The Speculum | Part I: The Angelmakers


Hello all who are interested in The Speculum!

I started The Speculum in the hope of writing about something new and interesting with each post. I have always had an interest in the unordinary and found myself comfortable learning about strange topics; I grew up reading mystery series like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, which led me to an interest in crime. I use crime podcasts, mystery blogs, and historical writings for inspiration in my work and highlight topics that are intriguing through a close lens. I want to remain versatile with my writing and plan to keep a broad variety of content and topic choices. 

As someone invested in searching for mystery and the unknown, I’ve come across plenty of horrific and bizarre cases, but few compare to the knowledge I’ve gained about angels of death. When searching for information on unusual occurrences in history, I often look for cold cases or cases solved decades later because the idea that the perpetrators elude the law for so long fascinates me. Angels of death seem to elude the law because of their closeness to the victims. One case in particular that has interested me for so long is The Angel makers of Nagyrév, a story about angels of death and the law’s incapability of charge for so long. 

In 1911, a midwife by the name of Zsuzsanna Fazekas moved into the small town of Nagyrév, Hungary after her husband mysteriously disappeared.1 At the time most young girls were forced into arranged marriages where they would be treated as a laborer for the household and to produce children for hardworking men—many of whom were alcoholics and or abusive in their relationships. During World War I the majority of men in  Nagyrév were sent to fight for Austria-Hungary and Nagyrév became a site to keep allied war criminals. The women of the town began having affairs with these war criminals as they wanted romance and sexual freedom.  Upon the return of the abusive husbands many wanted to resume their arrangements with their wives and ignored the affairs although it led to abuse.

This was the beginning of common hatred amongst these women, and what ultimately lead them to take action as Fazekas recommended…

Fazekas, who was arrested on and off for performing illegal abortions, contrived an interesting way of dealing with these men. When a woman named Susi Olah came to the midwife’s home in the middle of the night to receive treatment for the wounds inflicted by her husband, Fazekas showed her how she boiled flypaper to make a concoction of arsenic water to kill her husband. Two days later, the client’s husband’s funeral took place.2

This was the beginning of an epidemic of murder that plagued Nagyrév for decades. As women caught on to the use of Fazekas’s arsenic water, many began killing off their abusive husbands. The poisoning became so popular that women began killing off parents for money and children that were burdens. Over the next decade or so an estimated 45-50 murders were the result of Fazekas. Due to Fazekas being the closest thing to a doctor in town, the deaths were not linked to any toxicology reports and many were deemed heart failure without cause. This surprised me because of the blatant disregard of how troubling it was that so many people were dying suddenly. The locals were definitely suspicious and named Nagyrév the “Murder District,” which became in itself a mystery that eluded the police for 15 years.3

In 1929 a medical student from another town examined a body pulled from the river and found high levels of arsenic. This convinced officials to exhume two other bodies to examine for arsenic. No one at the time was arrested, however; the killings only really stopped when a woman by the name of Ms. Szabo was caught poisoning some wine and was brought in for questioning. Szabo told the truth about murdering her own mother and about the midwife Fazekas and her poisoning business. When Fazekas was brought in for questioning she denied it and was able to return home. She then proceeded to visit everyone involved to tell them to stop all while being tailed by the police. Roughly 38 people were arrested that day and many more in the future. Out of the arrests eight were sentenced to death and it is unknown whether or not Fazekas was sentenced with Capital punishment. There are an estimated 300 deaths over the 15 years The Angel makers had been in business. This event was not only an epidemic of murder but a moment in time where a large group of people successfully maintained a murderous business while avoiding the law. Whatever strange notion has  possessed these women to kill so many family members has been ruled as unknown. 

 For more information see the 2005 Documentary “The Angel Makers.”

  1. Ramsland, Katherine. “Murder by Proxy.” Murderpedia. Accessed Oct 1, 2020.
  2. “Angel Makers of Nagyrév.” Wikipedia. Accessed Oct 5, 2020.
  3. Episode 224: What’s in Your Pants? My Favorite Murder. Accessed Oct 1, 2020.

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