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Fatal Charm: 5 Deadly Women

These killers were real femmes fatales.


Despite what we may want to believe, a beautiful face can hide a black soul. These five women are proof. From a beautiful cult member to a mother with a face of pure innocence, these women are beautiful and deadly killers.

1. Elizabeth Bathory

Elizabeth Bathory
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Her portraits show a woman of great beauty, but this 16th century Hungarian countess was a true monster. She tortured and killed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of young girls, coming up with ever more inventive methods. Girls were beaten, burned, mutilated and frozen to death.

The following details are nearly impossible to confirm, thanks to the (literal) centuries of rumors and tall tales, The countess was even rumored to tear the flesh of victims with her teeth. Holidays and family celebrations were reportedly celebrated with blood orgies. Rumors that Bathory bathed in the blood of virgins to keep her looks were never proved. But when she was finally arrested, dead and dying girls were found all around the castle. Because of her title, Bathory escaped execution. Instead, she was walled up in a single room in which she survived for four years.

Related: The Bloody Reign of Countess Elizabeth Bathory 

2. Leslie Van Houten

deadly women
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  • Photo Credit: California Department of Corrections

Van Houten was the youngest member of Charles Manson’s notorious ‘Family’. Days before her 20th birthday, she participated in the bloody murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. She grew up in a fairly typical middle-class, churchgoing family outside Los Angeles. She started experimenting with drugs at 15. She ran away several times, and at 17, her mother forced her to have an abortion, which reportedly soured their relationship.

Despite this, Van Houten managed to finish high school and might have straightened out her life if she hadn’t fallen under Manson’s spell. Like all Manson followers, she was taking large doses of LSD. Today, Van Houten is reportedly a model prisoner. She has apologized for her crimes and says she is ashamed that she allowed herself to be swayed by Manson. Recently, the California Parole Board recommended she be released, but California Governor Jerry Brown has not yet agreed.

Related: Charles Manson Is Dead. Where Is the Rest of His Murderous Clan? 

3. Jodi Arias

deadly women
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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia

Jodi Arias’s trial was a national sensation in 2013 as she took the stand for 18 days, claiming she had killed her boyfriend five years before in self defense. The jury didn’t buy it. Travis Alexander had been stabbed nearly 30 times, his throat was slashed from ear to ear, and he had been shot in the head for good measure.

The press made much of the fact that Arias had toned down her looks, going from glamorous blonde to basic brown and trading her sexy clothes for dowdy ones. Arias escaped the death penalty. A single juror was the holdout during the penalty phase. She is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

4. Karla Homolka

deadly women
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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia

Homolka and her husband raped and murdered at least three teenage girls. They also drugged and raped Homolka’s younger sister, who choked on her own vomit and died. But at her trial, Homolka claimed she was an unwilling participant in the crimes. While her husband, Paul Bernardo, was convicted of murder, she was convicted only of manslaughter, part of a plea agreement in which she testified against him. Her claim was backed up by psychologists who testified that Bernardo scored high on the psychopathy test while Homolka scored low.

Homolka was released from prison in 2005 and is now living under a different name. She has remarried and had three children. 

Related: 8 True Crime Books About Terrifying Mothers  

5. Martha Needle

deadly women
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Needle was born in Australia in 1863. She was said to be pretty and kind. So when her husband and her three children began dying of mysterious illnesses, she was not immediately suspected. She collected substantial insurance money after their deaths, but she spent nearly all of it on an elaborate family grave which she visited often.

Related: Belle Gunness: The Black Widow of the Midwest Who Lured Numerous Victims to Their Deaths 

Years later, Needle was preparing to remarry, but her fiancé’s brother disapproved. When the brother also died after being served a meal by Needle, the police set up a test. They sent the fiancé’s other brother in for lunch with Martha, then stormed her house. The police tested the food she had been on the verge of serving and found arsenic. They exhumed the bodies of her family and found lethal doses of arsenic in their remains as well. Needle was hanged in 1894 at the age of 30. Her death mask is on display at the Old Melbourne Gaol, so you can judge for yourself how beautiful she was. 

Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons