Thursday, July 21, 2011

Serial Murderesses

I'm trying out a new series called Random Stuff I Find Interesting, or RSIFI. Mostly it'll contain research unrelated to any of my current projects in the hope that you'll find it interesting, too.

This one is Random Stuff I Find Interesting: Serial Murderesses Edition (Amelia Dyer)

One thing I've always found interesting is female serial killers. You don't get many of them and usually their reasons for murder are much more practical than those of male serial killers. Men often kill out of compulsion or obsession. Women tend to murder for money. There are other differences, such as women's tendency to use nonviolent methods. If a woman murders you, she's probably going to poison you, not stick a gun in your face. So, if you're having marital problems, you might want to take charge of the cooking.

One exception is Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess in Hungary who may have tortured and killed as many as 600 girls. She pretty much did it because she wanted to. There's motivation for you. The story is so sensational (in the bad way) that it's become infamous. (The part I find most interesting is that Bathory was never formally sentenced of any crime, but the four servants who assisted her were all found guilty, two of them suffering gruesome executions. It's good to be a noble!) (Unless it's the French Revolution.) If you want to know more, here's the wiki entry.

But the woman I've been reading about has less notoriety:

That's her. Creepy, isn't she? Looking at that face, would you believe that roughly 400 women handed their children over to her? Baby farming was a big thing in Victorian England, due to the stigma attached to bearing a child out of wedlock. Amelia Dyer preyed on single mothers by offering to adopt and care for their unwanted children. Of course, they'd have to pay for her services. Once Amelia had the money and the kid, she'd keep what she really wanted (the money) and get rid of what she didn't (the kid). She started by killing them through neglect - letting children starve to death was a common baby farming practice. But, eventually she found it more effective to just murder the kids she received.

When things got heated, she checked herself into mental institutions to escape scrutiny. Victorian mental institutions. Not the friendliest places ever. I think checking yourself into a Victorian mental institution must be one of the signs of insanity. However, most experts affirm that Amelia Dyer was not mentally ill, just shrewd and heartless.

She was finally caught when a bargeman found the body of a baby girl floating in the Thames. The baby was identified as being under Amelia's care and led to her arrest. Six more bodies were found in the Thames, as well as ample evidence at Amelia's residence of her activities. The jury found her guilty within 4 1/2 minutes and she was hanged for her crimes.

Do you have a favorite serial murderess, from film, fiction, or life?


  1. The best part of this is that you tagged it with "baby farming." Looking forward to seeing future baby farming blog entries!

  2. I very much enjoyed this blog! I thought I was the only person drawn to creepy womem stories. There's a special kind of icky feeling women murderesses cause. I think one of my favorites (that I can think of off the top of my head) is Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd). Her good natured murderous encouragement can't be topped.

  3. I don't believe I've come across any serial murderesses . . . oh, wait, there is Elizabeth Bathory. Shudder.

  4. Does Lizzie Borden count as serial? She did kill more than one person, but she did it in the same afternoon, so probably not.

    Of course I can't remember her name when I need it, but there was a prostitute during the Hellenistic area who took out something like 200 of her johns before she was caught. As most prostitutes during that era were slaves save for the courtesans, I can't say that I entirely blame the gal.

  5. Mike - Just wait. Soon this blog will be only about baby farming. I sense that shift coming.

    Krista - She was very much a can-do murderess. You've gotta admire that in a lady.

    Eagle - I'm rather glad I haven't come across Elizabeth Bathory in real life.

    Mari - I haven't heard about the Hellenistic prostitute, but that sounds really interesting. I might have to try and find out more.

  6. Fascinating in the most horrific way. Things like this are so interesting. And what is it about a female killer that really engages with the imagination?

  7. Wow, super super creepy and awful. I hadn't heard of either of these women, but they'd make for great fictional characters...and yet they were real. Wow.

  8. Dude, Amelia looks evil. Those eyes. The grim mouth. *shudder*

    Love this creeptastic post! :)

    Happy weekend,

  9. Oh wow, how creepy, but SO interesting! Glad I stumbled upon your blog! :)