Criminal is powered by Vocal creators. You support Reagan OFarrell by reading, sharing and tipping stories... more

Criminal is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.

How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.

How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.

To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.

Show less

Serial Killer Jane Toppan

About the Killer Called the Angel of Death

Photo by Steinar Engeland

Jane Toppan (birth name: Honora)

Born: 1857

Died: 1938

About Toppan's Earlier Life:

  • Toppan's parents were Irish immigrants; her mother died of tuberculosis early in her life.
  • Her father was an alcoholic, abusive, and called “Kelley the Crack.” He is believed to have been insane, as he eventually sewed his own eyelids shut.
  • Toppan had a sister, Delia. The pair of them were dropped off at an asylum by their father.
  • After two years, Jane Toppan became an indentured servant for the Toppans.
  • She became a nurse, training at Cambridge Hospital.

Criminal Behavior:

  • As a nurse, Toppan was accused of petty theft, but the complaints were largely ignored.
  • At the hospital, Toppan would choose her favorite patients, most of which were elderly. She used these patients for experiments with morphine to see the effects different dosages would have on their nervous systems.
  • When alone, Toppan would often medicate them to fall in and out of consciousness. During this state, she would sometimes lie in bed with them, where she claimed to feel a sexual thrill that came from them dying, coming back to life and dying again.
  • She would kill her patients after experimentation, usually with morphine.
  • Toppan is known to have committed at least 31 murders, but she confessed to over one hundred accounts.
  • She killed her foster sister, Elizabeth, who was believed to be the start of Toppan's bitter lifestyle (though she was not the first victim).

Possible Motivation:

  • There was no distinguishable “supernatural” cause or motive as to why Toppan committed her crimes. She enjoyed watching them die and likely did not expect to get caught.
  • Genetics may have played a part seeing as her father acted out, though he did not commit murders, he was abusive and considered mad.
  • Those of whom Toppan was surrounded by may have also been a factor. She had been comparing herself to her idyllic foster sister causing her to become extensively frustrated, and she may have learned the negative behaviors from her father- she did not see the murders as wrong.
  • Toppan's behavior was not the result of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). She believed she was doing many of her victims a favor because they were old and going to die anyway and seemed to care for some of them. She did not behave impulsively, as she was a successful nurse who did not get caught for her actions for several years. Her only other known criminal behavior was suspected petty theft.
  • Jane may have just been psychologically unstable considering her tough childhood and history of mental instability in the family.

Capture, Verdict, and Death

  • Jane Toppan was eventually captured after killing the Davis family, who were family friends to the Toppans. She killed them as they entered her house. One of the remaining family members ordered a toxicology report after they were discovered dead, leading to her conclusion that they were poisoned. Toppan was arrested shortly after.
  • Her primary times of murders ranged from 1885 to her capture in 1901.
  • Jane Toppan was found not guilty by reasons of insanity. This was determined based primarily on her multiple suicide attempts. She was sentenced to a life in an asylum, where she died of old age at 84 years old.
  • After she was discovered for her murders, she became known as “The Angel of Death.”