house resulted in the discovery of a quantity of poison but the woman denies the charge and says that she used the poison for spraying vines.

[“’Widows Made To Order’ Her Trade - Woman Arrested in Austria for Conducting Plan of Poisoning Husband.” Oakland Tribune (CA.), Sep. 10, 1911, p. 11]


FULL TEXT (translated from German): Szeged. March, 15. - The local jury began today with the handling of a large-scale poisoning process. The accused are: the Kis-Telek midwife Marie Gerszan, the widow Mrs. Jofts Levai and Mrs. Georg Sisak and the tailor Josef Pigniczky. The prosecutor has brought charges against the named group of murder in several cases and of taking part in these crimes.

~ Known as Poison Mixers. ~

Your most serious charges are directed against Marie Gerzsan, of whom young and old in the Kistelek community have known for ten years that she knows how to mix poisons and that she is happy to dedicate her services to anyone who wants to get rid of any relative or acquaintance. The case that she is charged with in today's hearing concerns the murder of the road worker Josef Levai. The latter, who owned a sizable property in Kistelek, died suddenly about three years ago with suspicious symptoms. Levai lived with his wife, daughter and their husband, the master tailor Josef Pigniczky, in hostile regions. The bad family situation was made even more difficult by the fact that old Levai knew that his son-in-law had set fire to his own house in order to get hold of the insurance sum. Levai was dissected after his death and large amounts of arsenic were found in his body.

~ Four husbands murdered. ~

Also was. Marie Gerzsan helpful, Citizen Georg Sisak must have cleared the Kistelekers out of the way. The life of this sickly man came to an abrupt end because of the poison that Marie Gerzsan gave her, the young, cheerful woman

Furthermore, arsenic was found in the exhumed body of Franz Loczki.

In the Lauseder investigation it turned out that Marie Gerzsan had five husbands, four of whom she had insured for large amounts. All four died suddenly.

~ The community doctor as a confidante? ~

At today's hearing, all of the defendants withdrew the statements they had made to the examining magistrate. The fact that the community doctor Loeffl allowed an intestinal pouring on the corpses caused a sensation, whereby the traces of the poisoning disappeared.

First defendant Marie Gerzsan said she did not feel guilty. She is the victim of a conspiracy by the Kistelck residents who want to destroy her. Regarding her first husband, Franz Lasko, she testified that it was not she who murdered him, but Ms. Johann Palinkas, resident of Kistelck, who poured poison into his brandy for him. It seems that this statement is an act of revenge against Ms. Pakinkas, by; filed the first complaint against Marie Gerzsan.

The arguments will continue tomorrow.

[“The female bluebeard from Kis-Telef. The lawsuit against a poisoner band. " Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung (Vienna, Austria), Mar. 16, 1912, p. 11]


FULL TEXT (translated from German):  Szeged, March 22nd. - After five days of negotiations, the verdict against the poisoners from Kis-Telck was passed today. The jury found midwife Marie Gersan guilty of murder in one case and complicity in murder in two cases. The second accused, Mrs. Josef Levai, was not guilty, but the third row, Mrs. Georg Sisak, found guilty of the murder in one case.

The President of the Tribunal announced the verdict, Marie Gersan was sentenced to life imprisonment, Ms. Georg Sisak to fifteen years in prison. Mrs. Josef Levai was acquitted.

[“The poisoners from Kis District. The judgment." Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung (Vienna, Austria), Mar. 23, 1912, p. 12]




FULL TEXT: Szegedin. 15.März. – Das hiesige Schwurgericht began heuteniitder Der handluiig eines groß angelegten Giftmord-prozesses. Tie Angeklagten  sind: die Kis-Teleker Hebamme Marie Gerszan, die Witwe Frau Jofts  Levai und Frau Georg Sisak und der Schneide rmeister Josef Pigniczky. Die Staats anwalt schafter hebt gegen die Genannten die Anklage wegen Mordes in mehreren Fällen und wegen Teil nahmean diesen Verbrechen.

~ Als Giftmischersin bekannt. ~

Dir schwersten Anklagen richten  sich gegen Marie Gerzsan, von der Groß und Klein der Gemeinde Kistelek schonseit zehn Jahren weiß, daß sie Gifte zu mischen versteh t und ihre Dienste gerne allen Jenen widme, die sich irgend eines Anverwandten oder Bekannten entledigen wollten. Der Fall, welcher ihr in der heutigen Verhandlung zur Last gelegt wird, betrifft die Ermordung des Wegearbeiters Josef Levai. Dieser, derin Kistelek ein ganz ansehnliches Besitztum besaß, starb vor etwa drei Jahren eine splötzlichen Todes unter verdächtigen Symptomen. Levai lebte mit seiner Frau, seiner Tochter und deren  Gatten, dem Schneidermeister Josef Pigniczky, in feindlichen Berhältniffen. Die schlechten Familien-verhältnisse wurden noch durch den Umstand erschwert, daß der alte Levai wußte, sein Schwiegersohn habe dessen eigenes Haus in Brand gesteckt, um in den Besitz der Versicherungs-summe zu gelangen. Levai wurde nach seinem Tode seziert und in seinem Leichnam wurden große Mengen Arsenik gefunden.

~ Vier Ehemänner ermordet. ~

Außerdem war Marie Gerzsan da beibehilflich, den Kisteleker wohl haben den Bürger Georg Sisak aus dem Wege zuräumen. Dem Leben dieses kränklichen Mannes mochte nämlich des senjunge, lebens lustige Frau durch Gift, welches sie von Marie Gerzsan erhalten hatte, ein jähes Endet

Ferner wurde in der exhumierten Leichedes Franz Loczki  Arsenik vorgefunden.

Im Lauseder Untersuchung stellte sich heraus, daß Marie Gerzsan  fünf Gatten  hatte, von denen sie vier auf hohe Beträge versichern ließ. Alle vier starben plötzlich.

~Der Gemeindearzt als Mitwisser? ~

Bei der heutigen Verhandlung  zogen sämtliche Angeklagten ihre vordem Untersuchungs richter gemachten  Aussagen zurück. Wie eine Sensation wirkte die Tatsache, daß der Gemeinde arzt Loeffl bei den Leichen einen Darmeinguß gestattete, wodurch die Spuren der Vergiftung verschwanden.

Erstangeklagte Marie Gerzsan erklärte, sie fühle sich nicht schuldig. Sie sei das Opfer einer Verschwörung der Kistelcker Einwohner, die sie zugrunde richten wollen. Bezüglich ihres ersten Gatten Franz Lasko sagte sie aus, nicht sie habe ihn ermordet, sondern die Kistelcker Ein wohnerin Frau Johann Palinkas, die ihm Giftin den Branntivein gegossen hatte. Wie es scheint, ist diese Aussage ein Rachealt gegen Frau Pakinkas, by; die erste Anzeige gegen Marie Gerzsan erstattet hat.

Die Verhandlung wird morgen fortgesetzt.

[“Der Weibliche Blaubart von Kis-Telef. Der Proceß gegen eine Giftmischerband.” Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung (Vienna, Austria), Mar. 16, 1912, p. 11]


FULL TEXT: Szegedin, 22. Marz. – Nach fünftägiger Verhandlung wurde heute das Urteil gegen die Giftmischer von Kis-Telck gefällt. Die Geschwornen sprachen die Hebamme Marie Gersan wegen Mordes in einem und wegen Mitschuld am Mord in zwei Fällen schudig. Die Zweit angeklagte Frau Josef Levai wurde es nicht schuldig, die in dritter Reihe äugeklagte Frau Georg Sisak aberdes Mordes in einem Falle als schuld erkläg.

Der Präsident des Gerichtshofes verkündete das Urte, Marie Gersan wurde zulebenslänglichem, die Frau Georg Sisak zu fünfzehnfährigem Zuchthaus verurteilt. Frau Josef Levai wurde frei gesprochen.

[“Die Giftmischer von Kis-Teil. Das Urteil.” Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung (Vienna, Austria), Mar. 23, 1912, p. 12]


FULL TEXT: Unlängst wurde nach fünftägiger Verhandlung das Urteil gegen die Giftmischer von Kis-Telek in Ungarn gefällt. Die eine Angeklagte.  Hebamme Maria Gersan. Wurde wegen Mordes in einem und wegen Mitschuld in zwei Fällen schuldig erkannt und zu lebenslänglichem Kerker verurteilt. Die Zweitange-klagte Frau Josefine Bewai wurde als nichtschuldig freigesprochen. Die in dritter Reihe angeklagte Frau Georgine Sisak wurde des Mordes in einem Falle schuldig erkannt und zu fünfzehnjährigem Zuchthaus verurteilt.

[“Hebamme als Giftmischerin.” Brünner Hebammen-Zeitung (Brünn (Brno), Moravia (Czech)), May 20, 1912, p. 5]




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


For more cases, see Sicko Nurses


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