Meet the first female serial killer in U.S. history: Lavinia Fisher
Men have caused the majority of homicides in the U.S. throughout history, and as such, women are less likely to be revealed as serial killers. However, dozens of female serial killers do exist, proving women can take on such a deadly role. The most notorious female serial killer in the U.S. may be the first: Lavinia Fisher.
Lavinia Fisher is the first known serial killer in U.S. history, and much of the record of her life as a murderer is wrapped up in legend. This uncertainty still happens with many female serial killers today.
The spotty details of Fisher’s account leads history buffs to call her either an accomplice to petty crimes gone wrong, or a devil with a thirst for bloodshed. To learn more about Lavinia Fisher, we must scroll back through time to the early 1800s in the newly independent U.S. in South Carolina.
Lavinia Fisher lived with her husband John, and the two owned & operated an inn called the Six Mile Wayfarer House just outside Charleston until their deaths in 1820. During the inn’s heyday, men began mysteriously disappearing in the area. Before long, it became widespread knowledge that these missing men were all last seen checking into the couple’s business.
History can warp & evolve over time, making it unclear exactly what went down at the Six Mile Wayfarer, but legend says the inn was a house of horrors far more frightening than the dingiest of Airbnbs.
Surviving paintings of Lavinia Fisher show us she was a beauty capable of catching the eyes of male suitors, and she’s known to have used this influence to rob & kill her guests. Some allege she brought seemingly wealthy men poisoned tea before bed, while others believe she rigged their beds to collapse, plummeting them to a bed of spikes below.
Spikes or no, this legend of the collapsing bed is consistent through various studies of Lavinia Fisher, resulting in her and her husband’s arrests. Their final days occurred soon after they let in their final guest.
As disappearances mounted, local vigilantes became suspicious of the couple and they raided the inn in February 1819, but found no evidence of their victims. Soon after, a traveler by the name of John Peeples stumbled upon their inn and decided to stay, but didn’t buy everything else Lavinia Fisher was trying to sell him.
Peeples found Lavinia’s intense interest in his occupation unsettling and found that her husband was looking at him sideways upon his introduction to the inn. He turned her tea down and decided to sit by his room’s door after nightfall, making sure the two were staying out of trouble before going to sleep.
Before long, Peeples dozed off and awakened to the sound of his bed falling through a hole in the floor. Terrified, Peeples is said to have jumped out of the window before fleeing to authorities, who now had proof to throw Lavinia Fisher and her husband in the slammer to await trial.
End of the line
Lavinia Fisher and her husband were charged with highway robbery, and legend has it that upon searching the inn, authorities discovered safekeeps of the missing men, as well as multiple skeletons on the premises. The two, despite claiming innocence, were sentenced to hang.
With so much of the history of Lavinia Fisher tied in hearsay, we must go by the facts to see how bloodthirsty the killer was. Fisher’s final statement concretely proved her evil intent, saying this before she dropped from the gallows: “If any of you have a message for the devil, speak now – I shall be seeing him soon.”