When we learned about 8 Sensational Female Murderers from History, we had barely touched the list of awful women in history. Here are a few more, but be warned that these stories are disturbing.
1. Linda Hazzard
Dr. Linda Hazzard ran the Institute of Natural Therapeutics in Olalla, Washington, in the early 20th century. People looked to her clinic for alternative medical care, which mainly consisted of fasting as a cure-all.
Despite little formal training and a lack of a medical degree, she was licensed by the state of Washington as a “fasting specialist.” Her methods, while not entirely unique, were extremely unorthodox. Hazzard believed that the root of all disease lay in food—specifically, too much of it. “Appetite is Craving; Hunger is Desire. Craving is never satisfied; but Desire is relieved when Want is supplied,” she wrote in her self-published 1908 book Fasting for the Cure of Disease. The path to true health, Hazzard wrote, was to periodically let the digestive system “rest” through near-total fasts of days or more. During this time, patients consumed only small servings of vegetable broth, their systems “flushed” with daily enemas and vigorous massages that nurses said sometimes sounded more like beatings.
An extended stay at the Institute was only affordable to those who were well-off and desirable to those who were desperate to improve their health. But when Claire Williamson died while staying with Hazzard, her childhood nurse came to investigate and found that Claire had only weighed 50 pounds when she died. Furthermore, she’d left her estate to Hazzard. And Claire’s sister Dora was still at the facility—afraid to leave! Her uncle ultimately paid Hazzard a thousand dollars to let Dora move out. It then came to light that Claire wasn’t the first patient to die under Hazzard’s care: several wealthy patients had died and left their fortunes to Hazzard. In all, maybe a dozen of her patients had starved to death. Hazzard was put on trial for Williamson’s death, and was convicted of manslaughter in 1911. She served two years.
2. Enriqueta Martí
Enriqueta Martí became known as the Vampire of the Raval or the Vampire of Barcelona. The Raval is a neighborhood of Barcelona, Spain, filled with businesses that draw tourists: restaurants, theaters, museums, bars, and prostitutes. Enriqueta Martí came to the Raval in the late 1800s as a young prostitute and witch doctor who made elixirs to cure tuberculosis and whatever else might ail you. The secret she kept was that she made a lot of money by kidnapping young children to rent to pedophiles, and then made her elixirs from their blood and body fat. The children were from poor families, and investigations into their disappearances were halfhearted at best. Martí eventually owned several apartments, each with its own purpose: keeping children, butchering children, and the brothel. Her clientele included the rich and well-connected people of Barcelona: the men who visited her brothel of children, and the women who purchased cremes and elixirs to look more youthful and healthy.
In 1912 her apartment was raided after a neighbor reported suspicions, and a missing seven-year-old girl, Tereseta Guitart, was rescued. Police found photographs of several dead bodies, children’s bones, and a coded list thought to be Martí’s clients. She was arrested, and confessed, but the case was delayed because of the influence of some powerful men who did not want Martí’s client list to be made public. Martí spent 15 months in jail awaiting trial. Then she was (conveniently) beaten to death by some fellow inmates, and those who wished to delay her trial could breathe easier.
3. Madame de Brinvilliers
Marie-Madeleine Marguerite d'Aubray, the Marquise de Brinvilliers, was a French noblewoman who was having an affair behind her husband’s back. This doesn’t seem so out of place to us for a 17th-century aristocrat, and the marquis de Brinvilliers had already fled Paris because he owed money to a lot of people. The young woman's father, however, had her lover, Godin de Sainte-Croix, arrested, and he spent two years in prison. Upon his release, he returned to d'Aubray and the two of them plotted revenge against her father, who died of poisoning in 1666. Although the cause of death was murder, no one suspected d'Aubray or Sainte-Croix. So they did it again.
In 1670, d'Aubray’s two brothers died of poisoning. The murderous couple was on their way to inheriting the family’s wealth—her sister was next on the list. The marquise tried to poison her husband as well, but Sainte-Croix was against it, and gave him an antidote anytime he needed one. But then Sainte-Croix died, and police found evidence of murder among his possessions. The couple’s valet, La Chaussée, was arrested. He confessed under torture and implicated d'Aubray. The marquise fled and hid for three years, but was taken back to Paris and found guilty of murder in 1676. She was tortured and then beheaded.
4. Elizabeth Báthory
Elizabeth Báthory was a Hungarian Countess and the world’s first—and worst—documented female serial killer. Her name in Hungarian is Erzsébet, but she is also known as the Blood Countess. Báthory was born into Transylvanian nobility in 1560 and was married to Ferenc Nádasdy as a teenager. Nádasdy was often gone, for studies or to wage war, and Báthory was left in charge of Csejte Castle, in what is now Slovakia, and Sárvár Castle in Hungary. Between 1575 and 1610, Báthory did pretty much as she pleased, with her husband’s blessing. She took pleasure in causing pain to her servant girls, cutting them, sticking pins under their fingernails, smearing them with honey and watching them be stung by bees, and even biting chunks of flesh from them. And when she tired of each victim, they were killed. Often she committed these crimes herself, but her inner circle of servants carried out the torture and murders as well. When the number of servants waned, victims were drawn in from the lower classes of locals.
But when the daughters of nobles began to go missing, the rumors could no longer be ignored. In December of 1610, King Matthias ordered Count Gyorgy Thurzo to investigate the conditions at Csejte Castle. It is said that the Count walked in on a torture session in progress. Báthory and several of her assistants were arrested and tried on 80 counts of murder. The evidence included many human remains retrieved from the castle and eyewitness accounts from servants. Three of her aides were burned at the stake, one was imprisoned instead, and Báthory herself was sentenced to solitary confinement where she died three years later.
Many stories about Bathory’s crimes were added years, or even centuries, after the fact: that she took young women as sex slaves and that she bathed in the blood of virgins. The real story is gruesome enough.
5. Lavinia Fisher
Lavinia Fisher, born in 1793, is often recognized as America’s first female serial killer. She and her husband John operated an inn called Six Mile Wayfarer House in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a known hideout for outlaws and thieves, but also drew travelers for a meal or a bed.
The story goes that the Fishers would offer cups of tea to those who were staying the night, but the tea was laced with a narcotic or poison. While the visitor slept, John would pull a lever that dumped the person out of the bed and into a pit below. If the fall didn’t kill him, John would. Then a man named John Peoples stayed over, poured his tea out, and slept in a chair. In the middle of the night, he saw the bed collapse. At least that’s the tale told to tourists. It sounds very similar to the story of the Bloody Benders.
The real story is that John and Lavinia Fisher held up Peoples and stole everything he had on him. They also, along with accomplices, assaulted Dave Ross, who was part of a vigilant investigation in 1819. Lavinia choked Ross and shoved him through a window, face first. Ross escaped and told police about the assault. The Fishers were arrested for highway robbery and sentenced to be executed. Lavinia argued that as a married woman, she could not be executed under South Carolina law. So the authorities executed John first, leaving her a widow. Lavinia had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the gallows when she was hanged on February 4, 1820.
Was Lavinia Fisher a serial killer? Two bodies were found buried near the inn, but nothing tied them to any particular killer. Items stolen from missing men were found at the inn, but missing does not mean murdered. Even if the stories of the collapsing bed were true, it was John who carried out the killings.