Amy Archer-Gilligan and Her Murder Factory

Amy Gilligan Nurtured Her Patients to Death

Amy Gilligan
Amy Gilligan. Family Photo

Amy Archer-Gilligan (1901-1928) called Sister Amy by her patients, was known for her nurturing tonics and nutritional meals at her private nursing home in Windsor, Connecticut. That was until it was discovered that she had added arsenic to her recipe, resulting in the deaths of many of her patients and five husbands, all of whom had named her in their wills right before their untimely deaths.

By the time the investigation was over, authorities believed that Amy Archer-Gilligan was responsible for more than 48 deaths.

Sister Amy's Nursing Home for the Elderly:

In 1901, Amy and James Archer opened Sister Amy's Nursing Home for the Elderly in Newington, Connecticut. Despite not having any real qualifications for taking care of the elderly, the couple's nurturing and caring ways impressed their wealthy patrons. 

The Archers had a simple business plan. Patrons would pay a thousand dollars upfront in exchange for a room in the home and Sister Amy's personal care for the rest of their lives. The home was such a success that in 1907 the couple opened Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm, a new and more modern facility in Windsor, Connecticut.

James Archer

After the move, things began to take a turn for the worse. Healthy patients began to die without any recognizable cause other than possible old age. James Archer also died suddenly and the heart-broken Amy lifted her chin, dried her tears and headed to claim the insurance money on a life policy she had purchased on her husband in the weeks before his death.

Michael Gilligan

After James' death, patients at the Archer Home began dying at an almost predictable rate, but the coroner, a close friend of the deceased James and his wife Amy, determined the deaths were due to natural causes of old age. Amy, in the meantime, met and married Michael Gilligan, a rich widower, who offered to help bankroll the Archer Home.

Not long after the two wed, Gilligan also died suddenly from what coroner described as natural causes. However, before his death he did manage to have a will drawn, leaving all of his wealth to his precious wife, Amy.

Suspicious Activity

Relatives of the patients who died at the home began to suspect foul play after each discovered their loving parents, adored brothers, and cherished sisters, had forked over large sums of money to Sister Amy, right before their untimely deaths. Authorities were alerted and seeing the pattern of over 40 patients giving money, then dying, they raided the home and found bottles of arsenic tucked away in Amy's pantry.

The Dead Talk:

Amy said she used the poison to kill rodents, but unconvinced, the police exhumed the bodies of several of the patients and discovered large amounts of arsenic in their systems, including that of her last husband, Michael Gilligan.

Natural Causes:

In 1916, Amy Archer-Gilligan, who was her mid-40s, was arrested and based on the decision by the state's attorney, she was charged with a single murder. She was found guilty and sentenced to hang, but due to a legal technicality, her sentence was reversed.

In the second trial, Gilligan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, only this time instead of facing the noose of rope, she was given a life sentence.


For years she was incarcerated at the state prison until she was moved to a state mental institution in 1928, where, totally insane, she died of natural causes.

Was Amy Archer-Gilligan Really Innocent?

Some people believe that the evidence against Army was circumstantial and that she was innocent, and that the arsenic she had on hand was really for killing the rats. As for the arsenic found in the bodies that were exhumed, it could have been due to the fact that from the Civil War until the early 1900s, arsenic was often used during the embalming process.


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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "Amy Archer-Gilligan and Her Murder Factory." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2016, Montaldo, Charles. (2016, February 1). Amy Archer-Gilligan and Her Murder Factory. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Amy Archer-Gilligan and Her Murder Factory." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2018).