Sunday, January 30, 2011

Amy Duggan Archer-Gilligan and Her Murder Factory

Who was Amy Duggan Archer Gilligan and what did she do that was so wrong? Amy was born in Litchfield, CT in 1873 to the parents of James and Mary Duggan. There are no other records about Amy until 1890 when she attended Britain Normal School and then blank again until 1896 when she married her first husband, and victim, James Archer (Reynolds, Somerville, & Stevens). In 1901 her story begins when she and her husband found employment as in-home caretakers for John Seymore. Sadly, Seymore died in 1904. However, the lovely couple continued to live in Seymore's home after his death and raised money by caring for elderly boarders. Sadly, in 1907, Seymore's relatives decided to sell the house, forcing Amy and her husband to move elsewhere. They bought a brick house and opened their own elderly care home which they called the Archer Home for Aged People. In 1910, Amy's husband passed away due to kidney failure which originated from an unknown origin (Bovsun, 2010).

And here is where the story gets good. Soon enough, Amy snatched up her second husband, and victim, Micheal Gilligan. They married in 1913 and after only three months of marriage, Gilligan passed away. The cause: severe indigestion. Soon enough, the Archer Home for Aged People grew into a death sentence for any elderly person to walk through the door and sign up for the payment plan. Amy had two types of payment plans for her guests. The first option was to pay on a weekly basis. The second was to pay a single flat fee of $1000 and in exchange, the lovely Amy would care for you as long as you continued to breathe. Sadly, this didn't last long in the Archer house. Those who chose the second method of payment would pass away before they even unpacked their suitcase (Bovsun, 2010).

Within a few more years, suspicions started to rise and everyone was starting to wonder what was really going on behind those brick walls. Since the start of the nursing home in 1907, there had been an astonishing sixty deaths, fourty-eight occurring since 1911. However, Amy wouldn't be in business for much longer. When a man named Franklin Andrews passed away after being in Amy's care, his sister, Nellie Pierce was the first to act. Nellie didn't buy the fact that one day her brother was cheerfully working the Archer's home garden and dead the very next. Nellie went to the district attorney, and when they wouldn't listen, she went to the papers. Soon, there was enough suspicion for the police to act. The investigation lasted seven months (Bovsun, 2010).

Two years after his death, Franklin's body was recovered and an autopsy was preformed. Sure enough, he had not died how Amy said. Found in the autopsy was arsenic, almost enough to kill seven men. After this the police recovered Amy's second husband. Once again, arsenic poisoning was the cause of death. Soon enough, everyone was stepping forward, providing pieces of a very big puzzle. Local merchants told police that Amy had purchased huge amounts of arsenic to kill "rats" (Bovsun, 2010).

Amy's trial took play on June 18, 1917. She was convicted of murder and was sentenced to be hanged. However, the verdict was soon reversed due to a technicality. During the second trial, Amy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in jail. She was sent to the state prison, then to Wethersfield Cove, a prison that normally only housed men. Soon, Amy was declared insane and spent the last years of her life at a state mental hospital in Middletown. She died there in 1962 at the age of 89, outliving almost everyone who had been involved in her case. However, the legend of Amy Gilligan and her Murder Factory still stands strong. To this day there are plays, movies, and books about this woman and all the people she murdered behind those brick walls (Ryan, 1997).


Bovsun, M., (2010, January 17). The crime story behind classic comedy, 'arsenic and old lace'. Retrieved from

Reynolds, S., Somerville, M., & Stevens, A., (n.d.). Amy archer-gilligan "sister". Retrieved from,%20Amy.pdf

Ryan, B., (1997, March 2). Whatever went wrong with amy? New York Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment