The Strange Murders of Tillie Klimek

The story of Chicago’s most prolific female serial killer

Heather Monroe

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Tillie on her way to jail, public domain, Chicago Tribune

Ottilie “Tillie” Klimek was born Teofila Gburek on October 22, 1877, in Poland. Her parents were Michalina and Michal Gburek. The Gburek family had seven children, and Tillie was the first-born. When Tillie was four years old, the family immigrated to the United States. They settled in the “Little Poland” section of Chicago, Illinois.

Tillie Klimek, Public Domain

Love and Marriage

Not a lot is known about Tillie’s childhood. By 1895, she married Joe Mitkiewicz. The marriage appeared to be a happy one. The couple was well-liked in their community. Tillie earned a reputation as a good cook, who had the uncanny ability to predict impending deaths.

These predictions came to her in dreams, she claimed, and Tillie had many of them. Usually, the dreams were of stray dogs that annoyed her or an argumentative neighbor. However, the world would come to know Tillie wasn’t really having premonitions. She was merely stating times of deaths and penciling a murder into her schedule.

At the beginning of 1914, Tillie began telling friends and neighbors about a new vision. She dreamed her husband, Joe, was sick. And that he would die within weeks. It was no surprise when that dream came true on January 13, 1914. The coroner listed the cause of death as “heart trouble.” Tillie collected around $1000 in life insurance.

Tillie wouldn’t remain a weeping widow for long. Tillie married Joseph Ruskowski on February 27, 1914, After a month of grieving. She once again began to tell people that her husband would die. Joseph, who was the picture of health, started to get sick by May. Just as Tillie predicted, Joseph passed on May 20. He left Tillie $1200 in cash and $722 in insurance.

Shortly after Joseph’s death, Tillie sought comfort in the arms of another man, Josef Guszkowski. His sister, Stella, enjoyed candy with her brother and his new sweetheart. Both of them became violently ill, and Tillie’s latest beau died.

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Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•