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

by M. William Phelps


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781599216010
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Pages: 303
Sales rank: 768,842
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

M. William Phelps is a crime expert, lecturer, and investigative journalist who has more than 600,000 copies of his books in print since 1999. His contemporary crime titles include: Perfect Poison, Lethal Guardian, Every Move You Make, Sleep In Heavenly Peace, Murder in the Heartland, Because You Loved Me, If Looks Could Kill, and I’ll Be Watching You (2009).His works of history include an account of Nathan Hale’s life titled, Nathan Hale, which chronicles a period in Hale’s life between 1773 and 1776 set against two major battles of the American Revolution. He also co-wrote Failures of the Presidents: Our Leaders' Worst Decisions from the Dred Scott Case to Watergate to the Bay of Pigs to Iraq, with Thomas Craughwell.Phelps has appeared on Court TV, The Discovery Channel, Fox News Channel, CN8, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” The Learning Channel, Biography Channel, History Channel, Montel Williams, Geraldo At Large, USA Radio Network, ABC News Radio and Radio America, who calls him “the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer.” He’s written for the Providence Journal, Hartford Courant, the New London Day, and published several best-selling history “Shorts” for in such noted publications as Writer's Digest, NY Daily News, Newsday, Albany Times-Union, Hartford Courant, Advance for Nurses magazine, Forensic Nursing, The Globe magazine and NY Post, Phelps has also consulted for the Showtime cable television series “Dexter.” He lives in a small Connecticut farming community with his wife, three children and Labrador. He runs a crime forum at and can also be reached at his author Web site,

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The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 121 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 More than 1 year 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.
ReadingWithMartinis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was lured into this book by the subtitle. Female serial killers are so rare, especially one that was killing people 100 years ago, that I decided to give this book a go. Unfortunately, this book turned out to be just OK. The story, while interesting, wasn¿t all that compelling. I didn¿t really care for the way the story was told, either. The author drug the story out longer than was necessary and there was a ton of detail about the weather and how hot it was during the summer of 1911. I¿m sorry, but I don¿t really care how hot it was. It added nothing to the story other than to make it longer.I think Phelps was trying to be very Truman Capote In Cold Blood with this book, and it just wasn¿t that kind of tale and it didn¿t work.I can¿t honestly say I would recommend this book. If you are a die hard true crime fan and want to read this book, get a copy from the library.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Rooming House could more accurately be called The Devil's Assisted Living Care Facility but I can see why they went for the somewhat snappier title. This is a book in the mold of The Devil in the White City, combining the story of a serial killer with a larger event, although this one was a bit of a stretch, using a twelve day long heat wave as the framing event.I enjoy social histories, with their emphasis on how ordinary people lived. When they are done well, they are riveting, as in the aforementioned The Devil in the White City and in The Worst Hard Time. The Devil's Rooming House is not one of the good ones, however. The story concerns one of the first retirement homes in the United States, set up in Windsor, Connecticut a hundred years ago, to provide a place to live, meals, assistance and a funeral for those elderly in need of a home. The owner, Amy Archer, allowed inmates to pay monthly, but the real bargain was a lifetime residency for a thousand dollars. It took a surprisingly long time, several years in fact, for the unusually high death rate in the Archer home to be noticed and even longer for enough evidence to be collected to arrest Archer. She might have continued for decades had not many inmates had relatives greedy for any money left over.Which makes the framing device of a heat wave less than effective. There were chapters devoted to what should have be a magazine article at best. It was interesting, but didn't fit the book. Also distracting was the author's disinterest in the mechanics of the poisonings. Whenever another disease was blamed for a death the author would define the disease using an internet based definition and move on. A stronger book could have been written using the murders as a frame to discuss medical care and common illnesses of the time, but the author chose to quote from and move on before things could get interesting. This left very little book, so he filled pages with the making of the play Arsenic and Old Lace.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sister Amy Archer-Gilligan started an early version of a private nursing home, a retirement home, in the small Connecticut town of Windsor shortly after the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, too many of her ¿inmates¿ died unexpectedly and Amy began to be suspected of taking their money and possessions and then poisoning them with arsenic rather than actually taking on that pesky task of caring for them. The old classic play and movie, Arsenic and Old Lace, is loosely based on the story. The Devil's Rooming House is a true-crime examination of the actual events.The story is fascinating and I expected to really enjoy the book, but I'm afraid I was disappointed. The book seems to be disjointed and disorganized, jumping around in both place and time when those shifts do not add to the story. At the beginning, there was too much description of the heat wave that took many lives in that part of the country, even including a gruesome suicide that seemed to have no relevance to the rest of the story. Then we'd be back to the main story, thinking we were done with the heat wave. No, here it comes again. Throughout the book, there was irrelevant information included, and I got the feeling that the author, in his research, found interesting tidbits that he couldn't resist sharing with the reader. There was also too much repetition. There was also too much repetition. I wanted to know more about Amy but I never did get a feel for her. She was greedy and narcissistic, yes, but I don't feel like I got to know her other than superficially. There was more about some of the people investigating the case than there was about Amy.The book included a section of photographs and documents that did add to the story. Mr. Phelps has written several other true-crime books and is not a novice, but this book let me down.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Similar to Devil in the White City in the way it follows a crime along with a historical event. I was dissappointed that it dropped the heat wave a quarter of the way through and concentrated only on the crime. I wanted to read more about both. This story follows Amy Archer-Gilligan, the most prolific female serial killer. Amy's story is the inspiration behind the hit broadway play and movie "Arsenic and Old Lace." An interesting mix of the crime and the relentless research by one journalist who broke the case. Add this one to your list if you like historical true crime.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of Arsenic and Old Lace, both as a play and a movie, so I thought it would be really cool to know more about the real world story. I was expecting something more like The Devil in the White City, especially because initially the author provided a lot of history about the destructive heat wave of the time. In retrospect I don't know why he included that since it had nothing to do with the murders and wasn't linked contextually once the social history was abandoned for the facts of the case. I got as far as the trial and then thought, "Ugh. I'm slogging through this. Make it stop." So I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and researched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I find it hard to admit that I so enjoyed a book that was honestly so sad and morbid. Good writing and research.