The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer [NOOK Book]

Overview

A silent, simmering killer terrorized New England in 1911. A heat wave unlike any that had come before killed people in the streets, caused others to drown in the waters where they sought relief, and drove still others to suicide. As more than 2,000 people died during the natural disaster, another silent killer began her own murderous spree. Amy Archer-Gilligan operated the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids in Windsor, Connecticut. What was thought to be a respectable business run by a ...

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

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Overview

A silent, simmering killer terrorized New England in 1911. A heat wave unlike any that had come before killed people in the streets, caused others to drown in the waters where they sought relief, and drove still others to suicide. As more than 2,000 people died during the natural disaster, another silent killer began her own murderous spree. Amy Archer-Gilligan operated the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids in Windsor, Connecticut. What was thought to be a respectable business run by a pioneering woman was exposed as little more than a murder factory. Amy would be accused of murdering both her husbands and dozens (as many as sixty) of her elderly patients with cocktails of lemonade and arsenic—all for money. She would be convicted and sentenced to hang, and her story would shock turn-of-the-century America and provide the inspiration for the Broadway sensation and classic film Arsenic and Old Lace. Acclaimed crime writer M. William Phelps has written the first book to tell the true story of greed and murder even more shocking than its fictional counterpart.

Readers will enter a kind of Twilight Zone where a Bible-thumping caretaker and entrepreneur of the nursing home industry became one of history’s most evil female serial killers. With first-hand accounts from Amy’s “inmates,” riveting trial transcripts, and accounts from the investigative journalists who covered the case, Phelps puts readers face-to-face with a woman who was both a Black Widow and an Angel of Death. And Phelps paints a vivid, spine-chilling portrait of turn-of-the-century New England.

This is historical true crime at its best.

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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 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

Praise for M. William Phelps and The Devil's Rooming House
 
“Phelps is one of America’s finest true crime writers.”
           –Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter and Reclaiming History
 

The Devil's Rooming House was certainly a revelation. I had no idea that there was such a gruesome backstory to one of my favorite films, Arsenic and Old Lace, and after reading this exhaustively researched book, I can now say I know every lurid detail. I think readers will be surprised to find that another WOMAN has joined the infamous ranks of serial killers and that if the heat doesn’t get you, the poison will.”

Paula Uruburu, author of American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the “It” Girl, and The Crime of the Century

“This harrowing account of how one seemingly dedicated and devoted caretaker of the old and infirm can emerge from her cocoon of Christian piety and prove to be an obscene force of destruction is written with the usual clarity and style of renowned crime writer, M.William Phelps.  The Devil's Rooming House not only depicts the shocking persona of the serial killer, Amy Archer, but also tenderly gives voice to her heroic, doomed victims.”

–Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, author of Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762762507
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 68,617
  • File size: 2 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. 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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 113 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(25)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(12)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 113 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 27, 2010

    A Very Interesting Read

    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.

    33 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    One of my favorites

    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!

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    An eye-opening read

    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.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent read!

    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.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 6, 2010

    Very Intriguing

    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.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2010

    Interesting read if you're into American History.

    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.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2010

    boring.....

    poorly written. like bad first semester student work. you would think it impossible to make serial killings boring...especially when the crimes happened in your own childhood town! well, this writer has done the impossible. it's a page turner in that you cannot turn the page after page about the weather fast enough. early on the author writes @ length about a weather related suicide. i spent several chapters waiting for him to connect this person to the story. but there was no connection. he even writes about the titantic. don't ask me why. the titantic is not related to the murders either.

    7 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2012

    Poorly written, meandering book with very little factual informa

    Poorly written, meandering book with very little factual information. The author writes like a grade-school dropout. Who edited this book or was it self-published? The inclusion of the historical "heat wave" seems to serve no other purpose than to add more pages. Phelps never really ties the two together. There is no flow to this blook, it's just a lot of ramblings that turn a fascinating historical account of a female serial poisoner into a boring dime novel.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book I couldn't put down. Would recommend

    Great book I couldn't put down. Would recommend

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    What is the price of the book?

    This book is today's daily find and does anyone know how much it is? Thanks.








    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Good read

    M. William is a great story teller. Fascinating read cover to cover. I only wish history had left more photos.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    Good stryline but loses focus at times

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    INTER interesting but kscking Interesting but lacking

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2012

    Devil's Boarding House

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommed!

    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

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2012

    Chilling & true

    Well written, fun to read
    Nothings better then a good crime novel...except a TRUE crime novel

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    This is a fascinating subject, especially for someone who lived

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    Not the best

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2012

    Great books with amazing detail

    I appreciated the background and historical details in this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    Rip off

    This is not a review of the book, however it was supposed to be the nook deal of the day it says it is supposed to be 2.99 however when you go to buy it they want to charge 19.99. I dont spend that much on my nook books unless I know the author. Henceforth I am disapointed, I will not get to read this book since the nook website is screwed up.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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