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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. From poison to torture to cannibalism, here are ten female serial killers who used their feminine touch for evil.
LEONARDA CIANCIULLI A.K.A. – THE SOAP-MAKER OF CORREGGIO
Leonarda Cianciulli was the typical Italian housewife. She 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.
AILEEN WUORNOS A.K.A. – THE FLORIDA HIGHWAY KILLER
Between 1989 and 1990, Aileen Wuornos murdered seven men. Her notorious killing spree ended up on the big screen with the movie Monster. 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 – but the court felt the bullet-ridden bodies told a different tale. She was executed by the state of Florida by lethal injection in 2002.
JUANA BARRAZA A.K.A. – THE OLD LADY KILLER
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. Today she is serving a 759 year sentence in Mexican prison.
MIYUKI ISHIKAWA A.K.A. – THE DEMON MIDWIFE
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. Even though she only received a four-year sentence for her crimes, her killing spree remains the bloodiest in Japanese history.
DOROTHEA PUENTE A.K.A. – THE DEATH HOUSE LANDLADY
AMELIA DYER A.K.A. – THE READING BABY FARMER
Although Amelia Dyer was tried and hanged for only one murder, claims state that many other victims died by her hand in Victorian England. 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 Amelia never took care of the children. Instead, she let them die by neglect, and pocketed all the money.
JANE TOPPAN A.K.A. – The Nightmare Nurse
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. The killer angel claimed her goal was "to have killed more people – helpless people – than any other man or woman who ever lived."
NANNIE DOSS A.K.A. – THE GIGGLING NANNY
Nannie Doss's list of victims included those who were closest to her: four of her five husbands, her mother, her sister, her grandson, and her mother-in-law. Her arsenic-infused slayings took place across four states and she became known as "The Giggling Granny" due to her tendency to laugh merrily during interrogations. Of her murdered lovers she said, "I was searching for the perfect mate, the real romance of life."
ELIZABETH BÁTHORY A.K.A. – THE BLOOD COUNTESS
Hungarian noble Elizabeth 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. Though she used her family's influence to avoid execution after being caught, the countess was forced to remain in her castle for the rest of her life, with a brick wall erected at her door.
Dagmar Overbye ran a foundling center in Copenhagen from 1916 to 1920. Overbye was arrested and confessed to killing either 16 or 20 babies (reports vary). However, from the evidence found, she was convicted of only nine murders. The babies had been strangled, drowned, or burned, and some bodies were found in her loft and buried underground in addition to the evidence from the stove. More parents came forward after Overbye's arrest, and estimates of the number of infants she may have killed range from 29 to 180. It is believed that the first child Overbye killed was her own, born a few years before she opened her baby business. She was sentenced to death in 1921, which was commuted to life, and she died in prison in 1929.