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Angel of Death is the label given to caregivers who play God and deciding whether the people under their care should live or die. Being that they are taking care of the sick, their crimes go unnoticed. In the 1900s, one of those Angel of Deaths, and a serial killer was Jane Toppan. She murdered without a conscience. Even though Jane knew that is was wrong to kill people, she continued to do with no sympathy. She would go to murder 32 people, but there are speculations that it could be to the hundreds.
Jane was quoted by saying, “That is my ambition. To have killed more people. More helpless people than any man or woman who has ever lived.”
Jane Toppan’s Childhood
The 1956 movie “Bad Seed” was based on Jane Toppan. The film is about a little girl who has darkness inside her. She manipulates people, lies, and has no empathy or disregard for the lives of others. It comes to light when another girl is murdered. I won’t spoil it for you, but I recommend it. Toppan, who was born Honora Kelley, was born to Irish immigrants. When she was little, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father took Toppan and one of her sisters to the Boston Female Asylum, an orphanage for indigent female children. After he dropped them off, he never saw them again. Documents from the asylum note that the two girls were “rescued from a very miserable home.”
Her father, who people knew as “Kelley the Crack,” went insane after that and passed away. From records, an older sister also went mad and spent her life in a mental institution. So as you see, mental health issues ran in the family.
After her father’s death, Honora Kelley was placed at the age of 5 with a family in Lowell, Massachusetts. This was when her name was changed to Jane Toppan. Even though she was Irish, the lady of the house Ann Toppan hated the Irish, so she lied and said Jane was Italian. Jane would tell her classmates outlandish lies about her family, such as her family was sailing around the world. It didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows because who wouldn’t lie about having an insane father and sister, etc. At the age of 18, Ann died, and her daughter Elizabeth took charge of the house. Jane stayed on as a servant.
Becoming a Nurse
At the age of 19, Toppan became engaged. However, she was jilted by her fiance. This was when she became even more withdrawn and aggressive. It seems this was her trigger because, until that point, Jane seemed like an average, happy person.
Jane seems to have recovered and went to study nursing. She got the nickname of “Jolly Jane” because she was always upbeat with a smile on her face. She was well-liked, but her supervisors were concerned with her obsession with autopsies.
Even though no one knows for sure if Jane killed any people during her time as a student, Toppan insisted she murdered at least a dozen people. She started treating these people like guinea pigs to perfect the perfect drug. Jane decided to use morphine after these tests.
After her studies were complete, she was offered a position at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1889 but was fired when they found out that she was tampering with medical records. Also, she never was able to practice as a hospital staff member again. They didn’t consider it due to malice but incompetence, which was a grave mistake.
Jane became a private nurse and, in eight years, became one of the most successful private nurses. In 1895, an elderly couple called Israel and Lovey Dunham, who were her landlords, unfortunately, allowed Jane to board with them. She considered Israel “feeble and fussy”. She poisoned him, and everyone thought he had died of a heart attack. Jane patiently waited two years to his wife, Lovey.
In 1899, her foster sister Elizabeth asked Jane to come to visit because she was suffering from depression. It didn’t take long for Jane to start poisoning Elizabeth and eventually killing her. Jane is said to have told police after she was caught, “I held her in my arms and watched with delight as she gasped her life out,” she said.
She then tried to get Elizabeth’s widower Oramel Bingham to marry her. After killing Elizabeth, she moved on to his 77-year old housekeeper. Even after offering her services as a housekeeper, and probably even more, Oramel rejected her. Her idea was to poison him, get him sick, and then nurse him back to health. This didn’t work either. He kicked her out of his house and life. She tried committing suicide using her concoction of morphine and adapine, but she survived to kill even more people.
It wasn’t until 1901 when her murderous activities were discovered after she killed the entire Davis family in Cataumet, Massachusetts. This was when the police arrested Jane Toppan AKA Jolly Jane AKA Angel of Mercy
During the trial, a year later, Jane confessed that the killing of innocent people aroused her sexually. One time she crawled into bed with a female victim and sexually assaulted her until the victim died. This is what makes Jane Toppan a different type of female serial killer. Females usually don’t get sexual gratification from their murders. She said to have said, “If I had been a married woman, I probably would not have killed all of those people,” she said. “I would have had my husband, my children, and my home to take up my mind.” However, I don’t think it matters if she was married or not. Jane was a Bad Seed from the start.
After killing over 30 people, probably more like 100s, Toppan was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She spent the rest of her life there until she died in 1938. She was used to taunting the Mental Hospital staff and saying, “Get some morphine deary, and we will go out in the ward. You and I will have a lot of fun seeing them die.”
So that’s the life of Jane Toppan. What did everyone think? I will have to say that she’s probably one of the scariest serial killers that I have read up on or seen documentaries on, and all I know is I hope never to encounter Jane Toppan if I ever have to go to the hospital.