• Rod Kackley

Arsenic Anna: First Woman To Die In Ohio’s Electric Chair

Anna Hahn’s family was scandalized by her pregnancy. She blamed the child on an affair with a doctor in Vienna. But the name she gave her family didn’t match any physician working in or near the Austrian city.

This was 1929.

She ran. Only twenty-two, Anna made her way to America. Relatives in Cincinnati, Ohio took her in, and before long, Anna had another man. This guy was a German immigrant just like her. They married in 1930.

Anna and her husband, Philip, had a normal existence, running two bakeries in Cincinnati. So, their life was more than average, it was successful. At least it was until Philip was stricken with a mysterious illness.

Anna said he’d be okay at home under her care, but Philip’s mother convinced him to go to the hospital. That saved Philip’s life.

But there was no saving their marriage because Anna was bored. She took her son, little Oskar, and split.

No longer did she have to rise hours before dawn to make the doughnuts. Anna’s life was her own.

All she had to do was figure out a way to make a living. Actually, Anna needed to do more than just put food on the table for herself and Oskar. This lady loved to gamble.

What was she going to do?

Still pretty, and a real charmer, Anna fell into a gold mine.

She started caring for elderly men.

Ten different men. All of whom died in five years.

The first to go was Ernest Koch. He hadn’t been sick a day in his life until he met Anna.

Then Albert Parker died, followed by Jacob Wagner, who had willed $17,000 to his “niece” Anna. George Gsellman was next. Anna soaked him for $15,000 before a hearse transported his body to its final resting place.

There were more, six more.

Then, there was George Heiss.

All was going well with George and his beautiful blonde nurse until Anna brought him a root beer.

George was resting comfortably enough when he reached for the drink on his bed stand and noticed every fly that landed in the root beer died.

Flies were dropping like, well, flies.

George fired Anna but never called the cops. He figured she’d just given him some lousy root beer.

That was too bad for George Obendoerfer. He hired Anna, and they went to Colorado together in 1937.

After George gave Anna a check for $5,000, he died in a hotel room.

Anna offered to help pay for the funeral, which, for some reason, set off alarm bells in the Cincinnati police department. An autopsy was ordered.

Guess what, George Obendoerfer’s body was filled with arsenic.

Yes, Anna had poisoned him, and other others.

When Anna was arrested, Cincinnati detectives say they found enough “poison to kill half of Cincinnati in her home.

Anna pled “not guilty” at her trial, but it didn’t go her way. Anna was convicted of murder and would soon become the first woman executed in Ohio.

On December 7, 1938, Anna, who was dubbed the “Female Bluebeard” by one of the local papers — “The Blonde Borgia” and “Arsenic Anna” by others — was strapped into an electric chair. Electrodes were fastened to her head and leg. Her eyes were taped shut, so no one would have to see her eyeballs pop out or melt.

She recited the Lord’s Prayer. Just as she finished, the switch was thrown, and electricity ripped through Anna’s body.

Her muscles spasmed. She wanted to scream, but couldn’t because of the mask holding her jaw so tightly Anna couldn’t make a sound.

After she died, her attorney handed over letters in which Anna had confessed to all of her crimes.

She had confessed. Her attorneys sold the letters to the Cincinnati Enquirer for publication. The money was wired to Anna’s son, Oskar, to pay for his education.

Oskar lived as ordinary a life as possible, considering what kind of a mother he’d had. He was taken in by a foster care family and served in the Navy during World War II.

For more stories like this, click here and start reading, "Murder's Always Murder: Shocking True Crime Stories.

And, a quick word of thanks to Giles Brown of Talk Radio Europe for talking with me about the book "The Murder of Kelsey Berreth: A Shocking True Crime Story."

Click or tap here to listen.