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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ever wonder where the inspiration for the outstanding stage play and 1944 film ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (starring Cary Grant) came from? 
Her name was "SISTER" AMY DUGGAN ARCHER-GILLIGAN (October 1868 – April 23, 1962), a Windsor, Connecticut nursing home proprietor.

According to Wikipedia: 

Between 1907 and 1917, there were 60 deaths in the Archer Home. Relatives of her clients grew suspicious as they tallied the large numbers of its residents dying. Only 12 residents died between 1907 and 1910, but 48 residents died between 1911 and 1916. Among them was Franklin R. Andrews, an apparently healthy man. On the morning of May 29, 1914, Andrews was doing some gardening in the Archer house.

His health collapsed within a day and he was dead by the evening. The official cause of death was gastric ulcer. His sister Nellie Pierce inherited his personal papers. She soon noted occasions where Archer-Gilligan was pressing Andrews for money. Archer-Gilligan's clients showed a pattern of dying not long after giving their caretaker large sums of money.

As the deaths continued, Pierce reported her suspicions to the local district attorney. He mostly ignored her. Pierce took her story to The Hartford Courant, a newspaper. On May 9, 1916, the first of several articles on the "Murder Factory" was published. A few months later, the police started seriously investigating the case. The investigation took almost a year to complete, but the results were interesting. The bodies of Gilligan, Andrews, and three other boarders were exhumed. All five had died of poisoning, either by arsenic or strychnine. Local merchants were able to testify that Archer-Gilligan had been purchasing large quantities of arsenic, supposedly to "kill rats". A look into Gilligan's will helped to establish that it was actually a forgery, written in Amy's handwriting. 

According to M. William Phelps, author of the true crime The Devil's Rooming House, investigations appeared to show that Amy was buying the arsenic to kill off large quantities of rats. However, it appears that Amy did not buy all of the arsenic which killed her patients; the doctor as well as some of the patients signed off to purchase it. The investigation was pushed to pursue Dr. King because more evidence was piling up against him. But suspicions were focused back on Amy when someone suggested to clearly check all records of arsenic purchases. Once evidence was found of Amy sending her own patients to the drugstore to buy quantities of arsenic, the police were able to arrest and convict Amy.

To learn even more about the lovely MS. ARCHER-GILLIGAN please visit MURDERPEDIA here:

NOW ENJOY A CLIP from the hilarious film ARSENIC AND OLD LACE:

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