In 1891, a mysterious figure appeared on the streets of London, dispensing pills to poor young women who then died in agony. Suspicion came to center on a Scottish-Canadian doctor with a dark past in North America. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the career of the Lambeth Poisoner, whose victims remain uncounted.

We'll also consider a Hungarian Jules Verne and puzzle over an ambiguous sentence.


How can an investor responsibly divest herself of stock in a company that she feels has acted immorally?

Lightning can vitrify sand into rootlike tubes.

Sources for our feature on Thomas Neill Cream:

Dean Jobb, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer, 2021.

Lee Mellor, Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder, 2012.

Joshua A. Perper and Stephen J. Cina, When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How, 2010.

John H. Trestrail III, Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys, 2007.

Angus McLaren, A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, 1995.

Paula J. Reiter, "Doctors, Detectives, and the Professional Ideal: The Trial of Thomas Neill Cream and the Mastery of Sherlock Holmes," College Literature 35:3 (Summer 2008), 57-95.

Ian A. Burney, "A Poisoning of No Substance: The Trials of Medico-Legal Proof in Mid-Victorian England," Journal of British Studies 38:1 (January 1999), 59-92.

Penelope Johnston, "The Murderous Ways of Dr Thomas Neill Cream," Medical Post 33:38 (Nov. 11, 1997), 47.

Carolyn A. Conley, "A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream by Angus McLaren," American Historical Review 99:3 (June 1994), 899-900.

Philippa Levin, "Modern Britain -- A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream by Angus McLaren," Canadian Journal of History 28:3 (December 1993), 595-597.

E.H. Bensley, "McGill University's Most Infamous Medical Graduate," Canadian Medical Association Journal 109:10 (1973), 1024.

"A Crazy Poisoner," British Medical Journal 1:3302 (April 12, 1924), 670.

Michael Dirda, "A True-Crime Columnist Turns His Attention to Victorian-Era Serial Killer Thomas Neill Cream," Washington Post, Aug. 11, 2021.

Evan F. Moore, "New Book Details Canadian Serial Killer’s Murderous Legacy in Chicago and Beyond," Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 10, 2021.

Rick Kogan, "Story of Serial Killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream Takes You on a Grand, Gruesome, Historical Journey, With His Time in Chicago," Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2021.

W.M. Akers, "Getting Away With Murder, Literally," New York Times, July 13, 2021.

"When Canada's 'Jack the Ripper' Serial Killer Struck in Ontario," Toronto Star, May 29, 2021.

Marc Horne, "Doctor Who Had a Taste for Poison," Scotland on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008.

Jill Foran, "The Evil Deeds of Dr. Cream," The [Winnipeg] Beaver 86:4 (August/September 2006), 16-22.

"Coincidences Point the Finger at Cream as the Ripper," [Regina, Saskatchewan] Leader-Post, May 5, 1979.

"The Violent and Sadistic Dr. Cream," [Regina, Saskatchewan] Leader-Post, April 28, 1979.

"Poisoner Trailed Over Three Countries," Knoxville [Tenn.] Journal, Feb. 2, 1947.

Ruth Reynolds, "When Justice Triumphed," [New York] Daily News, Feb. 2, 1947.

"His Last Letter," Waterloo [N.Y.] Advertiser, Dec. 9, 1892.

"Cream's Joke," Arizona Republican, Nov. 30, 1892.

"Execution of Neill," [Cardiff] Western Mail, Nov. 16, 1892.

"Cream's Two Manias," Waterbury [Conn.] Evening Democrat, Nov. 16, 1892.

"Execution of Neill, the Poisoner," Yorkshire Herald and the York Herald, Nov. 16, 1892.

"A Demon Strangled," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nov. 15, 1892.

"Cream's Many Crimes," Boston Globe, Nov. 15, 1892.

"Neill Cream Hanged," [Wilmington, Del.] Evening Journal, Nov. 15, 1892.

"Neill Will Hang," [Brockway Centre, Mich.] Weekly Expositor, Oct. 28, 1892.

"Neill Cream On Trial," [Wilmington, Del.] Evening Journal, Oct. 17, 1892.

"On the Grave's Brink," [Wilmington, Del.] Evening Journal, Aug. 9, 1892.

"The South London Poisoning Cases," Berrow's Worcester Journal, July 2, 1892.

"The Mysterious Poisoning of Girls," Reynolds's Newspaper, June 26, 1892.

"Lambeth Poisoning Cases," Daily News, June 25, 1892.

"Poisoning Mysteries," Lloyd's Illustrated Newspaper, June 19, 1892.

Edward Butts, "Thomas Neill Cream," Canadian Encyclopedia, 2019.

Listener mail:

"Visit Norfolk Area Nebraska" (accessed Nov. 6, 2021).

"Norfolk, Nebraska, United States," Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed Nov. 6, 2021).

City of Norfolk, Nebraska (accessed Nov. 6, 2021).

Aaron Calvin, "17 Words Only a True Iowan Knows How to Pronounce," Des Moines Register, Sept. 16, 2021.

"How to Pronounce Vaillant," Forvo (accessed Nov. 4, 2021).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Peter Quinn.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at Thanks for listening!

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