I finally was able to watch the episode of “Deadly Women” featuring Bertha Gifford. I just want to say and get this off my chest, Damn, you guys butchered that up. Candice DeLong, the FBI profiler on the show, is a well-respected woman in her field, but she’s way off in her allegation that Bertha knew what she was doing. Bertha was suffering from a mental illness and was often depressed. While it’s true she was administering arsenic to them you have to know this. During that time, medical science wasn’t like it is now. There were some remedies that had a very small amount of arsenic in them. Bertha herself used arsenic. She said so herself. Did she intentionally mean to poison them? No, I don’t believe she did, except for maybe Henry Graham, her first husband. The best thing was seeing both Kay Murphy (Bertha’s Great-Granddaughter) and Marc Houseman (Washington Historical Society) on screen telling Bertha’s side. The show though, made it that she was bloodthirsty and wanted to kill her victims. Candice DeLong described it as “She saw them as rats and they had to be destroyed.” I find that quite an off-based assumption. Miss DeLong was not there and has no idea what really happened.
I’m going to quote Kay. This came from her blog.
“For the record:
Bertha was not convicted of 17 or 18 or 19 or 20 murders, nor was any evidence produced to substantiate that number. Seventeen people, at a grand jury hearing, gave testimony regarding loved ones she had cared for who died. Bertha was a “volunteer nurse” over a period of close to twenty years. We have no record of how many people she cared for who didn’t die.
After the grand jury hearing, two bodies were exhumed. Both were found to contain arsenic. Enough arsenic was present in the body of Ed Brinley to “kill seven men.” Keep in mind:
If your own body were tested today, arsenic would be detected. There is arsenic in the water you drink–even if it comes through a filtering system. Arsenic is present in ground water and well water. Ed Brinley was a heavy drinker… during prohibition… when the alcohol consumed came from neighborhood stills. Bertha Gifford was in the habit of ingesting arsenic as it was thought to be “good” for the circulation. This was a common practice in the 1920’s. As a volunteer nurse, Bertha admitted giving arsenic to people. Her motivation, as she declared in a signed statement, was to help them. Ain’t nothing crazy about that. Misguided, perhaps. Arrogant. But not crazy. “
Bertha was not an evil person. Strange? Maybe. She really attracted to morbid stories and she did go to all the funerals except for little Beulah Pounds.’ She was angry at Beulah’s mother was her reason. And Kay is right. Seventeen passed away but how many did survive. Doc Hempker should have shouldered some of the blame but was inept or drunk and maybe both. Again, we’ll never know.
I’m tied into Bertha’s story. It’s amazing that after ten plus years I’m finding out more and more about Bertha. There’s a reason for it even though I may not know it now. Maybe I’ll find something that’ll unlock the mystery. I don’t know. I just want the truth to be known about her. The real truth and not what “DeadlyWomen,” Candice DeLong, or the moron that runs the Morse Mill Hotel believe.
This is my quest, whether I have help or ride it alone. But by damn I’m going to do what I can and the best I can to make sure the truth about Bertha is known.