True Crime 17 Gruesome Facts About Serial Killer & Soap-Maker Leonarda Cianciulli  

Jacob Shelton
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If you’re looking for a reason to never trust your neighbors again then you’ve come to the right place. Leonarda Cianciulli is a lesser-known serial killer who committed disgusting acts with the bodies of the three women she killed in 1939 and 1940 in Italy. Not one to limit herself, Cianciulli wore a variety of hats - axe murderer, body defiler, cannibal - and she made them all work. That is, until she was caught.

Like a lot of 20th-century serial killers, Cianciulli never shied away from publicity, and she was up front with police about her murders, even though she knew that copping to the insane details of the case would ensure that she spent the rest of her life behind bars.

One of the greatest myths about serial killers is that they’re all creepy white guys who are in love with their mothers and wet the bed. While this is mostly true, there’s a wide world of murderers and sociopaths out there who look nothing like the famous serial killers we all know. On the outside, Leonarda Cianciulli was a sweet little lady who was friends with her neighbors and baked delicious tea cakes, but hiding behind that mask was the soul of a murderer who believed in the magical properties of human sacrifice. If you were looking for an excuse to start spying on your neighbors, you’ve found it in the case of Leonarda Cianciulli, the soap-making murderer. 

She Made Soap and Tea Cakes Out of Her Victims' Bodies


She Made Soap and Tea Cakes Ou... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 17 Gruesome Facts About Serial Killer & Soap-Maker Leonarda Cianciulli
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The most well-known part of Leonarda Cianciulli's story is that she used caustic soda, an industrial solvent used to break down wood, to dissolve human bodies. It can also be used to make a harsh soap if it's mixed with fat or meat from a human. In order to make cake out a person, she simply let her victim's blood coagulate, then she dried it out in an oven and mixed it with flour. From there she would use the flour to make cakes and give them out to her neighbors. And that's why you should never accept food from a stranger - or even people you know, for that matter. 

A Fortune Teller Told Her She Needed to Make Human Sacrifices to Save Her Children


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Leonarda Cianciulli has been described as "superstitious" by a number of biographers for taking a fortune teller's words to heart when she was told that all of her children would die, and that the only way she could save them was by human sacrifice. A more accurate description of the killer would be to say that she had lost her damn mind. Superstitious is when you refuse to walk under a ladder or change your hotel room because it it has the number 13 in it, not when you murder a series of women because a fortune teller told you to.

She Was Pregnant 17 Times, But Only Four Children Survived to Adulthood


She Was Pregnant 17 Times, But... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 17 Gruesome Facts About Serial Killer & Soap-Maker Leonarda Cianciulli
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Cianciulli became pregnant seventeen times, but suffered three miscarriages, then ten of her children died when they were still young. No doubt the strain of losing 13 children in total contributed to her insane paranoia about the safety of the remaining four.

Her Son Was in the Army, and She Was Convinced Human Sacrifice Would Save Him


Her Son Was in the Army, and S... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 17 Gruesome Facts About Serial Killer & Soap-Maker Leonarda Cianciulli
Photo: Public Domain/via WIkimedia

After learning from a fortune teller that all of her children would die, Cianciulli freaked out. And then to add gasoline to the superstitious flame, he son joined the Italian army, which in her mind was akin to a death sentence. It's not her son's fault that she believed the only way to keep him alive was to commit murder as a form of human sacrifice, but it certainly played into her bizarre reasoning.