The Vicious Death of Nancy Spungen

Fatally stabbed in New York’s Chelsea Hotel in 1978, to date no one knows who killed Nancy

Heather Monroe

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Nancy Spungen, ca 1978, Fair Use Image courtesy of If They Should Ask

“I won’t live to be 21. I’m never going to be old. I don’t ever want to be ugly and old. I’m an old lady now anyhow. I’m 80. There’s nothing left…” — Nancy Spungen

When Nancy Laura Spungen was born on February 27, 1958, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, her mother, Deborah, instantly knew that something was different about her baby. During the delivery, Nancy’s umbilical cord prolapsed, which deprived the infant of oxygen. She came out blue and limp, with persistently elevated bilirubin levels. After an eight-day hospital stay, Deborah and Frank excitedly brought their daughter home.

The mood in the Spungen home shifted from excitement to apprehension when Nancy didn’t stop crying. According to Deborah’s memoir, And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Nancy didn’t merely cry, she screamed. And she didn’t stop.

Deborah brought her baby, several times, to the pediatrician. They tried various soothing and coping mechanisms, including the “cry it out” method, but nothing worked. Then, when Nancy was three months old, the doctor prescribed Phenobarbital. Just a few drops on her tongue, as needed. Thus began Nancy’s love affair with substances.

Nancy needed frequent drops on her tongue. The dose would keep her asleep for a few hours. But when she woke up, she was in a constant state of agitation and motion. Her parents were hard-pressed to keep up with the baby. Nancy had no interest in slowing down and would stiffen up when touched. Deborah suspected Nancy suffered a neurological birth injury. Unfortunately, this diagnosis didn’t exist when Nancy was born.

Nancy was precocious — she spoke in sentences before her first year ended. No one knew quite how to deal with Nancy, so they subdued her with medication.

At age 11, Nancy was expelled from school for truancy and being generally incorrigible. She continued her education at Devereux Manor High School, a school for troubled girls. Part of the trouble was that Nancy possessed a superior intellect. She’d later claim to…

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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•