Episode 7: Jane Toppan, Nightmare Nurse

In 1901, a woman named Jane Toppan was arrested on Cape Cod for murder. By the time she went on trial, she had confessed to killing 31 people in Boston, Cambridge, on the Cape, and around the region, and she’s suspected of killing 100 or more. From a tragic childhood, she grew up to be a nurse. She tortured and murdered her patients in dark experiments, while being praised for her caring bedside manner. Before she was caught, she had graduated to killing entire families. Learn about the life and crimes of Jane Toppan, Nightmare Nurse in this week’s show.

Jane Toppan: Nightmare Nurse

  • Before she became Jane Toppan, Honora Kelley was dropped off to be raised by the Boston Female Asylum. Learn about the Boston Female Asylum, changing attitudes toward orphans, and the history of social services in Boston in this timeline (PDF link).
  • The FBI definition of serial killing is a little bit different from the way I use that term, but Jane Toppan qualifies no matter the definition.
  • Fatal: The Poisonous Life of a female Serial Killer is a book-length biography of Toppan.
  • The image of Toppan below shows her weight loss during her imprisonment, when she believed she was being poisoned.

toppan2

This Week in Boston History

  • Our details of the hardships suffered by the people of Boston during the siege are taken from this account.
  • The (wildly inaccurate) dramatization of the Boston Tea Party is taken from a 1983 Fisher Price recording for children, one of several history tapes made as part of their Spellbinder series. Jake loved those tapes as a kid, and recently found some bootlegs online. Stay tuned to hear more clips in the future!