FEMALE SERIAL KILLERS THROUGHOUT HISTORY (THAT AREN’T AILEEN WUORNOS)
April 28, 2021
The most infamous serial killers tend to be male, and in 2014, only about 20 percent of serial killings in the US are committed by women. Interestingly enough, women usually don’t engage in torturing their victims as men do, and about 50 percent of women kill by smothering or poisoning. They’re even considered a little more subtle in their kills whereas men don’t plan where to kill. Another significant difference is that women are more likely to kill for money unlike many men who’ve murdered for some form of pleasure. In recent years, people seem to just now realize that while they’re rare, female serial killers are just as deadly and cruel as males.
Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614)
This Hungarian “Blood Countess” was one of the most powerful and richest women in Eastern Europe at her time, to the point where her husband took her last name due to her outranking him. Her husband was often out fighting in wars, which resulted in his death in 1604 — the year Bathory began her murder spree.
While it was mentioned most women don’t torture, Bathory is the exception. She seemed to have gotten a kick out of the torture more than the kill itself. She targeted young female peasants, servants and eventually noblewomen. Various accounts say she’d create ice baths during the coldest days of the year and force women to bathe naked in them, and she’d even have some covered in honey and watched as insects slowly ate away at the victim. She’s probably most famous for forcing needles into fingertips, whipping them, and cutting off different body parts. Bathory was also prone to biting at she tortured women, insinuating the possibility of her being a lesbian.
Lastly, there’s the famous depictions of her bathing in virgin blood as to appear more youthful; however, rumors of that formed a century after her death, and none of the 289 witness accounts mentioned it.
Bathory’s legend lives on. Some historians argue some aspects of the character Dracula was based on her, which wouldn’t be surprising since it’s believed she killed at least 600 women before dying in her castle that became her own prison once her cruelty was exposed.
Lavinia Fisher (1793-1820)
Fisher is considered the first female serial killer of the United States… yet she wasn’t, really. Known for her beauty and charm, she’d greet weary travelers and ask about their lives in the parlor of Six Mile Wayfarer House, which was about six miles outside of Charleston, North Carolina.
As polite as those questions may have seemed, Fisher and her husband would use them to determine what possessions to steal off the guest and if they were really worth killing. If they were, Fisher would utilize her looks to convince the men to go to bed early, promising to give a special blend of tea to them. That special blend happened to contain oleander, a plant deadly enough to either kill or send someone into a deep sleep. Once asleep, her husband would take the guest’s valuables, stab them to death, then cut their bodies to easily dump in their cellar.
Being there’s no proof Fisher committed murders herself, some say her execution wasn’t justified (though she was charged with highway robbery — a capital offense at the time — not murder). The story was also blown completely out of proportion at the time with details saying there was a custom room with a trap door leading to the cellar where hundreds of bodies were stored. There was no trap door, and the hundreds of bodies was more like two. They were never even charged with the two bodies due to lack of evidence murder actually occurred.
There’s debate if she actually committed the crimes, though her last words before her hanging seem to be very telling: “If you have a message you want to send to Hell, give it to me; I’ll carry it.”
Tillie Klimek (1876-1936)
Polish immigrant who lived in Chicago, Klimek was known for being a great cook and the frightening ability to predict deaths through her dreams… not the worse idea to use if one were to kill.
Klimek had her first “premonition” in 1914, and it concerned her husband, whom she was supposedly happily married to. His death was listed as “heart trouble,” and Klimek earned $1,000 through life insurance.
A month later, she married Joseph Ruskowski, who became sick and died in May of the same year as her first husband with her collecting money.
This cycle continued with two more men: remarry, get them sick, beg them to take out life insurance, then finally kill them. She’s even been a little callous towards her men and shouted to her third victim after his death, “You devil! You won’t get up again!”
With her fourth marriage to Joseph Klimek, she mentioned how bad his appeal to moonshine was. When her cousin suggested she get a divorce, Klimek simply said, “I will get rid of him some other way.”
Joseph got a life insurance policy, and after weeks of feeling ill, consulted a doctor. He was taken to the hospital where it was discovered he has been poisoned with arsenic for quite some time, and he recalled how his dog died after eating scraps of food from Klimek. She was quickly arrested after that account.
Klimek’s husbands were exhumed and found to have large doses of arsenic in their systems, which was given to her from her cousin. It was even uncovered that her cousin’s first husband, twins, and granddaughter died of arsenic poisoning too.
Klimek received a lifetime of imprisonment without possibilty of parole and spent her time whispering torments to her cousin (who was acquitted) in Polish and seemingly having no remorse for racking up an estimated total of $3,597.
Dorothea Puente (1929-2011)
Running a Sacramento boarding house, the Death House Landlady targeted what the investigators at the time called “shadow people,” meaning those struggling with addiction, the elderly and people with disabilities.
This is a common tactic killers — for example, the prolific murderer Samuel Little — use to remain undetected for years, which is why Puente was able to kill for a better part of the 1980’s.
She had a lifetime of crime up her sleeve, first beginning in 1948 when she forged checks at 19. She even served time for drugging and robbing people before her murder spree.
Her crimes weren’t uncovered until 1988 when police searched for Alvara Montoya, a woman with a mental disability, was reported missing. Not only did police find Montoya’s body in Puente’s two-story Victorian house; they uncovered seven bodies of tenants underneath flowerbeds, and two more were discovered during a different search of the house.
Puente would simply drug her victims then bury them in her yard. She was only charged with three of the murders, as her lawyers argued they all either died of natural causes or suicide, but she received two life sentences on top of a 15-year-to-life sentence.
Before she died in prison in 2011, she corresponded with Shane Bugbee who wrote the book Cooking with a Serial Killer, which is filled with her recipes and some interviews between the two.
Even during these interviews, Puente stood by her not guilty claim: “None of them were murdered.”
Want more true crime? Be sure to check out Crime Corner by Erin Brody to read more about serial killers, impossible heists, and more!