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Serial Killer "Arsenic Annie"

Updated on June 30, 2015

On December 7, 1938, Anna Marie Hahn became the first woman to be executed by electrocution in the United States. Anna’s crime was murdering a number of elderly people with arsenic and other poisons. Her atrocious and heartless acts earned her the name of “Arsenic Annie.” Up until the end the 32 year old from Germany never believed she would be electrocuted being a woman. She was wrong.

Anna Marie was born on July 7th, 1906 in Bavaria. Her past history is a little sketchy since she frequently lied about early events in her life. The youngest of 12 children, she claimed to have become involved with a Viennese physician as a teenager and had a son they named Oscar. Some accounts report there was no Viennese physician ever found by the name she gave. Others say the family immigrated together, but the doctor died shortly after their arrival in the states.

In either case, while staying in Cincinnati she became romantically involved with another German immigrant, Philip Hahn who worked as a telegraph operator. They married in 1930.

Philip wasn’t satisfied with his job, so after saving their money they opened two delicatessens. But the marriage was about to dissolve. It may have taken a while but Philip found out he had married a gold digger with an insatiable desire for money. She tired quickly of her work at their business and focused mainly on get rich schemes and gambling.

Anna discovered she could make money easier by arson. She set two fires at their home and one at their business. She collected a little over $2000 for her efforts. But, apparently arson was too much like work also. However, she liked working the insurance angle.

Twice, Anna tried to buy a $25,000 life insurance policy on Philip, but he was dead set against the idea. Perhaps he feared Anna would try to collect before he died a natural death. Whatever the reason, Philip became seriously sick and although Anna protested his mother took him to the hospital. Although Philip survived, he suspected his wife had tried to poison him and shortly afterwards separated from her.

To support herself Anna began working as a visiting nurse for elderly patients. To her, it seemed the perfect setup. She would dote upon aging and sickly individuals hoping to be mentioned in their wills at which time she would hasten their departure into the next world. Ernst Kohler, who died May 6th 1933, was believed to be her first victim. He left her a house in his will.

Seventy-two year old Albert Parker died soon after she began caring for him. She had borrowed $2,000 shortly before he died and had signed a promissory note for the amount. It was never found. She got another $15,000 when George Gsellman, 67, died.

On June 1, 1937, 68-year-old Jacob Wagner became Hahn's patient. He died on June 2nd, 1937 leaving her $17,000. She had come to Wagoner claiming to be a long lost niece and wangled her way into caring for him. Days later, 70-year-old George Opendorfer, died under Hahn's care. The fact both died under Anna’s care with the same symptoms of acute stomach pains and vomiting was brought to the attention of Cincinnati Police Chief, Patrick Hayes.

Hayes ordered an autopsy of Wagner's body, and poison was found. Several others of Anna’s patients were exhumed and four types of poison were found. Other autopsies were ordered with the same results.

Hayes, brought Anna in for questioning, who appeared indignant at the suggestion she had anything to do with the deaths of these elderly gentlemen. "We searched your place, Mrs. Hahn and we found enough poison to kill half of Cincinnati,” Hayes said.

During her trial, in Columbus, Ohio, a handwriting expert was engaged and Wagner’s will was determined to be a forgery. The handwriting was identical to Anna’s. She also claimed she had never met Obendoerfer. Her son testified he, his mother and Obendoerfer had traveled to Colorado by train from Cincinnati and Obendoerfer became ill en route.

Anna continued to maintain her innocence. Then Philip Hahn took the stand and gave his story. After a four-week trial, which was more like a media circus, Anna Marie confessed to four murders. But some believe "the beautiful blonde killer," which the press had described her, may have killed as many as fifteen.

On the way to her execution Anna collapsed and had to be carried the rest of the way and placed in the electric chair. She begged for her life as she was being strapped in. "Don't do this to me."Think of my boy. Can't you think of my baby? Is nobody going to help me?" No one in the chamber responded to her pleas. As a black mask was put over her face she began reciting the Lord’s Prayer. She never completed it.

Anna Marie Hahn was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Columbus.


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    • Daffy Duck profile image

      Daffy Duck 6 years ago from Cornelius, Oregon

      One of the best things they did for her boy was to take her from him.

      It's interesting that a lot of serial killers can do the things they do but still end up babbling and begging when they face death. Don't they learn anything?

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great hub; I loved it.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Darn! I was gonna hire you cutie.

    • profile image

      sgbrown 6 years ago

      Nope! Not a nurse, JY3502. Just found your article interesting. :)

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thanks Shaddie.

      SG, uh, you're not an in home nurse are ya? :~) lol

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing it! Voted up.

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 6 years ago from Washington state

      Wow! I didn't know about this chick. A very fascinating read.