Queen of Poison | Teen Ink

Queen of Poison

February 6, 2022
By crimeLovER BRONZE, University Place, Washington
crimeLovER BRONZE, University Place, Washington
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Imagine you are lying in bed. It’s 10:49 pm and you just finished binge watching Criminal Minds. All the gruesome murders and killings have got your brain questioning things. You can’t help it but grab your computer and do some of your own research. You type, “Serial killers with the highest victim count.” You click “enter” and you see a picture of Samuel Little. Samuel Little was a serial killer who confessed to killing 93 women in 36 years. The law enforcements were able to identify 60 bodies and are still uncovering more of his victims. Interestingly enough, all his victims were females. It is suspected he killed women who reminded him of his own mother who had abandoned him when he was a child.

When you think of successful serial killers, we might think of Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and Jeffery Dahmer. Maybe even the notorious Zodiac Killer who had a mind. But you’re more than likely to name a man before a woman. In 1988, a well respected FBI profiler, Roy Hazelwood said, “There are no female serial killers.” But it’s true that there are fewer female serial killers than male serial killers when comparing the data. 

What if I told you there was someone else in history who is suspected to have helped and killed more than 600 people. Let me make it more specific, 600 men. Giulia Tofana, considered one of the most successful serial killers whose name you’ve never heard of.

But to know how Guilia Tofana was responsible for the murders of more than 600 men, we have to understand the setting and how it all started. In the 17th- century, women were treated like trash and were abused constantly. By whom, their own husbands. They had no standing in society and they had a few choices to better their situations.They could marry and hope that their husband would treat them decently, use their bodies and remain single to survive, or become a widow to inherit their dead husband’s things. Women were stuck in abusive marriages with their violent husbands and couldn’t get help from the law. Freedom was something they wanted.

Solution? Poison. More specifically, Aqua Tofana.  

Guilia Tofana was born around 1620 in Palermo, Italy to Thofania d’Amado. Interestingly enough, Thofania d’Amado, Tofana’s mother, was executed for the murder of her own husband in 1633. 

What was her alleged weapon? Can you guess? Poison. More specifically, it is suspected she used Aqua Tofana which was passed down from her mother, d’Amado. 

It is believed that d'Amado passed her recipe of poison to her daughter. Tofana grew up and got married. She had her daughter, Girolama Spara in 1659, who later in life helped her mother, and trusted accomplices and possibly a priest killed more than 600 men. It is not clear what happened to Tofana’s husband but it is suspected that she poisoned her husband. Tofana followed in her mother’s footsteps and began selling a lethal poison, Aqua Tofana. Aqua Tofana contains arsenic, lead, and belladonna. You most likely heard about arsenic and lead but not belladonna. “Belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a poisonous perennial herbaceous plant in the nightshade family Solanaceae which include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants” Wikipedia). Simply stated, belladonna is a poisonous plant that produces poisonous berries. You might be thinking, how did her victims not taste Aqua Tofana? Unfortunately for the victims and fortunately for Tofana, Aqua Tofana was colorless and tasteless. Aqua Tofana was added to wine or water during meals. Tofana sold Aqua Tofana behind her cosmetics shop. Aqua Tofana has some ingredients that were used in cosmetics around that time. So it wasn’t suspicious when Tofana purchased the items to make Aqua Tofana. Aqua Tofana was placed in cosmetic containers making it easier to blend on a woman’s nightstand or vanity. Husbands did not know that their wife’s murder weapon would be their beauty regimen. How did Aqua Tofana kill its victims? 

First dose: Exhaustion, and physical weakness. 

Second dose: Stomach ache, vomiting, and infectious diarrhea. 

The third or fourth dose would end their life. 

When examined by the doctors and investigators, they would think it was just some unknown illness or disease. Because the poison was undetectable, Tofana’s business thrived. Until she got caught. 

Tofana was careful to sell products only to the women she could trust. Unfortunately, one customer who was planning to use Aqua Tofana on her husband chickened out. After mixing a couple drops in her husband’s soup, she panicked and told her husband not to drink the soup and revealed Giulia and her accomplices. The husband reported Tofana and her accomplices to the police. The police came to Giulia and arrested her and those who helped her. Tofana confensed to help killing over 600 men during 1633-1651 in Rome alone.The law enforcements tortured her and those who helped. They were executed after being found guilty. Some of her customers were also executed, all of whom were lower class. Some upper class customers were imprisoned or banished from the city.

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