This Connecticut Home Became Known as the ‘Murder Factory’
Her name was "Sister" Amy Duggan Archer-Gilligan and she may be the most infamous female serial killer in American History.
Amy lived in, and murdered in the home shown above on Prospect Street in Windsor, CT. The Hartford Courant would dub the home "The Murder Factory" after "Sister" Amy's crimes were revealed.
Some reports say Amy was born in 1868, others say 1873, but it's the time period between 1907 - 1916 that would become the spine of Amy's legacy. It's during that time period that 60 residents died at the Archer Home for Aged People. One of those people was Amy's second husband. Here is what ConnecticutHistory.org write about his passing:
In 1913, Amy married Michael Gilligan, but he died a mere 3 months into their union. One death in particular, that of Franklin Andrews, seemed to raise some suspicion about Gilligan’s operation. One day after working on the lawn around the house and appearing in perfect health, Franklin Andrews died. After going through his papers, Andrews’s sister found information regarding a $500 loan to Gilligan, so she contacted authorities. Although the district attorney initially showed little interest in the case, the Hartford Courant began an investigation that ultimately led to Gilligan’s arrest in 1916.
Many reports say that Amy's killing method was poisoning and her motive was money. The Windsor Historical Society says that Amy's Boarding patients could pay a weekly fee that ranged from $7-25 or a $1,000 life-care option. After many complaints from patients' families and even a lawsuit, the Hartford Courant launched an investigation into the Archer Home and Amy.
The Courant combed through causes of death, death certificates and spoke to family members. What they learned is that 60 people died at the Archer home in 9 years and 48 of those deaths came during a 5-year period when Amy was experiencing financial troubles. According to reports, this investigation and witness reports also revealed that Amy had purchased an unusual amount of arsenic before her second husband Michael Gilligan passed. The Historical Society says it was "ten ounces" or enough to "kill 100 people."
The journalism investigation was followed by a law enforcement query conducted by the CT State Police. Bodies had to be exhumed and lab tests proved that "Sister" Amy had been poisoning her residents. Amy was arrested on May 8, 1916, charged with the murders of 5 people. Sister Amy's lawyer was able to get the charges reduced to one count of murder, but she was ultimately found guilty of that murder in 1917. Sister Amy was sentenced to death. Amy and her lawyers appealed and she was granted a new trial in 1919. She was again found guilty, this time being sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1924, Sister Amy was declared insane and transferred to the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane in Middletown, CT. She died at the Hospital in 1962. Find-A-Grave says Amy was buried in St. Johns Cemetery in Middletown, CT (Pictured Below).
Eventually, Sister Amy's story would be plastered on the Silver Screen. ConnecticutHistory.org writes:
One particular follower of Gilligan’s case, a New York playwright named Joseph Kesselring, decided to take Gilligan’s story and rewrite it as a comedy. His very successful play ran on Broadway from 1939 until 1944 under the title, “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Frank Capra adapted the play for the silver screen. The film, Arsenic and Old Lace starring Cary Grant, debuted in 1944 after the play concluded its Broadway run.
Everything I read about Amy gives me chills. The most terrifying thing about this story is that she appeared to be an upstanding member of society. The outward reputation of Sister Amy is that she was a sweet caregiver. But if 60 people die under your care in 9 years, more than a few people dropped the ball. I think after three people die, it's reasonable to start asking some questions, don't you?
Happy Halloween, ya creeps.
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