The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer

The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer

3.5 114
by M. William Phelps
     
 

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The gripping tale of a legendary, century-old murder spree

 

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A silent, simmering killer terrorized New England in1911. As a terrible heat wave killed more than 2,000 people, another silent killer began her own murderous spree. That year a reporter for the Hartford Courant noticed a sharp rise in the number of

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Overview

The gripping tale of a legendary, century-old murder spree

 

***

 

A silent, simmering killer terrorized New England in1911. As a terrible heat wave killed more than 2,000 people, another silent killer began her own murderous spree. That year a reporter for the Hartford Courant noticed a sharp rise in the number of obituaries for residents of a rooming house in Windsor, Connecticut, and began to suspect who was responsible: Amy Archer-Gilligan, who’d opened the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids four years earlier. “Sister Amy” would be accused of murdering both of her husbands and up to sixty-six of her patients with cocktails of lemonade and arsenic; her story inspired the Broadway hit Arsenic and Old Lace.

 

The Devil’s Rooming House is the first book about the life, times, and crimes of America’s most prolific female serial killer. In telling this fascinating story, M. William Phelps also paints a vivid portrait of early-twentieth-century New England.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Amy Archer-Gilligan—Sister Amy, she was called—was a murderess well-enough known to be cited as an inspiration for the Joseph Kesselring’s perennial grim farce, Arsenic and Old Lace…. Amy’s sensational trial attracted great interest, and Phelps wraps the whole dirty business in a delightfully cozy narrative. A genteel true-crime excursion.” — Mike Tribby, Booklist “Lizzie Bordon became famous for probably murdering her stepmother and father in turn-of-the-century New England. But a lesser known contemporary, Amy Archer-Gilligan, is much more interesting. Amy dispatched two husbands and possibly as many as 66 others in a fashion reminiscent of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ a Broadway play that was loosely based on her case…. In his new book, M. William Phelps, tells the shocking, true story of this Victorian murderess in fascinating detail…. Mr. Phelps — who Radio America calls ‘the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer’ — conducted extensive interviews and sifted through official trial transcripts and newspaper files to bring readers face-to-face with the matron of what the media of the day billed as a ‘murder factory.’ —Larry Cox / Special to Florida Weekly “To recreate the early 20th century killing spree which took place primarily in Connecticut’s “Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids” (the inspiration for Joseph Kesselring’s play Arsenic and Old Lace), Phelps amasses an abundance of research to complement his already-extant authority on female murderers (the author of Perfect Poison: A Female Serial Killer’s Deadly Medicine, Phelps has also consulted on serial killer TV drama Dexter).... Phelps’ diligent research creates a vivid portrait of the country a century ago…. —Publishers Weekly“On May 9, 1916, Hartford Courant readers learned that the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids in Windsor, Conn., run by a woman many considered saintly, had produced an unusual number of corpses. Sixty-six people had died over eight years, during which Mrs. Archer-Gilligan had purchased large quantities of arsenic for her rodent problem. Several “inmates,” as she called them, had paid her $1,000 for lifetime care. Some had signed over all their savings before vacating their beds, which were eagerly sought by new applicants…. M. William Phelps reports on an expanding cast of characters and unfolds his sensational history like a Victorian storyteller to entertain as much as to inform…. Phelps gives us the full panorama of a unique time and place in history.” —Anne Grant / Special to the Providence Journal

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762762507
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
06/01/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
124,472
File size:
5 MB

Meet the Author

M. William Phelps, whom Radio America called “the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer,” is the author of many books, including Perfect Poison: A Female Serial Killer’s Deadly Medicine and the New York Times Bestseller Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy. He consulted on the first season of the Showtime TV drama Dexter, and his dozens of national TV appearances include the Discovery Channel, CBS’ Early Show, and Good Morning America.

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The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 114 reviews.
Paris182 More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book with some trepidation, given the very bad review given by the previous reader. However I am now not sure he and I read the same book. This is an interesting true story of a female serial killer in the early years of the 20th century, a woman who ran a sort of boarding house and then murdered her "inmates" for financial gain. Whereas the other reviewer took exception to the background setting of the severe heatwave of 1911, I found it interesting as well as providing a background for the tale. And while the loss of the Titanic did not directly impact the story, it did give us a contex in which it was set. I found the book well written, well put together and exhaustively researched, and if I would fault the author on anything it would be for the overuse of a few catch phrases like "backing down". The personalities and motives of the main characters never fail to interest, and one thing I found worth reading about was what life was like before regulation. I mean how does a private citizen buy 10lbs of arsenic and no one appears to think twice about it. While I would not put this alongside "The Devil in the White City" I did find it a page-turner in the best sense. Recommended.
James Rzonca More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy this authors writing style and the way he tells this story. I have read 6 of his books and this was one if my favorites, a page turner, and very well researched as is the case with all his books!
EDebonis More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Rooming House is a well-researched account of what can happen when lack of governmental supervision allows well-meaning intentions to meet abject greed. Although, the plot of this story is evident, Phelps, leads us through it play by play. Documenting one of America's prolific female serial killers, we find ourselves asking, sadly, where are the authorities? Despite its' lack of suspense, the book is riveting read.
SherylNantus More than 1 year ago
Unlike most people I didn't know anything about a heat wave in 1911 - and what I had heard about Arsenic and Old Lace was confined to the movie... Wow. This book takes you through what has to be one of the most chilling cases of serial murder in history and with a female killer to boot - if you like good detective stories and excellent historical documentation and writing, grab this book. It's well worth every penny and then some.
gobbledynook More than 1 year ago
This book starts slow with a lot of background history of the happenings of the early 1900's, but I think it helps create a solid foundation for the story of Amy Archer-Gilligan. I didn't mind reading all about the heat wave and enjoyed the other random facts of those years. It helped paint a picture of what life was like back then. I felt very sad for Amy's victims - especially Franklin Andrews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was expecting a slightly different type of book when I started reading it. The beginning was slow due to being interrupted with a side plot of a heat wave that wasn't really beneficial to the story. Loved how the story was written in regards to Amy Archer and her horrendous deeds. Decent writing about a little known incident in American history. Enjoyed it very much.
BookaholicTracy More than 1 year ago
Great book I couldn't put down. Would recommend
Anonymous 8 months ago
This book is in the smallest print and my nook will not change the size no matter what I do! I have good eyesight and can't read it its tooo small ! Thanks for any help !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
M. William is a great story teller. Fascinating read cover to cover. I only wish history had left more photos.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love a great true crime story, and typically love Mr. Phelps's books. This one, however, i found myself having to skim over quite a bit in order to get back to the meat of the story. Although i realize many people appreciate the long winded history lesson(s), i didnt, i wanted to read the story about amy archer and what she did and what the end result was. Period. But thats just me, if you like a good connecticut history lesson coupled with a good crime story then you'll love it. And its not that i dont like to read the history either, just in this case it was partucularly excessive, in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting book although i dont think the 80 pages or so about the heat wave was necessary or fit into the story about Amy very well.
maggie1TX More than 1 year ago
Not finished yet but am completely facinated. How did this go on so long. Can't wait to go to bed tonight and pick up where I left off!
honybea More than 1 year ago
This is a great storey! I found out alot of information about Connecticut State Police. I lived in Connecticut for 63 years and that might be why I enjoyed it so much as it was full of infomation I didn't know before. But as a story it also held your attention. I stayed up a few nights to late so I could keep on reading
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, fun to read Nothings better then a good crime novel...except a TRUE crime novel
hheaven More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating subject, especially for someone who lived in the Hartford area for many years. BUT it is VERY poorly written, there seems (at least to me) to be no logic to it, more like loose rambling facts/thoughts strung together. I paid $3, about what it is worth, and am not sure I'll finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found myself very bored read this book and forcing myself to finish it. Thd book looked very interesting but in the end i wouldnt recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I appreciated the background and historical details in this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amy was full of greed and many died fulfilling that goal! Excellent account of what happened and interesting history of that period of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want a great read this is it! This book is well written, spell-binding from start to finish. It's one of those books that you won't want to put down.
WesternMass More than 1 year ago
A restrspective study of early detective work. Before there were modern labs with CSI dedicated employees, the CT State Police (a newly formed organization, and the country's first) had to rely on old fashioned legwork. Between having to ride trolleys until the town received it's first automobile, bringing in forensic experts in the middle of the night to perform an autopsy in a barn by lantern, it was truly an amazing accomplishment that this crime was solved. But for two intrepid reporters, it might not have been. The frequent mentions of the heat wave that killed thousands during that time added to the flavor of the period. I found this book fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A+
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this up as one of the daily finds. I Thought it was well written. I didnt even know of this serial killer. I recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago