South Carolina's First Female Serial Killer

by Shelby Yarchin about a year ago in fact or fiction

The Legend of a Motel with a Deadly Past, and a Woman Willing to Do Anything for Riches

South Carolina's First Female Serial Killer

There is a fine line between truth and legend when it comes to the mysterious case of Lavinia Fisher and her infamous Six Mile Inn right outside of Charleston's city limits.

Lavinia has been officially named as the United State's first female serial killer. However, her abrupt and untimely hanging didn't 'have anything to do with tracked murders. Instead, it had everything to do with highway robbery, and a woman charged with a heavy title without being a proven killer.

The Legend

Lavinia Fisher was born in 1793 in Charleston South Carolina. Not much is known about her early childhood, but in the early 19th century Lavinia marries John Fisher (gaining her surname) and the couple opens up an inn called "The Six Mile Wayfarer House" right outside of the city limits.

Within the walls o the Six Mile Wayfarer House, speculation of murder and robbery started to reach the townspeople when travelers were vanish within the walls of the Inn. Mrs. Fisher would lure her victims in with the promise of boarding for the night, a sound place to rest before reaching the city.

She would make them a mixture of tea and the two of them would talk over the steaming drink. Lavinia would ask about income and why exactly the lonely travelers were heading to Charleston in the first place.

There are conflicting stories when it comes to what exactly was in the tea. Some speculate that it was poison, enough to put down a full grown horse. Others point towards a strong sedative that lulled those unfortunate to drink it into a fitful sleep.

Another large part of the legend attributes to the beds designed for the Inn. Travelers would succumb to sleep before a lever was pulled and the inside of the bed dipped down into a spiked pit. Leading people to believe that the Six Mile Wayfarer house was nothing more than a sadistic set of traps.

Two consistent names in the legend are David Ross and John Peeples. Both came in contact with Lavinia Fisher and her dark side before fleeing into the safety of town and law enforcement. David the first unfortunate victim of foul play.

In February of 1819 a group of self-appointed vigilante activists found themselves at the Six Mile House for answers and overall peace of mind. Not much is said about what transpired within the walls, but member David Ross was left behind for the night to keep an eye on the establishment.

Early the next morning Ross was awakened by two men roughly assaulting him. He looked to Lavinia for solace, but the woman simply choked him and slammed his head into a window. He survived and rushed into Charleston as fast as he could.

John Peeples was just as lucky. That night he asked for a room at the Inn. Lavinia made it clear that they didn't have any vacancy, but if he wanted to stay and rest for a bit he was more than welcome. She offered him tea that he left alone. After speaking with one another for over an hour, Mrs. Fisher discovered a vacancy and offered John a room for the night.

He found the questions that she was asking earlier disconcerting and slept not in the bed, but in a wooden chair right behind the door to the room. In the middle of the night, John heard the door creak open, a lever pulled, and a loud bang as the bed dropped open to the unknown.

John fled into town after jumping from the second story window.

The Truth

Charleston County Jail

While the tale of a sadistic motel in the heart of Charleston is alluring, it's not at all true. There were no beds that dipped into a spiked oblivion, or poisoned tea that Lavinia Fisher brewed up on an open topped stove.

Instead, the Six Mile Wayfarer House was one of two meeting places for a highway gang that was never given a name. In true spontaneous fashion, the other meeting place was dubbed the Five Mile House. Both Lavinia and John Fisher had ties with the members of the gang, possibly leading the crusade.

The highway men would rob those daring enough to take the one rode into Charleston at gun point, taking everything they owned before sending them off to the town with little left. They would always ambush the travelers late at night, shielding their faces and making them unrecognizable.

David Ross had a consistent story; he did follow a group of vigilante men to ambush the Six Mile Inn after arresting many members of the gang at the Five Mile House. He did stay behind and he was attacked in broad daylight. His account of the assault tipped off law enforcement to be wary of Lavinia and John Fisher.

John Peeples, however, never got to the inn, or sat down for a quick drink of tea and rest. Instead, he tied his horse in front of the establishment, allowing it to rest before Lavinia held him at gun point and robbed him of all forty dollars that he had with him. She let him go and he rushed into town.

Both accounts lead to the arrest of both John and Lavinia fisher. The two of them were housed together in Charleston's jail. They were tried for highway robbery, which was a crime punishable for death at this point in history. John renounced himself, but Lavinia held strong to her innocence until the very end.

While on trial, the Six Mile Wayfarer house was searched. In the backyard of the establishment, two bodies (one male, one female) were discovered in the backyard. It was never proven that Lavinia was the killer, but it brought her into history as the first female serial killer in the United States.

She's gained cynical fame from the incident, her famous last words still ringing past the court house and under the large oak trees that surround Charleston. "If you have a message to send to hell, give it to me, I'll carry it."

Her ghost is said to haunt the Charleston Jail House.

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Shelby Yarchin

My name is Shelby, but a lot of people generally call me S. 

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