Archive for murderer

Grim History: Leonarda Cianciulli, ‘The Soap Maker of Correggio’

Posted in Media, People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2017 by ranranami


“I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”

A loving mother. The perfect neighbor. A friend. A pillar of the community. A woman so kind, that she thought nothing of giving away her lovingly-crafted bars of soap to any and everyone she knew. She ran a small shop, which I’m sure supported the family well enough.

Leonarda did not have an easy life. She’d attempted suicide as a young girl multiple times. As a young woman she committed fraud and landed in jail. After that, when she and her husband moved to another town, their home was destroyed in an earthquake. She had seventeen pregnancies, three of them being miscarried, and ten of them died as children. It’s no wonder she became so very protective of the four she had left.

She was a very superstitious woman. In her youth, she went to multiple fortune-tellers, desperate no doubt for some bright glint of hope in her future. One of them told her she would lose all of her children, and one can only wonder if the fear of this awful fate was self-fulfilling. Did she spend every waking hour in her pregnancy in fear? Did she fill her children with tonics or syrups to keep them well, only to poison them with the tinctures that were meant to save? We’ll never know what happened to all of those lost ones, but we do know that Leonarda desperately loved the remaining four.

It wasn’t long after the earlier fortune was told, that she had her palm read by yet another gypsy in almost Hollywood-esque fashion. Her reading would spell out a far worse fate than meeting a tall, dark stranger. She was told that in her right hand the gypsy saw prison, and in the left a criminal asylum.

I don’t doubt Leonarda spent her time crafting wards against the evil eye, tearing out her hair, and doing all manner of strange things one would expect of a madwoman behind closed doors. Somehow, after these two terrible fortunes in her life, and with the knowledge that her eldest son would be joining the army to fight in World War II, Leonarda decided she had to do something horrible to protect him.  But what could satisfy the blood-hungry fate that had snatched so many of her children from her?

Perhaps she thought she could simply swap one life for another. Appease death with someone else’s life. After all, she’d begun to dig into a bit of fortune-telling herself. It isn’t hard to believe a madwoman would give herself such a reading. So, Leonarda planned. She selected three friends, women who may very well have reminded Leonarda of herself. They were middle-aged, and ready to change their lives.

Her first victim, Faustina Setti, wanted companionship. She was lonely. Leonarda persuaded her that she would have to move to Pola, but there was the perfect man waiting for her there. Cleverly, she convinced Faustina to write several letters to be sent to her friends and family when she arrived. Then, on the morning Faustina was to leave, they shared some wine.

Faustina’s glass was drugged. One can only hope she didn’t suffer when that gleaming ax was hefted above Leonarda’s head, and that the death was quick. Poor Faustina’s body was cut into nine pieces and the blood was drained into a basin. Leonarda seemed to delight in recounting her story later after she’d been caught, likening her story to a recipe one would expect to find in an insane grandmother’s cook book:

“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.“

Giuseppe was her eldest son. The one planning to enlist. Imagine the motherly delight she must have felt, serving up the remains of her former friend and client, while the death of that woman surely meant he would live that much longer. Still, it wasn’t enough, and after Leonarda’s first literal taste of death….

She wanted more.

The second victim, Francesca Soavi, suffered much the same fate. She’d been looking for a job. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong place to find it. This time, Leonarda told her to begin writing postcards to her friends and family, sending them while she was still in Correggio. Waste not want not, as they say. This time, however, Leonarda took a little money from her victim as well. 3000 lire, to be precise. Murder was becoming far more than a mother’s desperate acts of love, but something quite profitable to boot.

Her third, final, and most famous (or formerly famous) victim was Virginia Cacioppo. An opera singer who had passed her prime, but the passion for art lived on. Poor Virginia didn’t question why Leonarda apparently knew a powerful, mysterious ‘theatre impresario’ looking for a secretary. After all, she was a fortune-teller. A sweet, kind woman. A friend. A friend with 50,000 lire, and astonishing jewelry. Tokens of another life.

Instead of just stopping at tea-cakes, however, Leonarda decided to earn her infamous title…

“…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”

Virginia’s sister-in-law reported her missing, and it wasn’t long before the police made inquiries with Leonarda. She confessed, unashamed, and judging by her accounts, seems to have gloried in it. Her first prophecy was happily fulfilled. Leonarda would spend the next thirty years in prison, and her final three in a mental asylum.


Grim History: Gilles de Rais

Posted in People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2016 by ranranami

Blood was flowing – in Bluebeard’s house, in the abattoirs, in the circuses where God had set his seal to whiten the windows. Blood and Milk flowed together.” – Arthur Rimbaud

Barbe Bleue

It is said that you can divide fairy tales into two categories, stories based on general fears and thoughts at the time, or apocryphal adaptations of historic fact. What can one say about the story of Bluebeard? A rich man who took many wives, locked them in his house when he left, and left them with a key and an egg just to make sure he could trust them not to discover all of the dead wives he’d slaughtered countless times before. Frankly, I don’t see why people Bluebeard could be associates with Gilles de Rais, but that’s what many people believe. Odd, considering a vast majority of the children he was purported to have slaughtered, if not all, were little boys…

Gilles was born in 1404-05, depending on your sources, precocious, titled, disgustingly rich, and destined to become orphaned at the age of 10. From then on, under the guardianship of his maternal grandfather grandfather, Jean de Craon, who was without a doubt one of the more interesting and dastardly schemers you may read about in history. The man desperately wanted to be the richest in all of France, and as any respectable person of his time would do, endeavored to earn this by wedding Gilles off to a toddler. He tried, anyway. The whole mess got immediately rejected by the Parisian Parliament, so he settled for kidnapping Gilles’ cousin, Catherine de Thouars instead.

But this isn’t Game of Craon, this is the history of Gilles himself. Ultimately, he ended up supporting the Dauphin in the Hundred Years War. He did quite well for himself, reckless, brave, just about everything you could imagine any model aristocratic soldier being. When Joan of Arc came to court, Gilles was to be her military advisor.

Following several successful battles, Gilles became Marshall of France.


Things were looking up for our hero. Then, after a series of unfortunate events, not the least of which being the burning of Joan, and the death of his grandfather (who decided to leave the family title and respect to Gilles’ younger brother),  Gilles decided he’d had enough of being the typical good guy. Some believe the death of Joan may have been the major domino in his gruesome path later on, but really…a lost friend, or perhaps even unrequited love, does not account for psychopathic behavior. Otherwise the world would be far worse than it already is.

Gilles had one daughter with his wife, then it’s purported that he swore off women altogether. The man had spent a good deal of money investing in chapels, the church, and all things holy…suddenly decided to make a complete polar opposite shift in how he lived his life…

In 1432, the year after Joan of Arc’s death, Gilles killed his fist victim. His first documented one, anyway. A boy his cousin had sent to deliver a letter to him. Gilles, essentially went absolutely insane. He started to spend his fortune at an astonishing rate, to the point of having to sell of portions of the family lands and estate to support his activities. What’s more, his parties didn’t stop with boozing and debauchery. There are many claims that insist he raped, tortured, and cremated up to 200 small children by 1440. A majority of the murders took place in 1438-1439. These children were gathered for him by his closest servants, and there are even wild accounts Gilles himself described in his confessions at court of satanic rituals he would perform, very likely involving the remains of these children as well.


His brother finally forbade Gilles from selling off anything else, and the family lands were kept intact by a court order, while the man practically threw money at his favored ‘magician’, an Italian man  who had once been a priest, named Antonio Prelati. Gilles’ ultimate goal was to restore the money he had squandered, and he spent it like water just to find out if he could somehow transform common elements into gold. He actually thought murdering the children would somehow aid in this, and it’s clear by the sheer number that no cost was too high for Gilles to maintain his wealth.

Arguably, what ultimately did him in, was the kidnapping of a cleric. Though many people suspected Gilles of murder, kidnapping, and all sorts of crime, his military history and standing with the king had given him a great deal of protection from any persecution…the church, however, was just a little too powerful for him to get away from (at the time.) He was finally brought to trial, and after several witnesses (his own servants who had actually aided him in many of his crimes) spilled the beans.

Gilles at first insisted he was innocent, but quickly caved, and described in detail many of the horrible rituals he committed with Prelati, to the point of even trying to summon Satan himself. Gilles was put to death, but because of his standing he was allowed to be strangled/hanged (some accounts differ) before his brief burning, and even so, given a Christian burial on church grounds.

It is said that many testimonies given by witnesses and Gilles himself of the crimes he committed against his victims were so terrible, that they were stricken from the record so people could be spared ever learning of the horrid details.

The Axeman of New Orleans

Posted in People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , on March 3, 2015 by ranranami

Jazz. Fast and slick, the expression of vivacious joy and dance. That’s what I always think of when I hear a good jazz song. Well, that and the Axeman of New Orleans…of course.


He was as hot as fresh griddlecakes, a temporary celebrity in Mardi Gras city. Unfortunately, when he paid you a visit, you were usually left with a splitting headache. Now that I’ve convinced you all I’m the Cryptkeeper, let’s move on to the actual meat of the story. The killings began in 1918…


March 1919, a letter arrives at the office of the Times-Picayune, apparently it’s from the Axeman. A jerk who went around breaking into people’s houses and butchering them with…you guessed it…an axe. Mostly Italian-Americans seemed to be his focus, but I guess we’ll never know his real motives. He was never caught.

The letter read as follows,

Esteemed Mortal:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a fell demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

When I see fit, I shall come again and claim other victims. I alone know who they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with the blood and brains of him whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police not to rile me. Of course I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigation in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to amuse not only me but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don’t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship to the Angel of Death.

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to visit New Orleans again. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a proposition to you people. Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of those people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and as it is about time that I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, and that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fantasy.

The Axeman

Obviously we had ourselves a pretentious nut-job on our hands. But he’d gotten his message across pretty thoroughly, because people were rushing to fill the city with music. Dance halls and clubs were jam-packed as many people as they could humanly fit, and anybody who couldn’t go to one of those desperately tried to hire a musician or two to pump some of those sweet tunes into their own homes. Jazz flowed freely that night, and it doesn’t seem anybody was murdered.

But the killings didn’t stop that night. They continued. One woman in particular seemed pretty strange after she found her husband dead in their room, lying in a pool of blood. Her name was Esther Albano, and she claimed to have gotten a glimpse of 2 murderers fleeing from her house. Strangely calm, Esther seemed to be in a state of shock. About a year later, though, she allegedly shot a man named Momphre. She had gotten a gun and waited for him to show, then delivered her own little slice of justice. Some information about the man seemed to match when the axe murderer would have gone about his grisly business, but there was no official evidence to have sentenced him. Esther was sentenced to a decade in prison, but only served about 3 before disappearing.

I wish I could say that last story was absolutely true, but I have no idea. There’s no official written evidence of it, and court records prior to computer filing systems could often times be misplaced or lost. But…the killings did stop, coincidentally.


You’d think the night New Orleans played a record amount of jazz music across the city would be the only other odd claim to fame our friend had. But he was also immortalized by John Davilla with a song…The Mysterious Azman’s Jazz. So here it is, just to remind you how easily a few hot tunes can save your life.

Book of the Week: Bumper Crop

Posted in Books, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2013 by ranranami


Bumper Crop, by Joe R. Lansdale

I’ve always been a pretty avid reader of short stories. They’re like little tiny books you can swallow in one bite, with plenty of space to spare. They’re like literary hors D’oeuvres, but sometimes…they’re not all good. Sometimes you’ll read one, go to the next, and then find it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Even Steven King is hit or miss with a fairly large amount of his short stories…

BUT THIS. Every. Single. Story. I loved them all. Deliciously dark, creepy, unpredictable. It’s insanely hard to find anything nowadays that’s written well AND unpredictable. It’s even more difficult to find a book of short stories that score every time in the awesome department. This book is one of the best story compilations I’ve ever read. Don’t read them to children, however, as they’re not nearly as child-friendly as Pet Semetary or Helter Skelter.

Lansdale has a way with words, and manages to create a world I would never want to live in. God of the Razor in particular is incredibly dark, wherein if one is cut by a blade of any kind, the ‘god of the razor’ will come out to take possession of him and transform the victim into a psychopathic murderer in order to feed the god with bloodshed. I wretched just reading this story…that’s no easy feat.

Book of the Week: Sweeney Todd – The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Posted in Books, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2013 by ranranami


Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Peter Haining

I first read this one several years ago, way before the questionable film adaptation, when the musical was more popular among theatre nerds than mainstream Glee fans. This would be one of the better books investigating a killer that I’ve had the fortune to read. What’s more, it theorizes that Sweeney Todd was a real person, and pretty much convinced me when I read it.

Jack the Ripper has gotten pretty passe, and though H. H. Holmes is a fascinating individual, neither of them (from what I have gathered) served their victims for breakfast or lunch. I don’t mean served to them, I mean literally served them up in meat pies.

This book was also an excellent source for a college essay I wrote a few years ago, thoroughly convincing my professor I was a disturbing individual who should best be avoided. It’s a ‘nonfiction’ work that manages to be incredibly entertaining in the way you’d expect a suspense novel to be. By the end of it, I actually believed Sweeney Todd may have been a real person. But I was also 10 the first time I read it, so I’m not really sure you can judge from that opinion.