Leonarda Cianciulli was known as the Soap-Maker of Italy. Now, what’s so bad about making soap? Gets ya clean, smells good, right? Well, Leonarda was before her time, pulling the ol’ Tyler Durden routine long before Fight Club came out. Yes, Leonardo made soap out of her victims.
Leonarda was born in Montella, Italy in 1894 and was depressed as a child, trying to off herself twice. But, she would eventually marry and move away to Lauria. Things started out rough for the newlyweds. Leonarda was briefly imprisoned for fraud in 1927, and an earthquake destroyed the couple’s home in 1930. But when the couple moved to Correggio, Leonarda seemed to get her life together. She became the proprietor of a little shop and was well-liked. Unfortunately for her, she was also superstitious. She had four children, after losing three to miscarriage. When a fortune teller told her she would lose all of her children when they were young, she began to fear for them. And when her eldest son was about to ship off to WWII, she decided the best way to protect her brood was via human sacrifice. Not sure why she didn’t consider any other more practical methods first, but the dark arts must have just appealed to her. Offering her services as a fortune teller herself, Leonarda killed three different customers, all middle-aged women who lived nearby. Her first victim was Faustina Setti, who Leonardo murdered with an axe then chopped into nine pieces. She drained the blood into a basin. She described the process in her memoir, An Embittered Soul’s Confessions:
“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”
Mmm, crunch-blood tea cakes! She did the same with her second victim, Francesca Soavi. With her third, Virginia Cacioppo, she decided to keep the soap.
“She ended up in the pot, like the other two…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”
Leonarda was arrested after her third victim’s sister reported seeing her going to Leonarda’s home. Leonard was arrested, tried and convicted, and sensed to prison. She died there in 1970.
If you’re interested in seeing her soap pot, it’s on display at the Criminological Museum in Rome.