The 'Giggling Granny' Serial Killer Relied On This Method To Murder Her Family

Nannie Doss was an unusual serial killer in that all of her known and suspected victims were members of her family. Born Nancy Hazle in 1906 in Alabama, Doss' adult life was punctuated by finding new husbands and eventually killing them. Yet everywhere Doss went, family members around her also seemed to die inexplicably. According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, besides four husbands, Doss is believed to have killed two of her children, a grandson, a nephew, two sisters, and her mother. 

She was finally caught in 1954 after her last husband, Samuel Doss, died in Oklahoma where the couple lived. Per Alabama Heritage, Samuel fell ill with "burning stomach pain" after eating some of her homemade prune cake and spent weeks in the hospital. When he got finally came home, Nannie wasted no time. She served him coffee laced with arsenic, and he died hours later. The doctor who'd treated Samuel got suspicious, and an autopsy was done. 

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reported that there was "enough poison in his remains to kill 20 men." The findings led to Doss' confessions to the murders of four of her five husbands — the last four — according to Alabama Heritage.

Those confessions motivated Oklahoma lawmakers to create a state medical examiner's office. According to the The Oklahoman, before the Doss murders were discovered, the state operated under simple justice of the peace/coroner system, in which homicides were more likely to go undetected. 

Nannie Doss used arsenic to kill four of her husbands

After Nannie Doss' murders were made known, reporters started calling her the "Giggling Granny," and the "Jolly Black Widow," according to Alabama Heritage, for the way she smiled, laughed, and giggled throughout her trial. While she was laughing, investigators were exhuming the eight bodies of others she was suspected of killing. 

Arsenic was discovered in the remains of her mother and the three husbands she killed before Samuel. The others looked as if they could have been smothered, per Alabama Heritage, but Doss never admitted to killing anyone but her four husbands. 

Nannie was only tried and convicted of Samuel's murder, for which she was handed a life sentence, Gizmodo reported. She didn't kill her husbands for money or revenge, but rather, because she was a hopeless romantic. According to Gizmodo, Nannie said she got rid of husbands so that she could replace them, ideally with a better one. For example, she told police that she killed Samuel because he wouldn't let her watch her favorite TV show and wouldn't turn on a fan during hot summer nights, per Alabama Heritage.

 A huge fan of romance magazines of the day, the Giggling Granny seemed to be searching for someone who would make her fantasies a reality. According to Gizmodo, Doss said, "That's about it. I was searching for the perfect mate, the real romance of life."