Leonarda Cianciulli: The Serial Killer Who Turned Her Victims into Soap
How a mother of 4 turned into a cannibalistic soap maker.
In 1894, an Italian serial killer was born. Leonarda Cianciulli never had a perfect life, and little is known about her childhood, but it is documented that she attempted suicide twice in her adolescence and then married a man her parents strongly disapproved of. In fact, Leonarda believed that her marriage to an office cleric was cursed because of her parent's strong content for their union. Leonarda was married in the 1930s and ran a small shop out of Corregio, Italy. What did the shop sell you might ask? The answer is soap.
Around the 1930s, it is clear that Leonarda's life was far from perfect. In addition to a small jail sentence for fraud, her home being destroyed in an earthquake, and an endless battle with her parents, Leonarda was also suffering immense losses. Leonarda had been pregnant a total of 17 times, but she lost three children due to miscarriages and 10 died at very young ages. As any sensible parent would be, Leonarda was extremely protective of her children and grew dangerously superstitious.
Leonarda had been interested in palm reading, tarot cards, and fortunetelling in her youth, and her interests in such matters only grew with the loss of her children. She went to a fortuneteller who predicted that the rest of her remaining four children would also die in their youth. The fortuneteller told her that the only way she could prevent her children from dying young was a human sacrifice.
However, Leonarda did not act on the fortunetellers advice right away. It wasn't until 1939 when her son told her that he was going to join the military that Leonarda decided she had no other choice but to follow the advice of the fortuneteller. In the years 1939-1940, Leonarda had lured three women into her soap shop and killed them. She killed each of the women with an ax and disposed of their bodies by boiling them in caustic soda.
Leonarda had tricked each of the women into her shop by saying she could help them find whatever they were looking for. For example, the first victim was looking for a husband and Leonarda said she could find her one. Leonarda drugged wine and gave it to all three of her victims, making ax murder easier for herself.
Someone had reported the third victim going into the soap shop and never returning. The police came to investigate the report and arrested Leonarda that day. Her trial was held in 1946, and Leonarda not only confessed to everything, but she described in great detail how she cooked and turned her victims into soap and desserts. Here is a short passage of what she had to say about her third victim,
“She ended up in the pot, like the other two … her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil, I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbors and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: That woman was really sweet.”
Creepy, right? The observers of her trial noted that she seemed unfazed and unemotional when she was explaining what had happened. Not only had she admitted to killing three innocent women, but eating them and also giving the human soap to neighbors.
Obviously, she was found guilty of her crimes and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her dark deeds. She was also sentenced to three years in an asylum for the criminally insane, where she died of a medical condition. To this day, the pot that Leonarda cooked her victims in can be found in the Criminological Museum in Rome.