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The 'Giggling Granny' Serial Killer

She giggled uncontrollably whenever she told the story of how she killed her late husbands.

By Dharrsheena Raja SegarranPublished 2 years ago Updated 3 months ago 11 min read
Nannie Doss heading to prison in 1954 after her confessions.

Nannie Doss (Giggling Granny) was an American serial killer responsible for eleven deaths between 1920s and 1954. She killed four out of her five husbands, two children, her stepsister, her mother, her two grandchildren and her mother-in-law.

Nancy Hazel (Nannie) was born in 1905 to Louisa who wasn't married. Louisa wouldn’t reveal to her parents who Nannie's father was. No one wanted to marry Louisa as she had a child out of wedlock.

Along came James Hazel. He was a farmer who was knee deep in debt so no one wanted to marry him either. James proposed to Louisa and she accepted as he's the only one willing to marry her. Therefore, he became Nannie's stepdad.

Nannie had neither a healthy nor a happy childhood.

James had an ulterior motive to marrying Louisa. He wanted more manpower to work on his farm. He was very controlling and abusive towards Louisa and Nannie. Nannie was forced to work at the farm from a very young age and did not attend school.

By the time Nannie was six, Louisa had four children with James. As Louisa had to work at the farm, Nannie took care of her four stepsiblings.

When Nannie was seven, she had a major head injury from a train accident. For years, she had severe headache, blackouts and depression but James didn’t bring her for treatment as she wasn't his biological daughter.

When James's biological daughter was molested by his cousin, he beat the shit out of him. But when the cousin did the same thing to Nannie, she was punished for it.

Although Nannie wasn't properly educated, she was very good at speaking and writing as she loved to read. Her favourite genre to read was romance novels.

When she was fifteen, she convinced James to let her work at a factory by telling him that she might make more money than they did at the farm. That’s where she met Charley Braggs.

Charley proposed to her soon after and she accepted. She thought if she married him, she might have a chance at a love story like in the romance novels she read.

She introduced him to Louisa and James. Louisa liked him and surprisingly, James did too. His ulterior motive being he didn’t have to bear for her anymore.

Nannie and Charley got married after four months. After marriage, Nannie was shocked to find out that her marriage is nothing like in her romance novels.

Charley's mom also lived with them and she always nitpicked at how Nannie does the cleaning and cooking and everything else. But the thing is, Nannie is the perfect housewife; who happens to get things done in a different way than Charley's mom.

Nannie decided things may get better if she has children. Nannie and Charley had four daughters. Eldest being Melvina and youngest is Florine.

This is when Charley started cheating on Nannie. She had a diary in which she kept track of all his activities like which days he came back late and how many days he was gone at a time. Although his mom knew about this, she still supported Charley.

There was this time where Charley was gone for three days. When he came back, the whole town was at his house and they were all wearing black. He thought ‘Oh shit! My mom died!’

But he found her in the kitchen comforting a crying Nannie. He also saw Melvina and Florine but not his second and third daughter. Upon questioning, James, Nannie's stepdad informed him that the girls had died.

If you asked Charley's mom, although she nitpicked at everything that Nannie did, she will never deny that Nannie is the best mom anyone could be. But little did everyone know that Nannie was acting. She despised her kids. But she never showed her hatred to anyone or her kids.

So, what happened was, Nannie put rat poison in the breakfast porridge. Melvina normally has light breakfast so she had toast. Florine was still breastfeeding. So the second and third daughter ate the porridge and died.

Seeing at what a loving mom Nannie was, the people of the town never suspected her and concluded that the rice was contaminated.

Charley somehow felt guilty for the death of his daughters and couldn’t look at Nannie in the eye for months. One night, as Nannie placed dinner his in front of him, they made eye contact and Charley saw there was no emotion in Nannie's eyes. That creeped him out.

So he packed his things, grabbed Melvina and fled in the middle of the night. He wanted to take Florine along too but as she was still a baby, Nannie had fallen asleep with her.

Now Nannie had to care for Charley's mom and Florine. Hence she started working. Although Charley's mom wasn't as terrible as before, it soon became tiresome for Nannie to look after her as she became very sick and was bedridden after Charley ran away.

So, Nannie put rat poison in Charley's mom prune stew and she died. The whole town was so sad for Nannie. They never suspected her. They just assumed she died from sickness and old age.

After one year, Charley came back with his new girlfriend and Melvina. Nannie and Charley got divorced. Nannie moved back into her mom's house with Melvina and Florine.

Then Nannie got married to Frank Harrelson and moved in with him along with Melvina and Florine. And yet again she discovered that this marriage too isn't anything like in the romance novels.

She discovered that Frank was an alcoholic and had been to prison for assault. He also had multiple affairs. Often times, Frank would come home drunk and abuse Melvina and Florine.

Once Melvina was eighteen, she had enough and wanted to move out and get married. She met a guy and brought him to Nannie. Nannie really wanted her to get married to him.

Within a year Melvina got pregnant. Nannie wasn't happy as she believes that kids take away freedom and happiness. But she thought ‘Okay maybe one kid won't be too bad’ and pretended to be happy.

A few months after giving birth to a baby boy, Melvina became pregnant again. Nannie was pissed but pretended to be happy again. When Melvina delivered her baby girl, she fell right asleep as she was really tired and groggy from the drugs.

The doctor gave the baby girl to Nannie to hold as she was the granny. After a few hours, when the doctors came back to check, the baby was dead. Nannie was so sad and Melvina was devastated.

No one suspected Nannie as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was common and also because she was such a great granny to Melvina's son.

After a few days, when Melvina was discharged, she was being taken home by her sister Florine. Melvina then confides in Florine a strange and absurd dream that she had in which Nannie took a hatpin and punctured her baby's head with it.

Florine however looked shocked because when the doctors were checking on the dead baby, Nannie was fiddling with a hatpin. Now it was Melvina’s turn to be shocked because looks like she didn’t dream it but maybe that’s what actually happened when she was high on drugs.

Melvina's husband however started blaming her for their second child's death and soon they drifted apart. Melvina started seeing other guys and would often dump her son wit Nannie.

One day, tired of pretending to take care of her grandson happily, Nannie told Melvina that she had to start taking responsibility for her son. Melvina refused and left.

So Nannie baked cookies with rat poison in it. After lunch with her grandson who's now two years old, she kept giving him cookie after cookie. He was dead next morning. Once again, no one suspected Nannie thanks to her Oscar Award winning acting skills and also back in the day, it was common for children to die suddenly.

Melvina however begin to suspect her mom but couldn’t confront her as Nannie was surrounded by the people of the town who blamed Melvina for being so irresponsible.

After the funeral, Frank, Nannie's second husband decided to have a drink with Melvina and Florine. And that’s when he said “I think I’m next”. Both the girls cried in unison “Oh my God, you suspect her too?!” Then they shared the hatpin incident with him.

After this, Frank no longer ate or slept at home. He'll just be out drinking. One day he came home super drunk and raped Nannie as she didn't consent for sex. He felt that’s his right as her husband.

He then passed out while she was crying and was super pissed. She decided that he has to die but she can't poison him as he doesn't eat at home anymore. He also hides his whiskey so that she doesn't tamper with it.

Furious with herself for not being able to come up with a way to kill him, she goes to her garden to get some work done and she notices a hole beside her rose bush. This pissed her off even more.

Curiosity got the better of her and she began digging deeper into that hole and found Frank's hidden whiskey bottle. She saw that as a sign from God to kill him. Quickly she put rat poison in it and buried it back the way she found it.

Next morning, Frank was found dead on the front lawn. Police said it was death due to drinking too much as there was no suggestion of foul play. Melvina and Florine came to his funeral but they no longer wanted anything to do with Nannie.

Nannie got a huge amount of life insurance money from Frank's death. She then decides to get married again. She was forty by now. She met her third husband, Arlie Lanning through a Lonely Hearts column in the newspaper.

She learnt that he's a womanizer but due to influence of her romance novels, she knew she can change him so they got married. This time, there was the romance that she was always looking for. Despite keeping Nannie happy, he was always having affairs at the same time. Nannie didn’t like this. This went on for years.

Towards the end of their marriage, the Flu Influenza was spreading like how Covid-19 is spreading now. Everyone had to stay at home because people were dropping dead everywhere. So she starts cooking him all this fabulous food daily and one day, one of them being his favourite pie.

Seeing that she put a lot of work into it, he ate without complain although it seemed a tad bit bitter to him. The next morning, he was dead. The doctor who came to check Arlie had just checked six other people who were dead due to influenza. He took a look at Arlie’s body and said “Yup, he's dead due to influenza”. No one suspected Nannie and she got the insurance money.

Nannie is forty five now and decided to go back to her hometown with the intention of finding a new husband. But she got a letter conveying that her stepsister is very ill with only her skin draping around her bones.

Nannie volunteered to take care of her. Just after one week of nursing her stepsister back to health, Nannie got tired of it because all she wants is to get married again. So Nannie put rat poison in her stepsister’s prune stew and she died.

At her funeral, Nannie realized that her mom, Louisa, and her stepdad, James didn’t come. She questioned her stepsiblings regarding their whereabouts. It seems James recently died and that’s why Louisa couldn’t make it.

Nannie was furious because she couldn’t kill James who abused her profusely during her childhood. Nannie then had to take care of Louisa, as she's the only person in her family with money.

So Louisa moves in with Nannie and she was extremely demanding. Nannie didn’t like that. Her mom became increasingly sick and eventually died because Nannie poisoned her. Again, everyone was filled with sympathy for Nannie.

Nannie then finds her fourth husband, Richard Morton and he works from home. So she didn’t have to worry about him cheating on her. He always brought her out for dinners and bought her expensive gifts. She was having her romance novel moment.

One day, gossip reaches her ears that Richard was not only getting gifts for her but for many other girls as well. So she starts looking for her next husband by posing as a widow while Richard is still alive.

She then added rat poison to his prune stew and he died. Police didn't suspect her because Richard was very old. And yet again, she got the insurance money.

Now she's looking for her fifth husband. She got married to Samuel Doss who is her final husband and her undoing. He was a strict Christian. He didn’t gamble, he didn’t drink and he was an absolute gentleman.

He didn’t really approve of her love for romance novels. He was a miser. He won't even let her switch on the fan or light in order to save electricity. And he won't let her spend money.

She wanted to kill him because she wanted to get married again. But it was so difficult for her to poison him because he was always around, micromanaging her cooking and everything else that she did.

Since he was a miser, he hated sugar and sweets but she needed sugar to mask the bitterness of the poison. This was proving to be a huge problem for her.

So, she gradually added a little poison to his coffee daily up until he was hospitalised. She was super pissed to learn that he survived but she put on an act of being a caring wife and never left his side from the hospital.

The doctors had no idea what was wrong with him, so Samuel was discharged. Once he was back home, she made him a huge meal. She also assured him that she didn’t spend a lot of money on it.

She said she wanted to celebrate him surviving and being back home. She kept giving him more and more coffee. He then went to bed and died the next morning.

Finally, there was a doctor that was suspicious of Nannie and suggested they do an autopsy. Nannie was forced to agree because he suggested this in front of everybody.

The autopsy results came back stating Samuel had so much of cyanide in his system and Nannie was arrested in 1954. At first she kept denying everything. As some time went by, she started giggling while confessing to the murder of four out of her five husbands.

Nannie Doss giggling during her confession

The next day, an FBI agent made a timeline of the mysterious deaths that happened around Nannie. She then confessed to the murdering four out of her five husbands while giggling the whole time. She didn’t confess to the other murders but this was enough evidence.

That’s eleven people she killed altogether but she was only convicted of one. She escaped death penalty but got life imprisonment. She then died in 1965 in prison due to leukemia.

Clipped From The Times

This article is a summary I made of the same case in the True Crime Podcast, Rotten Mango by Stephanie Soo. She dives deep into each of the cases that she covers. Linked below is the episode of this case.

Thank you so much for reading this! 🥰 If you liked my writing, please leave a comment, click the heart and subscribe for free!


About the Creator

Dharrsheena Raja Segarran

My mental health decline brought about a lot of darkness and I embraced it. It now flows out mostly as Dark Stories and Poetry.

❤️ Erythrophile ❤️
✨️Glitteringly Savage✨️
🖤 Elegantly Disturbed Mind 🖤

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Comments (16)

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  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    Hat pin - baby's head. That is all. I cannot...I am speechless.

  • Denise E Lindquist5 months ago

    So interesting and amazing how someone can do this to so many! ❤️

  • Mother Combs5 months ago

    I wonder how many more were like her in the past, before forensic science.

  • Jazzy 9 months ago

    This was terrifying 😭

  • Jay Kantor11 months ago

    Dear Dhar - In my Biz there has been nothing to "Giggle" about; albeit in a sarcastic manner - But, it never seems to amaze me that I 'Really' haven't heard everything, even though I often think I have. This comes from "Puffing" depositions (a legalese form of lying) to trial perjury.   - I simply can't imagine putting together a 'Compilation' such as this like you always do so eloquently - - With my Respect - Jay Kantor - Vocal Community Village -

  • Novel Allen12 months ago

    Finally getting the nerve to read your previous stories. Wow, tragic how deed leads to deed and everyone pays the price. What a terrible tragedy of so many lives.

  • L.C. Schäfer12 months ago

    Wild how she got away with it for so long!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a year ago

    Wow this was such a fascinating story! I love the way you told it, I could practically hear the narrator from "first 48" (or some other famous docu-series) reading this! It was eery and creepy and such a thrilling read! 💜

  • Sandra Tena Coleabout a year ago

    So sad! And yet such a good example of how abuse creates a domino effect...!

  • Mariann Carroll2 years ago

    You have a talent for telling a story. You would make a great reporter. I glad you finally got caught. Karma hit her.

  • Russell Ormsby 2 years ago

    Nice job my friend. Very interesting read. One thing I like about the way you write, compared to stories that I read in online magazines, is that you don't repeat yourself using different ways to say the same thing as they tend to as a device to drag the story out. Nice one. You should be writing for these online magazines rather than the idiots that they do have.👍

  • Ceirra Evans2 years ago

    Ooh reminds of the woman who housed all the senior citizens in her home but found she was murdering them 😊 great read!!

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    Very well written. Also, so sad.

  • Denise Larkin2 years ago

    Terribly sad but written very well.

  • Those poor kids! All the abuse, abandonment and death. So sad.

  • Viona Aminda2 years ago


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