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Notorious or Famous Woman Serial Killers, Jane Toppan The Female Serial Killer

Updated on December 7, 2013

Famous Woman Serial Killers, Jane Toppan The Female Serial Killer

There are over twenty serial killers at large at any one time. Women serial killers account for 1% of this figure. Female serial killers are more notorious than their male counterparts. Women who kill have their own reasons, most of which comes down to money. Through history, female serial killers use their apparent innocence and sexual prowess to lure their victims to an untimely death.

The women serial killer Jane Toppan was quoted as saying that she wanted to kill more helpless people than any other man or woman who had ever lived. This American serial killer drove fear into her victims as she watched the life leave their staring eyes and left America in a state of panic. There is very little documentation surrounding the life of Jane Toppan as the records have been destroyed.

Jane Toppan

Jane Toppan was born Honora Kelley in 1857 in Boston Massachusetts. Born from Irish immigrants, Toppan was set to become a psychopath from an early age. Her mother died from tuberculosis whilst Jane was very young, her father was already known as a drunk and considered a crackpot tailor whose madness eventually drove him to sew his own eyelids together.

Jane Toppans father, Peter Kelley, took six year old Jane and her eight year old sister to the Boston Female Asylum for indignant young ladies and was never to see them again. Two years later Jane was taken on as a servant to a Mrs Ann C. Toppan of Lowell, Massachusetts. Although never formally adopted, Jane adopted the surname for herself.

Jane older sister, Delia, stayed on at the female asylum before leaving to become a main in New York, the turned to prostitution before she died a drunk.

Jane Toppan
Jane Toppan

Murder Spree

Female serial killers or murderesses who kill for sexual pleasure are not common, but Jane Toppan was one of these. Her thrill did not actually come from the killing of a person, but by being close to them when they died. She was often known to crawl into the bed of a victim as the life of the person drained away.

1885 was the year Toppan began training as a nurse at the Cambridge Hospital. After learning nursing techniques and the use of modern medicines, she began to use patients as guinea pigs for her own misguided experiments.

Toppan made up false medical charts for the patients in her care. She would experiment with morphine and atropine and inject her victims / patients with altered prescribed doses to see the effect it would have on their nervous systems. She would deliberately medicate the patients to ensure they would drift in and out of consciousness and achieve a near death level.

It has never been known if Jane Toppan ever took sexual advantage of her patients after she had crept into bed with them whilst they were in this state, but she did admit it was sexually gratifying and she received a sexual thrill at each moment the victims died. She would allow the patient to die for several seconds then be brought back to life before dying again.


In 1889, Jane moved to Massachusetts General Hospital where she continued her macabre fascination with near death experiences. She was fired the following year after several of her patients had died through an overdose of morphine and other medicines. All of these victims, no matter what their age or why they were in hospital, were killed to appease her growing sexual urges. After a short stint of work in Cambridge where she was dismissed for over prescribing opiates to patients, she became a private nurse. This new business adventure was very fruitful for monetary gain and also as a chance to explore her deeply troubled sexual drive.

In 1895, she killed off both of her landlords, possibly by alluring them into her accommodation and injecting them with drugs before or after sexual intercourse. Then lay with them as they died. Her next victim was her foster sister, whom she killed off with a large dose of strychnine.

During 1901, Jane Toppan moved to Cataumet, there she killed Mrs Davis, an elderly lady, then she moved in with the dead woman's husband on the pretext of caring for him. Within weeks, she had killed Mr Davis and two of his daughters in the same horrifying and sinister way.

After these deaths were drawing attention form the local authorities, Jane Toppan moved back to her hometown and began to dating her late foster sisters husband. This relationship however was short lived. Jane Toppan killed his sister within a few months. After this, she poisoned him and nursed him back to health so as Jane could prove herself to him. It did not work. He ended the relationship and threw her out of his home.

Capture and Conviction

A toxicology exam was performed on the youngest daughter of Alan Davis thanks to the persistence of the rest of the family who thought play was at hand. The report was found to be consistent with poisoning by death.

On October 26, 1901, Jane Toppan was arrested for murder. In 1902 Jane Toppan had confessed to a minimum of 11 murders, but was found not guilty of murder by reasons of insanity. She was committed for life in the Taunton Insane Hospital.

After the trial, it was alleged that Jane toppan, Massachusetts female serial killer, confessed to her lawyer that she had actually killed at least 31 people. Another fact was that she wanted a jury to find her insane so as she could have a chance of release to be able to kill again.

Jane Toppan, serial killer, sexual deviant, died in Taunton Insane Hospital in 1938 aged 81 years.

Other Female Serial Killers

Aileen Wuornos

Killer Prostitute

Amelia Dyer

Known as the Baby Butcher, killed over 400 children

Dorothea Puente

The part Mexican who killed her lodgers and buried them in the garden

Nannie Doss

Female serial killer who poisoned most of her own family


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