Who was Nannie Doss aka The Giggling Nanny?

Nannie Doss was born on November 4, 1905 in Alalbama, under the name Nancy Hazel. Not so much is known about her childhood, but she did dislike her father. It looks like her father used to make her and her three sisters and one brother to work on the farm rather than go to school. he also forbade the girls to ever dress in a provocative way or to even wear makeup or even participate in social events.

But Nannie did love to read her mother’s romance magazines. She started imagining her own love fairy tale.

When she was around 7 years old, she had an accident. She hit her head in the metal bar in front of her seat in the train she was traveling, when the train suddenly stopped. She started developing headaches and depression.

How it all began

When she was 16 years old, Nannie was dating Charley Braggs, a coworker at the linen factory, for about 4 or 5 months when they decided to get married. Nannie’s father approved of the marriage so she moved in with her new husband and his mother. But life as a married woman wasn’t as expected. She said her mother in law was over protective with her husband and very strict with her. Nannie and Charley had four children together, but the couple was often engaging in infidelity.

“I married, as my father wished, in 1921 to a boy I only knowed about four or five months who had no family, only a mother who was unwed and who had taken over my life completely when we were married. She never seen anything wrong with what he done, but she would take spells. She would not let my own mother stay all night”

The first suspicious deaths

In 1927, two of their children, the two middle ones, died of “food poisoning”. Charley, soon after the death of the children, took the oldest daughter, Melvina, and left the house.  His mother died not long after that.

In 1928 however, Charley returned with the daughter, Nannie taking both of her children and moved to her mother’s house. Much later on, Charley Braggs said that the reason why he left was because he was afraid of her. A bit strange leaving your youngest with the woman you are afraid of, right?

The second marriage

Being divorced from Charley Braggs, Nannie was now a free woman again, ready to start her promised love story. So in 1929, Nannie married again, this time to Frank Harrelson. and  they lived together in Jacksonville with Melvina and Florine. She was 24 years old and her second marriage proved to be with an alcoholic man. But the marriage still lasted 16 years.

Time passed and Melvina, the oldest daughter, gave birth to a boy in 1943. His name was Robert Lee Haynes. Two years later she gave birth to another boy. But the youngest died soon after during a visit from Nannie. She was holding the baby when she said he is dead. Melvina thought to have seen her mother stick a hat pin into the baby’s head. Doctors couldn’t determine the cause of death.

Melvina and her husband drifted apart and apparently had fights with her mother. During one of these fights she left the house to visit her dad. While away, her first born, Robert Lee had passed away. Reason of death was asphyxia from unknown causes.

Nanny Doss

The first dead husband

After a long night of drinking and celebration, Frank as drunk as he was, wanted his wife to perform her “duty” as woman and go to bed with him. But Nannie refused.  The next day, Nannie topped Frank’s whiskey jar with rat poison. Needless to say, Frank suffered a painful death.

Third marriage

His name was Arlie Lanning and they have met through a “lonely hearts column” in the paper. Arlie was an alcoholic too, as well as a womanizer. But Nannie wasn’t a saint herself. Apparently she used to disappear for weeks and while at home she behaved like the perfect wife. Arlie died of what was believed to be heart failure at that time.

Because that wasn’t bad enough, the house they lived in burned down, Nannie cashing the insurance soon after. Her mother-in-law died in her sleep and Nannie decided to leave the area and go live with her sister who was sick and was confined to bed. But soon after moving in with her, her sister died.

Fourth marriage

It looked like Nannie kept failing finding the perfect husband and people keep dying around her. But this didn’t stop Nannie to look for another husband. She had met Richard L. Morton of Emporia, Kansas. Richard wasn’t an alcoholic, but he was a womanizer. Nannie’s mother moves in with them, but she dies soon after, in January 1953. Just a couple of months after that, yes you guessed it, her husband dies as well.

Fifth marriage. And the last one

In June 1953, Nannie marries Samuel Doss, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a religious man and disapproved of some thing Nannie likes, like her romance magazines. Not long into their marriage, Samuel ends up dead.

But because he was recently released from the hospital, his doctor decided to ask for an autopsy and see what could have caused his sudden death. What the autopsy results revealed, led police to step in.

The arrest

The autopsy of her late husband revealed huge arsenic levels in his body. Police were alerted and Nannie got arrested.

During police interrogation, Nannie was smiling and giggling, not showing any signs of guilt or fear. She kept saying the her conscience is clear. But the news of her arrest spread and it didn’t take long until people started calling the police and tipping them about Nannie and all the suspect deaths around her.

Nannie Doss The Giggling Nanny

When police confronted her with evidence, Nannie admitted she had poisoned her last husband because he never let her do anything and he forbade her to even own a radio or fan in the house.

The confessions

At this point, police was suspecting Nannie of a couple of murders, but couldn’t prove them all so they needed her admissions. Pressing her with questions, nannie started confession one crime at a time. After each confession she said “Now my conscience is clear”. She confessed killing all her husbands except the first one, but she stopped there. Though autopsy sowed signs of possible poison on some of the other victims, she never confessed any of them.

Nannie Doss

The trial

Despite being a serial killer, Nannie enjoyed her “fame”. She kept giggling and smiling during her trial, even making jokes about the recipes she used to cook and poison.

The jury didn’t find amusing so on May 17, 1955, Nannie now being 50 years old, confessed killing Samuel Doss, her last husband in return of a life sentence. In 1963, Nannie Doss died in prison.

She was never prosecuted for the other murders, but many believe she was responsible for at least 11 deaths.