Windsor Murder Factory – Windsor, Connecticut - Atlas Obscura
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Windsor, Connecticut

Windsor Murder Factory

The historic home of a female serial killer whose story inspired the Broadway hit "Arsenic and Old Lace." 

You wouldn’t think this Connecticut home, with its irregular brickwork and idyllic suburban surroundings, would be the historic home of a serial killer—much less a female serial killer—but that’s exactly what it is.

Even back in 1916, this house was the dictionary picture of respectability. The Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm seemed like an ordinary charitable business. Amy Archer-Gilligan was a woman like any other; twice widowed, a fixture in the community, and doing her Christian duty by tending to people in their dotage who could not take care of themselves.

Then one day, a man in her care, Franklin Andrews, collapsed while gardening outside and died that same night. His siblings, knowing he was a man in fine health, were suspicious. They read one of his letters and learned Archer-Gilligan had extracted a $500 loan from him shortly before his death.

Andrews’ siblings took their findings to the local district attorney, who showed little interest. The Hartford Courant, however, was very interested.

They dug deeper and realized in the nine years Archer-Gilligan had been running her business, some 60 people had died while in her care, most in the latter five. This had happened after they’d either given her large loans or signed over insurance policies. They also learned both of her husbands had died of apparent natural causes not long into their marriages, leaving Archer-Gilligan with much financial security. To top it all off, she’d been buying unusually large quantities of arsenic from the local hardware store for a “rat problem.” She sometimes even sent her patients to fetch it.

The Courant ran numerous articles about Windsor’s “Murder Factory,” which finally got the police motivated enough to investigate.

The ensuing investigation took a year to complete. During that time, a dozen of Archer-Gilligan’s victims were exhumed, including her second husband. Arsenic was found in all of their systems. Archer-Gilligan’s trial lasted for four weeks, but it only took the jury four hours to convict her. She was sentenced to death, but was later declared insane and sent to a mental hospital in Middletown, where she died in 1962.

In the time following her conviction, which garnered widespread media attention, Joseph Kesselring, a New York playwright, adapted the shocking murder story into a comedic play called Arsenic and Old Lace. The play was a Broadway phenomenon and was adapted for the silver screen by Frank Capra.

Know Before You Go

The house is still a private residence, though Archer-Gilligan's surviving family have long since abandoned it. Photography is permitted, but one should use all proper decorum when visiting.