Romania's 'Black Widow' Vera Renczi Remains A Deadly Mystery

When Romania is mentioned, the mind might wander toward the myths and legends of the country's storied past. Turning back to a time when the people believed in these tales, there's a land steeped heavily in stories of many monstrous creatures. There's the pricolici, the Romanian version of a werewolf, who stalk the woods for unsuspecting victims. Another terrifying tale is the căpcăun, a dog-headed ogre known to nab women and children who pass too close (per TravelnHistory).

But no level of imagination can truly capture the essence of violence and terror like the acts of an actual person. Anyone who studies the history of Romania will find no shortage of the bloodshed inflicted on humans by their fellow man. The savage butchery goes well beyond the boundaries of the lives lost in mere warfare. Romanian history has some of the most brutal people to have walked the planet. Among them is the infamous Vlad Dracula, more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. His reign as ruler of the Wallachian province led to the deaths of many thousands of invading Turks. He was just as cruel when it came to the people under his rule if he considered them a threat to his power (via Britannica).

 A more modern human monster is Vera Renczi, who might be the world's most deadly black widow. Reports from the early 20th century attribute many deaths at the hands of whose alleged kill count joins Miyuki Ishikawa and Jane Toppan as one of the deadliest women serial killers of all time.

Renczi was believed to have killed dozens of men

In true crime parlance, a black widow is a woman who baits unsuspecting men into her web before bleeding them dry and leaving them for dead. Some black widows go so far as to actually kill their mates. History is full of deadly women, but it perhaps takes a special kind of deviance to marry, mate, and kill ad infiniti.

Allegedly, Renczi killed as many as 35 men (via The Lineup). She collected the bodies of the men she lured in and murdered, stashing the corpses in zinc-lined coffins in her basement. Of the men she allegedly claimed, 32 of them were lovers that she had seduced and done away with. Two of the victims were men that were unfortunate enough to marry the femme fatale. And one victim was reported to be her own son (per an August 1925 article in The Pittsburgh Press).

Renczi couldn't keep her killings secret forever. She was said to have been discovered in 1925 and brought to trial. For her vicious crimes, she was sentenced to life in prison where she lived the rest of her days (per The Unexplained Mysteries). With 35 confirmed kills, it would seem like Renczi would be a finalist for the top female serial killer, right? But the problem is that this storied murderess might not have killed any men at all. And what's more, she may not even have existed in the first place. 

No source can verify her existence

The first known mentions of Renczi were in The Kingston Daily Freeman and The Danville Bee in 1925 when the outlets reported the arrest of a woman in Romania that they made out to be a modern Lucrezia Borgia (per The Lineup). In the article, Renczi was quoted as admitting the murders to police, claiming that she did so when they "became tired of my love." The information was supplied to the press by O. B. Tolischus, who was listed with the credits of "Universal Service Correspondent."

Aside from the scores of places you can find on the internet with mentions of Renczi, there's no discernable evidence of her in the media outside of the original tale provided by Tolischus. Surely if such a woman existed, there would be many newspaper articles from the era detailing her crimes and trial. But none exist. Look deep enough online and you'll even find alleged photos of Renczi, though these were proven to be of Russian stage actress Vera Fyodorovna Komissarzhevskaya. 

In 1972, "The Guinness Book of World Records" once tried to verify Renczi's supposed murderous spree. The annual reference book attempted to cement her in infamy but abandoned the venture when the source could not find any actual documentation that supported her existence (per Alchetron).

But if she wasn't a real person, then where did Tolischus come up with the story? The details of her arrest and the admission of her guilt to the courts would surely be based on some real-life event. It's a mystery that's still waiting to be solved.