When a friend of mine started pitching Hall-Mills murder to me as a potential episode, I was immediately enthralled by the tale of an Episcopalian rector and his tragic affair with the choir singer, but when he told me the case hinged on the eyewitness testimony of “the pig woman,” I knew this was a story for True Crime Historian.
But it gets even better.
I started looking into it and discovered that the famed sportswriter Damon Runyon covered the trial with the same breezy prose he used in the short stories he wrote that inspired the musical “Guys and Dolls,” with daily dispatches drawing vivid word pictures of the trial and its participants.
I felt it worthy of in depth exploration, so we’ll be doing a six episode series released on consecutive Sundays to hear all about the case and its cast of characters as told by one of America’s premier storytellers, who turns out to also be a pioneer of True Crime.
A special edition of Yesterday’s News exploring the criminal justice system at its most extreme: Inflicting the Death Penalty.
This episode comes at the request of a faithful listener in Cincinnati who wanted to hear more about Anna Marie Hahn, the first woman to be executed in Ohio’s electric chair.
Although ‘Arsenic Annie’ had stoically proclaimed her innocence right up until her dying day, Anna Marie Hahn left a handwritten 20-page confession in her death row cell on December 7, 1938, when they led her to Ohio’s electric chair, literally kicking and screaming.
In the letter, she not only takes responsibility for six murders, she denies other poisoning attempts and goes into details about her life and how she began her series what the governor called cold-blooded and horrifying crimes when he made the final decision to take her to the chair.
The letter is such a remarkable and revealing self-portrait, more entertaining than her pathetic execution, that I gave it to a professional actress, my friend and colleague Emily Simer Braun, to help bring out some of the nuances in this rare insight into the mind of a serial killer.