Tillie Klimek, High Priestess of the Bluebeard Clique

Tillie Klimek spent a large part of her life cooking. The problem with that was that if she was mad at someone or if she was the beneficiary of life insurance, the recipe often included arsenic. By the time Klimek was arrested in 1922, she had three dead husbands and one in the hospital for arsenic poisoning, two dead children, one dead grandchild, a dead lover, and numerous dead cousins -all for whom she’d cooked meals. Her cousin Nellie Koulik, also a widow, was arrested for providing arsenic.  

Since Chicago was so thoroughly out of control in the '20s, it's not surprising that Tillie's trial turned into something of a circus. On numerous occasions, the judge was forced to yell, "This is not a theater!" But the audience would have disagreed with him. Gossipy neighbors, three gravediggers, and a "lady undertaker" testified against Tillie, and just like Hamlet's gravediggers, they were hilarious. One gravedigger kept the audience in stitches by telling a scandalous story about Tillie's lover John, the one who would come over after Frank left for work. "Once I seen him kiss her," said the gravedigger, and when McLaughlin asked what happened next, the gravedigger replied, "Why then, Tillie put up some newspapers in front of the window, so I couldn't see in." Everybody cracked up at this part—even Tillie.

Tillie Klimek was far from the only woman in Chicago in the 1920s to go to trial for murder, but her case differed from the others in that she wasn’t pretty, didn’t flirt with the court and newspaper reporters, and she didn’t beat the rap, like so many others did. Read the whole sordid story of the perennial widow and her sensational trial at Jezebel. -via Digg

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