The Funeral Hobbyist: The True Story of Serial Killer Martha Hasel Wise

The Funeral Hobbyist, by Sylvia Perrini, is the true story of Martha Hasel Wise.

Martha Wise was an American serial killer in the 1920’s in the state of Ohio. When, as a middle aged widower, her family ridiculed her over a new relationship with a much younger man, and finally badgered her into ending it, Martha Wise retaliated by poisoning seventeen members of her family. Three of those family members died. Newspapers of the day described her as the “Borgia of America” and it was one of the most sensational trials of the era in the state of Ohio. (Amazon)


Martha Wise was born Martha Hasel in 1884. She was born into a poor farming family and carried herself as such. She was as unattractive as she was dull and had little else going for her when it came to finding a husband. Martha also had an odd hobby. Attending funerals, whether she knew the deceased or the wailing bereaved relatives. It didn’t matter. She loved having sad people around her and hearing the weeping and moaning of the mourners.

In 1906, Martha attended a Hardscrabble “box social,” a local tradition in which young ladies demonstrate their culinary talents for potential husbands. Martha’s chicken sandwiches impressed an older man, Albert Wise, enough that he started courting her and soon proposed. The two were quickly married and Martha was moved onto Albert’s 50 acre farm.

It did not take Martha long to realize her role on that farm either. It became quickly evident that her new husband expected a farmhand more than he needed a wife. Her life became no easier and certainly no richer than it had been when she lived with her parents. And from there, things only got worse.

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