When one hears “serial killer,” what comes to mind? Blurry, pasty men in bifocals? A dash of mustache under a furrowed brow? Well, redefine your standards — these badass bitches have rap sheets to turn a prison guard pale and the scars to prove it. And what’s more — they almost got away with it.
Though the actual number of Dyer’s victims is unknown, it is estimated that about 400 infants were disposed of under Dyer’s care in the 1900s. Dyer was what was known as a baby farmer, a woman who took illegitimate children off the hands of desperate mothers who could not care for them. Though the mothers thought Dyer was caring for the children and finding homes for them, she was in fact strangling the children with white tape or drugging them with what was then known as “Mother’s Friend,” a syrup containing opium used to sleepily starve the child to death. Though some of the mothers would attempt to check up on their offspring, Dyer avoided discovery by moving her family routinely and operating under aliases. Dyer remained successfully hidden for the majority of her career until she was finally captured and executed by hanging at the age of 58.
Wuornos captured the attention of both scummy whore-hagglers and artistic professionals during her long career. This hard-hearted lesbian apparently murdered five men after having sex with them for profit. Wuornos was a derelict prostitute raised by a physically abusive mother and a convicted child-molester father. Pregnant at the age of 13, it’s no wonder Wuornos turned to physical violence towards the end of her life. Her story has inspired several movies, two documentaries and an opera.
Windsor, Connecticut was shocked in 1916 when fingers began to point to the Archer retirement boarding home for the slipping numbers in seniors around town. Even more so when Amy Archer-Gilligan, the widowed little sweetheart who ran the home, was charged for murdering between 20 and 100 boarders with arsenic. Gilligan claimed the arsenic was for “killing rats.” Gilligan was accused of poisoning both of her husbands as well. After her arrest and conviction, she eventually was moved from prison for admission to a mental hospital. The odd combination of sugar and spice inspired the popular comedic farce, Arsenic and Old Lace.
Though Allitt wasn’t as successful as her dangerous counterparts, her self-destructive tendencies surfaced while working as a nurse in Lincolnshire, victimizing innocent children that were trusted to her care. Nicknamed the “Angel of Death,” Allitt successfully murdered four and seriously injured nine others by injecting the children with lethal levels of potassium chloride or insulin. Allitt was permitted to be the caregiver of these children despite her failing scores at nursing exams and history of mental illness due to the terrible understaffing at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital.
Though friends of Lumbrera insist she could not be the cause of death for her young children, hospital personnel became suspicious after all six of her infant offspring died from ailments such as asphyxiation and intestinal failure (often the outcome of poisoning) over the course of fourteen years. Lumbrera’s history didn’t boast of mental instability or allude to violent tendencies. An ex-husband eventually became suspicious of his wife after the death of their third child, a daughter whom he had been spending time with the day of her murder and claimed she appeared to be in “perfect health.” Lumbrera is incarcerated for life.
Young Trueblood truly pulled on the heartstrings of the unsuspecting men in her wake. Nicknamed “The Black Widow,” Trueblood married for the first time at 19 to a wealthy Idaho landowner and the couple moved in with Trueblood’s then brother-in-law. The longest of Trueblood’s marriages, the union produced a child that mysteriously passed before the girl could reach her first year. Quickly following were the deaths of the brother-and-law and the landowner himself, leaving Trueblood with a fortune to collect in insurance money. Trueblood remarried thrice more, each husband lasting less than five months in the union before burial. After suspicion was cast on her, Trueblood went on the lam and married again. Authorities eventually caught up with her and charged her for the murder of her four husbands, brother-in-law, and daughter by arsenic poisoning. Fun fact: even within the prison Trueblood held her charm; she convinced her prison guard to give her special opportunities for outings and free time.
Some women have an affinity for death from the beginning, explained or otherwise, and Wise seemed to exude morbid tendencies. Neighbors insisted her strange affinities to funerals was odd, and were quick to suspect her when her husband, aunt, uncle, and mother died quickly from mysterious causes. Even Wise’s children suspected tomfoolery was afoot when it was discovered Wise had purchased suspicious amounts of arsenic at a local store previous to the deaths; her own son testified against her before she finally admitted to poisoning at least 17 people in her career. Wise was sentenced to life imprisonment.
LaFonda Fay Foster
Poor LaFonda – all she wanted was more drugs. Unlike the other ladies on our list, Foster didn’t even get close to escaping life imprisonment after committing five murders in the span of only a week. Under the influence of binge drinking and cocaine, Foster and her accomplice, Tina Hickey Powell (who later claimed Foster had threatened her into taking part) took their victims, through a series of horrific experiences: first robbing them, then shooting them, then running them over repeatedly with her car until the police finally caught up to them. Foster has apparently adjusted well to her life in prison and tries to keep up her appearances despite her hard conditioning.
Weber, sweetly coined as “The Ogress” by newspapers of the time (early 20th Century), was acquitted twice before finally being condemned to a life in an insane asylum. Weber, whose seven infant victims include three nieces and two children of her own, operated under several aliases and favored strangulation over more humane methods of assassination. Her final murder, that of the 10-year-old son of the owner of the inn she was currently inhabiting, culminated both her career and her insanity; some sources claim that the innkeeper had to violently strike her multiple times before she would let go of the deceased’s neck.
Beck and her accomplice, Raymond Fernandez, made newspapers giggle when the unlikely pair – Beck, nearly 250 lbs, and Fernandez, tall, thin, and tweedy – were accused of luring, robbing, and murdering women into Fernandez’s grasp by offering subscriptions to the Lonely Hearts Club, which was, in fact, how Beck and Fernandez met. Beck’s childhood was notably troubled, her mental instability beginning with her weight, which was a lifelong struggle due to glandular troubles, and culminating in the rape of her brother at the age of 13. Beck and Fernandez pledged lifelong commitment to one another, even throughout the trials, and were executed together in 1951.
Gwendolyn Graham & Cathy Wood
These lesbian lovers bonded over the poisoning of several elderly inmates of the Apline Manor nursing home during their stay as employees of the establishment. Although the couple first bragged openly of the killings and giggled they were only “playing a game,” no one took them seriously until Wood’s ex-husband alerted authorities and encouraged several patients be exhumed. Upon further review, the victim’s bodies were found riddled with arsenic poisoning, which of course brought Wood and Graham into questioning. Wood panicked and insisted Graham was the main instigator of the murders, claiming she was only a look-out. Her sentence was reduced to a mere 40 years of imprisonment. Her partner, however, was imprisoned for life.
Puente is everybody’s favorite serial killer. A sweet little old landlady in Sacramento, Dorothea had been ducking and in out of the can for finance-related crimes and petty theft before settling into a two story house that she would rent out to also elderly inhabitants. At the charming age of sixty, police discovered Puente was killing off her boarders and collecting the insurance money. The evidence? Seven bodies buried shallowly in her back yard. Apparently Puente wasn’t always as feeble as she was just before her death nearly twenty years later, still claiming the victims died of natural causes.
Though Noe at first claimed innocence, this 70-year-old woman later pleaded guilty to suffocating eight of her 10 children, none living past 15 months. The other two died of natural causes, or so the mother and doctors claim. They had also originally been in agreement that all 10 had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, so who’s to know? Noe was sentenced to 20 years probation after her confession, a sentence that drew massive criticism. Seems the judge and jury were swayed by the seemingly sincere grief of Ms. Noe — her husband certainly was. He claimed, till his death, that his wife “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Bathory, a widow by the age of 26, had too much time, money, and power on her hands in Hungary when she suddenly found herself solely in charge of an entire serfdom. Apparently obsessed with keeping her youthful vigor by bathing in the blood of virgins, Bathory tortured and cruelly beat the poor servant girls under her care. As rumors spread, it was even hinted that she got a sexual thrill out of the torture, earning her the moniker the “Lesbian Dracula of Hungary.” The rumors finally spurred an investigation, which did not result in any prison time for the Countess, but drove her out of power for her remaining years.