Sometimes behind what might look as an innocent laugh, an old lady could very well hiding the darkest evil you could think of. Inside the filling for the apple cake you could find arsenic, in the woollen handbag a big pin to stick into a infant cranium, amongst the balls of yarn the petrol to set a house on fire. Nope, that’s not a script for a horror film but the truly gloomy story of Nannie Nancy Hazle Doss, mainly known as “The Giggling Granny”. The woman, an elderly lady from the countryside of the US has been a ruthless killer, plotter and exploitative individual whom killed many of her relatives. That happened for several different reasons, however this never allowed her to reach a full state of satisfaction.

Her appetite for blood and money was satisfied only after the murder of 12 people, all kin of her, thanks to the “late” intervention of a doctor. The woman eventually confessed, and this had a psychological weight in this case, only when they returned to the lady her copy of romance magazines with their “Lonely Hearts” columns.

First marriage

It was the beginning of the 20th century and Nannie was born in a family in the countryside of Alabama. That was not exactly the ideal state where to find the love of your life so Nannie, at the age of 16, gets married for her first time so that she can escape from home. In 6 years time Nancy and Charles Braggs have already 4 children and that is when the killing spree begins to happen.

Since she realises that growing 4 children was a too heavy duty to run, she makes the decision to kill two with rat poison

Given that she had become comfortable with that activity, she got rid of her mother in law too with whom there had always been bad blood. The corpse of the woman was found in mysterious circumstances. Charlie is the only one suspecting the wife, so he takes one of the two children left with himself and leaves her asking for divorce.

The following year Braggs comes back home with a new woman, throwing Nancy out of the house and giving her the custody of both their children, despite he’s aware of her homicide tendencies.

Charlie Braggs will be, for good reasons, a rare example of a survivor alongside the serial killer

Nannie discovers romance magazines and their very interesting “lonely hearts” columns, which very quickly became a hobby of hers that will stay with her for the rest of her time. She meets Frank Harrelson and the two get married shortly after.

The second marriage – 1929

Frank reveals himself to be an alcoholic as well as a violent individual, but the marriage lasts for 16 years nevertheless, a real record for Nannie. During those years though, the woman didn’t really sit back. Melvina, the daughter she had with Charlie Braggs, had herself at this point two children. One gets killed when still in diapers in the hospital; the Nanny sticks into his head a pin while the mother was still recovering from labour. The other, a few years later, died from asphyxiation which allowed the collection of a large sum of money from the life insurance.

Nannie must have been really good at committing those crimes as no one around her suspects her

Since she is so capable to get away with the murders, the woman decides to kill the husband, feeding him with a last supper of rat poison.

The third marriage – 1947

With the fruitful takings coming from the life insurance, Mrs. Doss moves to North Carolina in 1947. Arnie Lanning is the next “lucky” husband and, coincidentally, alcoholic as well. After various arguments and cheating, Nannie decided to resort to her old friend rat poison, which she employs once again for a tasty dinner for the beloved new husband.

Here, once again, no one suspects the woman who remains unpunished

Sister and mother of Lanning laid claim to the couple’s house, demand which inevitably leads to a new murder. Nannie sets the house on fine while killing the ex husband’s mother too. Mrs. Doss collects again the sum from the house insurance.

At that point, Nancy dedicates herself to property business, fixing an uncomfortable inheritance question. She goes paying a visit to her bedridden sister Dovie. Once released her from her pain with her dear rat poison, she inherits the house.

The fourth marriage

Richard Morton represents a flicker of happiness for Nannie who seems to be satisfied by a man for once. Sadly though, Morton appears to be a traitor and his destiny is soon decided. Just when Nancy was about to serve her poisonous dinner, her mother (who was living there since her own husband died) shows up.

Nannie decides to handle both in one go, first mother then her man

The fifth marriage – 1953

Sam Doss is her 5th husband and unfortunate supplier of that surname that made one of the more fierce and cold serial killers of the 20th century. At the beginning the couple was happy but soon the woman grew tired of him, so she quickly came back to her magazines. Sam had managed not to fall victim to her touch but, with his own hands, he signs his death sentence.

Sam in fact doesn’t give up on the woman, writing her numerous letters asking her to come back with him, in his house in Oklahoma

Nannie listens to his plea and accepts to come back home, with the intent to eliminate him. This time though the attempt turns into a more eventful situation. The dinner this time is seasoned with arsenic but sadly it doesn’t do the job. Sam gets hospitalised and after a bit he fully recovers.

On the 5th of October, during the same day Sam had finally come back home, Nancy tries again, this time with the usual modus operandi, rat poison. The attempt works, the woman collects the insurance and then once again moves to her lonely hearts columns looking for a new exciting romance.

The accusation and the confession – 1955

Mr.Doss’death makes a doctor extremely suspicious. He had discharged the man and had certified his state of health thoroughly. The autopsy reveals high traces of poison inside the corpse. Nannie Doss is arrested and his murderous rampage comes to an end.

In Oklahoma the Police department focuses mainly on Mr.Doss murder, so the information about the other homicides appears to be fragmented. The Giggling Grannie died in 1965 from leukemia inside the Oklahoma Prison, after having served a sentence of barely a year per victim. The trail of victims coming from her family that she left behind makes her a unique serial killer in modern history.

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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