Part One: The Murderous Mania of Jolly Jane
SERIAL KILLER CLIPS
A special edition of Yesterday’s News that explores some of America’s most prolific murderers.
The Unexpected Crimes of Nurse Toppan
History contains many cases of nurses who turned out to be killers, but there may not be one as bizarre as the case of Jane Toppan. Because she had such a cheerful disposition, people called her “Jolly Jane,” and so were completely surprised when she was arrested for the murder of a family in Barnstable County, Massachusetts. Once suspicions were aroused, accusations began to fall like rain. The exact count of her death toll remains a mystery, but estimates put it between 31 and 84 murders. This is such a compelling story that I’m going to tell it in two parts. In part one, we’ll look at how the story came to light and the reaction to Jane Toppan’s arrest. In part two, which I will release on Sunday, we’ll look at how the state dealt with this, one of the most prolific mass murderesses in history.
Later in the story, you’ll hear about how she administered arsenic in “Hunyadi water.” I’d never heard of this, so I looked it up, and on my web site, www.truecrimehistorian.com, you can find an advertisement for the foul tasting mineral water from the London Times that explains its efficacy.
Check in with me on Sunday for Part Two, when we’ll take a look at Jane Toppan’s course through the Massachusetts criminal justice system.
For a list of sources for this podcast please visit www.truecrimehistorian.com, where you can also find newspaper clippings and drawings from this case, as well as more stories about the scandals, scoundrels and scourges of America’s past, along with information about my true crime books and my Two-Dollar Terror series of historical crime novellas.
Music by Chuck Wiggins.