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Psychic Killer Tillie Gburek

Updated on September 15, 2015

Tillie Gburek began life in Chicago’s “Little Poland” district in 1865 where she was destined to join others like herself slaving away in one of a myriad of “sweatshops.” Her name was Ottilie but everyone just called her Tillie for short. She started working in one at a young age.

Tillie was not what most men would consider attractive, but she had other talents. The young girl could work wonders in a kitchen. One of her specialties was a delicious stew that always won rave reviews from those who knew her. She also had one other talent…she was psychic, or at least her neighbors believed she was.

Somehow she was able to predict when each of her five husbands would die, as well as a few neighbors she wasn’t too fond of. Fortunately, her fifth husband escaped death's clutches. She claimed the information came to her in dreams.

Actually, Tillie wasn’t a real psychic as most have figured out by now. She was a “Black Widow.” But unlike others of the genre who usually ceased murdering by age 49, Tillie was just getting started.

In 1885, the timid, meek Tillie met and married John Mitkiewitz through the services of a marriage broker. Mitkiewitz was a no-account, lazy deadbeat who had her wait on him hand and foot for over 20 years. But things were about to change.

Anton Klimek

One afternoon, in 1911, Tillie was at work when her boss began browbeating a child. That was the last straw for Tillie. Without a word she crossed the room and floored the bully with a single punch. Her coworkers broke out in applause and she became somewhat of a hero. Tillie, now full of self confidence, went home and soundly thrashed her worthless husband. Mitkiewitz, realizing the gravy train was over, was forced to get a job.

It was about this time when her alleged psychic abilities began to kick in. In front of witnesses she declared a stray dog that was minding his own business and bothering nobody, would die on a certain date. The dog died on cue. Tillie Mitkiewitz’s reputation began to spread garnering for her a measure of fame.

In 1914, Tillie announced to a friend her husband John Mitkiewitz would die in three weeks. He did. Mitkiewitz became ill on the named day and died that night. She collected a thousand dollars from his life insurance. The once timid and unassuming woman had found herself a new career.

After revisiting the marriage broker Tillie married laborer John Ruskowski. Three months later she “predicted” her husband would die in two weeks. Despite the homely looking woman’s dire warnings, there were still some who laughed. When Ruskowski keeled over dead, when she said he would, they stopped laughing…but Tillie laughed all the way to the bank with more life insurance money.

Frank Kupszcyk was next in line to join Tillie’s previous two husbands in the afterlife. Six months after marrying the “Black Widow” he was lying in a coffin. And like the others, she had made sure he had ample life insurance with her named as sole beneficiary. There was also something else all had in common. They loved her stew. Unfortunately, it became laced with arsenic from time to time.

Within a year, Tillie had remarried to Joseph Guszkowski. It was said he laughed when she informed him of his impending doom. At his funeral Tillie was very vocal about the “curse” she had been born with. The locals now began to fear her, crossing the street to avoid hearing about what might be their own fate. It’s amazing she was able to attract more suitors, given her track record.

It was common knowledge she had had a “vision” of disaster befalling a certain family in her neighborhood. Shortly after the family's three children died excruciating, painful deaths. However, what wasn’t common knowledge was Tillie had an altercation with the family days before she made the ominous prediction.

Anton Klimek, not inclined to superstitions, decided to marry Tillie in 1921, against the advice of his family and friends. The new Mrs. Klimek co-signed a last will and testament, leaving all their possessions to each other. But by this time authorities had become suspicious about the mounting number of dead husbands and other deaths in Tillie’s neighborhood. Detectives paid her a visit, on October 27. They discovered Anton Klimek deathly sick in bed, his wife, feeding him stew. Anton was rushed to a hospital where his stomach was pumped, saving his life. A lab analysis later discovered arsenic in the stew.

Faced with having her former husbands remain's exhumed and being charged with multiple murders, she confessed to poisoning Klimek. She was given a life sentence, with the express condition she not be allowed to cook for other inmates.Tillie died in prison on November 20, 1936.


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    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 5 years ago

      I appreciate it.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you geyler. Nice to know there's someone who appreciates your work.

    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 5 years ago

      Such an interesting hub; read it straight through without a break. Very good.