Nannie Doss.. aka. " Oklahoma's Jolly Widow"..aka .."The black Widow"


Nannie Doss
Oklahoma’s Jolly Widow
(also known as the original Black widow)

Nannie Hazle,(Hazel),  a.k.a. Nancy Hazle,  born to Louisa Holder and Jim Hazle (Hazel), about 1905, in Anniston, Blue
Mountain, Alabama. 

A skeleton in our ancestral closet, but an ancestor none the less.

During the course of  genealogical research we come across many people, some notorious for their acts of
bravery, some for unlawful deeds, and some who are just plain people like ourselves.
Nannie Doss was one of those people whose deeds will forever be recorded in our history, however cold
and malicious they may have been.  How could this pretty, romantic girl and later a soft-voiced woman still
seeking the “perfect love”  lead an incredible saga of murder by poison for over 28 years leaving a trail of victims
across half the country  before arousing suspicion?  This is a puzzle still left unsolved by authorities.
Arrested in 1954  for murder by poison  of her  present husband and possibly the murder of another, the
investigators had no idea what a web  they were about to unweave  that had been woven by the “Black Widow”
Called the Jolly Widow by many, because of her cheerful disposition,  her last victim was the unfortunate
Samuel  Doss of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Sam and Nannie were married in July of 1954 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Shortly
after  that  Doss became ill,  after a trip to the Hospital, Doss’ condition continued to worsen and by October 1954
he was dead.
After several weeks of investigation into the death of Sam Doss,  Oklahoma police had enough evidence to
arrest Nannie Doss for the murder of Doss and possibly  another.
Nannie faced her interrogators with equanimity on November 26th, 1954 when she was arrested  She
laughed at the accusation, always stating, “my conscience is clear”.   “I married these men because  I loved them”.  
She told the detectives, “I have  never poisoned anyone”.   That she read a lot of love story magazines and that her
favorite television programs “are of amour”, seems she favored the sophisticated sound of the word. “I’m sure I’ll
find my perfect mate yet”, she told the officers.
 All through the night  and into early morning ,  in two-man teams,  detectives questioned the “Jolly
Widow”.    During these intervals, she would remove her horn-rimmed glasses stating, “I’m not near or far
sighted”, she explained she only wore them for the headaches.  “I’ve had terrible headaches all my life, or rather
from the time I was seven.  That was when the train hit the buggy I was riding in and I was thrown out”. The
smiling suspect never once lost her composure and wore out four teams before they gave up for the night. 
While the officers took a  few hours of  grateful rest, a new force had entered their side of the battle. 
Newspapers and wire services had spread the word that Nannie Doss was being questioned in at least one and
possibly two deaths caused by poisoning.
By sunrise the Oklahoma police phone was jumping off the hook , more evidence was pouring in by the
second against Nannie.  Stories of other men Nannie had been married to who had met untimely deaths , the
deaths of her sisters while in her care,  mysterious death of two of her young daughters, and even the death of her
own mother was being questioned.  This story began to grow, hour by hour , in length and horror.  Apparently
anything or anyone that annoyed “Arsenic Nannie” was sure to have a death warrant signed with their name on it.
Once again, the interrogation began, this time the investigators were armed with evidence against her. 
Sometime during the next seven hours, she faltered and at times a self-conscience giggle heralded a small
admission, “I lied about that”.  At last she weakened and admitted that she had poisoned Sam Doss.  he had begun
to annoy her shortly after their marriage. She stated she felt sorry for him, when she should have felt sorry for
herself.  “I didn’t know what I was getting into”.
Some of the “little things” he annoyed her with was having to go to bed at dark,  and “he wouldn’t let me
have a television set or radio or even a fan in the house.  She quoted Doss with “Ive been a Christian man all my
life and you’re going to be a Christian woman.  You don’t need a radio and television.
This “got on her nerves” so bad that she put an inch of rat poison in Doss’ coffee.  She apparently
overestimated the dose, causing him to retch so violently it saved his life.  Afterwards she was “nursing” him back
to health and reportedly stated that he was a mean as ever.  Again she poisoned his food, that day he died.
After Nannie signed the confession, the investigators began the task of leading this extraordinary woman,
like a clock running backwards , over her trail of murders.  She would admit a chilling crime and the back off on a
minor detail.   Her final words on Doss  were, “now my conscience is clear”.
She  claimed to have met husband #4,  Richard Morton, in Birmingham, Al at the bus station.  Morton
was a 69 yr old native of Emporia, Kansas,  after a long period of questioning, she admitted to having poisoned
Morton in 1953 as well.  Her reason for his death..”he had been making me mad  ‘shining up to other women” 
After she signed this confession, once again she stated “ Now my conscience is clear”.
The expectant officers were disappointed when the floodgates of Nannie’s soul did not open up.  Without
rancor, she continued to verbally fence with the investigators until they trapped her with new confessions.  This
brought out the confession of the murder of husband #3, Arlie Lanning resident of Lexington, NC. Married in
Her brow was darkened with one of her infrequent frowns when she recalled the provocation’s that led to
the fate of Lanning.   This marriage was the longest of all, five years.  He crossed the fatal line in 1952.  “He was a
womanizer”  and “He started running with other women”, she stated.  Shortly afterward, she confessed to
murdering  Lanning with poison.  Once again, “Now my conscience is clear”.
The investigators gently led Nannie into a discussion of Frank Harreslon, husband #3, who’s murder
would be her first so far as present admissions went.  She claims they were married in 1937 in Jacksonville, Al. 
but, Harrelson’s brother claims they were married in 1945, the year of Harrelson’s death.
Nannie stated she married him for love but,  that was a disappointment. “I found out that he was a jailbird
and a drunkard”.
Then she enlightened them on that story, “One Sunday I was at my mothers and Frank’s brother showed
up stating that Frank wanted to see me”.  Frank had been out all night the night before drinking.   She went with
the brother to the edge of town, where she found him passed out from too much to  drink.  After driving him home
and helping him inside, she states that “He wanted me to go to bed with him, I refused” Frank then replied, “My
God woman, I may not be here next Sunday to go to bed with”.  After thinking about what he said,  “I went and got
the whiskey bottle out of the flour bin in the kitchen and poured poison into it, I thought I’ll just teach him a
lesson” . The next morning the bottle was empty and Frank was sick all week,, by Sunday he was dead.  When the
investigator asked her, “How’s your conscience now”? She replied, “CLEAR”.
No amount of prodding could evoke more confessions from her.  Her  soft reply was “You can dig up all
the graves in the world and you won’t get anything more on me”.
Although exhumation of more bodies proved that the deaths had been from poisoning, No more
confessions were forthcoming.
Returning Nannie to the time when she was a wild and pretty girl of 15 in her home town of Blue
Mountain, Al where she met and married Charlie Braggs, it became apparent that she may have included children
in her lethal activities.  Braggs is known as “the one who got away”.  Unfortunately, not before two of their young
daughters died mysteriously.  he stated “she was always running off with this man and the other”, he divorced her
after one of her escapades when she returned home bringing another man home with her  The only statement from
Nannie of Braggs was, “she was forced to leave him because of him running around with other women”..
Braggs said he was afraid of Nannnie, as was his family. He never ate or drank anything that she had
prepared when she was in a foul mood.. 
After all was said and done, Nannie appeared as “fresh as a Daisy”. she laughingly outlined a meal
complete with coffee she would like to prepare for them.
When ask what she thought they should do with her for poisoning all those people, her answer was,” why
anything they like”, she answered calmly, “Anything they do is perfectly all right with me”.
Four confessed murders and at least eight that were still under investigation?  What could have cause
Nannie to commit such hideous crimes?  And some  her own children and grandchildren, her sisters, and even her
mother and possibly her father.   Did she commit even more crimes?  After all these years the answer may never be
We know that had she continued on, even more would have fallen prey to her.  Before Doss died she was
corresponding with a farmer in NC, for whom she and baked a cake and mailed to him. he was anxiously awaiting
the day when they would meet.
There was even a period unaccounted for in her life where it is believed she lived in New York and Idaho
and was possibly married to a man named Hendrix..... did he fall prey to Nannie’s temperament as well?
Was it the head injury as small child, due to the time and era, that possibly lacked for medical attention
that could have caused her to be a murderess?  We will never know.
Although Nannie’s  education  is believed to not have reached past the sixth grade, and she probably
never read “The purloined Letter’,  yet she unerringly executed the bold psychology advocated in that famous story. 
She moved so openly and with such guilelessness that she was never questioned although victims dropped around
her like winter’s snow.

We are not accountable for our ancestors actions, however it is strongly believed that knowing about them
helps us to understand more about ourselves.  

It is believed that Nannie died in an Oklahoma Prison for Women, still looking for that “Perfect Love”.

My Snazzy List of Links

Thomas-----The Shadow Dancers: genealogical history of Thomas, Holder, Reed,Reid, Ransom,