Archer-Gilligan Murder House (1875)

November 2nd, 2015 Posted in Houses, Vernacular, Windsor

37 Prospect Street, Windsor

Today I’m featuring the infamous Archer-Gilligan Murder House in Windsor. The play and film Arsenic and Old Lace was inspired by the true story of Amy Archer-Gilligan (1873-1962), AKA “Sister Amy,” who ran the house at 37 Prospect Street (built c. 1875-1880) as the Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm. She and her first husband, James Archer, had earlier run a home for the elderly in Newington, moving to Windsor in 1907. James Archer died in 1910, a few weeks after his wife had taken out an insurance policy on him. In 1913 Amy married her second husband, Michael W. Gilligan, a wealthy widower with four adult sons. He died on February 20, 1914, again leaving her financially secure. Between 1907 and 1916 there were 60 deaths of her clients in the Archer home, 48 of them from 1911 to 1916, many of whom passed away after paying her large sums of money. Suspicious relatives of her clients brought the story to the Hartford Courant, which published several articles on the “Murder Factory.” A police investigation followed. Exhumations of the bodies of Gilligan and four others revealed that they had been poisoned. Archer-Gilligan had also been purchasing large quantities of arsenic. A jury found her guilty of murdering one of her tenants in 1917 and she was sentenced to death. In 1919, on appeal, she was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1924 she was declared temporarily insane and was transferred to the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane in Middletown, where she remained until her death.

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