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Welcome to criminalize a production of Sandland Audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to Alienware.


This season, we are exploring the lives and motivations of some of the most notorious leading poisoners throughout history. I'm Holly Frim. And I'm Maria Mercè. And in today's episode, we are going back to 17th century Italy, specifically to Rome, to look at the life of a woman named Hieronymus Barra who went by the professional name Glassboro.


So we'll be honest here at the very top of the episode outside of her work with Poison's. We don't actually know a whole lot about the and we don't know where she was born.


Her first name is Greek. But is that where she hailed from before settling in Rome?


How did you learn her trade? Was she married? Did she have children? We don't have any of these answers. So here's the tricky part. If you start to do a little bit of poking around, it is easy to think that there are, in fact, answers to those questions.


But here's the problem with Lisbona.


Her story and her life throughout its history have gotten intertwined with another famous poisoner.


That may sound familiar, Julietta Fana. So you have heard that name before. Have you been listening to the show?


Because we talked about Julia in an episode earlier this season and it's really, really easy to see why the two women are so confused with one another. There are some really big similarities. The biggest overlap, though, is their work. Poison and politics were incredibly intertwined in this period in Italy, but neither woman was in the poison's business to become wealthy or to become powerful.


Julia, unless we're both known for supplying poisons to women around Rome and their clients were mostly women who wanted to get out of their marriages. There was a subtle difference in their efforts, though. While Julia tended to help women out of abusive situations, Le Spa was available to help women become wealthy widows.


And because they were contemporaries, that makes the information in many historical records a little wonky, too. For instance, some accounts suggest that Julia was a student of the opera. Some suggest it was the other way around. But honestly, to us it doesn't look like either of those scenarios was actually true. What we do know for sure, though, is that they operated during the same period of time and interesting, maybe we were actually even executed in the same year, although it was in unrelated circumstances, but fell short.


So it's a little early, but we're going to go ahead and take a quick break here.


And that's so that when we return, you'll have everything lumped together because we're going to set the scene of Rome at this time in history and how Maspero fit into it.


Welcome back to Criminal Element. OK, so I'm going to set the scene a bit for this time in room, the good, the bad and the ugly and all of it. This was a time when there were witch hunts. There were some very creative methods of torture, such as boiling people to death.


And there was also a plague epidemic sweeping through the city. So kind of a dicey time to live in Rome, right. So this was also a time when the Catholic Inquisition was very, very active.


So here imagining just how active. So in 16, 33, they tried Gallileo and found him. And we quote this vehemently suspect of heresy. So you're probably thinking Galileo heresy because we're taught that Galileo was a groundbreaking thinker of his time. That charge may sound a little bit ludicrous, but it really did happen. Yeah. And they tried to force him to recant his idea of heliocentrism, which, of course, was his concept that the Earth and the planets revolved around the sun, which sits at the center of the universe.


And if you know Galileo story, you know that he refused to recant it, saying, quote, I do not believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense is reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use. And this is also worth considering. This was only about 20 years after Galileo observed the moon through a telescope and wrote about it. He was literally starting the field of modern astronomy in a time when astrology was the science.


So he was completely blowing people's minds.


You can imagine his observations and efforts to understand the heavens scientifically meant that a lot of long held religious beliefs were being subverted by science, and that meant that he was upsetting people in power for really quite a long time with all of this.


That's the heresy charge that this is not a Galileo show.


Delightful and interesting, though his story may be. But look, not everything was was going wrong in Italy at this time. This is also a time when art was really flourishing. The Renaissance period, which was from the late 14th and into the 15th centuries, produced amazing writers and artists that we still are in awe of today. And by the time we get into the 17th century when La Spyro was living in Rome, it was the time of baroque Rome when architects, artists and urban planners were being celebrated.


This was a bustling city. The printing press had been around for quite some time, right? Gutenberg had invented it in the Midford hundreds, which means there was mass production of books, pamphlets and newspapers. It was also a time when people patronage transformed Rome.


A lot of when you visit Rome, a lot of the sculptures that you see that are there now come from this period. It was such an influential time for the Romans. And of course, it was also a time of poison. Right. This is our show. We're going to get to it at some point. Hoisin was a part of everyday life in Italy, not just in Rome.


And if poison and poisonings were an art form during this time, you could probably say that the Spa and Julia Typhon were the finest of their craft. And I like to think that if one of them was the Beatles than the other one was the Rolling Stones.


It's like they do together, though we mentioned that there has been confusion in the historical record about these two women. There was probably no confusing them if you passed them on the street. It is always been suggested that Julia was known for being a great beauty, while by all accounts Espera was. She's often described as like a little old woman who's kind of ugly people frequently referred to her as a hag in their writings about her.


I'm going to take back that word for all of us. I know it had such a terrible year anyway. So she was there, does a hag, but she was also known around the city as a sorceress or a witch, depending on who, you know, which which version you wanted to take at that time. She was an astrologer. She was a fortune teller, but those were actually her her side gigs. She was best known as being the head of an all female secret society.


That was a lot. I mean, there's a lot deadlier than like my knitting circle, even though those needles are pointy. Most of the women who attended were young and they came from some of the most elite and wealthy families in the city.


Yeah, my stitch and bitch looks pretty benign at this. I know, right? Like the things I could do with that crochet hook you don't want to know seemed like a very nice dressmaker shares.


Oh no, I was just thinking I didn't even think of the dress because I could cause some damage there. But anyway, sorry. Go ahead.


But I never will because nothing touches those shears but fabric.


I don't want a double blade. So a few of the stories of as far as folklore suggests that she took the wealth of these women into consideration when opening her doors to the ladies of Rome and kind of felt that those who were a little more upper class were less likely to talk about the doings of the society than those who were just part of the masses. Right. They had more to lose if somebody blabbed. Sure. Is this true? Maybe, but also maybe not with there's no substantiation.


So there had to be a reason why these women were collecting at her house and it wasn't just their recipes or to play games like Banco used to be popular or whatever the women of Rome did to pass the time in the evening. It was about Poison's specifically. It was to learn how to effectively use poisons and even more specifically, how to kill off a husband to become a wealthy widow. Here's the big difference. Well, one of the big differences between Sparta and Julia Julia was an apothecary and she focused on helping women get out of abusive situations.


And this time in Italy, there was no such thing as divorce, regardless of whether it was through a natural means, the teachings of a secret society or the potions of an economy carry to get out of your marriage, you needed your spouse to die.


And if you're looking to get wealthy through it and you want to do affect it as far as your girl.


So I know this is not mentioned in most tellings of LA as far as life. Some stories do suggest that she actually used that side hustle of fortunetelling to drum up interest in her poisonous society. So which I think is really kind of interesting. It's a very I just picture her going. I have a synergized marketing approach.


Exactly. She would tell fortunes and in doing so, she would gain women's trust and she would let them know that she had a solution to their problems.


And when they were lured in by that, with that, there was another member to the secret society. So this is another we don't know if it's true. It's certainly plausible. But it's also still also very plausible that the fortunetelling was just a way to support herself with diversified revenue streams, like she basically was just making sure she had money coming in as many ways as she could.


I met regularly, perhaps even nightly Atlas Barros home where she would supply the instruction and she would supply the poison. So as Julia to Poison was known as Aquafina, the drops that Le Spyro would pull out were and this is a big maybe because the accounts on this name very.


They were possibly known as Aquata de Perusia, which basically translates into water, a Perusia or Perugian water and Perusia, if you if you're not aware, is a city in Italy.


Lisbona primarily worked with the liquid poison that she made herself, and she primarily used arsenic as its main ingredient. Of course she did or she didn't.


We talk about arsenic all the time. Let's talk about it some more.


It's really we're just going to rename the show The Arsenic Files. And that's because arsenic has a very long history in agriculture, in homicides and more. We've covered it ad nauseum on the show.


We talk a lot about rat poison, all of the things all the time for, you know, for centuries it's been an ingredient in insecticides, rodent poison, wood preservatives, pigments in paint, wallpaper, ceramics. There were also some interesting off label use. This, of course. Yes. Which gave the poison. It's very ominous nickname that we have also used before, inheritance powder.


So like Holly was just saying, we talk a lot about the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, but today I thought maybe we could get into the fundamentals of what it actually does to your body when you consume it accidentally or not accidentally. So arsenic works something like this. So it's really all about sulfur, actually. And I'll explain this, because following calcium and phosphorus, sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in your body. And it's what's known as an essential element, which means it's something your body needs to keep itself alive because arsenic is so strongly attracted to sulfur binds right to it.


So when that happens, your body begins to lose its ability to function properly.


And that, of course, can cause a whole bunch of problems, problems that you have heard us talk about a lot in other episodes, a lot everything from vomiting and abdominal pain to organ failure. I'm sure there's bleeding internally and all those other things that we have to drain. Gross thing that's popped out of our mouths. It really should do this. And as we have said, these are all symptoms that often mimic other conditions from something as benign as food poisoning to something as serious as kidney disease, because it lacks color, it lacks odor, and it doesn't have a taste when you mix it into food or drink.


It became a super popular poison and stay that way for centuries. And it didn't really hurt that it was so readily available that it was it was available to anyone and everyone in all classes of society.


And you really didn't need very much a fatal dose. We've talked about this before. It's really just about the equivalent in size of a pea, which is less than a tenth of an ounce. So it's just a teeny tiny bit. And it wasn't like she was handing out poisoned spy like Mason Jar or Dallin or something. She was just supplying drops. You're sure Mason jar of poison.


And so it's so much more discreet than that when it's just a few drops, a few drops. So beginning in the 18th century, these so-called off label uses of arsenic started to wane. And that's mostly because the tests for detecting it in bodily fluids, hair and nails had been developed. We've also talked about that in the many experts that were evolving into the limelight at the time that were sort of becoming famous.


But in the sixteen hundreds, when Lazaro was practicing her trade, those methods had not been developed yet to detect it. And it was most definitely the king of poison. It's so rare to take a little break to hear from our sponsor. And when we return, we're going to talk about how the authorities infiltrated Lesperance secret society. Welcome back to criminality. We are at that point in the Sbarro story where someone we're not naming names, although we wish we could, but somebody spilled the beans.


So now that we know why arsenic was so perfectly deadly, we're going to go back to this society. Right. So let's porra practiced it for years until.


Well, there's always someone who talks, isn't there? Like one person, several people.


You only need the one. But it's possible that several women, depending on the account of the story disclosed during their Catholic confessional that they had poisoned their husbands.


And despite the rules of the confessional where the confession is supposed to be between the penitent and their God, the local priests became alarmed and notified the authorities. And in this instance, those authorities weren't like your local cops.


They were Pope Alexander the Seven and the papal authorities who took immediate, immediate interest in what the secret of the secret society really was, which was a place where women learned how to use poisons.


So following some cursory investigation, the papal authorities discovered that there did seem to be an awful lot of young widows living in Rome, mostly wealthy and most who's young and presumably healthy husbands had suddenly become ill and died in exactly how they ascertained this, like what their data gathering mechanism was, we don't really know. Your guess is as good as ours. We don't know if they went door to door, if they just sort of if they were just sort of Riquet.


Hey, I do know a young widow thinking that, like these two young women on my street who don't seem to be married anymore and they just got to put that all together. They have ready cash. They seem very liquid. But nevertheless, nevertheless, they put together enough information that they were definitely very suspicious. Naturally, their next step was to get inside the society. So to find out exactly what was going on during those secret meetings, they set up a trap.


They hired a young well-heeled woman to infiltrate the group, and she feigned extreme distress over the infidelities of her wealthy and Ill-Tempered husbands and the Smara who wasn't suspicious of this at all. She helped women all the time, invited her in and included her in that evening's hot poison, your husband's seminar.


She also gave her a few drops of a colorless, tasteless liquid poison to take with her on her way out.


Of course, she immediately brought those drops back to her bosses with the papal authorities. And when those drops were analyzed, the liquid was as they hoped and suspected, a slow acting poison.


They really did hope Le Spa and a dozen of her associates and pupils were, of course, immediately implicated in running a poison ring.


You know, we were in Rome in the mid sixteen hundreds and there was, of course, torture. Torture during the seventeenth century in Italy was an entirely legal way to force the confession. You wanted to force a confession, but under Roman law, you couldn't have a conviction without having a confession. So there were several favorite methods of drawing one out.


While torture practices were frequently used to punish heretics, it was open season on anyone, really, if this was considered an art form, crucifixion was by far one of the most common forms of torture in Roman times, although there were many, many methods to choose from and to torture. A confession out of La Sfera. She was put on the rack. Despite being punished on one of the chief instruments of torture at the time in Rome, Lazaar didn't confess committing any crimes at all.


However, one of her accomplices in the society, a woman named Grazioso, did confess under torture. And that's really all they needed under the law. So all 12 women, as well as Labora and Grazioso were hanged in 16 59.


But you may be wondering, what about the women who participated in the society and those who had killed their husbands but maybe were not the instructors?


Those women certainly were not overlooked by the authorities. In addition to the hangings that Maria just mentioned, there was also the matter of the larger group that had taken part in the Spar's instruction.


These were wealthy women of Rome and they were considered guilty, but to a lesser degree because of their status in society. In total, there were about 30 or so women who were publicly whipped through the streets of the city, and some of the highest class women were fined and banished from the city. An additional nine women were ultimately hanged for poisoning a few months later, allegedly also associated with Lisbona Society. So despite the torture and the hangings and the whippings and the banishment, the methods used by the authorities to take the hard line against poisonings really didn't actually do anything to stop the poisonous practices across the city, the spa, and for that matter, Julietta Fona as well.


We're certainly not the only vendors in town. And Roman women and men continue to poison their spouses and family members as a way to gain wealth and power.


But at the end of the day, the authorities were doing the same thing Rome, poisonous Rome, Rome in the 17th century. An interesting place to be. So I hear that you have a beverage called the Poison Society punch that maybe the ladies could have sipped on while they were learning about their poison.


That's exactly correct. Yeah. So for what's your poison this week? I couldn't get away from the idea of entertaining a bunch of people in your home as you taught them how to poison. And I just I love the idea of the poison society. I want. Sure.


Do I want you know, I want them to have had a secret knock like Olivant, like I totally do. And I thought it would be fun. Of course, I think about what one might serve as refreshments. It's always the host. So, yes, I came up with Poison Society Punch. This is a super duper simple recipe. And it is because the thinking here is that it's something I just made myself. I will tell you, I made myself one as a test, I took a sip and I immediately made my second one, I didn't even wait for desertion.


And I literally walked over to the couch to sit down and watch TV with two drinks in my hand, which probably sounds terrible, but it was really delicious.


So, Holly, by the way, which she was doing this texted me and I was like, she's got to be at least like two or three drinks just to you.


And the good thing is it's not a heavy hitter because if you're serving punch at a party, you don't want to get everybody wasted. You just want to keep, like, chatter flowing and keep everybody in a good mood.


Like, that's the whole point of an alcoholic punch, usually, especially at a poison party, like keep people kind of keep your wits about you.


Right. Not necessarily sober, but you got to know what's going on. Yes.


So and also, again, because it is a punch, it has to be easy to throw together and something you can scale up. So even though I only made them as singular drinks, which is how I'll describe it, you'll see that it's very easy. If you were like, that sounds delicious. I want to make it myself for a huge punch bowl. You can scale it up. No problem. So it's literally four ounces of cranberry juice, four ounces of champagne or sparkling wine of your choice and an ounce of amaretto.


We have not used Pomerado yet this season. We have not reached deep into the liquor cabinet was like, why is I not use this yet? Like logit again, so delicious. I took one sip and was like, oh, I'm making another now. And it is it's it's not heavy. I also used a diet cranberry juice because I don't like a lot of sugar. So it was not a very heavy drink for me at all, but regular cranberry juice would also work.


Here's what I also like about this recipe. Aside from the fact that you can easily just like multiply those simple three ingredients to make larger batches, you can also do a non-alcoholic version really easily if you're not a drinker or if you want to, I don't know, serve it to underage poison learners.


So you need poison learners, right?


You just you cranberry juice and like a sparkling grape juice. And then I would put in a little bit of almond extract to get that little bitter almond flavor that you get from the Amaretto. And it would be equally delicious. I think so, yes.


That's my poison society punch that I'm now going to serve with every party I labeled poison free, right? Yeah. It was just super duper yummy. It's like it's both crisp without being Baida and it's also like got a nice soft mouth feel because of the bubbles, the tartness of both the cranberry and sometimes for some people, champagne tastes a little bit tart to them. The amaretto takes that out completely, like it just sweetens it up enough that you don't get any tart.


So it's really easy to drink a lot, which is also why you don't want to put more amaretto in it than that, because you would end up very drunk, very fast. And we don't want that drink responsibly.


Always two drink minimum. That's the secret story. But yeah, that's the better chance.


Your little tickets at the doors get to know more than this to drink, Max, and then you're out relaxed enough to be willing to talk about poison. Other people not so relaxed that you blab it when you walk out later. Right. Good luck. Right. Yes.


She had too much. She had a third she had a third drink that. No, I'll take just a little bit less. I'll just take it home. Then she went right to confession and blabbed everything.


And she's like, how did you get on this rack? I don't know what happens.


We we hope you've enjoyed this and that this sounds delightful. And if you make it, share it with me on Twitter. Just tag it hashtag criminally. I'll find it.


And hopefully we will also see you back here next week if you would like to subscribe to the show. And you haven't yet. That is as easy as pie or I guess as easy as punch.


You can do that on the radio app, at Apple podcast or whatever it is you listen.


Criminality is a production of Shadowland Audio in partnership with I Heart Radio for more podcasts from Shandley and Audio. Please visit the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.