J. Edgar Hoover’s 50-Year Career of Blackmail, Entrapment, and Taking Down Communist Spies

The horror occurred in a rustic farming enclave in 1920s Hungary. Investigators would discover that a murder ring of women was responsible for the deaths of at least 160 men. It was an unlikely lineup of killers—village wives, mothers, and daughters. At the center of it all was a sharp-minded village midwife, a “smiling Buddha” known as Auntie Suzy, who distilled arsenic from flypaper and distributed it to the women of Nagyrév. “Why are you bothering with him?” Auntie Suzy would ask, as she produced an arsenic-filled vial from her apron pocket. In the beginning, a great many used the deadly solution to finally be free of cruel and abusive spouses. But as the number of dead bodies grew without consequence, the killers grew bolder. With each vial of poison emptied, a new reason surfaced to drain yet another. Some women disposed of sickly relatives. Some used arsenic as “inheritance powder” to secure land and houses. For more than fifteen years, the unlikely murderers aided death unfettered and tended to it as if it were simply another chore—spooning doses of arsenic into soup and wine, stirring it into coffee and brandy. By the time their crimes were discovered, hundreds were feared dead. Todays guest is Patti McCracken, author of “The Angel Makers: Arsenic, a Midwife, and Modern History’s Most Astonishing Murder Ring.” We explore whether these murders were of a very particular time and place, or if they could happen anywhere if the right conditions emerge.

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