The Dragon Lady

Have you ever heard of The Dragon Lady?  No?? I’m surprised. She was one hell of a serial killer.  She killed her first five victims when she was 11. By the time she was done, she had murdered more than 20 victims, 11 of them were babies. She may even have killed a cat! Unfortunately, she was found not guilty and got away with all of them. Years later she killed a police officer. There could have been one more victim, but luckily for him he managed to escape, and kill her in the process. His name was Paul, and he had been held captive and tortured for months. A scrapbook was found in her house with newspaper clippings and notes that was used to piece together the following events.

Annie Wilkes was born in 1943  in Bakersfield, California. As far as anyone knows, she and her older brother Paul grew up in your average American household. When she was 11 years old, there was a fire in the apartment building they lived in. Luckily for the Wilkes family, there had been a leak in their kitchen, so the family had left the day before and spent the night elsewhere.  Three children and their father died in the fire, as did a man that lived on the top floor. Police thought that possibly a wino had been hiding in the basement and accidentally started the fire with a cigarette. After reading several notions written in her scrapbook about home much she hated the kids, it was concluded that Annie may have set the fire.

In 1957, Annie’s father died. He apparently tripped over a pile of clothing and fell down the stairs, breaking his neck and fracturing his skull. Normally this would have been considered nothing but a tragic accident. In 1962, while in nursing school at the University of California, Annie’s roommate also died falling down a flight of stairs. Her dead cat was found next to her. This accident, in addition to her father dying the same way, leads to the assumption that she caused both deaths.

After she graduated, she moved many times over the next few years, taking nursing positions in the local hospitals. Oddly, each one had a string of mysterious deaths among the elderly patients. While working in a hospital in New Hampshire, seven elderly patients mysteriously died. Annie then moved on to Pennsylvania, where three more people died, and then to North Dakota, Same nurse, same pattern.  And no one caught on.  She was smart enough to choose people whose death was easily explained.  If it wasn’t for the fact that she saved all her victim’s obituaries, no connection would ever have been made.

Then Annie moved to Denver, Colorado and on to her next hospital. There she met and married a physical therapist named Ralph Dugan in 1979. She must have been happy, because for a time the killings stopped. They divorced after only a year and a half. It was her husband that asked for the divorce citing mental cruelty. They didn’t have any children. Her angry notations next to the newspaper announcement showed just how angry she was. Then Annie took back her maiden name and moved to Boulder. The divorce reignited her passion for killing.

There were six obituaries pasted in her scrapbook after she started working in Boulder. It was the same pattern. Then there was a clipping announcing Annie as the new Head Maternity Ward Nurse. Five infants mysteriously died before an investigation was started. The deaths were originally blamed on tainted formula and the case was closed.  Then three more babies died. The next clipping read “Head Maternity Nurse Questioned On Infant Death”.  

Annie was questioned about it, but whatever she told the police worked, because she was released. She went back to work….and back to killing.  Three more babies died after her return. This time Annie was arrested and tried. But again, whatever she said worked, because she was found not guilty.  There were no more nursing jobs. There was only one additional obituary in the scrapbook. A drifter that had come from New York. He was found in a dry stream.  Cause of death…axe. Since Annie liked to put her victims’ obituaries in her scrapbook, it was obvious that the axe was hers.

The last clipping she had was from an article in Newsweek. It talked about an author named Paul Sheldon. He had been missing for about nine weeks. He was in a car accident and she was driving behind him. She pulled him from his car, and took him home to nurse him back to health. How lucky for her to be able to rescue her favorite author!  Her favorite books of his were a series about a character named Misery. She waited on him hand and foot, while she read the new Misery novel that had just been released. She couldn’t have been happier. Until Misery died at the end.

The death of her favorite character pushed her into madness. Paul went from being nursed to being tortured. She keeps him prisoner and demands he write a new Misery novel. She burns the only copy of the new novel he just finished, she cuts off his thumb, and in her biggest fit of rage cuts off his foot with an axe and uses a blowtorch to cauterize it. She also kills a police officer that comes to the house looking for Paul. She decides both she and Paul have to die, but Paul manages to fight back and kills her. In the end she got her wish, to die with her favorite author. After all, she was his number one fan.

Do you want to know everything that happened to Paul? Well go read Misery by Stephen King and find out!