Nannie Doss – The Giggling Granny

Nannie Doss was a notorious black widow murderess, dubbed the Giggling Granny by the press because of her habit of laughing merrily while discussing her crimes. She was born near Blue Mountain, Alabama and was one of five children.  She suffered an abusive, unhappy childhood with a domineering, cruel father. Nannie never learned to read well, and her education was erratic due to her father pulling her out of school to work on the family farm. Her favourite hobby was reading her mother’s romance books and dreaming of a romantic future of her own. Eventually Nannie would become obsessed in her quest for the perfect husband and romance.  Her teenage years however were restricted by her father who refused to let Nannie wear makeup or attractive clothing. He claimed he was trying to keep his daughter from being molested by men, which happened often.  It wouldn’t at all surprise me if Nannie’s father was one of them. Watch Fall from Grace

Nannie would eventually marry five times by advertising for a husband in lonely hearts ads. She failed to find her prince and instead married abusive, philandering drunks. Her first marriage took place at the tender age of 16 to Charles Braggs. Charles’ mother “took over” Nannie’s life and wouldn’t allow her to do things she wanted to do.  Nannie had four daughters with Charles and, stressed by the harsh, lonely reality of her marriage, she began drinking and became addicted to a heavy smoking habit. Both Nannie and Charles were unfaithful to each other. When two of their daughters and his mother died, Charles took the eldest child, Melvina, with him and fled, leaving an infant girl named Florine behind with Nannie. Lucky for Charles, by the time he returned with Melvina, Nannie had lost interest in him. They divorced and Nannie returned to her mother’s home with Melvina and Florine.

Nannie continued reading true romance novels and pouring over lonely hearts columns. She found 23-year-old Robert Harrelson and they married when she was 24. Despite the fact that Robert was an alcoholic and had a criminal record for assault, the marriage lasted for 16 years. Melvina eventually birthed a son named Robert and eventually a daughter. Within hours of the birth, Nannie told Melvina the baby was dead. Melvina was certain she saw her mother stick a hatpin into the baby’s head. Melvina returned to visit her father after a nasty fight with Nannie. Somehow Robert died in her care and the death was ruled as due to asphxia from  unknown causes.

At the end of the second world war, Nannie’s husband became decidedly drunk and raped her. That was one step too far for Nannie and her husband died a painful death by poison later that night. Nannie wasn’t the mourning type. In no time she met Arly Lanning and married him 3 days after they met through a lonely hearts column.  That shouldn’t raise any eyebrows by now, considering we know what is in store for the unfortunate Arly. Like her previous husbands Arly was an alcoholic and a philanderer. Eventually Nannie sought her revenge by poisoning Arly although the ruling stated he’d died of heart failure.  Nannie burned Arly’s house to the ground, since it was willed to his sister. Instead, Nannie received Arly’s insurance money and not long after she poisoned Arly’s mother. When Nannie arrived at her sister Dovie’s home she found her sister bedridden. While in Nannie’s care, Dovie died. Read Nannie Doss

Nannie’s fourth husband was not a drunk but he was a philanderer. Interesting how Nannie always seemed to attract these wayward types even as she devoured true romance books.  When Nannie’s mother moved in with them Nannie poisoned her mother then poisoned her fourth husband three months later. Nannie’s fifth and final husband, Samuel Doss disapproved of Nannie’s romance novels and sealed his own fate. Within months of marriage to Nannie, Samuel was admitted to hospital with flu-like syptoms.He was treated and released on October 5 and Nannie killed him that same night. Samuel’s doctor was immediately suspicious and he ordered an autopsy which revealed an enormous amount of arsenic.  Finally Nannie was arrested. She was found mentally fit (if very jolly) for trial and on May 17 1955, Nannie was sentenced to life in prison. Nannie was never charged with any of the other deaths.

Nannie insisted she didn’t murder for profit and that her husbands’ life insurance pay-outs were barely enough to cover funeral expenses. Nannie certainly did live with one foot in a dream world. Her motive was to find the perfect mate to love her, “the real romance of life.” However Nannie’s quest didn’t explain her poisoning two of her own children, a grandchild, two sisters, a mother-in-law, and her mother.  She died in prison from lukemia in 1965. It makes you wonder whether or not she had that nasty, poisonous chemotherapy. There’s black widows and then there’s Nannie Doss….

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