Scan history’s bloodiest serial killings, and you’ll find a long list of men behind the grisly deeds. Yet an equally brutal group of women have carried out their own mass slayings. Here are eleven notorious female serial killers who used their feminine touch for evil.
admitted to killing 11 people between 1920 and 1954. Among them were four of her five husbands, two children, her two sisters, her mother, a grandson and a mother-in-law. The truth about her spree finally emerged in October of 1954, after her fifth husband Samuel Doss died in a hospital in Oklahoma. An autopsy revealed an immense amount of arsenic in his system. Doss confessed to a long list of murders, but was only convicted of killing Samuel. Her sentence was a life in prison. Doss eventually died of leukemia in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on June 2, 1965. Known under various names (Giggling Granny, Black Widow, and Lady Blue Beard), she was often referred to as the Lonely Hearts Killer because of her history with the lonely hearts column. During her childhood, Doss would read her mother's romance magazines as a hobby. Those magazines would become the medium through which she met most of her husbands—eventually becoming her victims.
The Hungarian Countess Elizabeth (Erzsébet) Báthory went down as one of the most ruthless killers in European history. Between 1585 and 1610, Báthory is believed to have tortured and killed nearly 650 girls–mostly teenage peasants. Infamous for her ruthless practices, Báthory is often cited as one of the first vampires in history. Although she was born into a distinguished family, she had a few peculiar relatives. She was introduced to Satanism by one of her uncles while an aunt taught her about sadomasochism. During her marriage to Count Nadady, Báthory would perform tortuous acts toward peasant and servant girls. It wasn't until Count Nadady's death that Báthory's impulses worsened. Báthory would abduct young girls to torture and kill—sometimes she would eat chucks of her victim's flesh because she believed it would maintain her youthfulness. Though she used her family’s influence to avoid execution after being caught, the countess—also known as "The Blood Countess"— was forced to remain in her castle, in solitary confinement, for the rest of her life.
Although Amelia Dyer was tried and hanged for only one murder, claims state that many other victims died by her hand in Victorian England. After her husband died, Dyer began to search for ways to support her daughter. Through a colleague she learned about a harmful practice. Trained as a nurse, she eventually took the path of a baby farmer–someone who welcomed infants into her home and received payments for care and wet-nursing. But "The Reading Baby Farmer"—another name for Dyer—never provided a safe and loving home. Instead, she pocketed all the money and murdered them—either by starvation, strangulation, or the administration of an opiate-laced cordial known as Mother's Friend. Given that Dyer committed her crimes for some 30 years, it is likely that she was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children.
In 1931, Jane Toppan confessed to 31 murders and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. A sadistic nurse who manipulated hospital reports, she took to experimenting with morphine and atropine… on her patients. After administering a lethal dose of drugs, she would sit with and hold her patients until they died. It was reported that Toppan would fondle her victims as they died and attempt to see the inner workings of their mind. The killer angel—often dubbed "Jolly Jane"—claimed her goal was “to have killed more people–helpless people–than any other man or woman who ever lived.” Toppan would take on a caretaker role and attack the vulnerable but her motives vary: sexual thrill, jealousy, and the need to evoke sympathy from men.
At the end of World War II in 1940s Japan, a midwife carried out a truly disturbing infanticide. Along with accomplices, Miyuki Ishikawa murdered about 103 children. As she saw it, the children of poor people had no chance in this world; she was simply putting them out of future misery. Ishikawa perceived the victims as deserted children and insisted that the parents were responsible for their deaths. Even though she only received a four-year sentence for her crimes, her killing spree remains the bloodiest in Japanese history. The number of dead bodied recovered and the length of time over which the murders took place have caused the exact death toll to remain unknown.
Dorothea Puente earned her grisly nickname ("Death House Landlady") because of the heartless crimes she carried out in her Sacramento, California boarding house. Her motive: money. Over the course of six years, Puente poisoned numerous elderly and mentally disabled boarders in order to collect their Social Security checks. Anyone who complained were killed and buried in her yard. Neighbors finally became suspicious after a homeless alcoholic known as "Chief"—Puente's personal handyman—mysteriously disappeared. Eventually, she was sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 11, 1993. Puente died in prison on March 27, 2011.
Between 1989 and 1990, Aileen Wuornos murdered seven men. She experienced a lot of sexual abuse as a child, especially at the hands of her grandfather. Her notorious killing spree ended up on the big screen with the movie . Aileen supported herself, and her lover Tyria, through prostitution. She claimed her murders were carried out in self-defense against men who were attempting rape. It is likely she killed her first victim, Richard Mallory, in self-defense; Mallory served a 10-year prison sentence for sexual assault. Nevertheless, she was found guilty and executed by the state of Florida by lethal injection in 2002. Her weapon of choice was a small pistol as opposed to other female killers who use other tactics.
Juana Baraza became known as “La Mataviejitas” (The Old Lady Killer) for the death of 11 elderly women, and most likely more. A professional wrestler, Barraza had a troubled childhood and an alcoholic mother who let a man rape her in exchange for beer. Barraza’s deep resentment toward her mother resulted in the brutal murders of solitary old women, whom she also robbed. Barraza bludgeoned or strangled her victims; police reported that there was evidence that victims had been abused before their deaths in some cases. Today, she is serving a 759-year sentence in Mexican prison.
Leonarda Cianciulli was the typical Italian housewife. Better known as the "Soap-Maker of Correggio" baked teacakes and made homemade soap. Except, her recipes included a secret ingredient–human flesh. When she heard that her beloved son Giuseppe was to be drafted into the Italian Army, she believed that the only way to protect him in battle was by human sacrifice. So, between 1939 and 1940, Cianciulli murdered three women in Correggio, Italy. She would offer her victims a glass of drugged wine before killing them with an axe. She then cut up the corpses to make teacakes, which were often served to her family and friends. As for the soap? She and her husband used it for bathing.
Myra Hindley and her lover, Ian Brady, plotted and carried out the rapes and deaths of five young children in England. The pair buried the children in Saddleworth Moor during the 1960s. Hindley and Brady were turn in to the police by Hindley's brother-in-law who had witnessed Brady killing a boy with an axe. Shockingly, the couple kept photographs and an audio recording of one of their victims. "The Most Evil Woman in Britain" died in prison in 2002 at age 60.
Once a devoted housewife, Sharon Kinne (known as "La Pistolera" or the gunfighter) became a cold-blooded killer. As an adolescent, Sharon met James Kinne. Soon, they married but just as quickly problems arose. Kinne was a heavy spender and began having affairs with other men within four years of meeting James. Soon, Kinne had killed James, Patricia Jones (the wife of her lover), and, while out on bond for Jones's killing in Mexico, a man named Francisco Pardes Ordoñez. She escaped Mexican authorities in 1964 and has been on the run ever since.