How A Simple Cosmetic Killed More Than 600 Men—History Today/ Education

Mrs H

Out of pity for the abused woman, Gulia Toffana manufactured a silent yet deadly cosmetic that killed more than 600 men. However, catching her was easier said than done.

In the 17th century, when women’s views and feelings were disregarded, many suffered at the hands of their husbands. There were seen as nothing but babymaking machines and subordinates to men. Their value as humans meant nothing, and likewise, their happiness. As a result, it came a time when some felt enough was enough and took matters into their own hands. However, while a few prayed for the angel of death to visit their spouses earlier, others turned to murder.

A popular cosmetic owner, Guillia Tofana, stepped in and manufactured a deadly poison called the Aqua Tofana and sold it to a few trusted and selected individuals. According to her, she felt it was their only way out since divorce was off the table, and neither was walking away. And despite killing being an evil thing to do, many from around Italy came to her and appreciated her service. She became known as a friend to the troubled wife.

How the Aqua Tofana Worked

Outside it looked like a typical day-to-day woman’s cosmetic that no one suspected deadly. However, inside, it was a colorless and tasteless liquid containing very toxic components (sorry, I am not allowed to list these here, please follow that link). As a result, it was easily mixed with wine, water, or anything liquid to be served with meals. During its first three doses, the victim felt fragile and developed flu-like symptoms, which intensified daily, and by their fourth dose, they were pronounced dead.

To curb people's suspicions, Guilia coached the involved women to act concerned about everything and cry bitterly during their funerals. Some even called medical doctors when relatives demanded, but still, their hands were cleared. They were all ruled as natural deaths. For almost 50 years, Gulia and her culprits got away with murder, but it wasn't long before everything crashed.

How Gulia got caught

Since everything in this world with a beginning should surely have an end, Giulia’s evil deeds were no exception. One day a lady went to her to purchase the deadly concoction, but after she made dinner for her husband, things went south.

Once he tried to eat, she yelled for him to stop, and he knew something was wrong and beat her up until she confessed. Soon after, he dragged her to the authorities in Rome, who tortured her until she spilled all the beans. Once the news got to Guilia, she decided to look for a hiding place, but no one was willing to take her in. As a result, she ended up living in the church of Rome.

However, her stay was short-lived. Someone told the priests that Guilia had poisoned the city’s water supply and everyone was in danger. People got angry, stormed the church, and demanded that she be brought out. After a few hours of rumbling, the priests gave in. Guilia was handed over and confessed to killing over 600 men between 1633 and 1651. However, some believe the number might be higher.

The Death of Giulia

The Rome authorities forced Giulia to mention her customers’ names and those who participated in her evil deeds, but she said she couldn't recall all of them since the number was too high.

On July 1659, she and some of her counterparts were executed along with her daughter, who helped her make the poison, and three employees. Some of her clients insisted that they only used It as a cosmetic and didn’t know it could take a life.

Long after her death, the reign of the Aqua Toffana continued but only as a cosmetic.


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