Part Two: The Murderous Mania of Jolly Jane



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 looked 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 explore how the state dealt with this case of one of the most prolific mass murderesses in history.


For a list of sources for this podcast please visit, 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.

Apr 17, 2016, 06:06 AM
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