In Arsenic and Old Lace, a delightfully dark stage play adapted into a movie by Frank Capra, Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) has an eccentric family that includes two brothers – one of whom thinks arseniche’s Theodore Roosevelt digging the Panama Canal in the basement, the other a killer who’s had plastic surgery to make him look like Boris Karloff – and two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with  home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide. Generally, poisoners aren’t as sweet as these two old ladies.

Take the case of Shirley Allen, arrested on November 6, 1982, charged with murdering her sixth husband Lloyd. Shirley certainly wasn’t as sweet as the two old ladies, nor nearly as successful. Her first attempt at poisoning was believed to be an early husband, Joe Sinclair, back in 1968. When his coffee began to taste odd, he didn’t buy the idea that it was the newest flavor of the month, reasoning that Juan Valdez Free Trade Almond Praline Decaf should not give him internal injuries. Joe went to the police, but no charges were filed. He filed for divorce, however.

Another husband, John Gregg, was not so lucky. He died a year after he married Shirley. He must have sensed that something was amiss because he changed the beneficiary of his insurance policy shortly before he died. Shirley got nothing. As you might guess, she was miffed. A pink-haired, large-bosomed barfly was rather happy, however. 

Lloyd Allen was Shirley’s sixth husband. He began to complain of a strange taste in his beer. When Shirley said that it was an iron supplement that would put a tiger in his tank, Lloyd believed her and promptly died. This time she was named as beneficiary of a $25,000 life insurance, but alas her daughter told police about the doctored beers. Toxicology reports confirmed that Lloyd’s body tissue contained a lethal amount of ethyl glycol – antifreeze. Shirley went to prison for life. She was never allowed to work in the prison cafeteria. 

Inspiration for 11/6/16




One thought on “November 6, 1982: Antifreeze and Old Lace

  1. Maybe Ted Kennedy was on to something. Maybe we do not need “someone else” besides ourselves to be president.

    In other words, we do not need anyone to be president… at least for this election cycle.

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