“She wouldn’t say it like that!”
History of the REAL "Jolly Jane" Toppan.
One of the phrases I’ve heard over and over again while writing Jolly Jane with Jeff Kaufman is “She wouldn’t say it like that!” Both Jeff and I thinking we know how the real Jolly Jane would say something while committing a hyenas murder. In order to really know what she really would say, we had to learn all about this truly evil woman.
Who was Jane Toppan? Jane Toppan (August 17, 1854 – October 29, 1938), born Honora Kelley, an Irish immigrant who became an American serial killer, nicknamed "Jolly Jane". After her arrest in 1901, she confessed to 31 murders, but is thought to have killed well over 100. She was quoted as saying that her ambition was "to have killed more people—helpless people—than any other man or woman who ever lived”.
Jane’s mother, Bridget Kelley, died of tuberculosis when she was very young. Her father, Peter Kelley, was well known as a horrible alcoholic , very abusive, and eccentric, nicknamed by those who knew him "Kelley the Crack" (as in that dude is a "crackpot"). Jane’s father became the source of many local rumors concerning his complete insanity. He finally drove himself nuts, sewing his own eyelids closed while working as a tailor. Her father was a straight up coo coo nut.
Before his death in 1863, only a few years after his wife's death, Jane’s father took his two youngest children, 8 year-old Delia Josephine and six-year-old Honora (Jolly Jane), to the Boston Female Asylum, an orphanage for indigent children. Dad dropped off the two girls, never to see them again. This may be the start of some “daddy issues.”
In November 1864, less than two years after her father had left them, Honora Kelley (Jolly Jane) was placed as an indentured servant in the home of Mrs. Ann C. Toppan. Though never formally adopted by the Toppans, Honora took on the name and eventually became known as Toppan. She liked the name Jane, so she stuck with that.
The Toppans passed her off as an Italian girl whose parents died at sea, because of the stigma associated with being Irish. Jane did well in school and had many friends. She tried to act Italian, but the girl was Irish! That will start to mess you up!
Jane liked to tell tall tales. The sign of a true crazy ass sociopath, telling outrageous lies! Storie like her father sailed around the world in a beer barrel, her sister married an English nobleman, and her favorite was , her brother was decorated at Gettysburg by Abraham Lincoln. She would lie straight to your face. She liked to steal things and she was known to have sex for money. Jane drank whiskey like crazy. She was a party girl.
Jane started her training as a nurse at Cambridge Hospital in 1885. There was where she earned her nickname, ‘Jolly Jane,’ for her friendly outgoing personality. She was well loved at the hospital. She was described as “fun”, “happy” and always ready to please. She also stole things, cursed like a sailor and drank whiskey like a wild man.
The hospital workers grew a little concerned over her obsession with autopsies. What they DIDN’T know was, she used her patients as guinea pigs in experiments with morphine and atropine; she altered their prescribed dosages to see what it did to their nervous systems. However, she spent considerable time alone with patients, making up fake charts and medicating them to drift in and out of consciousness while she had sex with them.
After she was finally arrested on October 29th, 1901. She told reporters she got a sexual thrill from patients being near death, coming back to life and then dying again. Jolly Jane would give victims a syringe full of death, and then lie with them and hold them close to her as they died. She said she “got off” on feeling them (men and woman) die in her arms as she had sex with them. There is no telling how many people Jolly Jane killed at the hospital. It has been estimated that it’s close to 100 victims.
Her poisoning spree kept on rolling, in 1895 she killed her landlord, and his wife. Had sex with both of them. In 1899, she killed her foster sister Elizabeth with a dose of strychnine. Had sex with her too. Next, Jolly Jane moved in with Alden Davis and his family, to take care of him after the death of his wife, Mattie. Jolly Jane had murdered Mattie earlier that year but Alden had know idea. Within weeks, she killed Alden, his sister, and two of his daughters. Jolly Jane had sex with all of them as they died.
She was truly evil. Seemed like a nice girl, but evil as they come.
She was known as a bully once she was in Taunton. Scaring the other prisoners. For years she was heard yelling at other patents saying things like “Get some morphine Dearie, you and I can go have some fun seeing others die!” Laughing like crazy the entire time. She famously scared the hell out of one famous inmate. That other famous patient was Lizzy Borden. Jolly Jane, scared the hell out of LIZZY BORDEN! That is one crazy bitch!
So, when I would write a line for Jolly Jane, and Jeff Kaufman would say “She wouldn’t say it like that!”, he was usually correct! It is hard to put your mind in the place of a person who was that crazy!
But, as you read “Jolly Jane”, I think you will agree we did a pretty damn good job.
Russ Ray Rollins
Book signing today (10-20-18) at Gotham City Comics & Pizza -
Next week at Spooky Empire!
(Sponsored by Jeff Kaufman of Kaufman and Lynd and Big City Comics. ALSO sponsored by Spooky Empire)