Psychiatric hospitals proliferated in the U.S. in the 1800s, and
These poetry loving, smooth-talking ladies’ men would have got away with their shocking crimes had it not been for WW1 and one victim’s suspicious father.
Kiss was a handsome man, considered his town’s most eligible bachelor. A lover of poetry, he wooed many attractive women. To the town’s horror, while he was serving in WW1, his landlord found 24 women pickled in giant metal drums in his house. They were strangled and their bodies drained of blood. The landlady showed the police to a secret room. It held books on poison and strangulation, and letters from 74 women he had seduced with promises of marriage. They found clothing with the initials K.V, M.T, and Julianne Paschak. Katherine Varga had sold her dressmaking business in Budapest to marry and had disappeared, Julianne Paschak had sued Kiss for reneging on a promise to marry her, then disappeared. Margaret Toth had introduced Kiss to her mother, then gone to see him and disappeared. A manhunt to track him began and the press called him a vampire. The military were told to arrest him, but Béla and Kiss were common Hungarian names. After a botched attempted to capture him in a hospital, he fled and was never caught, despite sightings in Budapest, Romania, Turkey, New York and the Foreign Legion.
George Oliver Love, alias George Joseph Smith, had much in common with Mr. Kiss. In his infamous “Brides in the Bath” murders, he seduced, bigamously married and murdered Beatrice Mundy, Alice Burnham, and Margaret Lofty. Like Kiss, he claimed to be a lover of poetry and the fine arts, and like Kiss, was known as a ladies man. An early victim said of him: “he had an extraordinary power over women. This power lay in his eyes. When he looked at you for a minute or two you had the feeling that you were being magnetized. They were little eyes that seemed to rob you of your will.” Love, nicknamed “The Bluebeard of the Bath” also seduced lonely ladies to marry and murder them for their wealth. As his crimes occurred across the country, he was only caught through coincidence. Burnham’s father read a newspaper report about Margaret Lofty’s death and contacted the police. Love/Smith was arrested, and his further crimes uncovered. However, the victim’s bodies showed no sign of force and so police could not work out how he had drowned them. The media and his own barrister speculated that he had hypnotized them. Unrepentant to the end, he was hanged in prison in August 1915.