Nannie Doss: The Brutal Story of the Giggling Granny


Nannie Doss appeared to be a delightful woman, always grinning and chuckling. She tied the knot, raised four kids, and doted on her grandkids. Yet, beneath this joyous exterior lay a sequence of fatalities and homicides spanning from the 1920s to 1954.

In that year, Nannie Doss admitted to the murders of four out of her five spouses, and there were suspicions she might have also harmed several kin. Doss’ tale traces back to her 1905 birth in Blue Mountain, Alabama, to agrarian parents.

The five offspring of Jim and Louisa Hazle were all engaged in domestic tasks and farming instead of attending school. A significant shift in Doss’ life happened at seven when she sustained head trauma in a train accident.

By her teenage years, Doss aspired for a fairy-tale romance. Immersed in romantic periodicals, particularly the “lonely hearts” sections, she possibly viewed them as an escape from her tyrant father and indifferent mother.

Then commenced her series of marriages. At 16, Nannie Doss married a man she had known briefly. Between 1921 and 1927, she and Charley Braggs had four offspring. The relationship deteriorated thereafter.

Living with Braggs’ mother, who was as domineering as Doss’ dad, might have been the catalyst for her grim actions. Two of their children mysteriously passed away within that year, transitioning from health to sudden demise.

By 1928, the pair separated. Braggs departed with Melvina, their eldest, while Doss remained with the infant, Florine. In 1929, Doss entered matrimony with her next spouse. This man, Frank Harrelson from Jacksonville, Fla., was a violent drinker.

Their correspondence began through a lonely hearts column, with love letters from him and provocative ones from her. This tumultuous union endured until 1945. During this span, Doss allegedly ended the life of her newborn granddaughter using a pin, and shortly after, her toddler grandson, Robert, perished from suffocation.

These children were Melvina’s, from Doss’ first marriage. Post a night of boisterous celebrations marking World War II’s conclusion, Harrelson became Doss’ next victim.

He succumbed in days, believed to be from food poisoning. Doss then utilized the insurance payout from Harrelson’s demise to acquire property near Jacksonville.

Then came Arlie Lanning of Lexington, N.C., who succumbed in 1952, poisoned by Doss. Given his excessive alcohol consumption, his death was misattributed to alcohol-related causes. Subsequently, Richard Morton of Emporia, Kan., entered Doss’ life.

He frequently spent time with other females, though Doss hadn’t discovered his infidelity due to being preoccupied. After her father’s demise in 1953, Doss’ mother required care following a hip fracture.

She passed away unexpectedly after Doss began caregiving, followed by the sudden death of one of Doss’ siblings. Uncovering her husband’s unfaithfulness post attending to her mother and sibling, Morton met a mysterious end.

The last to fall prey was Samuel Doss of Tulsa, Okla., who was neither abusive nor a drinker. His fault was limiting his wife’s TV and magazine choices to educational content. She poisoned a prune cake, leading to Samuel’s hospitalization.

Days post his return, he was fatally poisoned via coffee. Here, Nannie Doss erred. The physician attending to her last spouse harbored suspicions during his hospital stay but lacked evidence. Thus, posthumously, the doctor persuaded Doss to consent to an autopsy, asserting it would be life-saving.