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16 Gruesome Facts About Serial Killer & Soap-Maker Leonarda Cianciulli

Updated April 17, 2020 17.1k views16 items

Leonarda Cianciulli is a lesser-known serial killer who committed horrific acts with the bodies of the three women she killed in 1939 and 1940 in Italy.

Like a lot of 20th-century serial killers, Cianciulli never shied away from publicity, and she was upfront 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.

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.

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

    Photo: Hari Vinayak Santhosh / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    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.

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

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Leonarda Cianciulli has been described as "superstitious" by a number of biographers for taking a fortune teller's words to heart.

    The psychic told her that all of her children would perish, and that the only way she could save them was through human sacrifice.

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

    Photo: Activism / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Cianciulli became pregnant 17 times, but suffered three miscarriages, then 10 of her children perished when they were still young.

    The strain of losing 13 children may have contributed to her paranoia about the safety of the remaining four.

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

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    After learning from a fortune teller that all of her children would perish, Cianciulli freaked out.

    To add gasoline to the superstitious flame, her son joined the Italian army, which in her mind was akin to a death sentence.