Divorce Through Death – Poisoness Giulia Tofana by Ye Olde Crime

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Show Notes

Lindsay and Madison discuss the prolific poisoness Giulia Tofana, as well as why it’s important to vet your clients, that snitches get stitches (or nooses, hard to say), and how ancient make-up was basically designed to kill you at the same time it made you look pretty.

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Welcome to True Crime by Indie Drop-In. Each week, we feature an episode from the best independent creators hit subscribe for more great, true crime content. If you would like to help Indie Drop-In support indie creators, you can buy us a coffee. Just go to https://buymeacoffee.com/indiedropin or click the link in the show notes below today’s episode is from Ye Olde Crime. Don’t forget to check out the show notes for links to subscribe and follow us on social media. Enjoy the show begin.

Welcome to Ye Olde Crime, where we discuss the funny, strange and obscure crimes of yesteryear. I am your host Lindsay Valenty, and with me is my sister and cohost Maddie Stangl. Hello. Good morning. Come on in. Smudge is aggressively rubbing against a box. I’m interpreting as good morning as well.

(1m 12s):
Good morning to you smudge. Yeah, we are once again, recording early in the morning as I have lots of fun holiday things that I have to do this afternoon. I don’t have any plans to go back to bed with my golden retriever. Speaking of Willie, by this time, the sale has ended and I wanted to thank everybody who took part in purchasing the limited edition Willie March to benefit can-do canines. Once I have the final numbers of the money, reweight the money we raised speaking as hard this morning.

(1m 52s):
I will share that. So thank you to everyone who purchased Billy’s face. Yeah, thank you. I’m actually really excited. Mine should be arriving. We’ll see it like was in my state and now it’s in two States away and now it’s coming back. So hopefully it comes and we’ll post it on social media when we have all of our really smoke. Cause I I’m pretty sure almost everyone in our family is going to have Willie’s face. We’re doing really well today. We are killing it. We are so successful and making a podcast. So we’re considered my God. We are continuing December slash DUS murder.

(2m 33s):
Oh yeah. I should put a poll out and see what people like better because it’s dumb. I just think of mermaids. That’s literally all I I’m like mermaids maids in olden times, killing all the people. We should do a mermaid episode to a siren episode. I’ll add it the list, but we should, We should do that. Like when it’s close to like Renaissance festival time, Like September you wear This Irene that are in those creepy tanks that they make sounds festival that are so dirty.

(3m 16s):
Where do these tanks come from? Why did they travel with them? It’s kind Of creepy, very sexed on Janine, How they transmit disease. Speaking of disease today’s topic is we are going to be discussing and I, I didn’t translate any of this shit. So hopefully I’m seeing it right. Okay. Juliana Tofana Ooh. And she’s the one that you recommended. Oh, she’s the makeup one. Yes, you guys, This is the most prolific poisoner in all of history. Yes. Yeah. So it would be a wild ride and like she probably killed even way more people than we think is people that right?

(3m 59s):
She didn’t write that. Yeah. She didn’t keep track. Dear diary And murdered five more people. Awesome. I’m ready. All right. So information for this episode was pulled from the following sources, a 2020 scifi article by Jessica Toomer told me 20 ancient origins article by BB Wagner, a 2018 weird history article by Genevieve Carlton in all that’s interesting article history collection, article in Wikipedia and links to all of these articles will be included in the show notes. Julia Tofana one of Italy’s most famous poisoners is believed to have been born in Palermo, Sicily in 1622 Francis and the Familia D’Amato, as I mentioned, I have not Google translate it and you have this stuff.

(4m 46s):
So if I am mispronouncing anything in Italian, you’re welcome. Awesome. Her mother had a bit of a reputation. And when Julia was just 13 years old, she was executed on July 12th, 1633 for the murder of her husband via shocker poison. What kind of poison? I don’t know, just poison as punishment. She was drawn and quartered, which is horrifying. Wow. For poisoning her husband. Yep. And we’re going to get real gross for two seconds before we get back.

(5m 27s):
So for people who don’t know what that means, drawing and quartering was the punishment enacted primarily on people who had committed treason, which at that time was considered worse than murder and capital offenses. The term comes from drawing the convicted to the gallows. Most often by horse, before the body would be hung until they were nearly dead, then they would be disemboweled and castrated. If you had a penis before being beheaded and finally have your body cut into four. Yep. This, I think we would all agree. Barbaric practice was done publicly and started in 1352 and was last used in 1782 before it was finally abolished in 1867.

(6m 14s):
I didn’t realize they like conduit for that long. Yeah. The two 67 really is not that far off from us. Think about it, Especially when you like, think of all the little cutesy little companies that are like established in 1902. Yep. So yeah, that was a thing. I also found out that the, the act of drawing them was different. Like drawing them by horse could be like, like they were dragged by the horse to help kind of start that process a little bit too. It’s super cool. And that was just for a poisoning.

(6m 56s):
Wow. Italy is no joke. They’re serious about their stuff. All right. Moving on. Here’s later, Julia herself became a widow and along with her daughter Gere Aloma Spera also known as Astro Della. She was a psychic, I think she was a fortune teller. Yeah. I heard astrology. I don’t know. There wasn’t any record of it, but we’re going to go with fortune teller. Awesome. She moved to Sicily then Naples before continuing on to Rome, Italy in the 17th century.

(7m 37s):
Wasn’t great for women. What? I mean Every place everywhere was great for women. What do you mean You were basically no better than cattle and often just sold to the highest bidder with the hope and prayer that you wouldn’t find yourself in an abusive and Loveless marriage. Well, people still helped for that, with that kind of practice. Well, I mean, what else are you going to do? Okay. Women at that time had zero power and really very few paths in life. You could be married off, stay single and turn to the sex trade to survive or join the church as a nun.

(8m 19s):
You could become a servant for the rest of your life or get married and become a widow. You can probably see where this is. Oh yeah. Honestly. That’s the best dash. Yep. I can see where this is going. Yep. Luckily for the ladies of Italy and most European cities at the time, it was easier than you might think to choose widow dumb with a little help from the underground community of alchemists apothecaries and quote-unquote dark arts experts available images, desserts, Lightning bolt. I Remember that video lightning bolt bleeding bull said dark arts practitioners.

(9m 1s):
Weren’t quite what their name implied with several actually performing necessary services that regular medical practitioners at the time refused to do such as abortions. Yep. That makes sense. They also sold blessing ingredients provided love potions and as middlemen who sold all manner of black market charms books on magic or fortune telling and more wow. I would shop here. Julia’s network provided these popular magical items as well as more obscure items like magic wands, incense, smelly, remoras. Grimoires I know.

(9m 42s):
What are those like books of the dead? I don’t know how to say that. Graham Graham. Mars. I’m going to say, there you go. Maybe I’ll go on the cubby. I don’t know. It’s definitely good. Yeah. And super gross items like breast milk and dried mints is blood. What’s the dried blood for, I don’t know, like a symbol moment. Maybe it went into the blood of the children. You will have seen God. I mean, I am, I will grow you many sons love me depending on like, if it was sweet or savory was the gender, the Forrest gender of your child shortly after their arrival to Rome, Julia began to sell LV concoction to the abused and Loveless women of the city utilize the network of reliable and trusted women led by her daughter.

(10m 57s):
Julia quickly gained reputation as a friend to troubled women, according to ancient origins, Julia reportedly worked with Francesca Lazzara hunting woman who used to work with Julia’s mom. Nice. Their time together was short lived, however, as she was found guilty of and executed for the same crime, this Julia’s mother in February of 1634. Okay. So I didn’t realize before, when I had asked for this story, how risky it actually was to do poison poisonings, like it’s a really aggressive punishment. Like, I mean, it is, it is murder. Like let’s not, that just seems really intense.

(11m 37s):
So I wonder if it happened just a lot and they had to do a really aggressive punishment to try to thwart other people from doing it. But, and obviously in work, Julia acquired another assistant named Geovanna de Grundy who worked primarily with the lower classes on Julia’s behalf. I don’t want to talk to them. Well, I don’t think she really talked to anybody. I think she just used her network. I think so too. It sounds like that. It sounds like she was just the creator salespeople, which is a smart way to go About it. It’d be difficult To pin it back to her, which is probably why she was so successful.

(12m 17s):
Yep. As our business continued to grow, Julia was careful to only sell her products to women that she knew or who were vetted by some of her most trusted past clients. This could include those who were rich and powerful and those who were poor or middle class. So she kind of catered to everyone. That’s really nice. Cause honestly like the poor and middle-class were probably the more heavily abused more stuck. Yes. It’s believed that she may have also received help from the church specifically a local Roman priest named father who secretly aided her and her fellow poisoners.

(12m 58s):
But again, information on his supposed involvement is circumspect. If the rumors are to be believed, father , Alamo of St. Agnes in supplied the arsenic that Julia needed to craft her poisons poisons that were cleverly disguised as women’s cosmetics. Nice. In fact, it soon became well-known that if one was looking to be single again, or to combat blemishes, all she needed was a bottle of Julius, famous Aqua to fauna. They scream or oil. They had face creams back then. Interesting. The beauty of her crimes were the fact that they were so easily concealed.

(13m 40s):
One would hardly expect to find poison. And it’s a ladies makeup, perfumes and lotions. That’s very true because then like the women will be poisoning themselves. How dumb, How stupid of them you down women damn stupid women. Yeah. The street name for the concoction was Aqua Tofana, but the bottle itself was labeled as mana of Saint Nicholas of Bari and noted as a popular healing oil for blemishes. Whenever they had a lot of blemishes back then. Cause they really did not bathe regularly. And I can’t imagine like they didn’t have soft water or filtration system. No, No, I can’t imagine the color of the water.

(14m 23s):
Yeah. Gross Brown toe. Off-white gross. I wonder if those, The, the colors of her makeup, whatever the water was, waist, Despite its benign appearance, Aqua Tofana was a powerful poison, colorless and tasteless four to six drops could easily kill a man. Wow. Wow. Okay. So she was Doing a lot of like cultural Make that happen. The best part was that the poison itself was undetectable even after death, as it mimicked common diseases of the day and killed its intended victims slowly over a number of dates.

(15m 7s):
Cool. Yeah, I bet there was some sort of Plager horrible flu Administered via liquid, such as tea or wine. The first dose would cause the victim to become weak and easily exhausted. The second would cause symptoms such as extreme thirst, stomach aches, vomiting, and even dysentery or like symptoms like diarrhea. Oh my God. That would be, I mean, how many people did die of dysentery, you know, after Bismol didn’t exist. So they just literally pooped themselves to death. Oh, awful damn. The poison was designed specifically as a means to create a slow death, allowing the victim time to get their affairs in order ensuring their future widow would be suitably settled after their death.

(15m 57s):
So nice. Thanks. Abusive chair face the third and fourth doses would be administered over the next several days, allowing the man to finally pass it is believed that Bella Donna, a plant commonly used and other well-known cosmetics at the day was also an ingredient in Julia. Same as product Y fill Donna, you might ask one of the side effects of using Bella. Donna was dilated pupils, which was a popular beauty standard during the Renaissance. Interesting nightshade. However, if used in lethal doses there’s cause blindness Bella, Donna is an opioid and you may be wondering with so many men seemingly dying have the same sort of unknown illness.

(16m 40s):
How was Julia not found out sooner? I am curious. The answer can be found in an 1890 article of the Chamber’s journal quote, to save her fare fame. The wife would demand a post-mortem examination results, nothing, except that the woman was able to pose as a slandered innocent. And then it would be remembered that her husband died without either pain, inflammation, fever, or spasms. If after this, the woman within a year or two formed a new connection, nobody could blame her. And it’s like the perfect crime. It really is. It like truly, especially since like there was no, there’s no way for them to do any sort of like running of the chemicals, you know?

(17m 25s):
Yeah. That’s really smart. Yeah. For someone who’s not allowed to read. Yeah. Many accounts acknowledged that Julia was able to successfully fool authorities for several decades throughout Italy. In the 17th century, she may have even continued to be in discovered if not for one woman and uneaten bowl of soup Is her name. Karen. She couldn’t, she couldn’t make the flavor of soup. What happened in 1650, one of Julia’s customers prepared a bowl of soup laced with Aqua Tofana for her husband before he’d had a chance to take a sip. She changed her mind and begged her husband not to eat any of it. Really.

(18m 6s):
She could just say that she put too much salt in it. Obviously this race suspicion and the man beat his wife until she confessed to putting poison in his food furious. He turned her into Catholic police and after receiving even more torture and abuse from the authorities, she admitted to purchasing Aqua Tofana from Julia. How does she know it was Julia? She didn’t work with the middle middle woman. Well, I mean, her last name is part of the poison itself. So now Is there a lot of to fondest? I didn’t have a phone Book. I don’t know. Weird knowing that police were now looking for her, Julia was able to escape to a local church and Baker sanctuary was, she was granted. That is until a rumor came out that she was using her famous poison to taint the local water supply.

(18m 51s):
Oh no. At that the church had no choice, but to allow the government to take her into custody, Julia was proudly tortured upon her arrest and eventually confess to aiding in the deaths of up to 600 men over the course of 18 years, between 1630, three and 1651 legend States that Julia was executed in compo DiFiore in Rome, in July of 16, 59, along with her daughter and three of her most trusted and reliable helpers, 40 of her lower-class customers were also executed while women of higher standing were either sent to jail brick into the Dungeons of the Palazzo Poochie or escape punishment entirely by claiming that they never knew the cosmetics they purchased were actually poisonous.

(19m 37s):
Wow. 10 would be a horrible way to die. Yeah. You would never know when it would end. Nope. Jeez. Some accounts state that Julia ran her business much longer than this. And wasn’t actually captured tortured and executed until 1709. But she would have been soups old if that was the case. And 90% of my sources did not corroborate that information. So I’m going to call bullshit. Yeah. Julia’s legacy influenced one of the most famous murder plots in history, the affair of the poisons and France that led to the attempted murder of King Louis, the 14th, Whoa. There were rumors that Julia’s poison lived on a well after her death and was actually used a century later to kill famous composer, Wolfgang, Amadeus, Mozart who fell ill at the age of 35 and pass on December 5th, 1791.

(20m 31s):
Why he’s quoted as saying quote, I feel definitely that I will not last much longer. I am sure that I have been poisoned. I cannot read myself with this idea. Someone has given me Aqua Tofana and calculated the precise time of my and vote. Whoa. However, fanciful. There isn’t much evidence to back up Mozart’s claim. It’s more likely he died of either syphilis, rheumatic fever or from eating under cooked pork. Yeah. I mean you could have died so many ways back then. Yeah. They did everything wrong. Everything they did was wrong. Pretty much the exact recipe that Julia used was never recorded.

(21m 15s):
It makes sense. Yeah. Historians believe that her famous Aqua Tofana was a mixture of lead arsenic, mercury chloride and Bella, Donna town, all of which were common ingredients in cosmetics throughout the 17th century. I can’t believe they use Bella. Donna like an opiate. I mean, well, I’m not that surprised, but yeah. Having dilated eyes all the time, it was supposed to make you look like you were constantly in love with people gross. One twist to using Bella. Donna is the fact that the plant has become synonymous with the ideal of a beautiful femme Patel Ernie itself, the nickname deadly nightshade is that how the farmers of Bella down Belladonna advertised it, deadly niche, sexy, sophisticated, dangerous.

(22m 2s):
Beautiful. And that is the story of Julia Tofana. Wow. I had no idea. The punishments were that intense. I wonder if it must’ve been really common at first, if it was just so common and people were like poisoning Willy nilly and then they had to get super aggressive because people just did it. Yeah. Well I didn’t see in my research how she and her helpers and her daughter were executed, I believe it was, they were hung or hanged, but it didn’t say anywhere that they were tortured executed to the extent that her mother was so still like being bricked in for buying it.

(22m 49s):
Yeah. That’s AFT up man. Yeah. That’s a whole new level to the war on drugs. Like that’s a, that’s a dare program. I do not wish to participate in Mick graph would not approve. No. Oh it would probably be able to smell the corpses. Yeah. There’s a bunch of bodies behind this wall and that wall and then went over there, man. Don’t do drugs. Kids don’t do drugs. Don’t buy drugs. Wow. Yeah. Crazy Apple pizza podcast where we serve up delicious slices of mythology, cryptozoology and urban legends.

(23m 33s):
Ashley is the MythBuster. Tyree CEUs is finally just like, yeah, it was you K waterboard him with this magical. That is not a testicle. Emily is a cryptid Hunter and it’s this guy that’s bending over and parting into the face of absolutely horrified cat by the capitalism. In some stories this long narrow sheet of cotton is also your roll of toilet paper, but it’s evil toilet paper and Lindsey is the storyteller.

(24m 17s):
Put your trades in the upright position. We’re flying back over to Northern Italy for a fun little legend. And I will have you rethinking watersports. Yay. Snack. What’s a snack pineapple pizza podcast. Stop on vine for a slice. The story and a laugh coming January, 2021. All right. So who’s our podcast this week. This week’s podcast plug is the pineapple pizza podcast. Hey, self plug.

(24m 57s):
Yep. A new show coming January, 2021, hosted by Ashley from studying Scarlet, Emily from drink drunk dead to me, Lindsay from yield crime. Yay. Each month we’ll cover the mythology, cryptozoology and urban legends of a new area with the first triptych covering Japan. Nice. You can subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts and get ready for a slice of something. Awesome. Why pineapple pizza? Because we’re sweet and cheesy and not everyone understands our awesome that’s nice. I like it. This week’s question is from Ariel of the malice podcast. Kay. She wants to know, are there particular types of cases you gravitate more towards personally?

(25m 39s):
Who do you want to go first? No. So why do you gravitate towards certain crimes stories? I like investigating stories that cover unusual murders such as, I mean like poisoning obviously is kind of fascinating because they were able to get away with it so often back in the day, but there are also some pretty crazy ways that people were murdered. And some of the stories that we cover, you know, are unsolved or the way things went down in the backstory to some of these crimes are just bananas. So stuff like that, I’m more drawn towards just because we’re interesting to research and talk about.

(26m 19s):
Yeah. I think, I think I’m attracted to cases that aren’t super cut and dry ones that like have a lot of room for conjecture, like what could have happened. I also think that’s how I kind of cope with the more intense ones with Fannie Adams. Yeah. That was really bad. Being, not knowing like you knew that you knew how died, but you didn’t Know like the nitty gritty details and like, like from the killer himself kind of thing. So that ma I, I think, I think it makes it easier to process. Cause it’s, it’s something that I’ve always been interested in, but I also am super strange in the like I hate Gore, so I won’t watch horror movies and zombie stuff.

(27m 6s):
And, but I listened to murders all the time. And I think it’s because I, I don’t have to experience the Gore that in that way, like listening to it or reading it, you can kind of make your own vision in your head. Let me see here. Yeah. Because I think these are all worth knowing about, yeah, you got something good. You’d like to share this week. Something good successfully made a powerhouse. I don’t make a lot of meat forward meals generally since living alone. It’s not really my thing. I tend to get my protein from like eggs and dairy nuts and stuff. So I wanted to make a pot roast because my boyfriend and I have been together for six months already.

(27m 50s):
And it seems insane that that’s happened. And we both laughed at it. I was like, did you think we’d still be dating right now? And he was like, no, It’s like, did you? I was like, absolutely not. We’re very different. But I guess the pandemic decided that we should try it out and it’s been successful and we’re happy. And we got each other Nerf guns for Christmas. And so when he comes over, I’ll buzz him in and then I’ll put a loaded Nerf gun in the door. So we can just like fight immediately. I will say I was pretty proud the first, our first ever battle, I shot him in the neck and it looked like he had like a horrifying Hickey as his grandfather made a comment and he was like shot.

(28m 37s):
She shot me with the Nerf gun. And he was like a likely story. And I was like a likely story, but yeah, it’s fun. How about you? What’s a good thing this week for you. A good thing this week is I have 95% of my holiday shopping done. That’s really good. Well, I only have a couple last minute gifts that I need to pick up and I’m probably going to get that done today. So by the time this comes out, hopefully I will have been done with all my holiday shopping. That’s very exciting. Holiday shopping is stressful. Oh, can I have a second? Good thing.

(29m 18s):
Sure. You can only be happy once. So I never had a tree and ever get trees. Cause I always have, I have a small apartment and I always associate Christmas trees with like gifts underneath. And I would always bring my gifts to mom and dad’s cause that’s where we would celebrate Christmas. So I just didn’t get stuff that, and like I had a cat for a long time that would like eat anything. And I knew he would like his fat butt would try to like climb in and break it and he’ll be awful. Well, Rufus unfortunately passed away in may this year. And Mike celebrates you will music, are you going to get a tree? And I was like, no, like I don’t like things.

(29m 60s):
Cause I like to have, like, I like to be fairly minimalistic in my stuff. Cause I just have a small space. Yeah. I don’t see the reason for collecting if you move a lot. But I got a tiny tree for $10 at Walmart and I showed it to him and he was really like thankful for it. And it just has lights like mom and dad both tried to convince me to get like all these different ornaments and half of the ornaments were bigger than the tree. Like it’s small, but it’s been a little baby tree and I like him. So I don’t know. I kind of don’t want ornaments ever. I might be okay with doing like a tree topper.

(30m 42s):
If I gave you a little tree skirt, will you use it? Maybe I bought one for this little tree that I got to put up in my office. Obviously I’m letting my office right now because Covid not until June. So I actually went into work and grabbed it and all of the like little ornaments that I had bought for it because my youngest wanted to have a tree in her room and I was like, well, you can use it because I can’t. Yeah. And I bought a tree skirt for it, forgetting that it was in this like decorative little pale thing. It’s a fake tree, so she’s not using it. And I was like, Oh, well this is a cute little tree skirt. So yeah, I got it in like the dollar spot. So if you want it Nice.

(31m 22s):
Yeah. I think I might look for a tree topper and maybe I’ll just get a new tree topper every year. But I like, I like how simple it is. I don’t think it needs a bunch of ornaments. It just needs lights. Yeah. It’s probably for the best. So that smoosh doesn’t try to like knock them over or something and play with them. Yeah. She’s, she’s been really destructive. She like plays a lot more. Now that Rufus has gone, she’s like kind of reverted back to being kin. So she destroys everything all the time. She’s cool. Like that. She’s super cool. So shall we alright. You did find us online@yieldcrimepodcast.com.

(32m 5s):
We’re also on Twitter at yield crime pod and on Instagram at yield crime podcast, you can email us@yieldcrimepodcastsatgmail.com. We like gifts. We do send a son. What if we get a PO box maybe next year. Okay. I have to look and see how expensive they are. Yeah. And I, I still don’t have a post office it’s in the Kmart Growths. I know. I really don’t want to go to a PO box. It came on. No, It’d be better if we had one where I live by be much safer, much nicer neighborhoods.

(32m 46s):
It’s right behind the library. Yep. That’s a geo locate, but well, I just, I definitely did, since I said it was in a Kmart, But it’s fine. I’m sure there are lots of post offices and Kmart’s great. Yeah. If you’d like to support the show, you can give a one-time donation on buy me a coffee, which is great. And it helps us a little bit. You can also join our Patrion for as low as $5 a month. We have lots of fun bonus content. We post early ad free access to our episodes. We also have video outtakes from our episodes that aren’t published anywhere else.

(33m 29s):
And we look gross Like all the time. So laugh at our peers and laugh at our face. It’s bad. I’ll let you laugh at me for money, make fun of my unwashed face and horrible hair. Then we also include links to episodes where we have guests on other podcasts. So it’s kind of easy for you to find that sort of content. You can also support the show by purchasing Mersch on our T public store. This week, there’s going to be a sale from December 16th to the 18th. You can get up to 30% off and lastly, a freeway to support the show. And one that is almost, I would argue infinitely better than all the others is to leave a five-star rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts, it’s a great way to support the show by making us more discoverable to a larger audience, telling your friends and family about the podcast is also a great way to support the show.

(34m 29s):
Yeah. Or even just like messaging, messaging us on social is also a really nice way to support the show by letting us know that you listen and you like show and you care about what we have to say. Yeah. It’s very heartwarming. We appreciate it. It goes on our special drive of warm things, warm and fuzzy Things. So when we’re sad, we can look at it and we’re like, People like us. And as always I’m Lindsay and I’m Madison and we’ll see you next time with another tale. And so this crime, Thanks again for listening to true crime by Indy. Drop-in if you would like your show featured, reach out to us at Indy drop-in on all social media or go to Indi drop-in dot com.

(35m 13s):
See you next time.