killers come in all shapes, sizes, races and genders. In the United
States, serial killers tend to be predominately white males. However,
women can be (and are) serial killers as well. Although the methods and
motives of female serial killers may sometimes differ from those of
their male counterparts, they are often just as bloodthirsty. Here are
ten of the most awful:
Born: Around 1775
Number of Victims: Unknown
In the mid-1820s, LaLaurie lived with her husband and two daughters
in New Orleans. They were a wealthy, high-class family – but their
treatment of slaves was nothing short of despicable. No concrete
evidence of abuse was established against LaLaurie until 1834; in that
year, there was a house fire at the LaLaurie mansion. When rescue
workers arrived, they found a 70-year-old woman chained to the stove by
her ankle. She later admitted that she started the fire as a suicide
attempt, in order to avoid Madame LaLaurie’s punishments.
As a result of the fire, New Orleans residents began to question the
horrible living conditions of LaLaurie’s slaves. In the attic,
authorities found a dozen maimed and starving slaves; some reports
indicate that LaLaurie gruesomely tortured them by sewing their mouths
shut, amputating limbs, and performing other macabre experiments.
Although the New Orleans residents were outraged, LaLaurie and her
family appear to have escaped justice. There is some evidence that
LaLaurie later died in Paris.
Born: Around 1793
Number of Victims: Unknown
Fisher is usually recognized as the first American serial killer,
although there were undoubtedly others before her (as exemplified by #10
on this list). She and her husband John ran a hotel near Charleston,
South Carolina. Reports of missing guests soon reached the local
sheriff’s department, but due to lack of evidence, Fisher was left to
continue her killing.
It turned out that she had poisoned her victims for material gain
(once her husband made sure the guests were dead, they robbed them).
Both Fisher and her husband were hanged for their crimes in 1820.
Number of Victims: 31
Toppan, like many female serial killers, was trained as a nurse. In
1885, she began working at Cambridge Hospital, in Massachusetts. While
employed there, she experimented on her patients for her own amusement;
eventually, this experimentation escalated into murder. Interestingly,
while Toppan used a stereotypical feminine method of murder – poison –
she stated that she derived sexual pleasure from watching a patient die –
a motive usually associated with male serial killers.
In 1895 she began killing her landlords, and in 1899 killed her
sister Elizabeth. Her killing spree came to an end when the family of
one of her victims, Alden Davis, requested a toxicology report. Toppan
stood trial, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was
committed to Taunton Insane Hospital, where she died in 1938.
Belle Sorensen Gunness
Born: 1859Number of Victims: At least 40
Although born in Norway, Gunness spent the majority of her adult life
in the United States. Like many female serial killers, Gunness
dispatched her victims – usually her family members – for monetary gain.
By the August of 1900, she had murdered two of her four children along
with her first husband, and after collecting on their life insurance
policies, had moved to Indiana. There she married Peter Gunness, who
later met with an unfortunate “accident” – according to Belle Gunness, a
sausage grinding machine fell on his head.
Following his death, Gunness advertised for suitors in the
matrimonial section of the newspaper. The suitors flocked to her farm,
were robbed and murdered, and never heard from again.
In 1908, Gunness
had a falling out with one of her servants, Ray Lamphere, and fired
him. Shortly afterwards, her house burned to the ground. Although her
remaining children were found dead in their beds, the state of Gunness’s
remains perplexed experts. A woman’s body was found without a head; but
when the doctors measured the body, they realized the dead woman was
only 5’3”, whereas Gunness was almost six feet tall. Nevertheless, the
coroner decided the remains in fact belonged Gunness, due to dental work
found at the scene.
After the fire, Gunness’s property was searched, and dozens of bodies
were found buried on the premises. Lamphere was later found guilty of
arson, but acquitted of Gunness’s murder.
Despite advances in DNA technology, the headless body from the
Gunness farm has never been positively identified as Belle Gunness;
therefore, her final whereabouts and date of death are unknown.
Born: 1868Number of Victims: 5-50
Amy Archer-Gilligan spent her adult life as a caretaker – and
murderer – of the elderly. In the early 1900s, Archer and her first
husband, James, moved to Connecticut and opened the Archer Home for the
Elderly and Infirm. Both her first and second husbands died under
mysterious circumstances (probably poisoning) and left Archer-Gilligan
with large insurance payouts. With the money, Archer-Gilligan was able
to continue running her nursing home/murder house. Between 1907 and
1917, there were 60 deaths in the Archer Home. Family members of the
deceased grew suspicious of the mounting death toll, and eventually
several bodies were exhumed and found full of arsenic and strychnine.
Archer-Gilligan was found guilty of second-degree murder in 1919 and
sentenced to life imprisonment. She died at the Connecticut Hospital for
the Insane in 1962
Number of Victims: 3-17
Like many female serial killers, Gifford appeared to be gentle woman
who cared for her sick relatives and neighbors. After a number of those
under Gifford’s care died, however, authorities ordered an exhumation of
their bodies and found that Gifford had poisoned her victims with
arsenic. Although she stood trial in 1928, she was found not guilty by
reason of insanity and sentenced to spend her days at Missouri State
Hospital, where she died in 1951.
Number of Victims: 11
Nannie Doss left a long line of dead husbands and relatives in her
wake. Doss married her first husband at the age of 16. Their unhappy
marriage produced four children, and her husband left her after he
suspected (probably correctly) that Doss had murdered their two middle
In 1929, Doss remarried – this time to a man named Robert Harrelson.
During their 16-year marriage, Doss murdered her two young grandsons for
insurance money. After her husband raped her in 1945, she poisoned him
as well. After her third husband died (again, probably by Doss’s hand),
Doss was able to collect the insurance money from a suspicious house
In the early 1950s, Doss married her fourth husband, Richard Morton.
Within a few months, she had killed her elderly mother and – predictably
– her husband. Doss was finally apprehended after the death of her
fifth and final husband, when she tried to collect two life insurance
policies on him.
In 1955, Doss pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. She died in Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1965.
Number of Victims: 3-9
In the mid-1980s, Puente ran a boarding house for the elderly. Puente
stole from her boarders,and eventually began murdering them (usually by
poisoning). In 1985, Puente had a handyman dump a box of “junk” –
really a decomposing human body – along a river bank where it was later
found by a fisherman.
Police began to investigate Puente and her
“missing” tenants; they eventually found seven bodies buried on her
property, although Puente maintained that her boarders died of natural
After her trial in 1992, Puente was sentenced to life imprisonment.
She died in 2011 at the Central California Women’s Facility in
Born: 1956Number of Victims: 7
Wuornos’ troubled life has been documented
in several other lists here, but the most interesting things about her
crimes are her method and her motive. Unlike most female serial killers,
Wuornos did not poison her victims – she shot them. Her motives also
did not appear financially motivated. Although she did steal some
pecuniary items from her victims, she claimed that the men she killed
tried to rape her, and therefore she acted in self-defense.
Throughout her trials in 1992 and 1993, Wuornos maintained this
dubious argument; even so, she pled guilty and was therefore sentenced
to death. She died by lethal injection in 2002.
Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood
Born: 1963 and 1962
Number of Victims: 5
In the mid-1980s, the two women – like so many of the women on our
list – were employed as nurses in a nursing home. In a deviation from
the stereotypical norm, the two women murdered the elderly for sexual
pleasure. Within a matter of months, they killed five patients at Alpine
Manor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although they bragged about the
murders to their coworkers, no one believed them.
Wood’s ex-husband went to the police with the story in 1988 and the
two women were apprehended. In 1989, Wood reached a plea-bargain for a
reduced sentence, while Graham was found guilty of five murders and
sentenced to five life sentences. Wood was sentenced to 20-40 years and
is incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee,
Edited by femmemuscleisback - Oct 14 2013 at 4:25pm