Since male criminals commit approximately 90% of the world’s homicides, it isn’t surprising that most of history’s notorious serial killers are men. However, there is a smaller number of their female counterparts throughout history that are equally as deadly. In contrast to male killers, females usually resort to alternative methods to kill; the most common method: poison. Join us for our unique Halloween-themed blog post on history’s most horrifying, ruthless female serial killers.
Wuornos killed a total of seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. She worked as a sex-worker, and commonly hitchhiked around the state. However, Wuornos also used hitchhiking to locate victims. Authorities captured her after she got into a traffic accident while driving one of her victim’s car. Wuornos later confessed to shooting the men at point-blank range. She claimed she killed in self-defense, but she later recanted that statement. In 1992, the court found Wuornos guilty and sentenced her to be executed by lethal injection. They carried out her sentence on October 9, 2002.
In 2003, Hollywood released the movie Monster starring Charlize Theron, which depicted Wuornos’s life as a serial killer.
Buenoano became known as the “Black Widow” because insurance money motivated her to murder her family. She killed her husband, James Goodyear, and she later murdered her son, Michael Buenoano by poisoning them with arsenic. However, while her husband died almost immediately, her son did not. He sustained prolonged arsenic poisoning that made him partially paralyzed until Buenoano eventually drowned him. In total, she received approximately $240,000 in insurance claims.
In 1971, authorities executed Buenoano for the murder of her husband, but they eventually linked her to the deaths of her two boyfriends, a murder that occurred in Alabama in 1974, and the attempted murder via car bomb of her then-fiancé, John Gentry. She became the first woman to be executed in Florida since 1848.
Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie
LaLaurie’s name may be familiar to fans of the fictional television series, American Horror Story. However, LaLaurie and her horrific acts are quite real. She served as a prominent socialite in the New Orleans society in the 1800’s. While she had a fancy façade for the public, her actions behind closed doors were sadistic. She brutally tortured and murdered countless slaves. She had special rooms made in her mansion that served as her torture chambers.
Her heinous deeds went unnoticed until a fire broke out in her mansion at 1140 Royal Street located in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Neighbors flocked to help her put out the flames, but nothing could prepare them for what they found. While the reports are muddled with rumors, eyewitnesses claim that they found numerous dead bodies and at least seven slaves that were beaten bloody, eyes gouged out, and their mouths filled with excrement and sewn shut. Another witness stated that they found a woman that had all of her bones broken and reset so that she resembled a crab. Still, more reports indicated that there were slaves with holes in their skulls and wooden spoons nearby that LaLaurie used to stir their brain.
Following her discovery, Madame LaLaurie vanished. It is thought that she fled to Paris and lived the remainder of her life there, but her whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.
Bathory became known as a vampire due to her sadistic crimes and bloodlust during the 15th century. Sources claim that her husband gifted her with a torture chamber in their castle. Bathory brutally tortured and eventually murdered numerous servant girls. However, servant girls did not satisfy her immense bloodlust, so she began to target the young daughters of local peasants and nobles. Many sources say that she enjoyed jamming pins under her victims’ fingernails and bathing in their blood because she believed that it would preserve her youthfulness.
In 1610, a Lutheran minister began an investigation based on reports of Bathory’s cruelty. After he discovered her crimes, authorities arrested Elizabeth along with four of her favorite servants. Her servants were found guilty of being her accomplices, and three were executed. The fourth served a life sentence in prison. Due to her social standing, Bathory did not stand trial. Instead, they locked her in a room that is rumored to only have slits for air and food. She died at the age of 54 still locked in that room.
Puente, an elderly woman, became known as the “Death House Landlady.” She ran a boarding house located in Sacramento, California. However, made it very easy to target her victims. She poisoned disabled and elderly boarders and cashed in their Social Security checks.
Homicide detectives began to investigate Puente after receiving a missing person’s case of a man who listed Puente’s boarding house as his last known address. They soon discovered buried corpses in her backyard. After authorities uncovered her grizzly crimes, she attempted to flee. They arrested her in Los Angeles and charged her with a total of nine murders. She eventually died in prison at the age of 82.
Cianciulli lived in Correggio, Italy in the 1930’s. Sources say that a fortune teller warned her that her danger would befall on her children unless there were sacrifices. Naturally, she believed that, to protect her children, she needed a human sacrifice. Cianciulli lured three women into her shop where she killed them with an ax. She disposed of their corpses by boiling them in caustic soda. In her court testimony, she stated that she turned the women into soap that she gifted to her neighbors. He testimony dubbed her the nickname of “la Saponificatrice di Correggio,” which means “The Soap-Maker of Correggio.” She served 30 years in prison and three years in an insane asylum.
Overbye is notorious for her killing spree form 1913 to 1920 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She worked as a caretaker, tending for children born outside of wedlock and finding them a new home. However, instead of finding families for the babies, she would strangle them and burn their remains in a masonry heater. After one mother changed her mind and asked for her baby back, she became suspicious when Overbye didn’t comply. The woman reported Overbye to the authorities, and they confirmed her crimes when they discovered bones belonging to numerous babies in her stove. She later confessed to murdering 16 infants and was sentenced to death. However, due to her gender, King Christian X commuted her sentence to life imprisonment.
Toppan worked as a nurse, and she earned the nickname “Jolly Jane” for her upbeat demeanor. She used to travel to different households and take care of families. However, she had an unsettling obsession with bringing people to the brink of death. She experimented on her patients with various doses of morphine and atropine, which usually resulted in death. Toppan even claimed to climb into bed with her victims and cradle them as the died. She even went as far as to poison her foster sister, Elizabeth Brigham. When authorities discovered her crimes, she plead insanity, and the court sentenced her to life in the Taunton Insane Hospital. Later, she admitted to killing over 31 people.
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Resources: http://www.realclearlife.com/crime/notorious-female-serial-killers/#1, https://www.thisisinsider.com/most-notorious-female-serial-killers-2018-6#dagmar-overbye-17, https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-female-serial-killers/reference
Picture Resources: Featured Image: https://pixabay.com/en/hand-table-cloth-crime-315397/, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Aileen_Wuornos.jpg, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Judy_Buenoano.jpg, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Delphine_LaLaurie.jpg, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:%C3%89lisabeth_B%C3%A1thory.jpg, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Leonarda_Cianciulli_mugshot.jpg, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Jane_Toppan.jpg