Palmer's plan was embarrassingly straightforward. He began taking out bloated insurance policies on his various relatives and acquaintances, and then slowly poisoning them to death to collect the money. All told, he is believed to have killed around 15 people, including his wife, mother-in-law, and so many of his children we're amazed he was a real person and not a character in a Roald Dahl novel.
Eventually, the insurance companies (not the police) began to wise up to the fact that everyone Palmer took a premium on had a tendency to drop dead, and after his brother died, they refused to pay. Undeterred, Palmer switched targets to his pal John Cook, who actually survived Palmer's first murderous attempt. Despite literally telling people, "I believe that damn Palmer has been dosing me," Cook continued to hang out with Palmer until the doctor succeeded in poisoning him with a bowl of soup. Palmer was so bad at clandestine murder he was like a lazily written episode of Law & Order.
But an unusually riveting episode of Iron Chef.
The police finally decided enough was enough, and Palmer was arrested and subsequently hanged for the ridiculously brazen killings. The mad doctor had become so infamous that the people of Rugeley were concerned their town would always be associated with him, so they approached the prime minister to request they be allowed to change the town's name. The prime minister agreed, on the condition that they rename the town after him. Unfortunately, the PM's name happened to be Lord Palmerston, so the townspeople wisely decided to stick with Rugeley.
Matthew Hopkins: The Witch-Finder General Killed Over 200 Women
England in the 17th century was a place in which being accused of witchcraft was a legitimate concern, sort of like getting into an accident with an uninsured motorist today. However, there were some who heroically managed to profit from this whole situation, such as Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed "Witch-Finder General" who made his living ridding afflicted communities of their various witch problems. He was the old-timey equivalent of a Ghostbuster, if the Ghostbusters were less concerned with busting ghosts and more concerned with feeding innocent women to hysterical mobs for money.
Johann Jakob Wick
"There is no Dana, only fuel."
Hopkins would travel around from village to village, helpfully pointing out any possible witches in their midst. This included any persons exhibiting suspicious behavior, such as owning a cat or being a woman. Hopkins would then charge the villagers a small fee to have the witch removed before she could turn them all into toads or whatever the fuck these people thought was going to happen to them.
To determine whether or not an accused person was indeed a witch, Hopkins would subject them to a series of brutal "interrogations," including sticking them full of holes, making them walk around until their feet bled, and dunking them underwater to see if they would drown. Hopkins would then draw some vague conclusion from all that torture that allegedly proved the victim's witch-hood, and charge the villagers a ludicrous fee for the privilege of murdering one of their neighbors and/or family members for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
"Told you not to look at my husband, bi- uh, witch."
It's estimated that before his death in 1647, Hopkins executed over 230 "witches," more than all other witch hunters of the time combined. Considering the fact that witches aren't real, this essentially makes Hopkins the most prolific serial murderer in the history of the world. Now if you want to keep yourself up at night, consider this question: is it possible for a person to do what Hopkins did without knowing the witch thing was complete bullshit?
For more terrors that really existed, check out 5 Horrific Serial Killers (Who Are Free Right Now) and 6 Real Serial Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie.
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