Archive for Poison

24 January 1846 – Elizabeth van Valkenburgh

Posted in Hanged with tags , , , , on January 24 by Old Sparky

Driven mad by her drunk and disorderly husband, Elizabeth van Valkenburgh was done for poisoning her spouse in New York.

Van Valkenburgh was so sick of her husband getting bladdered and ‘misusing the children’ that she decided to let alcohol be the death of him, by doctoring his rum and brandy with arsenic. She may even have killed her previous husband the same way.

After the deadly deed, she hid in a barn and broke her leg in a fall. And it was this break plus her obesity that ensured that she was hanged while sat in her rocking chair, aged 47.

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7 December 1938 – Anne Marie Hahn

Posted in Death penalty, Electric chair with tags , , , , on December 7 by Old Sparky

Anne Marie Hahn

Anne Marie Hahn

Anne Marie Hahn AKA Arsenic Anna was fried on this day in 1938. She was done for poisoning George Obendorfer in Cincinnati as part of an avaricious killing spree in her merciless pursuit of money.

Of course the gold-digging German immigrant’s first love was arson and in the early days she’d set fire to places in her bid to amass money from insurance claims. But things grew suspicious, so the 32-year-old opted for arsenic as her weapon of choice.

She would poison elderly men whom she cared for in the community in return for their life insurance policies. Among her other victims was Albert Palmer, 72. She borrowed $1,000, from him, but following his death the IOU mysteriously disappeared.

Jacob Wagner left $17,000 to his beloved niece Hahn after he died on 3 June 1937. Then 67-year-old George Gsellman died in July 1937 leaving her a tidy $15,000.

This all looked decidedly dodgy and it took a jury just two hours to send her down for her crimes. She was strapped to the electric chair in Ohio having written a remorse-filled letter confessing to her crimes. She signed off ‘…my only regret is that I have not the power to undo the trouble and heartache that I have caused’.

Also on this day

7 December 1982 – Charles Brooks
7 December 1903 – James Duffy

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11 October 1957 – Rhonda Bell Martin

Posted in Death penalty, Electric chair with tags , , , , on October 11 by Old Sparky

Rat poison was Rhonda Bell Martin’s weapon of choice as she bumped off her family one by one in the ‘50s.

The serial killer admitted killing her mum, two husbands and three of her children. And while she didn’t say why, it’s thought that she was after the life insurance payouts.

Martin was a waitress in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was only after she tried to kill her fifth husband that her crimes came out into the open.

She tried to top her spouse who was actually her former son-in-law by poisoning him. But she failed and he turned into a paraplegic. But the suspicious nature of his illness alerted the authorities.

Her confession ensured that she earned the death penalty and Martin was sent to the electric chair in 1957, aged 49.

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15 July 1936 – Charlotte Bryant

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on July 15 by Old Sparky

Charlotte Bryant

Charlotte Bryant

Sex kitten Charlotte Bryant went a little too far in her lusty pursuit of lechery. She had a penchant for poisoning and she gave her husband and toxic shock so she could continue having it away with her lodger. But it wasn’t meant to be.

She was found out and her lascivious ways were exposed after a post mortem revealed a sinister poison in his system.

Nice little earner

The couple had settled on a farm in Dorchester and Bryant soon got the neighbours’ goats by all accounts – not literally, of course. They simply didn’t like her.

Her reputation was founded on a rampant sex life along with salacious information about her sleeping with soldiers, dabbling in prostitution and hardened drinking, all of which had earned her a couple of racy nicknames – Black Bess and Kilarney Kate (she’d originally hailed from Londonderry). They even question whether her deceased husband had even fathered the five children.

Apparently her husband didn’t give a toss about her reputation as a bit of a goer, because her sexpliots had afforded them a good living. However, when she finally hooked up with her lodger, it clinched her need to dispose of her husband.

From May to December

As a result, Bryant’s murderous plan apparently kicked off in May 1935 and her cooking started featuring a killer condiment – arsenic in the form of weed killer.

The symptoms of arsenic poisoning mimic gastroenteritis, so no-one suspected a thing. Bit by bit she gradually bumped him off in instalments, until three days before Christmas, he’d consumed the final deadly dose in the form of a hot drink and died.

Christmas came and went, so did New Year, until, finally, in February Bryant copped a visit from the police – and they promptly charged her with murdering her husband.

The trial was heard at Dorchester and as details of her case unfolded so the west-country wench’s seedy secrets emerged, buoyed up by incriminating arsenic all over the place, even in her coat pocket.

But while she had earned a serious reputation for putting it about a bit, Bryant sealed her fate when she lost the prudish public’s sympathy, thanks largely to details of her adultery.

Even her own children unwittingly helped stack the evidence against her, but even to the end she steadfastly refused to admit culpability. The 33-year-old was carted off to Exeter to live out her last days, before she was hanged by Thomases Pierrepoint and Phillips.

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6 April 1752 – Mary Blandy

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty, Firing squad, Hanged with tags , , , , on April 6 by Old Sparky

Mary BlandyVictim of a stitch-up or murderess for love? That’s the dichotomy surrounding the case of one Mary Blandy in the mid 18th-century.

Blandy was hanged for killing her dad in 1752, after she poisoned him to death. But her case became a cause célèbre, not least because she bucked the trend in terms of the run-of-the-mill killers. She was middle class and well educated – the daughter of an eminent lawyer and town clerk of well-to-do Henley on Thames.


As a result of their prosperity, her dad put it about that marriage to his daughter came with a £10,000 reward in the shape of a dowry.

Gold-diggers came from far and wide – the furthest being Scotland with the arrival of the Honourable Captain William Henry Cranstoun. However, it turned out that he wasn’t that honourable. He already had a wife and child stashed away in Scotland, but that didn’t stop him seeing pound signs when he looked at Blandy. With his eyes on the prize, he wooed her convincingly, because she, by all accounts, was completely besotted.


Her dad, on the other hand, was not and slowly got wise to the interloper. So what did Cranstoun do? He persuaded his love-struck bit of stuff to feed her dad a ‘love’ potion in a bid to get him to like his would-be son-in-law. But it turned out to be poison – arsenic to be precise, and bit by bit, Blandy started blinding killing her dad by lacing his food. When it was too late, her father confronted her and told her he thought she was poisoning him. Luckily he was able to forgive her. Nonetheless, the damage was done and he died.

Thing is the servants caught her trying to burn love letters and packets of poison, but they quickly nabbed them before the evidence went up in smoke. Sadly the correspondence charcoaled but there was enough poison salvaged to incriminate her. That suspicious display of surreptitiousness meant that the servants had no qualms about testifying against her in a court of law, and amid such damning accounts, Blandy had no hope. She was even saddled with the blame for her mother’s death and one Mrs Pocock’s too.

Hung jury

Following a 13-hour trial, the jury was in no doubt as to her guilt. She was sentenced to death and hanged at Oxford, aged 31. As she ascended the steps to her death, she is said to have remarked ‘I’m afraid I shall fall’, which in the grand scheme of things was the least of her worries. And in a way she was lucky in death. Just three months later, they passed the 1752 Murder Act, which deemed that poisoners should be deprived of food save for bread and water in the run-up to execution and that their bodies should be handed over for medical research rather than be afforded a burial.

To be fair, Blandy may have been a scheming little minx all along, but the evidence suggests that she was easily led by her would-be bigamist of a fiancé. Talking of the dastardly Cranstoun, you’re probably wondering what happened to him. Well he fled to France, where he died a destitute man.

Also on this day

6 April 1844 – John Gavin
6 April 1992 – Donald Harding

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30 March 1998 – Judy Buenoano

Posted in Death penalty, Electric chair with tags , , , , on March 30 by Old Sparky

Judy BuenoanoBe careful who you love – especially if she goes under an alias.

We are, of course, talking about Judias ‘Judy’ Buenoano or Judias Welty, Judias Goodyear and Judias Morris, for these are the known aliases for an arsenic poisoner.

Poison d’or

For it seems that when Buenoano got sick of the men in her life she’d bump them off with an unhealthy dose of poison, rather than fall back on the old-fashioned divorce. After all, she obviously couldn’t be doing with the waiting – her method was quicker and she got the victim’s money anyway, plus a nice life insurance payout to boot.

But none of this was legal and when the list of victims included a husband, a son, a fiancé, a lover and a son, it had to be more than coincidence.

Toxic shock

She may even have killed another boyfriend plus an unrelated victim in 1974, but these reports remain unconfirmed.

Her killing spree started in 1971 and spanned 12 years. But hey – what did a girl have to do before someone got wind of her murderous scam?

Weirdly, it was only at the attempted murder of her boyfriend, John Gentry, in 1983 that people smelled a rat poisoner.

After that, Buenoano’s multiple murders came back to bite her. She was found guilty of multiple murders and sentenced to the electric chair.

She currently holds the dubious honour of being the first woman since the 1950s to be electrocuted just five days short of her 55th birthday.

Also on this day

30 March 1906 – Chester Gillette
30 March 1909 – Edmund Elliott

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18 February 1916 – Oscar Comery

Posted in Hanged with tags , , , , on February 18 by Old Sparky

Oscar Comery pleaded guilty to killing his wife in the hope they’d be lenient on him.

He’d been hoping for life imprisonment. Instead his ploy backfired and the sentence was death. As a result, he was sent to the gallows, aged 34, for poisoning his wife with strychnine.

Comery was hanged on this day in 1916 and remains one of only three people to be executed by the state of New Hampshire in the 20th century.

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