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  • The woman who will become known as one of the world's worst black widows is sitting

  • on her porch on a blustery day at the start of Fall.

  • She places a glass of lemonade down on the newspaper and runs her index finger over the

  • lonely hearts column.

  • Her finger suddenly stops and she smiles.

  • This is the one,” she thinks, her thoughts animated with pictures of her and this other

  • lonely heart living out the romance she's always dreamed of.

  • Except she will murder this man in cold blood.

  • She will kill him, and people close to him.

  • She will commit unspeakable horrors throughout her deranged life, and she will do it with

  • a great big grin on her face.

  • Welcome to the world of the giggling granny, a woman who turned being widowed into a profession.

  • She was born with the name Nancy Hazel on November 4, 1905, in a small town in rural

  • Alabama.

  • There she and her four siblings did not have a happy childhood, with school and friendships

  • being out of the question because the stern, hardworking father made them labor on his

  • farm.

  • Then when she was seven years old something happened to Nancy that may explain why in

  • later life she became a very serious serial killer.

  • She hit her head while riding a train and for years after experienced debilitating depression

  • as well as the occasional blackout.

  • It could have been the injury that caused her to do such horrific things, but young

  • Nancy had more than just head trauma to deal with as a kid.

  • Her father, a man of few words with a frightening hair-trigger temper, wasn't just strict,

  • he was puritanical.

  • All the young girl wanted was a life like the other girls had, going out on dates and

  • one day having that first kiss down by the river.

  • It never happened, because the father didn't allow her or her sisters near any boys.

  • In fact, he told them that they weren't even allowed to wear dresses or skirts.

  • They had to dress like boys or at least dress in a way that looked entirely unattractive.

  • He told them he was doing them a favor, saving them from the lustful little scoundrels that

  • would knock them up and ruin their lives.

  • But that didn't stop her from dreaming.

  • When her father and mother were out of the house, Nancy would go into her mother's

  • closet and pull out the stacks of romance magazines.

  • She read for a while and then looked in the air as if seeing herself all dolled-up and

  • out with some savior who'd rescued her from her life of loveless gloom.

  • Then she'd get the newspaper and read the lonely hearts column.

  • Little did she know that one day she'd be picking her victims from one.

  • She met her knight in shining armor when she was just 16.

  • His name was Charley Braggs and he worked in the linen factory with her.

  • They dated for around four months and then decided it was time to get hitched.

  • Nancy's father was actually content with the decision.

  • Not one to embrace casual dating, he told Nancy that if she wanted to be with the guy

  • then marriage was the only way.

  • The couple had four kids over a period of just four years.

  • She smoked heavily, he drank heavily.

  • She was sure he was cheating on her, but then during drunken fights, he accused her of doing

  • the same.

  • Nancy's vision of romance was shattered, so, what did she do about that?

  • Well, the answer is she did what she'd end up doing lots of times: killing.

  • When she was just 22 and had been married for six years, two of the children mysteriously

  • died.

  • They were healthy, lovely kids, and then just like that, they were gone.

  • It was believed they died of accidental food poisoning, but the real reason you could say

  • was their mother wanted a quieter household.

  • The serial killer was out of the gates.

  • As for the husband, she scared the hell out of him.

  • That's why he left her.

  • He actually took one of the kids with him, but later returned and gave the kid to her.

  • We'll come back to him later and the crazy things he had to say about Nancy.

  • Now she was lonely again with two kids on her hands.

  • There was a solution to her misery, and that was the newspaper and the lonely hearts column.

  • There she read a wonderful little ad by a guy named Robert Franklin Harrelson.

  • As often happens in life, the perfect prince charming was anything but.

  • He had a criminal record for assault and drank his way to the tune of a whisky bottle every

  • day of the week.

  • Still, she and her two kids stayed with him for many years, despite the regular beatings

  • and the continual verbal abuses.

  • Then, when Nancy was 37, her daughter Melvina had a child of her own.

  • His name was Robert Lee Haynes.

  • Now Nancy was a grandmother, but it seems she wasn't exactly made up about that.

  • We know this because of what happened to Melvina's second child.

  • She was still in the hospital, absolutely exhausted after experiencing a grueling labor

  • and still half-zonked from all the ether that doctors had given her.

  • In this haze, she opened her eyes and she could swear that she saw her mother in the

  • corner of the hospital room holding her newborn.

  • Blinking her eyes, with her vision blurred, she watched in horror as her mom took out

  • a hatpin and shoved it into the baby's soft head, right into the brain.

  • Melvina passed out again from exhaustion, and when she came to she thought that what

  • she'd witnessed had been some kind of nightmare.

  • She called out to her husband.

  • With his head down he entered the room.

  • He had bad news.

  • Their baby had died.

  • It was a mystery to the doctors.

  • Still, it seems that Melvina didn't blame her mom.

  • Maybe she really did think that she'd had a nightmare, perhaps a premonition of a natural

  • death.

  • After that happened, though, she and her husband just drifted apart.

  • But Nancy was by no means done with killing.

  • Melvina met another guy.

  • World War II was raging and this man was a soldier.

  • For Melvina, it was a match made in heaven, but for Nancy, it was a disastrous coupling.

  • Nancy was now not just fighting with her abusive husband, but she was battling with her own

  • daughter.

  • One day the two of them had a fight, and guess whatsomeone died.

  • On July 7, 1945, Melvina's second daughter passed away.

  • It was thought to be from asphyxiation from unknown causes, but when you hear that Nancy

  • later picked up a five hundred bucks life insurance policy on the kid, well, it was

  • likely another murder.

  • 1945 was coming to an end and one day the American public became jubilant.

  • That was the day it was announced that Japan had surrendered to the Allied Powers.

  • Great big parties were thrown from one side of the US to the other.

  • Nancy's husband, not one to miss out on an excuse to get out of his mind on booze,

  • joined in the fun.

  • When he got home from the party he tried to force her into bed.

  • The last thing he said to her was, “If you don't listen to me, woman, I ain't gonna be

  • here next week.”

  • The next day she was in the garden tending to some roses, when what did she find but

  • her husband's secret stash of corn whisky.

  • Without so much as blinking an eye she calmly walked back into the house.

  • She opened a cupboard and put her hand up to the top shelf.

  • That's where the rat poison was kept.

  • She then returned to the whisky bottle.

  • Her violent husband didn't survive the night.

  • Now she was 40, perhaps getting on in years to start another family.

  • But with hope in her black heart, she again took to going through the lonely columns of

  • newspapers.

  • It wasn't long until she met another guy, but as luck would have it, he turned out to

  • be another man fond of whisky and spending nights in the beds of other women.

  • His name was Arlie Lanning.

  • The two got married, but yet again it was an unhappy marriage.

  • Inside the house, the two argued, but outside their relationship looked like a dream to

  • the other townsfolk.

  • So, when this guy died mysteriously, they came out in support of Nancy.

  • With tears in her eyes, the well-liked churchgoing Nancy told them, “He just sat down one morning

  • to drink a cup of coffee and eat a bowl of prunes I especially prepared for him.”

  • When standing over the coffin, she wept and said, “He looked in fine shape.

  • Then...well...two days later...dead.

  • I nursed him, believe me, I nursed him, but I failed

  • Poor, poor Arlie.

  • You know what he said to me before he breathed his last?

  • 'Nannie,' he said, 'Nannie, it must have been the coffee.'”

  • When her house burned to the ground, they wished her well again, although she was made

  • up after collecting on the insurance.

  • With cash in her pocket, she decided it was time to go and find one of her sisters.

  • She did just that, but her poor sister was so sick she spent most of her days in bed.

  • She died just after Nancy moved in with her.

  • Now she was in her mid-forties and single again, but instead of going through the lonely

  • hearts columns she decided to join a dating service called theDiamond Circle Club.”

  • It was through that service that she met a man called Richard L. Morton.

  • He was immediately taken in by her charms and the fact she always had a smile on her

  • face.

  • It was 1952 and the couple got hitched in Emporia, Kansas.

  • This time her husband didn't have a problem with whisky, but he did enjoy forming short-term

  • relationships with other women.

  • Nonetheless, the couple seemed to live a pretty normal life.

  • That's what it looked like when Nancy's mom went to live with the newlyweds.

  • She needed looking after, after falling and breaking her hip.

  • A few months later the mother was six feet under after unknowingly drinking one of Nancy's

  • poison cocktails.

  • Just three months later and her husband was in the ground too.

  • During this time one of Nancy's other sisters also died in mysterious circumstances after

  • getting too close to her.

  • Ok, so you might be wondering right now why no one questioned the fact that most people

  • who came into contact with this woman died.

  • It's a good question, and no doubt someone should have been suspicious.

  • But, the fact is, no one expected a jovial, charming, and always bubbly middle-aged woman

  • to be a killer.

  • Just months after she murdered her mother and her husband, she met another man.

  • His name was Samuel Doss.

  • Now, this guy was the salt of the Earth type, so Nancy didn't really have any reason to

  • shorten his life considerably.

  • Not only was he a minister in the Church of Nazarene but he deserved some sympathy.

  • Prior to meeting Nancy, he'd lost a wife and nine children in a tornado in Arkansas.

  • Well, in Nancy's eyes, he was far from perfect.

  • This guy was a strict Christian, and he espoused a lot of conservative ideals.

  • He might not have cheated or even as much as looked at a bottle of hooch, but he waved

  • a disapproving finger at Nancy when she was enthralled while reading one of her beloved

  • romance novels.

  • He was also controlling with the couple's finances and demanded the two were in bed

  • by 9.30 pm.

  • One day she was watching TV when he walked into the room and angrily turned it off.

  • He looked at her and said, “I've been a Christian man all my life and you're going

  • to be a Christian woman.

  • You don't need a radio and television.”

  • That was a bad move on his part.

  • Just three months after the couple was married, he ended up in the hospital.

  • He told the doctors that he felt had some kind of flu bug, but after some time the doctor

  • said that he had a very bad infection in his digestive tract.

  • He was released, but seven days later was found dead in an armchair.

  • Nancy wasn't at all put out by this since she'd taken two life insurance policies

  • out on him.

  • Still, this time someone did get suspicious.

  • That doctor that had treated Doss couldn't believe that the earlier sickness could have

  • killed him.

  • For that reason, he ordered an autopsy.

  • The result of that was clear: poisoning by arsenic, enough of it to drop an elephant.

  • It soon became clear that this was the reason he'd been admitted to the hospital the first

  • time.

  • Nancy later admitted that she'd first given him rat poison in a cup of coffee, but she'd

  • gotten the dose wrong and given him too little.

  • The next time she gave him a bigger dose, although it was hidden in a large bowl of

  • stewed prunes.

  • During her interrogation, she giggled all the time.

  • After a while, she admitted to the investigators that she'd laced sweet potato pies with

  • arsenic.

  • When she referred to her past husbands, she'd produce a large smile and call them hersweet

  • potato pies.”

  • That's why she got the name Giggling Granny and also the Jolly Black Widow.

  • When asked why she killed her last husband she replied, “He wouldn't let me watch my

  • favorite programs on the television, and he made me sleep without the fan on the hottest

  • nights.

  • He was a miser and...well, what's a woman to do under those conditions?”

  • She confessed to killing four of her five husbands but didn't confess to the other

  • murders.

  • At times she just said some of those guysgot on her nerves”, but remained cheerful

  • throughout the interviews.

  • She told them money was never the reason why she killed, saying, “I was searching for

  • the perfect mate, the real romance of life.”

  • In fact, after she killed her last husband she was already writing love letters to another

  • man.

  • The first husband was described as the one that got away.

  • The media caught up with him after she was arrested and this is what he said, “When

  • she got mad, I wouldn't eat anything she fixed or drink anything around the house.”

  • He said he only lived as long as he did because there was no life insurance policy on him.

  • “I was afraid of Nannie, deathly afraid,” he said.

  • As the trial came to an end, the judge looked down at her and said, “You understand that

  • all that is left is for the court to decide between a life or death sentence?”

  • She responded in the positive.

  • He gave her life in prison, saying that giving her a death sentence wouldbe poor precedent

  • meaning, because she was a woman.

  • As she left the court, reporters flocked to see her.

  • Laughing and smiling she told them that she wasn't at all upset about spending the rest

  • of her days in prison.

  • In that prison, she was described as a “jokesterwho got along with everyone.

  • When a reporter went to see her one time, she told him, “When they get shorthanded

  • in the kitchen here, I always offer to help out, but they never do let me.”

  • In 1965, after serving ten years of her sentence, she died from leukemia.

  • She was 59 years old.

  • It's thought she murdered 11 people in total.

  • Now you need to watch, “Insane Story of Cannibal Clan that Terrorized Europe.”

  • Or, have a look at...

The woman who will become known as one of the world's worst black widows is sitting