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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 52 - The Granny Ripper and The Bathtub Riots

Updated: Feb 6


Tamara Samsonova: The Granny Ripper

Tamara Samsonova - Serial Killer grandma.
Tamara Samsonova, AKA The Granny Ripper

Tamara Samsonova was born on February 5th,1947 in Uzhur, Russia, which happens to be the largest territory in Russia.There really is no background information on her family and upbringing. And not much that I found on Tamara herself until after she graduated highschool. She went to the Moscow State Linguistic University after graduating to work on her undergrad classes. Once she was finished with all of that, she moved herself to St. Petersburg, Russia to work for a travel agent.

It is here that she met and fell in love with a man named Alexi Samsonova. It took them little to no time at all to move in together. They wound up sharing an apartment and actually lived in that same apartment for three decades. Their neighbors said they were a very likable couple, that they were friendly and accommodating. Not one complaint was ever made about Tamara and Alexi. Unfortunately, went missing in 2005, after thirty years of being married to Tamara, and living in that apartment.

The St. Petersburg Police came to the apartment to check on Tamara after Alexi’s disappearance. She had been living alone for a little while already at this point, and they wanted to go back over what had happened before she called them and reported him missing. Tamara stated that Alexi had run off with another woman. She was in denial and said she didn’t care either way. She also didn’t make it clear whether she found out about the other woman before or after he left. But with what she said, the police had no reason not to believe her. There were no signs of struggle or anything. No complaints by neighbors, they just shook her hand and walked away, closing the case and allowing Tamara to move on with her life.

After months of Alexi being gone, Tamara grew very lonely. She thought having a friend or companion would make her less lonely, so she decided in 2001 to share her space and sublet her apartment. She found someone interested in renting her space. It was a middle aged man named Volodya. Though he didn’t stick around very long, he left just a few weeks after moving in, saying that Tamara was not hospitable.

He wouldn’t be the only person to leave shortly after arriving. Tamara’s apartment was sublet several more times, all to men, all of which left due to a falling out with Tamara. 

The once friendly and accommodating neighbor that no one ever complained about, would start getting complaints filed against her. Neighbors started complaining about hearing loud banging, screaming and near-violent disagreements coming from Tamara and the people she was subletting her apartment to.

Sergei Potvayin  met with Tamara and decided he would go ahead and rent the apartment space. He also was not there long. He was gone after a few weeks. It was strange how it happened, like he was there, and he just…wasn’t. No one knew much about him other than he was from a different city, so everyone assumed he just packed up his belongings and went back home.

However, that wasn’t the case, and it would take several years for this to come to light.

In 2015, Tamara was 70 years old and absolutely loving life. She was retired and with that retirement, she found she had a good amount of spare time on her hands. So she decided to renovate her apartment. She knew that renovations would take a while to be done, so she asked some of her friends to come and help her out.

One of her closest friends asked one of their other friends, Valentina Ulanova, if she would be ok with Tamara staying with her while the renovations on her apartment were happening. Valentina was 79 years old and lived on the same street as Tamara. She was also a bit lonely, and figured this would be a good thing to do. They would both have companionship and she would have someone to help her with the household chores. Tamara thought this was a great idea as well, since she would be right down the street from her apartment, and would easily be able to oversee the renovations. It was a really good plan, in theory, until it wasn’t.

It didn’t take long for Tamara to start showing Valentina who she truly was. Arguments between the two began, banging could be heard, and loud noises became a constant in Valentina’s home. Tamara kept Valentina in the dark on how the renovations were going. But beyond that, regardless of renovations, Tamara straight up showed no intent on leaving this house. She was way too comfortable and wanted to continue being comfortable. 

Due to all of those things, it’s safe to say that the tension in the house was thick, and continued getting thicker until it finally snapped. Tamara and Valentina began to argue about who was supposed to be doing the dishes that day. And that argument escalated to the point that Tamara felt the need to handle the problem accordingly.

Fast forward a couple of days…a young couple was walking their dog and noticed their dog acting a bit odd. Every time they walked their dog past the pond, the dog would go berserk barking and trying to run towards it. This was the only place the dog did this. The couple was curious so they walked down to see if something was there the dog had seen and wanted. And they did. They found small plastic bags full of human remains. All of which were wrapped up in a shower curtain. The couple immediately called the police and alerted them about what they had found.

The police showed up, saw everything they needed to and went into immediate investigation mode. They questioned people in the neighborhood and found out that Tamara had been seen taking garbage bags out at ridiculously early hours of the morning a few days prior. This was unusual behavior and timing for her. Nearby CCTV footage proved this to be true. The police then went to Valentina’s house to question Tamara. She remained cooperative and invited them inside to look around the house.

Which wasn’t the smartest thing to do I suppose as evidence was found damn near immediately. Police found blood splatters on the floor of the bathroom and the kitchen. They also noticed that the shower was missing its curtain. The team of police headed back to where Tamara was to confront her, but she stopped them before they had the chance, by confessing to the murder of Valentina.

Tamara told police she went to a nearby pharmacy and got some Phenazepam (Russian version of a schizophrenia medication), and not just a couple of pills…but an entire prescription of it, which is a bottle of 50. She said in an interview “I came home and put the whole pack of Phenazepam – 50 pills – into her Olivier salad. I woke up at 2AM and she was lying on the floor. So I started cutting her into pieces.”

Valentina came home and smelled dinner cooking on the stove and saw a big fresh salad. She was hungry so she dove right in. Valentina didn’t realize what she did until it was too late and everything went black. Nor would she realize that Tamara was just getting started either.

A bit after 2 am, Tamara picked up a hacksaw and various kitchen knives and chopped Valentina up into numerous smaller pieces. She stated, “It was hard for me to carry her to the bathroom, she was fat and heavy. I did everything in the kitchen where she was lying.” All of this happened while Valentina was still alive.

After dismembering her, Tamara gathered the parts and pieces and packed them all into small plastic bags. She then boiled Valentina’s head and fingers in a saucepan, which at the time she did in an attempt to conceal Valentina’s identity. She then wrapped all of the small bags containing her former roommate in the shower curtain, drug them down the stairs and to the pond where she dumped them.

While she made numerous trips to the pond, she didn’t realize she was leaving a trail of blood behind her all the way from the stairs to the pond. She was unable to move the Valetina’s hips and legs beyond the next door neighbors yard, so that’s where they stayed. She then returned home as if nothing had happened. With all of that out in the open, she was arrested on the spot.

Two days later, she had a court hearing. Tamara didn’t show any resistance to the police, the jailers, or the court attendees. She remained calm and claimed that she handled the situation she was in appropriately. She was actually blowing kisses to the cameras, all while looking content and happy to be there. She also showed no remorse for killing the person that let her stay with them for free. When the judge ordered Tamara to be held in jail during the course of the investigation and trial, she literally applauded and was happy about it.

The biggest shock that came from Tamara confessing to killing Valentina, was when she also confessed to killing more, and all of them deliberately. With the willing confession she gave on many more murders out in the open, police decided to expand their investigation. 

The police went back to her house and went over each room better than they did previously. This time they found a diary written by Tamara. She had written it in 3 languages, Russian, German and English. In this diary she detailed at least 11 other murders that she had committed. The people that examined it said it was like she wrote EVERYTHING down so that she wouldn’t forget those moments in her life. She had stuff in there about how she slept the night before, what she ate for dinner - just day to day stuff.

But she also had the murders written in there. But it wasn’t just the murders she highlighted. She also wrote about cannibalism. This was backed up by the fact that she cooked Valentina’s head and fingers, and there were numerous organs missing from the body. None of which were found in trash or any of the bags, so it’s safe to assume she had probably eaten them.

Once the diary became public the media picked it up and it turned into a media frenzy near her. Everyone that reported or was interviewed by a news channel was so shocked that the sweet little old lady was such a monster. She was dubbed “The Granny Ripper”, as a play on “Jack the Ripper ''. She was also called “Baba Yaga” which was based on Slavic folklore about an evil old witch that would cook and eat her victims.

During the investigation police looked into all the murders that happened and were written about in the diary. They found a common theme between them:

  • Most of the victims were from different towns.

  • Most of them had no one to search for them or report them missing.

For example - Sergei Potvayin that quickly left in 2003. It Turns out she had poisoned him, dismembered him and disposed of him just like she did to Valentina. His torso was found but there was nothing leading it back to Tamara. He wasn’t from the area and they couldn’t figure out WHO the torso belonged to. But after 12 years, the police finally had their answers of who he was and who had killed and chopped him up.


The diary also made mention of a victim named Volodya. Everyone assumed this was her first roommate after the disappearance of Alexi. This is the one exception to all of the murders. Volodya was found alive. He was able to tell police what happened and that he was admitted to the hospital because of being poisoned at Tamara. He assumed he had eaten something bad elsewhere, and not Tamara’s food. He wasn’t aware until that moment that it was Tamara that tried to poison him. Her doing it never crossed his mind. He would be the second person to be identified through the diary.

More stories from the diary came out and everyone assumed Tamara killed her husband, Alexi. While she did document her life in the diary, from the mundane to the murders she admitted to, she didn’t have anything in there about Alexi. Even without him being mentioned, the police were still suspicious and started investigating his whereabouts, but nothing turned up. 

Now comes the question…why would this little old lady do all of this heinous shit?

She barely knew her victims, most of them were from out of town, she had no vendetta against them , yet she purposely poisoned and killed, chopped them into pieces and ate parts of them for the smallest reasons, like disagreements over who was going to do the dishes.

While she was being held in jail, psychological evaluations were performed and the results showed that Tamara had mental health issues. No shit?! 

She claimed that a monster in her head forced her to do everything she did. She told CNN “I’m haunted by a maniac upstairs who forced me to kill,” It is believed Tamara had to have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic since she had access to a prescription pill that is for paranoid schizophrenia. It’s what she used to poison her victims. She had been hospitalized three times for the same reason.

It came to light that her apartment didn’t need renovations done. In fact there were no renovations done and there were no people helping her. She just wanted to get out of the house.

Police found out Tamara was into black magic and the occult and automatically assumed the killings were done as a ritual. With that, the theory also comes into play with her cooking and eating parts of the bodies.

Neighbors confirmed that Tamara was obsessed with serial killers that ate their victims. Her favorite was Andrei Chikatilo. She was actually compared to him and this absolutely thrilled her. It was like finding the holy grail for her being compared to her favorite.

Tamara stated the reason behind her killing all of these people - and that was simply because she wanted to. She said she was sad and lonely and going to prison would be a happy retreat for her. She’d have people around and food handed to her. She also said that she waited for the day she got arrested and had been preparing and waiting for that moment for over twenty years. “I have nowhere else to live. I am a very old person, and I put the whole matter to rest deliberately. I have thought 77 times about it and then decided that I must be in prison. I will die there and the state will probably bury me.” “I was getting ready for this court action for dozens of years. It was all done deliberately... There is no way to live. With this last murder I closed the chapter.”

Even with her confession, and her confessional - the diary - Tamara was labeled unfit to stand trial, and is currently still alive and living in a psychiatric hospital in Kazan, Russia. 

Alexi was never found, and it’s easy to assume she killed and ate some of him as well.

Along with the missing Alexi, Valentina’s head and fingers have never been found.



The Bathtub Riots

Gas chamber of the US
Deinfestation Camp

If you google historical events between 1914 and 1918 more than likely you will find only results for WW1 but, at some point in time, with all of our search histories, I came across three words and of course, this was more than enough to catch my interest. Hidden in the shadows of the many battles and turning points of the war to end all wars, you will find the bathtub riots. 

In 1914 the same year that WW1, Mexico was in the middle of a revolution to overthrow its current dictatorship and become a constitutional republic like the United States. Mexico's revolutionary Pancho Villa would not give up his fight and execute border skirmishes. 

This would cause President Woodrow Wilson to mobilize troops to protect the interests of the United States to Mexico, but with the events unfolding in Europe, he grew more concerned about WW1 and withdrew the troops in 1914. Soon after between 1915 and 1917 typhus broke out in Mexico City and began to spread. 

So my first reading of this typhoid fever came to mind, but they are different.

Typhus fever is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia, which is transferred to humans through arthropods like lice, ticks, mites, or fleas. With symptoms of fever, headaches, and rash, and the usual onset is 1-2 weeks after exposure. And can be associated with poor sanitary conditions. Typhus today has been stopped mostly due to modern hygiene practices and is now considered rare.

Typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, which is related to salmonella that causes food poisoning. Typhoid fever can be onset in 1-2 weeks as well after ingestion 

Symptoms of Typhoid fever include: fever - as high as 104.9F, headaches, weakness and fatigue, muscle aches, sweating, dry cough, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation, rash, swollen stomach from an enlarged liver or spleen. 

Risks of getting this are living or traveling to areas where the fever has been established Typhoid fever can be prevented by vaccination.

During this outbreak in Mexico City and its spreading, where in the United States  Thomas Calloway Lea Jr. a prominent attorney was elected mayor of El Paso, Texas. He was described to be obsessed with cleanliness and this probably got the best of him later on with the word of Tyhpus on the rise in Mexico. He would go as far as wearing silk boxers as he was informed by a friend named Dr. Kluttz that typhus lice do not stick to silk. 

With the eugenics movement on the rise in the United States, you can’t help but wonder if this had any role in his beliefs that Mexicans immigrating into the United States in the US vs. Them,  state of mind as movies at the times would refer to Mexicans as “greasers” in titles and depicted them as unclean and of lower intelligence

As that entire movement was gaining popularity in these times. For those who aren’t aware of what eugenics is, eugenics is the belief in creating a genetic and morally superior population or race by controlled breeding. These beliefs would warrant stricter control on immigration leaving it to health inspectors to deem who was worthy to enter the United States. What I believe was happening to the Irish immigrants was that most were deemed unfit and dirty on Ellis Island in NYC at the same time in El Paso, TX for  Mexicans entering on the Southern border. 

One of the major travel points between Mexico and the United States would be the Santa Fe Bridge,  between Ciudad (see you dads) Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, TX., El Paso would be called “The Ellis Island of the Southwest.”

In March of 1916, Thomas Lea led a campaign using the guise of sanitary betterment of El Paso to inspect every house in a prominent Mexican neighborhood of Chihuahuita in El Paso. If lice were detected in these homes the residents were forced to take a bath of vinegar and kerosene to kill the lice, shave their heads, and all clothing would be burned. Of the total number of cases of possible Tyhus found out of the 5,000 rooms inspected,  only two were found. Along with single cases of measles, rheumatism, TB,  and chicken pox. 

During this campaign, hundreds of adobe homes would be destroyed with the plans to replace them with American-style brick homes. However, the residents of the Chihuahutia neighborhood would eventually take up arms and post snipers to keep the demolition crews that were ordered to come to destroy homes out of the neighborhood. Lea’s response was to shoot to kill according to the El Paso Herald after ordering health inspectors to carry rifles after hearing of the snipers. 


His fears went as far as inmates carrying lice as far as the El Paso jail where 27 inmates would be burned alive from the chemical baths that inmates had to put themselves and their clothes in. Around 3:30 for some unknown reason a match was stuck causing the vapors to ignite killing the 27 men,  newspapers called it the Jail Holocaust as 19 of the 27 of those that had died were Mexican or Mexican-American.

Even after the tragedy of the jail fire Thomas Lea pushed on with his fears of cleansing El Paso from lice possibly carrying Tyhpus he would send a telegram to the Surgeon General, Ruper Blue. With plans to build a quarantine camp to hold immigrants for 10 to 14 days before allowing them to enter El Paso. Lea’s telegram reads as follows:

“Hundreds of dirty lousy destitute Mexicans arriving at El Paso daily 

Willing undoubtedly bring and spread typhus unless a quarantine is placed at once the city of Elpaso backed by its medical board and state federal and militia officials here feel that the government should put on a quarantine please investigate and advise me if this is necessary to avoid typhus epidemic”

Now before anyone comes at me for how this sounds this was Lea’s telegram word for word and I debated on including it as it was written. I decided to as it was written to give you a better understanding of the mentality at these times. These are not my own beliefs. 

Dr. B.J. Loyd, El Paso’s public health officer,  felt this was a bit extreme as the possibility of a Typhus outbreak was extremely low and opposed this quarantine camp but, did suggest opening up delousing plants instead.  The federal government also agreed that a quarantine camp wasn’t needed but sent 6,000 dollars (134k in 2024) to build these delousing plants. 

Men, women, and children would be separated and funneled into separate buildings.  

Those deemed second class had to strip naked and their clothes would be sent to a steam dryer and fumigated in a gas room with Hydrogen Cyanide. Inspectors would check each person's body including private areas for lice.

 If lice were found men would have their heads shaved along with any other body hair and the clippings would be burned. Whereas if it was found on women their hair would be soaked in vinegar and kerosene, and wrapped in a towel for at least 30 minutes, and also take the vinegar and kerosene baths. These steps would be repeated until no lice would be detected.

 Once past this step they would again be bathed but this time with soap and kerosene.

 After this, they would re-dress in their sanitized clothing if the steam dryers had not melted any of it, and given vaccination would receive paperwork stating name age sex date of inspection, and how many children they had under the age of 10. 

From here they would proceed to the immigration offices to be examined once again. Here their eyelids would be checked for trachoma aka pink eye and conjunctivitis. Some would be asked to solve simple children's puzzles and basic math equations and write a few sentences to check literacy. 

 They would have to go through this process every eight days to continue entering the United States. Those looking for extra money would endure this process multiple times and resell the tickets to those who didn’t want to go through the disinfestation process.

With a written guide by the U.S. Public Health Dept. some of the things that could bet immigrants turned away: 



Feeble-minded persons

Physical defectives

Pathological liars


Cranks and persons with abnormal sexual instincts 

Persons afflicted with loathsome or dangerous contagious diseases

By the end of January 1917, men and women would soon begin to be fed up with these practices especially women after rumors were going around that pictures of their naked bodies would be shared in the bars in El Paso by inspectors along with the fear of being burned alive after what happened in the jail the previous year.

January 28th, 17-year-old maid, Carmelita Torres would become fed up with having to do this essentially every week to just go to work every day. On this morning she was asked by officials to take the baths but she refused and got off the street car she commuted to work on and convinced 30 other women on the trolley to refuse this humiliating process of the baths. 

By 0830, the crowd had grown to 200 Mexican women who had joined in the protest and blocked all traffic on the bridge. 

Around 1000 General Andres G. Garcia drove his to the center of the bridge to try and quiet the rioters however he was only partially successful as they prevented his car from leaving the Mexican side. 


The scene reminded one of bees swarming. The hands of the feminine mob would claw and tear at the tops of passing cars. The glass rear windows of the autos were torn out, the tops torn to pieces, and parts of the fitting such as lamps and horns were torn away”  The El Paso Times wrote about the riots. 

 By noon several thousand men and women had joined in on the protests and some even laid on the trolley tracks to keep them from entering the disinfestation plants. 

Now with the trolleys at a standstill, these women would take control of these trolleys. One of these trolley men tried to retreat to the US side of the border but, up to four rioters clung on to him as he tried to make his escape and beat him. Another trolleyman hid in a Chinese restaurant on the Mexico side to avoid getting beaten by these women. 

General Franciso Murgua showed up with his death troops as they were known, to quell the female rioters. Even with their sabers drawn these women showed no fear and jeered and hooted before taking on the death troops overpowering them. 

When the US immigration and health workers tried to disperse the crowd they were met with a volley of bottles, rocks, and insults. 

By that afternoon it was made clear that nobody was harmed in the baths the crowds finally dispersed by mounted cavalry soldiers from both sides of the border despite rumors of someone being shot. 

Jan, 29th the riots continued but it was mostly men at this point where it was the rioters took advantage of protesting against the Carranza regime and voicing their support for revolutionist Poncho Villa. Here is one laborer would be taken to a nearby cemetery and killed by General Murgufa’s men.  With the migrant workers not coming in after two full days business owners and households without laborers would consult with the chamber of commerce to resolve the issues at the border as most are refusing to come to work at this point. Officials would clarify those that who aren’t infected can pass without having to bathe and certificates would be valid for a week. 

The riots lasted for three days and ended on January 30, 1917, after two men and one woman were arrested, arrested for assaulting a customs officer and soldier on the American side and no other violence was reported after this. This one woman that was arrested would end up being Carmelita Torres as her whereabouts are unknown after her arrest and historians can not find anything about her after this arrest.

Even with the riots, and Carmelita Torres being hailed as the Latina Rosa Parks for her actions, her name soon would be forgotten and the disinfestation process would go on, and over 100k Mexican immigrants either for work or a better life would still have to go through this process in 1917 alone.

 Even though some of the things I mentioned earlier would be added after the riots like the literacy test the list of those to be excluded to enter but with those changes, there would be a head tax of 8 dollars equal to 180 dollars today, and having a passport would be required. 

Between 1915 and 1917 less than 10 people died from the Typhus Lice that had the silk boxer-wearing Mayor and the media milked the fear for all it was worth. 

The following year, still focused solely on what was coming in from the Southern border, the real threat would come in from the borders of the United States. In the first week of October 1918, 1300 soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss contracted the Spanish Flu. There would be 10 thousand cases of the Spanish Flu in the 77,560 citizens of El Paso by the end of November that year. 

Even after the Typhus scare, Mexicans crossing into the United States would still have to go through this disinfestation process. Whereas the Hydrogen Cyanide would be replaced with Zyxclon B, which would be used for much darker reasons than pest control in the 1940s after a German doctor, Gerhard Peters wrote an article for a pest control journal and included photos of the fumigation chambers at El Paso and reports of how effective Zyxclon B is on killing lice and suggested this practice for their concentration camps for pests. 

These border disinfestation practices were carried on during WW2 with the Bracero Program where migrant farm workers would come to the United States while US men were off fighting the war. These workers would be sprayed with a white powder known as   Dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane or DDT as most of us know it. They were sprayed in the face and private parts with DDT after stripping down and treated like livestock during inspections and never knew how dangerous DDT can be to the body they called it “el polvo” the powder. 

High-dose exposure short term can cause: Vomiting tremors, shakiness, and seizures 

Long-term effects have been linked to: Breast cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, pancreatic cancer,  diabetes, decreased sperm quality, spontaneous abortion, impaired neurodevelopment in children. Also associated with asthma and chronic bronchitis onset of Parkinsons' disease, Alzheimer's DDT was banned in the US in 1972 for AG use and other developed countries followed suit soon after its impact on humans and wildlife after it broke down to  DDE for some reason unknown to me is pronounced the same as DDT after losing its hydrogen chloride bond to evaporation into the air and water.

Staff wasn’t even aware of how dangerous it was and Ines Fresquez Enciso that worked at these facilities as a clerk would recall that she and other staff never gave it much thought when they were told they were disinfecting for lice but would think it is much like what the nazis did to the Jews during the war. 

When the Bracero program ended in 1964 health officials acknowledged DDT was dangerous and the fumigations and baths would come to an end.

Even today we still see this same fear narrative being spun on the news about those coming to the United States wanting a better life being looked at the same as Tom Lea. 

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