Nannie Doss (November 4, 1905 – June 2, 1965) (also known as the Giggling Granny) was a serial-killer who managed to poison her entire family with cyanide before gleefully admitting to all her crimes to police, laughing and earning her nickname.
By the time she was finally caught, she'd killed her mother, two sisters, two daughters, a nephew, a grandson, and four husbands and the most horrific of all was that she had no known motive other than she found it amusing.
This, however, was proven as being not true. She had a sort of twisted reason, to get back at life for living an unhappy childhood. That isn't to say that she didn't find it amusing, she did.
A daughter of Dixie, born in 1905, Nanny Doss had been molested by a string of local men before she reached her middle teens. At age 16, she married Charles Braggs, bearing him four children in rapid succession. Braggs was mystified when two of them died suddenly, a few months apart, but Nanny could offer no explanation. Each child had seemed healthy when Charles left for work, but they cried at his leaving and died in convulsions not long after breakfast.
Small insurance payments eased the pain, but Braggs became increasingly suspicious of his wife. One afternoon, he took their oldest living child and struck off for parts unknown, leaving Nanny behind with their daughter, Florine. Packing up their meager belongings, Nanny moved to Cedar Town, Georgia, where she met and subsequently married Frank Harrelson. Florine was barely two years old when Harrelson and Nanny hit the road, leaving the child alone in their abandoned house. Neighbors managed to track down Charles Braggs and he came for the child, but Nanny would not see her daughter again for nine years.
Their reunion evidently smoothed things over, and by 1945, Florine now married -- felt secure enough to leave her infant son at Nanny's home in Jacksonville, Alabama, while Florine took off to see her father. Baby Lee survived three days in Nanny's care, his death producing anguished speculation that he accidentally "got hold of some rat poison." Three months later, Frank Harrelson fell suddenly ill and died within the week. Nanny used the insurance money to buy ten acres of land and build a small house for herself outside Jacksonville.
The early 1950s were a lethal time for Nanny's relatives. Her third husband, Arlie Lanning, died at Lexington, North Carolina, in 1952. A few months later, in January 1953, her mother died while Nanny nursed the woman for a broken hip. Two of her sisters died the same year, in different towns; each collapsed while Nanny was visiting, each with the same mysterious symptoms of stomach cramps and convulsions. In 1953, it was husband number four -- Richard Morton -- laid to rest at Emporia, Kansas.
Nanny married her fifth and last husband, Samuel Doss, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during July 1954. He died a month later, and the obligatory autopsy revealed enough arsenic to kill twenty men. Confronted with the evidence of guilt, Nanny Doss issued confessions spanning three decades and at least ten murders, drawing a term of life imprisonment for the Tulsa case in 1955. She served ten years before succumbing to leukemia in 1965.
Throughout her various confessions and the years in jail, Nanny insisted that money played no significant role in her crimes. Despite various insurance payments, her murders were actually motivated by marital boredom, a dream of discovering the ideal husband, as described in her favorite "True Romance" magazines. "That's about it," Nanny told her interrogators. "I was searching for the perfect mate, the real romance of life."