It is a known fact that the most dangerous serial killers are the ones who seem like normal, ordinary people. That way they are able to get away with the horrendous crimes. Throughout history, there were a number of women who secretly poisoned and tortured innocent people. We compiled a list of some of worst and most terrifying killers. Wives, maids, young girls, and even nobles, these criminals came from all walks of life and from all over the world. Read below for our list of the most frightening female serial killers in history.
1. Elizabeth Báthory
Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed was a 16th century Hungarian noble. She is perhaps the most well-known female serial killer, as well as the most terrifying. Witnesses claimed Bathory would torture and kill her victims in the dungeons of her castle, and even eat their flesh and drink their blood. The Countess started with young peasant girls, luring them with promises of well-paid work as maids. She moved on to women of the lower nobility, who were convinced they are moving to the castle to receive etiquette lessons. After further investigation, Báthory was accused of killing as many as 650. The “Blood Countess” was found guilty in trial in 1611 and died in her prison four years later. The story of the countess inspired many legends, books, and films.
2. Amelia Dyer
Amelia Dyer owned a “baby farm” in England during the late 19th century, where she took in newborns from mothers who became pregnant illegitimately. Dyer would either help find adoptions for the babies or let them die from malnutrition, but eventually she started to murder them. It is confirmed that she killed six babies, but she was believed to have murdered 200 to 400 more. Dyer was caught in 1879 and sentenced to six months of hard labor, and once she was freed she went back to killing babies. She was caught again 15 years later, and this time she pleaded guilty and was hanged.
3. Delphine LaLaurie
Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie was a New Orleans socialite during the early 19th century. She had a number of slaves, who everyone believed were treated well. Many praised LaLaurie for her beauty and charm. However, after a fire in her home it was revealed Madame had a torture chamber where several black slaves were found hanged. LaLaurie fled to Paris after an angry mob attacked her house. The investigations reveal that the socialite was involved in the torture and murders of hundreds of slaves.
4. Gwen Graham and Cathy Woods
Gwen Graham and Cathy Wood began dating when they met at the Alpine Nursing Home, where they worked as nurse’s aides. As part of a “love bond,” the two conspired and smothered five elderly people. Graham started dating another woman and moved up with her to Texas. In 1988 Wood’s ex-husband, who knew about the murders from Wood, went to the authorities. During the investigation process, Wood and Graham accused each other as the main motivator and the manipulator in the relationship. Graham was sentenced to five life sentences after she was found guilty on five counts of murder. Wood was sentenced to 20 years, and is expected to be released in 2021.
5. Júlia Fazekas and the Angels of Nagyrév
Júlia Fazekas, a midwife, had an interesting solution for women’s problems. During World War I, many women in the Hungarian village of Nagyrév took foreign lovers since their husbands were gone to fight in the war. Naturally, no woman wanted her husband to find her with another man or a child that wasn’t his. Fazekas helped these women, the “Angels of Nagyrev,” to poison their husbands. She participated in the deaths of over 300 people from 1914 to 1929. Fazekas allegedly said, “Why put up with them?”
6. Martha Needle
Martha Needle was raised in a poor and abusive home in South Australia during the 1860s. She reportedly showed signs of instability since childhood. By 1891, she poisoned her husband and three small children, and used the collected insurance money to buy a grave for the family.
A year after the murder, Needle was hired as a housekeeper by brothers Otto and Louis Junken. She and Otto started a love affair, which Louis was completely opposed to. He suddenly became ill for a mysterious reason and passed away a few months later. Otto’s second brother also died from an illness shortly after moving in with the couple. After an autopsy, it was revealed Needle had been feeding the brother arsenic. An investigation started and the bodies of her husband and children were found, and they all tested positive for arsenic. Needle claimed she was innocent, but was sentenced to death. Interestingly, Otto stayed by her side until the very end.
7. Magdalena Solis
Magdalena Solis, or “The High Priestess of Blood,” was a cult leader and serial killer in Mexico. Sometime in 1963, Solis and her brother were contacted by two criminals, the Hernandez brothers. The brothers convinced residents of a local village that they were prophets of Incan gods. The poor villagers paid taxes and provided sacrifices to the “prophets,” but when the villagers realized nothing was changing, the brothers claimed Solis as a reincarnation of a goddess to restore faith in them.
Solis created horrifying rituals of human sacrifices that involved beating, burning, cutting, and mutilating victims. The priests would drink a mix of human and chicken blood. In the most extreme cases, there were dissections of live victims’ hearts.
That same year, a 14-year-old boy accidently witnessed the rituals. He reported what he saw to a detective, but after both of them disappeared the police started an investigation. The Hernandez prophets were arrested and Solis and her brother were sentenced to 50 years in prison.
8. Hélène Jégado
Hélène Jégado was a French maid who lived in the early 1800s. She started poisoning her victims in 1833 while she was working for a priest. She allegedly killed seven people in the course of three months, including her sister and the priest. Since there was a cholera outbreak in the area, nobody thought the deaths were unusual. In 1850 she poisoned a number of servants at the household she was working at. When a doctor requested to see one of the corpses for an autopsy, Jégado exclaimed that she was innocent — for no apparent reason. The doctor became suspicious and an investigation began. The maid was found guilty of three murders, three attempted murders, and eleven thefts. She was executed by guillotine in 1852.
9. Mary Bell
This killer started early. Eleven-year old Mary Bell from England was found guilty of strangling two small boys, aged 3 and 4. She went back to the murder scene and carved the letter M on her victims’ stomachs with a razor, as well as other mutilations. Bell was released from prison in 1980, when she was 23. Since her release, the killer has been living under court-protected anonymity. In 1998 a book was about her life was written, called Cries Unheard: The Story Of Mary Bell.