Anna Marie Hahn: The Sweet-Faced Serial Killer Known As “Arsenic Annie”

Anna Marie Hahn [Wikipedia]

COLUMBUS, OH — On December 7, 1938, Anna Marie Hahn took her seat on Ohio’s electric chair. The 32-year-old German immigrant had been convicted of fatally poisoning at least four elderly gentlemen for whom she had been hired to care.

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When faced with “Old Sparky” inside the Ohio Penitentiary, Hahn did not go quietly. Upon entering the death chamber, she passed out. Staffers strapped her, unconscious, into the electric chair and revived her with a blast of ammonia.

When she came to, Hahn begged for mercy, reportedly wailing:

“Don’t do this to me! Oh, no, no, no! Warden Woodard, don’t let them do this to me! Please don’t! Oh, my boy. Think of my boy! Won’t someone, won’t anyone, come and do something for me? Isn’t there anybody to help me? Anyone? Anyone? Is nobody going to help me?”

Nobody helped her. The state then carried out the execution of Anna Marie Hahn, an unlikely-seeming “angel of death” who had come to be known as “Arsenic Annie” or “The Blonde Borgia.”

Now Hahn would forever after be the first female serial killer in America to get the chair, as well as the first female, period, to go that way in Ohio.

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Born to a Bavarian family of 14 in 1906, Anna Marie Filsner scandalized her parents by getting pregnant out of wedlock. They promptly shipped Anna off to America, where she stayed with relatives in Cincinnati before meeting fellow German transplant Philip Hahn. The couple married in 1930 and raised Anna’s son Oskar as their own.

Anna’s robust good lucks and sunny disposition belied a severe gambling addiction. In the early 1930s, while working as a caregiver for the elderly, Hahn routinely stole from them to finance her stakes and pay off debts.

As Hahn’s gaming habit grew, so did her need for more money than she could simply pocket while going about her nursing and companion duties. That’s when she turned to arsenic.

The Salem News – December 6, 1938 [front cover image]

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It’s believed Ernest Kohler, who died on May 6, 1933, was Hahn’s first victim. After Hahn served him meals spiked with poison, his will stipulated that she inherit his pricey and profitable Cincinnati boarding house.

After that, Hahn laid low until 1937, when she embarked on an all-out slaughter spree. First, 72-year-old Albert Parker reportedly lent Hahn $1,000, but upon his expiring early that year, no one could find any record of the loan.

On June 3, Jacob Wagner, 78, went next. He bequeathed $17,000 cash to his “beloved niece Anna.” George Gsellman followed suit on July 6. He left Hahn a cool $15,000.

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Less than a month later, Hahn and her 12-year-old son Oskar traveled by train to Colorado with Georg Obendoerfer, 70, her latest fading employer.

On August 1, according to a police report, Obendoerfer “died in agony just after Mrs. Hahn had bent over his deathbed inquiring his name, professing she did not know the man.”

Shortly thereafter, Hahn attempted to withdraw funds from a local branch of Obendoerfer’s bank using his Cincinnati passbook.

An autopsy on Obendoerfer, conducted while Anna grabbed Oskar and hightailed it back to Cincinnati, turned up massive levels of arsenic in his system. The local police notified the Cincinnati Police Chief Patrick Hayes, who greeted Hahn with some questions on his mind.

Sunday Times Signal Magazine – December 26, 1938 [front cover image]

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During her interview, Hahn reportedly told Chief Hayes, “I love to make old people comfy!”

When it became clear she was under suspicion for the deaths she chalked up to “dysentery or something like that,” Hahn reportedly erupted in tears and said, “I have been like an angel of mercy to them! The last thing that would ever enter my head would be to harm those dear old gentlemen!”

Chief Hayes countered by informing her, “We searched your place Mrs. Hahn, and we found enough poison to kill half of Cincinnati.”

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Philip Hahn, Anna’s husband, cooperated with the investigation. He said she had stolen prescription pads from doctors she worked for and used them to obtain poison. Philip also said Anna twice tried to take out hefty life insurance policies on him, but he had luckily refused.

After Anna’s previous three clients were exhumed and found to be arsenic-riddled, she was charged with four counts of first-degree murder. At her trial, even little Oskar testified against his mom.

The press ran wild with the scandalous details that emerged about the “Blonde Borgia.” Upon being sentenced to death, Hahn told reporters, “I guess I’m not much like a ‘beautiful blonde’ now, huh? Well, give me a good write-up when it’s all over.”

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Just prior to her screaming death, Anna Marie Hahn wrote two letters in which she confessed to all the murders and asked for forgiveness and for people to look after Oskar.

The day after Hahn’s execution, The Cincinnati Enquirer, perhaps honoring the condemned killer’s final wish regarding a “good write-up,” published her letters in full.

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Read more:
Annals of Crime
The Pittsburgh Press
The Daily Times

Main photo: Anna Marie Hahn [Wikipedia]



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