Tillie Klimek: A Tale of Dark Prophesies and Deadly Outcomes
Considered one of Chicago’s most notorious serial killers, Tillie Klimek’s story is one of grim predictability. Klimek, who claimed psychic abilities, would eerily foretell the deaths of those around her, only to have them die mysteriously soon after. Her victims, all men she was in relationships with, met their untimely end through what was later uncovered to be calculated poisonings. This article delves into Tillie Klimek’s chilling history, retracing her life, marriages, alleged premonitions, and her ultimate downfall.
Born as Teofila Gburek on October 22, 1877, in Poland, Tillie Klimek was the eldest of seven children from the family of Michalina and Michal Gburek. At the age of four, Klimek and her family emigrated to the United States, settling in the “Little Poland” neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Renamed as Ottilie, Klimek’s early life remains largely under the wraps, with most records beginning from her adult life.
By 1895, Klimek had married her first husband, Joe Mitkiewicz. The couple, well-liked in their community, appeared to lead a content life. Tillie, in particular, was admired for her cooking skills and a rather peculiar talent – the ability to predict impending deaths, which she claimed came to her in dreams.
The First Victim
The year 1914 marked the beginning of a series of unfortunate events tied to Klimek. She started telling friends about a terrifying vision she’d had where her husband Joe fell ill and died within weeks. Lo and behold, Joe died on January 13, 1914, with the coroner attributing his death to “heart trouble”. Klimek collected around $1000 in life insurance following his death.
A Series of Unfortunate Marriages
Barely a month into her widowhood, Klimek married Joseph Ruskowski on February 27, 1914. Much like her first marriage, she began to predict the demise of her new husband who was perfectly healthy at the time. As predicted, Joseph fell ill during May and passed away on May 20, leaving Klimek with $1200 in cash and $722 in insurance.
Klimek’s third husband, Frank Kupczyk, suffered a similar fate. Following their marriage in March 1919, Klimek began telling neighbors that Frank “would not live long”. After his death in 1921, Klimek benefited from a life insurance policy of $675.
The Unraveling of the Truth
Klimek’s last marriage to Joseph Klimek in July 1921 marked the beginning of her downfall. As Joseph fell ill, his doctors suspected arsenic poisoning. Tests confirmed their suspicions, leading to Klimek’s arrest. Upon exhumation, the bodies of Klimek’s previous husbands were found to contain lethal doses of arsenic.
In addition to her husbands, Klimek was suspected to be involved in the deaths and illnesses of several relatives and neighbors. Her victims ranged from quarrelsome neighbors to a stray dog that had irritated her. In total, she was linked to around twenty suspected victims, fourteen of whom had died.
Trial and Conviction
In March 1923, Klimek was found guilty of the murder of her third husband, Frank Kupczyk. This marked the first time a woman in Cook County was sentenced to life imprisonment, the harshest sentence ever given to a woman in the area. The trial revealed that Klimek had profited greatly from life insurance policies she had taken out on her husbands.
The Final Chapter
Klimek died in prison at the Illinois State Penitentiary on November 20, 1936. Her story remains a chilling testament to the dark side of human nature, a tale of manipulation, poison, and prophetic dreams that turned out to be cold,