Monday, April 27, 2015

Julie St. Joseph, Serial Killer Vamp – Russia, circa 1870s

The following text is the final segment of an episode taken from from the memoirs of Michael Danevitch, chief of the Supreme Bureau of the Russian Police (the “secret police”), edited and published in book form in English in1897. It tells the story of a French adventuress, Madame Julie St. Joseph, who had lived in St. Petersburg for some time. She was about 40 years of age during the course of events described here. Two murders and another attempted murder are recounted.

The story opens with descriptions of two mysterious deaths, those of Col. Ignatof and his heir Capt. Peter Baranoff, which investigation reveals to be cases of murder, and closes with the attempted murder of Michael Danevitch under the assumed identity of Count Prebenski.” The total count of Madame St. Joseph’s victims is, we are told, “numerous there was not the slightest doubt.” The poison she and her accomplice employed was black hellebore (holleborus niger).

Note: The name “Julie St. Joseph” appears on page 56 of the cited source.


EXCERPT: Subsequent revelations brought to light that the wretched woman had been in the habit of luring men to their doom by means of her fatal beauty. She bled them of their money, her plan being to cajole them into giving her a lien on any property they might possess. This was most artfully worked by the aid of Vlassovsky, and when the victim had been securely caught, he was poisoned. The poisons were concocted by Madame St. Joseph herself, and when she could not do it herself, Roko administered the fatal dose or doses. She had picked up this man in Spanish America, where she had been for some time, and weaving her spell about him, had made him absolutely her slave.

Vlassovsky, who, up to the time that he made her acquaintance, had been an honest, industrious man, fell under the magic of her influence, as most men did, and became her all-too-willing tool. His nature once corrupted, all scruples were thrown to the winds, and he hastened to try and enrich himself. It seemed that the miserable woman really loved him, and though he was fatally fascinated with her, he was afraid of her; and, as he confessed, his aim was to accumulate money as quickly as possible, and then flee from her and the country for ever. But unfortunately for himself, during that memorable interview following Captain Baranoff’s death, he had aroused the suspicions of Danevitch, whose marvelous perceptive facilities had enabled him to detect something or another in Vlassovsky’s manner, or answers to the questions put to him, which made him suspicious. For Danevitch to become suspicious meant that he would never rest until he had proved his suspicions justified or unfounded.

It need scarcely be said that with her arrest in St. Petersburg Madame St. Joseph’s career came to an end. From the moment that Danevitch entered her house her doom was sealed. Believing him to be the person he represented himself to be, she begged of him to help her financially; and, seeming to yield to her entreaties, he drew up a document which purported to make over to her at his death certain estates in Poland. Of course, these estates had no existence. Having secured him, as she thought, her next step was to poison him by small doses of black hellebore, so that he might gradually sicken and die.

Her devilish cunning was evidenced in every step she took. She would not appear in public with him, nor did she allow any of the visitors to her house to see him. Consequently it would not be generally known that she had associated with him. As his illness developed by means of repeated doses, she would have had him removed to a hotel, and she knew pretty well that, as in Colonel Ignatof’s case, he would shrink from letting it be known that he had been intimate with her. Her cunning, however, overreached itself; she was defeated with her own weapons; Danevitch had been too much for her. The poisoned barley-tea he submitted to analysis, and the evidence against her was overwhelming. But when she found that there was no hope, she was determined to defeat justice, and one morning she was found dead in her cell: she had poisoned herself with prussic acid. The acid was conveyed to her by a warder, who was heavily bribed by one of her friends to do it. It cost him his liberty, however, for he was sent to Northern Siberia for the term of his natural life.

Roko died very soon afterwards from typhoid fever contracted in the prison, but he was faithful to the last, for never a word could be wrung from his lips calculated to incriminate the strange woman who had thrown such a spell around him. Vlassovsky was deported to Northern Siberia in company with the treacherous warder. He very soon succumbed, however, to the awful hardships he was called upon to endure and the rigours of the Arctic climate.

The number of Madame St. Joseph’s victims was never determined. That they were numerous there was not the slightest doubt; and had it not been for the cleverness of Danevitch she would probably have continued to pursue her infamous career for years longer, and ultimately have passed away in the odour of sanctity. Her downfall, it need scarcely be said, caused great satisfaction in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where she had destroyed so many of her victims.

[Dick Donovan (Pseud, James Edward Preston), “A Modern Borgia” (pp. 33- 59), from: The Chronicles Of Michael Danevitch Of The Russian Secret Service , London Chatto & Windus 1897; quoted segment: pp. 57-59]



For more cases like this one, see: Vamps – Femmes Fatales – Predatory Women


Maria Dunne, Irish Baby Farmer Serial Killer - 1898

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): In the Southern Division Police Court to-day a woman named Maria Dunne, described as a widow, residing at Inchicore, was charged with causing the death of children under their care, and with having neglected others.

Mr. Clegg, the Crown solicitor, said that the prisoner would show a shocking and barbarous state of things. – Sergeant Thomas Conlon stated that when he visited the house between 3 and 4 p. m. on Monday he found two children lying dead on a couch. There were four other children there, the eldest about four years. He was not so bad as the others. One of the dead children, Leo Mole, was merely skin and bone – there was no flesh. The child O’Grady did not appear to be far gone. The prisoner said to him, “I hope I won’t get into trouble over this. I will give you something for yourself if you say nothing about it. I would not like it to get into the paper. I will give you half-a-sovereign for yourself if you say nothing about it.” The dead children were in the house yet awaiting the inquest. He removed the other children. He saw no food about the house that the children should get. The eldest of the living children in the house appeared healthy, and was not a subject of a charge. He asked the prisoner if she had any other children besides the dead ones in the house. She said she had two. He asked to see them, and she brought up the two children named Wallace and Sutton. The first appeared to be well cared for, and the other was in a bad condition and duty. He asked had she other children. She said “No.” He searched the house, and found near the kitchen another child, Eugene Pyle, one and a half year old. It was tied with a string on a chair near a basket, and was hanging motionless on the right side and apparently dead. He took it up and found it in a filthy condition. It screamed when he tried to straighten out of the position it was in it had the top of a sucking bottle attached to a spool in its mouth. On further search he found in a cradle another infant, George O’Connell, not quite three months old. It was rolled up in filthy rags, in lying on straw in the cradle. Two empty sucking bottles were lying near. He brought these children to the South Dublin Union. The accused alleged to him that she did not know the parents of one of the children. She said that the child O’Connell was driven in a cab to the door when it was about nine days old by a woman, whom she thought would state who its mother was, and who gave her £10 to take the child. The child was rarely three months old now. In the case of all the other children she said that there were weekly and monthly payments were made for them, but that they were nearly all in arrears now. He asked who were the parents. She gave him several addresses. He went to all these places, and there were no such people there at all. He telegraphed to Linden, where she gave another address, and there was no such person there as she named.

A daughter of the accused woman was examined, identified the following letter as being in the handwriting of her mother: -- “Dear James, -- This morning the other found dead. I never went to the doctor with him. Skin and bone the child is. Will you get the cash for him? I will give £1, for I will sell my piano for it. I am gone if you don’t. Don’t let money stop you. Will sell anything. Two children dead.”

The witness further said that her mother had been paid 10s. a month for two months for one of the dead children – O’Grady. The child was there three months. It was eight months there. Her mother fed the children with milk and cornflour. The two children were not ailing before their death, except an odd time. One of them died in a fit. Her mother went for Dr. Louis Byrne, High-street, and her sister for Dr. Attock, Inchicore, but both were out. The mother took the child to Dr. Byrne.

Dr. Boyce deposed that he saw the children about 7:30 the previous evening. Leo Mole was very emaciated in the body, face, and limbs. He appeared to have been dead about ten hours. He attributed death to malnutrition, which might be caused either by improper feeding or want of feeling. The child had not been properly cared for. The other child, Henry O’Grady, was emaciated in the limbs, and the head and body were swollen. He had been dead for some time. He could not say the cause of death. The child was in a neglected state.

The accused was remanded pending further inquiry.

[“Baby Farming Near Dublin. - “Shocking And Barbarous” Neglect.” The Manchester Gaurdian (England), Ayg. 18, 1898, p. 10]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): A shocking ease of baby farming was investigated by a Dublin city magistrate on August 18, when a widow named Maria Dunn was charged with having caused the death of two children, aged 5 and 8 months respectively, by not providing them with.necessary sustenance and with having neglected three other children of 10, 8, and 3 months respectively. The evidence given by the police witnesses showed that the children had been found in the prisoner's house in a fearful condition of emaciation and filth, that the prisoner tried to bribe a police sergeant not to say anything about it, and that the addresses she gave as those of the children’s parents were found to be false. The prisoner was remanded till August 23, the magistrates refusing bail. After the termination of the inquiry it was discovered by the police that in addition to the children found dead in the prisoner's residence one of the other children brought to the South Dublin Union Hospital had died owing to the wretched condition to which it had been reduced. It is very rarely that so shocking a case of baby farming is found in Dublin.

[“Shocking Charge of Baby Farming.” The Telegraph (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia), Oct. 7, 1898, p. 2]


For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Catherine Csassna, Slovakian Suspected Black Widow Serial Killer - 1880

FULL TEXT: At a town called Verbo, in Hungary [currently in Slovakia], not long since, a woman named Catherine Csassna buried her seventh husband. Her life appears to have been a strange succession of matrimonial adventures, none of which were very startling, but all of which make up a curious total. At the age of seventeen the buxom Catherine espoused a maker, who died after fifteen months of connubial felicity. The following year she married an aged widower, who said goodbye to her at the end of thirteen months. She remained a widow this time but one month, marrying for her third another widower, who lasted but four years. Doubtless determined to make a good choice sooner or later, she married a stout young fellow of twenty-eight; but in just four years he also died of consumption. Catherine remained a widow eight weeks, at the end of which time she married the village butcher, a fine fellow; but alas he was doomed to fade away, and in six years a cross in the little cemetery announced that he had gone over to the majority. For her sixth husband Catherine Csassna selected a man so robust and massive in physique that all the villagers in Verbo that he would survive Catherine, and great was the surprise and scandal when, four months after the celebration of the nuptials, this son of Anak was placed in the cheerless tomb. Many persons accused Catherine of being a female Bluebeard, of poisoning her unfortunate husbands, etc., but she snapped her fingers at them, and asked them to produce their proofs. As they could not well do this, the doughty Catherine married again, and, to the surprise and horror of every one, husband number seven cruelly deceived her by turning up his toes only a few days after the marriage. Catherine is now seeking an eighth husband, but all the men in Verbo tremble.

[“Much Married.” Vermont Phoenix (Battleboro, Vt.), Aug. 13, 1880, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (translated from German): As a Pest newspaper from Verbo reports, a woman there, named Katharina Csassna, has three days ago her seventh husband to the grave. This woman has an interesting life story behind her, from which there are many surprising details to tell. She recalls the exact chronology of all her marriages and claims to have entered her first marriage in her seventeenth year. The first of her spouses was a brewer named Martin Bossak, who lived with her for only fifteen months, then died of withering. She was widowed for a year and then married Johann Hubicsek, who was also widowed and very elderly. With him she spent 13 years, then died of old age just in the hundredth year of his life.

She did not even mourn this man for a month, because she soon got married to the widower Martin Krchnik, who died of dropsy after four years. She mourned her third for nine months; then she managed to fish a man named Georg Nisznanszky, who was a young man at the age of 28. But even this marriage would not last long, because after four years our heroine was granted the opportunity to make a new marriage covenant. Nisznanszky died after four years of marriage from an unfortunate fall. After a mourning of eight weeks, the widow entered into a marriage with the butcher Josef Marczinka and spent six years with him.

When now he also died, she joined after a mourning of nine months with a tree-strong man named Josef Tomaskovics as a spouse. That was her sixth marriage; now Verba was generally convinced that this man would survive the woman. But after only four moons the sixth sank into the grave. Wept bitterly by the woman. The grave of the Sixth was not overgrown with grass yet, as the rumor spread that Csassna would take a seventh man in the person of the Master of the Masters, Josef Cilat, which actually took place. Now the Herculean woman buried this man too, and now only thinks of marrying again, and for the eighth time. The woman is 50 years old today, and she is still full of strength and health and can expect to bring her to twelve men.

["A woman burying seven spouses." Tages-Post (Linz, Austria), 9 Juli 1880, p. 2]


FULL TEXT: Wie einem Pester Blatte aus Verbo berichtet wird, hat ein dortiges Weib, Namens Katharina Csaßna, vor drei Tagen ihren siebenten Gatten zu Grabe geführt. Dieses Weib hat eine interessante Lebensgeschichte hinter sich, aus der es viele überraschende Einzel heiten zu erzählen weiß. Sie erinnertsich genauder Chronologie aller ihrer Eheschließungen und gibt an, ihre erste Ehe in ihrem siebzehnten Lebensjahre eingegangen zu sein. Der erste ihrer Ehe gatten war ein Czischmenmachermeifter Namens Martin Boßak, der nur fünfzehn Monate mit ihr lebte, indem er dann an Abzehrung starb. Ein Jahr brachte sie als Witwe zu und ver heiratete sichdannmit Johann Hubicsek, der ebenfalls im verwitweten Zustande sich befand und sehr bejahrt war. Mit dem verlebte sie 13 Jahre, dann starber an Altersschwäche gerade im hundertsten Jahre seines Lebens.

Diesen Mann betrauerte sie nicht einmal einen Monat lang, denn alsbald vermälte sie sich mit dem Witwer Martin Krchnik, der nach vier Jahren an der Wassersucht starb. Sie beweinte ihren Dritten neun Monate lang; dann gelanges ihr wieder, einen Mann zuerfischen, der den Namen Georg Nisznanszky führte und ein junger Mensch mit 28 Jahren war. Doch auch diese Ehe sollte nicht lange währen, denn schon nach vier Jahren war es unserer Heldin beschieden, wieder einen neuen Ehebund schließen zu können. Nisznanszky ist schon nach vierjähriger Ehe dnrch einen unglücklichen Sturz um's Leben gekommen. Nach einer Trauer von acht Wochen ging die Witwe eine Heirat mit dem Fleischer Josef Marczinka ein und verlebte mit ihm sechs Jahre.

Als nun auch dieser starb, verband sie sich nach einer Trauer von neun Monaten mit einem baumstarken Manne Namens Josef Tomaskovics als Ehegattin. Das war ihre sechste Eheschließung; nun war man in Verba allgemein über zeugt, dieser Mann werde das Weib überleben. Aber schon nach kurzen vier Monden sank auch der Sechste in's Grab. Von dem Weibe bitterlich beweint. Noch war das Grab des Sechsten nicht mit Gras bewachsen, da verbreitete sich schon das Gerücht, die Csaßna werde einen siebenten Mann in der Person des Hafnermeisters Josef Cilat nehmen, was auch wirklich erfolgte. Nun bestattete das herkulische Weib auch diesen Mann und denkt auch jetzt nur daran, sich wieder und zwar zum achtenmale zu ver ehelichen. Die Frau ist heute 50 Jahre alt und strotzt noch von Kraft und Gesundheit und kann es voraussichtlich noch auf zwölf Männer bringen.

[“Ein Weib, das sieben Ehegatten begräbt.” Tages-Post (Linz, Austria), 9 Juli 1880, p. 2]


Vrbové (German: Vrbau (modernized:Werbau); Hungarian: Verbó) is a town in the Trnava Region of Slovakia. It has a population of 6,309 as of 2005. The town lies around 8 km (5 mi) northwest from Piešťany.


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


Margaret Grant, Serial Poisoner – Staten Island, New York, 1867

FULL TEXT: A great sensation prevails on Staten Island, caused by the discovery of a dreadful poisoning case at the farm house of J. K. Jessup, in the town of Westfield, near Ellenville station, on the Staten Island Railroad. If the details as given are correct, and we have them from the highest authorities in the county, three persons, one an aged lady, have recently been poisoned to death by a woman named Margaret Grant, J. K. Jessup is a a wealthy farmer residing in the town of Westfield. Among his large force of farm hands recently were two young men named Archibald McClusky and John Dougherty: and among his help about the house and garden were a Mr. Grant and his wife Margaret.Nr. and Mrs. Grant who are both aged about twenty-five years, had been in the service of Mr. Jessup for a long time, for which reason they had frequently received little favors from him that the others did not. This, it seemed, had the effect to create an envious feeling among some of the hands; which resulted in occasional quarrels; and at one time. It is alleged, Mrs. Grant, in a fit of passion, threatened to take their lives, adding that she would “fix them.” This occurred about two months ago. In the latter part of the month of May, McClusky was taken suddenly ill, and despite the best medical aid, died in a short time. The threat of Mrs. Grant had almost been forgotten, and no one thought for a moment that she had been instrumental in causing his death. But a few days ago another incident occurred which aroused everybody’s suspicions. Young Dougherty arose one morning in his usual good health, partook of a hearty breakfast, and started to commence his day’s work at a mill some distance from the house. He had proceeded only a short distance when he became so thirsty that he was compelled to drink from a brook near by. The water did not slake his thirst in the least; and he continued to drink until prostrated by pain, when he was discovered and conveyed back to the house, and there died on the same day; his symptoms throughout being very conclusive, and just before he breathed his last he said he had been killed by Mrs. Grant, who had poisoned his coffee at breakfast; at the same time making a request that his body be opened and examined after his death. To add to this tragic state of affairs, an aged lady in the same house had died suddenly two days previous under similar circumstances. The date of McClusky’s death was May the 19th. The lady, whose name has not been ascertained, died June 15, and Dougherty and on the 17th ult. The facts of the case have not been published before, in order to give the officers of the law a better chance to bring the case into form for prosecution. A Coroner’s inquest was held over the remains of Dougherty, which resulted in the holding of both Mr. and Mrs. Grant to bail, and meantime the body of Dougherty was to be sent to New York for analysis. But when the circumstances attending the death of McClusky and that of the lady were remembered, there remained no doubt that all were depatched by the same hand; and the woman Grant and her husband were re-arrested, and they are now secured in the Richmond county jail, and will not be bailed on any considerations. The chemist who has the body of Dougherty yesterday reported to the authorities that poison had been discovered, and the other bodies will be immediately exhumed and undergo a similar analysis. A further examination of the prisoners will take place to-morrow afternoon, before Justice Vaughn, at Clifton, S. I. The prisoners are what would be called a rough looking pair; and when they were conveyed to the jail in the constable’s carriage, their appearance was so bad as to cause remark by every one who saw them. Margaret is particularly uncouth in appearance, and her features very irregular and repulsive. She is downcast since her last arrest, and begins to manifest deep anxiety. The tragic affair is the main topic of conversation throughout the breadth of the Island.

[“A Modern Borgia. – Wholesale Poisoning on Staten Island – An Old Lady and Two Men Believed to have been Poisoned to Death by a Woman.” (from New Work World, Jul. 12), Chicago Tribune (Il.), Jul. 15, 1867, p. 1]


May 19, 1867 – Archibald McClusky
June 15, 1867 – “a lady”
Jun. 17, 1867 – John Dougherty


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


Magdalena Castel, Argentine Serial Poisoner on Demand - 1941

FULL TEXT: Accused of selling poison used for at least four murders, Magdalena Castel aged 45, was arrested in Palma, Argentina. Twelve of her relatives who are said to have known of her “activities” were also arrested. Mrs. Castell is said to have sold a mixture of rat poison and flour to one woman who used it to kill her mother-in-law, while three others killed their husbands.

[“Modern Borgia Jailed, Accused of 4 Murders,” The Hartford Courant (Ct.), Feb. 16, 1941, p. 16]


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kusuma Nain, Indian Bandit Queen - 2004

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): New Delhi – An outlaw gang’s leaders killed 13 villagers and burned a woman and her child to death to avenge the killing of three gang members, the United News of India reported Sunday.

The news agency quoted police as saying that gang chieftan Lala Ram-Shriram and his paramour, Kusuma Nain, lined up 13 villagers and shot them to death Saturday night in Asta village near Kanpur, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

They then set fire to several houses, and a mother and child died in the flames, the agency said.

It said the slayings were to avenge the killings of three comrades by a rival gang whose members lived in the village. A witness reported that the bandits entered the village shouting “Teach them a lesson,” and then opened fire.

[“Indian villagers murdered,” syndicated (AP), The Citizen (Ottawa, Canada), May 28, 1984, p. 6]


EXCERPT (Article 2 of 3): Ram Asre Tiwai alias Phakkar Baba, along with his mistress Kusuma Nain and seven more allies surrendered on June 8 [2004]. Ram Asre was a dacoit operating in the Chambal Valley and was responsible for several cases of murder, robbery and abduction in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. According to O.P. Singh, DSP Sikandra, the featuring of Ram Asre’s crimes on “India TV’s Most Wanted’’ played a vital role in the criminal’s surrender.

[Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar and Bindu Shajan Perappadan, “Back on the air,” The Hindu (Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India), Jun. 25, 2004]


EXCERPT (Article 3 of 3): Hence, the dreaded Kusuma Nain, another contemporary female bandit who faced eighty-four murder charges, anointed herself “dasyu sundari” (the beautiful bandit queen), jogging memories of another who had borne the appellation two decades earlier.

[Bishnupriya Ghosh, Global Icons: Apertures to the Popular, 2011, Duke University Press, p. 347]


For similar cases, see: Female Serial Killer Bandits


MORE Female Serial Killers of Asia


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Discredited Female Serial Killer Legends & False Reports

1364 – Countess “Agnes” d’Orlamunde, “White Lady”; Agnes, Queen of Hungary – Neuhaus Castle, Bohemia

“the Countess Dorlamunde, responsible for the death of her father, mother, brother, husband, three children and several friends” [“Women Poisoners Perverse, Liars, Says Pathologist,” Atlanta Constitution (Ga.), Jan. 20, 1928, p. 2]

[The Graphic (London, England), February 17, 1883; Issue 690 and early 20th century online for research.]

1519 – Lucrezia Borgia (18 April 1480 – 24 June 1519) – Italy

“Lucretia Borgia did not poison anyone and probably did not have an incestuous affair with Pope Alexander VI, her father, art experts and historians said yesterday [Feb. 9, 2010].” [Bruce Johnston, “Lucretia Borgia ‘not incestuous sex-mad poisoner,”The Daily Mail (London, England), Feb. 10, 2012]

1535 – Anna Neumann von Wasserleonberg “The Female Bluebeard of Noetsch” (d 1623) – Carinthia, Austria

“In the years between her birth on November 23, 1535, and her death on December 18, 1623, Anna, was married six times, bat she was never divorced. She disposed of her first five husbands more simply by rubbing them affectionately with an ointment that contained a mysterious and deadly poison.” [William C. Mccloy. “The Wasserleonerg Ghost.  – Woman Bluebeard Of Sixteenth Century. - History Of A Honeymoon Castle,” The Auckland Star (Australia), Jul. 10, 1937, p. 9]

1591 – Katheryn of Berain – Llanefydd, Denbighshire, Wales – died Aug. 27, 1591 – Wales; legend

[Katharine Olson,Did 16th century wealthy Welsh heiress poison three of her four husbands?” Western Mail (Wales), Mar. 26, 2011]

1763 – Marie-Josephte Corriveau Saint-Vallier – Quebec, Canada

“Marie-Josephte Corriveau (1733 at Saint-Vallier, Quebec – April 18, 1763 at Quebec City), better known as “la Corriveau”, is one of the most popular figures in Québécois folklore. She lived in New France, and was sentenced to death by a British court martial for the murder of her second husband, was hanged for it and her body hanged in chains. Her story has become legendary in Quebec, and she is the subject of numerous books and plays.” [Wikipedia]

[Accounts of the purported series of husband-killings: James MacPherson Le Moine, “Marie-Josephte Corriveau, A Canadian Lafarge, Maples Leaves, 1863, p. 68-74.]

The Corriveau legend has her murdering her first husband by pouring lead in his ear. “Ostander’s case, of an English woman who murdered six husbands by pouring molten lead into the ear. She was detected in the seventh attempt.” [Rudolph August Witthaus, Medical jurisprudence, forensic medicine and toxicology, Volume 3, 1896, p. 125; based on Ostander’s 1813 book] [Ostander [Friedrich Benjamin Osiander], Über den Selbstmord, seine Ursachen, Arten, medicinische gerichtliche Untersuchung und die Mittel gegen denselben. Hannover 1813, p. 395]

Some accounts describe her as English but unnamed in medical reference books and in English newspapers; story has her murdering 6 husbands, and attempting to kill another, by means of pouring molten lead into the ear. [English Black Widow – 6 hubs, 7th surv (“Ostander’s case” ), 1792]

1807 – Rebecca “Becky” Cotton – Edgefield, South Carolina, USA

The “Devil in Petticoats”

“In his later work, a sermon, the Rev. Weems tells the story of Rebecca Cotton, who, in the early 1800s, murdered three of the four men she married. Her schemed and brutal murders only ended when her brother stoned her at the county courthouse in 1807.”
 [Catherine Thomas, “The Edgefield Legend of Rebecca Cotton,” Aiken Standard (S. C.), Sep. 18, 1990, p. 7]

1820 – Lavinia Fisher (1793-1820) – Charleston, South Carolina, USA

“The legend of Lavinia Fisher has been told and retold since her execution in Charleston, South Carolina in 1820 and with each telling it has grown more extravagant and further from the truth. Today tourist pamphlets and web sites will earnestly tell you that Lavinia was America’s first female serial killer when, in fact, there is no hard evidence that she ever killed anyone.” [Robert Wilhelm, “The Legend of Lavinia Fisher,” Murder by Gaslight, Oct. 1, 2010]

Book: Bruce Orr, Six Miles to Charleston: The True Story of John and Lavinia Fisher, 2010

1831 – Annie Palmer – Rose Hall, Jamaica (reportedly died, 1831)

“The basis for most of the White Witch legend seems to come from H.G. de Lisser’s 1928 novel “The White Witch of Rose Hall”. This was a popular novel telling the gripping story of an Annie Palmer that lived a very different life to that indicated by the records available from the time. [The facts about Rose Hall,” Jamaica Travel and Culture] 

1834 – Delphine Marie LaLaurie – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

“The legends have grown about this house and its namesake, twisting the real events into something almost unrecognizable. The phony body count attributed to Delphine seems to increase with each passing year. But the truth shows us that ‘Mad’ Madame LaLaurie was definitely not a saint, even if she wasn’t a murderer (and it is unclear if she was). She was an accomplice and almost certainly a participant in the slow, systematic torture of other human beings, and demonstrated zero remorse for her misdeeds.” [James Caskey, “The Haunted LaLaurie House in New Orleans,” James Caskey, Savannah Author, 13 Oct, 2014]

1867 – Sarah Jane Newman “Sally Skull” – Texas, USA

“Sally Skull may have killed two of five husbands. This is hedged with the usual caveat — she was never charged or convicted. They just disappeared.” [Murphy Givens, “Did husband No. 5 kill Sally Skull?” Corpus Christi Caller Times (Tx.), Jun 29, 2011]

1873 – Mrs. York – Moeaqua, Illinois, USA

The statement of Mr. Drake certainly shows that Mrs. York could not poisoned three of the persons she is said to have said to admitted killing, and hence it is very probable that the confession, if made, was uttered while suffering from mental aberration.” [“Discredited – What Mrs. E. R. Drake Knows of the Alleged Poisoning of Six Persons Near Monmequa – Mrs. York’s Death-Bed Confession Discredited.” The Chicago Daily Tribune (Il.), Jun. 17, 1873, p. 2]

1889 – “Cattle Queen Kate” Maxwell – Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA

“Ellen Liddy Watson (July 2, 1860 – July 20, 1889) was a pioneer of Wyoming who became erroneously known as Cattle Kate, a post-claimed outlaw of the Old West. The “outlaw” characterization is a dubious one, as she was not violent and was never charged with any crime during her life. Accused of cattle rustling, she was ultimately lynched by agents of powerful cattle ranchers as an example to what happens to those who opposed them and whose interests she had threatened. Her life has become the subject of an Old West legend.” [Wikipedia]

“Her husband died mysteriously. It was whispered that she poisoned him … she played every card game well and to fleece the innocent was only pastime for her and her husband. two men who mysteriously disappeared were traced to this deadfall, where they were, in all probability, murdered for their money.” [‘Cattle Queen Kate’ Maxwell,” Salina County Journal (Ks.), Aug. 1, 1889, p. 6]

1896 – Mrs. C. M. Powell (“Powers”) – Leonardsburg, Ohio, USA

[“Mrs. Powell Denies Stories. - She Says She Did Not Poison the Five Persons as Charged.” Newark Daily Advocate (Oh.), Feb. 1, 1896, p. 1]
[“Terrible Charges. - Several Murders Laid at the Door of a Springfield Woman,” Daily gazette, (Xenia, Oh.), Feb. 13 1896, p. 2]

1934 – Bonnie Parker – Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, USA (place of death)

Recent research holds that she did not personally murder anyone

2001 – Gisela Kandorfer  – Frankfurt, Germany

(hoax article) “A black widow killer slaughtered six husbands – then chopped up the bodies and ate them, shocked cops say.” [Cliff Linedecker, “Black widow bride murdered six husbands,” Weekly World News, Jan. 2, 2001, p. 4]

2012 – “Indonesian Cannibal” – Indonesia

An article, illustrated with several gruesome photos, was apparently a hoax. [“Female Cannibal In Indonesia,” Aaj News (India), Jan 27, 2012] 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rosa Vrzal, Family Annihilating Serial Killer – Chicago, 1906

EXCERPT: By December, 1906 police issued warrants for the arrest of Herman Billick and Rosa Vrzal. All six bodies were exhumed and autopsies determined that they had all died of arsenic poisoning. Though they were able to arrest Billick, Rosa managed to escape them by committing suicide with arsenic before she could the police could catch up with her.

[“The Great Billick,” Providentia, April 6, 2014]


FULL TEXT: Chicago, July 6. – Startling revelations of the wholesale murder plot alleged to have existed between Herman Billik the Bohemian fortune teller now on trial in Judge Barne’s court, and Mrs. Rosa Vrzal, one of Billik’s alleged victims, was made to-day by the State’s star witness, Jerry Vrzal, son of Mrs. Vrzal. The remarkable thing about the plot was that it was a mother’s cold-blooded design to kill her own children and her husband and Billik’s avowed purpose to murder his wife and mother.

According to the State’s charge, four of Mrs. Vrzal’s children and her husband were killed by poison in carrying out the plot Jerry Vrzal said Billik seemed to hold a strange hypnotic power over Mrs. Vrzal and after she was called in to reveal the circumstances of the deaths to the police Billik induced her to kill herself.

~ Billik Sought Money. ~

Jerry, who is fifteen, said Billik’s motive was to get money from Mrs. Vrzal. Mr. Vrzal’s life was insured for $2,000 and each of the four girls who died was insured for from $100 to $250.

Besides the insurance father left the property in West Nineteenth street valued at $3,000 which was all paid for and about $2,000 in cash said the boy.

“Billik got practically all the money as well as that collected for my sisters deaths. My mother gave him money repeatedly Jerry said Billik gave him medicine which made him so weak that Dr. Emily Schmidt of Cleveland where he was under treatment told him he could not live more than a few months Billik’s treatment of Jerry which consisted of giving him white powders began after the boy had offered objection to Mrs. Vrzal giving Billik more money. Since the treatment ceased last December after the investigation was begun Jerry had become well.

~ Worked “Charm” on Father. ~

“Did Billik talk to you about working charms?” asked Assistant States Attorney Poppham.

“Yes,” replied Jerry. “He worked them while father was sick. He said he was going to work a charm because father was unable to sleep.

“Then he took a paper on which I had written my father’s name and the amount of his life insurance and waved it over father’s face talking in a strange voice. Then mother accompanied him to the kitchen and Billik said, “You know in a few days your husband will be dead.”  Then he said something about the spirits were going to take away others in our family, but if I was all right to them that would ‘not kill me.’”

[“Accuses Dead Woman – Son Says She Was in Plot to Kill Four Daughters. – Testimony By Young Vrzal – Declares Mother Was Under Spell of Billik, Chicago Fortune Teller, on Trial for Murder – State’s Star Witness Tells of Having Been Given “Powders” that Nearly Resulted in His Death.” Washington Post (D. C.), Jul. 7, 1907, p. 3]


Deaths during 21-month period:

Mar. 26, 1905 – Martin Vrzal, husband, murdered (Mar. 27 in other source)
Jul. 27, 1905 – Mary Vrzal, 22, murdered
Dec. 22, 1905 – Tillie Vrzal, aged 22, murdered
Aug. 30, 1906 – Rose Vrzal, aged 14, murdered
Nov. 25, 1906 – Ella Vrzal, aged 12, murdered
Nov. 30, 1906 – Jerry Vrzal, 15, poisoned, survived
Dec. 5, 1906 – Rosa Vrzal, suicide

[Dates vary in sourced. These dates are taken from “Plot to Poison When Gas Fails.” The Chicago Daily Tribune (Il.), Jul. 9, 1907, p. 6]










Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wilhelmina Weick, Suspected Serial Killer – Buffalo, New York, 1875

Wilhelmina Weick was suspected of five murders. She was convicted for the final one in the alleged series. Following is Mrs. Wieck’s motion for a change of venue which cites these suspicions.



and proceeded to read the following affidavits in support of the same;
County of Erie, City of Buffalo

Wilhelmina Weick, being duly sworn, disposes and says: That she resides in the city of Buffalo, and has resided here for more than eight years last past. That she is now under indictment, charged with having murdered or poisoned one Michael Weick. Deponent further says that she is informed by her counsel, and verily believes the fact to be true, that a fair and impartial trial of the indictment under which she now stands charged cannot be had in Erie county. That as she is informed by her said counsel and believes to be true, the public press of Buffalo and Erie county have published many and exhaustive articles relating to the aforesaid murder, in all of which she is charged, or it is intimated that she committed the said murder. That wrong, false, malicious and unfounded articles have been published and circulated concerning her, falsely and maliclously charging and intimating that deponent had murdered or poisoned her two husbands, and also had killed one or two children in Germany. That such article was widely circulated within the county of Erie, and deponent verily believes that there could and that there still exist a wide spread and deep set indignation and prejudice against her; so much so that it would be impossible to procure an intelligent, impartial and unprejudiced jury to try her on said charge.

Sworn to before me, this 7th day of March, 1876.
Ph. Stellwagen. Notary Public

[“Wilhelmina Weick. He Case Called Yesterday in the Court of Oyer and Terminer – A Motion for a Change of Venue on account of “Base, False, and Malicious Charges of the Newspapers, etc. – The Motion Denied – The Trial Put Over Until the Next Term, Etc., Etc.” Evening Republic (Buffalo, N. Y.), Mar. 9, 1876, p. 2?]


FULL TEXT: Buffalo, June 5. – Wilhelmina Weick who was convicted of the murder of her step son Michael Wieck in November last, was this morning sentenced to be hung on the 21st day of July, 1876. the sentence was received with stoical indifference.

[“A Woman to Hang.” Oswego Daily Times (N. Y.), Jun. 5, 1876, p. 1]


FULL TEXT: July 15, 1876. Wilhelmina Weick. Sentenced June 5, 1876; county, Erie; crime, murder; to be hanged July 21, 1876; prison, county jail. Sentence commuted to imprisonment in the State prison at Sing Sing for the term of her natural life. [Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 8; Volume 100, Issue 8, p. 21]



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


Sophia Martha Todd, Baby Farmer Serial Killer – England, 1877

FULL TEXT: A ladylike woman, named Sophia Martha Todd, aged about 35, has been charged before the Liverpool stipendiary magistrate on suspicion having caused the death of a child. About the middle of 1875, the prisoner lodged at the house of a Miss Joliffe, in Prospect Street, Liverpool, and one evening she was seen with an infant, which, she explained, had been left with her by a Dr. and Mrs. George, who had gone to an evening party and intended to call for it on their return. Next day, she was without the child, and she told Miss Joliffe that the parents had taken it away. The prisoner afterwards took lodgings with a Mrs. Oldham, but went away again in a few days, leaving behind her a box, which remained in Mrs. Oldham’s possession. Recently, this box was opened, and at the bottom the body of a child was found tightly wrapped up in clothes and quite mummified. A medical examination showed that the child’s head had been crushed. The police, after much difficulty, traced the prisoner to Old Trafford, near Manchester, where she was apprehended while riding along the road in a trap, accompanied by a Mr. Todd, the agent in advance for a circus, and whom she represented to be her husband. She made a long statement to the detective, to the effect that she adopted the child for a premium of £10, and that it died suddenly in her arms the night it came into her possession. Upon the prisoner was found a letter signed “Beta”, and offering to pay £30 premium for the adoption of a child. With respect to this letter, the police had discovered that a little boy had been sent to the prisoner from Whitehaven; that she took him out with her one day; and that he had never afterwards been seen or heard of. It was also ascertained that five other children were sent to her at different times, and, when questioned about them on her arrest, she said they had all died natural deaths. The prisoner is stated to be the daughter of a civil engineer named Wilson, belonging to the Isle of Wight, and her mother was an East Indian. She was for four years governess in a Polish nobleman’s family in Russia, and afterwards became governess to the children of a nobleman. Some years subsequently, she taught music and languages at Lancaster, and in that town met a farmer, named Jackson, whom she married and brought to Liverpool. They soon separated, and she then went as book-keeper at an hotel, and soon after this she appeared to have commenced the “farming” of children. Her mode of operation was that which we long since exposed, to insert an advertisement in the newspapers in this form :— “Wanted by a respectable married couple, a baby to adopt; a premium expected”; and, upon receiving a reply addressed to the newspaper office, she would disclose her name and address. It was stated that the prisoner was thoroughly accomplished in the fine arts, and could speak five languages. She was remanded for a week.

[“Baby-farming.” The British Medical Journal (London, England), Mar. 31, 1877, p. 387]




For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Teresa Gómez Rubio, Spainsh Serial Killer Executed in 1954

Spanish sources on the history of the garotte note that the murders occurred between 1940 and 1941, rather than being the result of a single mass poisoning episode.


FULL TEXT: Madrid, Wed. (O.S.R.) — A woman was executed in Spain yesterday for the first time in 50 years. She was garrotted to death at Valencia. Teresa Gomez (35), a maid-servant, had poisoned five members of a family for whom she worked. Three of them died. At her trial she said she poisoned them because she hated them. Two appeals against her sentence — one direct to General Franco — were rejected. She died courageously, watched by 10 persons.

[“Poisoner Executed By Garrotting In Spain,” The Sun (New Castle, Australia), Feb. 17, 1954, p. 3]


The garotte (or garrotte) was the standard civilian method of execution in Spain. It was introduced in 1812/13, at the beginning of the reign of Ferdinand VII, to replace the crude form of hanging previously used. Garotting appears to have developed from the early Chinese form of execution known as the bow-string. The criminal was tied to an upright post with two holes bored in it through which the ends of a cord from a long bow were passed and pulled tight round the neck by the executioner until the condemned strangled.  In the Spanish version, the prisoner was seated on top of a short post with his back to the main post and a rope loop was placed round his neck and around the post. The executioner twisted a stick inserted in the loop to tighten the rope and strangle the prisoner. Capital Punishment UK (


More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed


Marie Emilie Raymond, the French Serial Killer Nurse Who Was Thrilled by Death - 1952

FULL TEXT: Marie Emilie Raymond, 63, spends her days reading the Bible and her 12 prayer books, but police think she poisoned two women and may have committed several other murders.

In a guarded hospital ward at Tarbes, high among the Pryenees mountains, the dumpy spinster continues her devotions from dawn far into the night.

Yet a couple of weeks ago she told Dr. John Ueberschlag, director of a nearby psychiatric hospital: “I love looking at dying people. The last smile on a dying face gives me a great thrill.”

Marie, who even in warm weather wears four pullovers and six petticoats under her woollen skirt, was a night orderly in an old folks’ home at the village of Galan.

Police say that when Marie was arrested she had £100 in Francs pinned inside her bodice and bottles of mole and moose poison in her room.

She also had a rake because, “I love raking freshly filled graves.”


Witnesses from the old folks’ home have testified that Marie would stop passing nurses and murmur: “The dying, they’re so inspiring.”

Sister Therese, head of the home, first reported Marie to the police, after noting that the old spinster was uncannily accurate in forecasting death.

“He will die to-night,” she would say, pointing to a patient. He usually did.

Particularly, Sister Therese told of Mme. Anna Galy, who had appeared to be in normal health until one day she became very sick while in Marie’s charge.

That night Marie ran to Sister Therese’s room, crying:

“Mme. Galy is dying. We need the priest.”

Mme. Galy was in agony and died two days later.

Marie raised a similar alarm within a few days, but this time the patient recovered.

But Sister Therese was perturbed and transferred Marie to another part of the home.

Ten days later another of Marie’s charges, Mme. Berthe Peyronnec, who had been in good health, asked for a glass of wine.

Almost at once Marie raised the alarm again. “Mme. Peyronnec is dying.” In two hours she was dead.

Sister Therese went to Dr. Ueberschlag, who drew from Marie a confession of her fascination with death.

Marie was charged with the murder of Mme. Galy and Peyronnec, then transferred from jail to hospital for fear of pneumonia.

Now police are investigating the sudden violent sicknesses that struck other patients in Marie’s care and also the deaths of several priests in whose homes Marie worked.

[“Marie Pointed Finger Of Death At Patients,” Charleville Times (Australia), May 29, 1952, p. 5]


FULL TEXT (Translated from French): TARBES (High Pyrenees), 12. - AFP. - Employed since March 1 at the old people's home of Galan, in the High Pyrenees, Marie Raymond, 67, who was governess of several priests, has just been arrested and imprisoned in theTarbes prison under indictment for multiple poisonings.

When caretaker Raymond had went into service, one of the old women entrusted to her care, Mrs. Galy, was the first night vomiting and she died on March 3rd. Another, Mrs. Payronnenc, followed her on the 15th of March, after terrible suffering.

At the time of the first death, the superior of the hospital had the caretaker examined by the head physician of the psychiatric hospital of Lannemezan, which had been struck by a reflection made by Marie Raymond: "I like to treat the old men who are the gates of death, "she said," I can take away the memory of their grimaces of suffering. "

But the investigators, who are extremely discreet, established that in 1938 the canon Abadie, former parish priest of Maubourguet, in whose service was Marie Raymond, died suddenly in its strange conditions that were never explained. He had suddenly collapsed in the middle of the church, conducting choral rehearsals. Several other priests, who had employed Marie Raymond, had also succumbed in inexplicable conditions.

~ She defends herself indignantly ~

The accused, who seems very withdrawn, very vindictive and threatening, denies the charges which accumulate against her and indignantly defends herself for having committed the crimes of which she is accused. But a new bundle of overwhelming presumptions was gathered by the investigating judge. Thus a search carried out in one of the buildings of the hospice where she worked, allowed to discover several bottles of taupicine sum of 100,000 fr. Marie Raymond, who, as a night-housekeeper, has but a modest salary, could not furnish any valid explanation as to the provenance of such a sum.

Asked about the discovery of a gardening rake in her room Marie Raymond could only answer the inspectors: "I love raking the freshly dug [graves]. "

Investigators have, on the other hand, collected various testimonies that singularly shed light on the morbid side of Marie Raymond's psychology: "She has the ‘gift’ of power, according to her own confidences, to designate ‘the sick who were to die in the night’ and ‘her predictions would never be wrong.’"

Lastly, it has been established that for several years Marie Raymond has regularly published advertisements in a Paris newspaper, offering her services as a rectory governess. The instructing magistrates are endeavoring to establish a list of clergy who might have employed Marie Raymond as a servant, since the time when suspicious deaths were reported among the numerous priests who had been served by her.

It is pointed out, however, to the prosecutor's office of Tarbes, that the investigation will not make sense of events until the results of the toxicological analysis of the viscera of the last two alleged victims of the cleaning lady are known.

["Another case of multiple poisoning in France; Did Marie Raymond poison priests and old men with rat poison? "L'Impartial (Le Chaux-De-Fonds, Switzerland), Apr. 12, 1952, p. 1]


FULL TEXT: TARBES (Hautes Pyrénées), 12. – AFP. – Employée depuis le 1er mars dernier à l’hospice des vieillards de Galan, dans les Hautes Pyrénées, Marie Raymond, 67 ans, qui fut gouvernante dès plusieurs prêtres, vient d’être arêtée et écrouée à la prison de Tarbes sous l’inculpation d’empoisonnements multiples.

Lorsque la garde Raymond avait pris son service, une des vielles femmes confiées à ses soins, Mme Galy, fut des la première nuit prise de vomissements et elle mourut le 3 mars. Une autre, Mme Payronnenc, la suivit le 15 mars, après d’atroces souffrances.

Dès le premier décès, supérieure de l’hospice avait fait examiner la garde par le médicin chef de l’hôpital pschiatrique de Lannemezan, qui avait été trés frappé par une réflexion de Marie Raymond: « J’aime bien soigner les viellards qui sont aux portes de la mort, avait-elle dit, je peux ainsi emporter le souvenir de leur rictus de souffrance ».

Or les enquêteurs, qui sont d’ailleurs d’une extrème discrétion, ont établi qu’en 1938 le chanoine Abadie, ancien curé doyen de Maubourguet, au service duquel se trouvait Marie Raymond, était mort brusquement dans ses conditions étranges qui ne furent jamais elucidées. Il s’était écroulé brusquement en pleine église en dirigeant des répétitions de chant. Plusiers autres prêtres, qui avaient employé Marie Raymond, avaient également succombé dans des conditions inexplicables.

~ Elle se défend avec indignation ~

L’inculpèe, qui parait très renfermée, très vindicative et menaçante, nie les charges qui s’accumulent contre elle et se défend avec indignation d’avoir commis les crimes don’t on l’accuse. Mais un nouveau faisceau de présomptions accablantes a été recueilli par le juge chargé de l’enquête. C’est ainsi qu-une perquisition opérée dans un des bâtiments de l’hospice où elle tavaillait, a permis de découvrir plusieurs flacons de taupicine somme de 100,000 fr. Marie Raymond, qui ne touvhait en tant que femme de ménage de nuit qu'un salaire des plus modestes, n’a pu fournir aucun éclaircissement valable quant à la provenance d’une pareille somme.

Interrogée sur la découverte d’un rateau jardinier dans sa chambre Marie Raymond n’a pu que répondre aux inspecteurs: « J’adore aller gratter sur les toutes fraichement creusées. »

Les enquéteurs ont d’autre part recueilli divers témoignages qui éclairent singuliérement le côté morbide de la psychologie de Marie Raymond: « Elle aurait eu le « don » de pouvoir, selon ses propres confidences, désigner « les malades qui devaient mourir dans la nuit »et « ses prédictions n’auraient jamais été démentes ».

Il a pu être établi enfin que, depuis plusiers années, Marie Raymond faisait paraître régulièrement des annonces dans un journal de Paris, proposant ses services comme gouvernante de presbytère. Les magistrats instructeurs s’efforcent d’ établir une liste des ecclésiastiques qui ont pu employer Marie Raymond comme domestique, depuis l’époque où des décès suspects ont étè signalés panni les nombreaux prêtres qui ont eue à leur service.

On indique, toutefois, au parquet de Tarbes, que l’enquête ne purra pas progresser sensibilement, tant que ne sera pas connu le résultat de l’analyse toxicologique des viscères des deux dernières victimes présumées de la femme de ménage.

[“Encore une affaire d’empoisonnements multiples en France; Marie Raymond a-t-elle empoisonné des curés et des vielliards avec de la mort aux rats?” L’Impartial (Le Chaux-De-Fonds, Switzerland), Apr. 12, 1952, p. 1]




For more cases, see Sicko Nurses