15 Interesting Facts About John George Haigh

John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Killer, is one of England’s most notorious serial killers. His morbid method of murdering his victims in cold blood, then dissolving their bodies in sulphuric acid, earned him a spot in history.

Here’s a list of shocking facts about the infamous Acid Bath Murderer.

Interesting Facts About John George Haigh The Acid Bath Killer

1. John George Haigh grew up in an extremely religious household.

John George Haigh was born into a protestant family on July 24, 1909, in Stamford, England. His parents were the engineer John Robert Haigh and Emily Haigh.

Haigh was raised in Outwood, West Yorkshire, where he experienced a very lonely childhood. His father, John Robert Haigh, erected a tall fence around the family’s dwelling to separate themselves from the “evil outside world.”

Because of his strictly religious parents, Haigh had no childhood friends and cared for his pets and neighbor’s dog to soothe his loneliness.

2. Before John George Haigh became the acid bath murderer, he was a pianist and choir boy.

Young John Haigh developed a taste for classical music. He loved it so much that he taught himself to play piano and attended orchestral concerts as much as he could.

Additionally, he was quite studious as a young boy. Haigh won a scholarship to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. And after attending Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, he won another scholarship for Wakefield Cathedral, where he would become one of their choir boys.

3. John George Haigh’s first arrest was for fraud. 

The Acid Bath Murderer’s first criminal offense was for forging vehicle documents. For his act of forgery, he was locked behind bars for 19 months.

John George Haigh mugshot via Wikimedia Commons

Haigh also posed as a solicitor named William Cato Adamson, selling fraudulent stock shares at below-market rates from the estates of his deceased clients. He was busted when someone noticed he misspelled the city’s name one of his “offices” was located in. He would receive a four-year prison sentence for this offense.

4. The Acid Bath Murderer was only married for 4 months.

Before killing his first victim in cold blood, John George Haigh had a fleeting marriage to 23-year-old Beatrice ‘Betty’ Hamer. The couple got married on July 6, 1934. After four months, Betty left Haigh while he was in prison.

The couple barely knew each other when they were married, but Haigh impressed her with his charm, convincing her to ultimately say ‘yes’ when he popped the question.

5. The ‘Acid Baths’ were inspired by Georges-Alexandre Sarret.

John George Haigh regretted leaving witnesses behind to expose his activities as a con artist. So, Haigh spent his time in prison studying the murder methods of the French killer, Georges-Alexandre Sarret. Sarret would dissolve his victims’ bodies in sulphuric acid, inspiring Haigh to do the same.

He tested this method on field mice, discovering that it would take only 30-minutes for their bodies to turn to a liquid sludge. Thus, the Acid Bath Murderer was born.

6. John George Haigh’s first victim was his former employer, William McSwan.

The Acid Bath Murderer would use his infamous killing method on his first victim, William Donald McSwan. Haigh was filled with jealousy after McSwan bragged about his gig collecting rent at his parents’ properties in London. 

McSwan would take his last breath on September 6, 1944, when Haigh lured him into a basement on Gloucester road. Once the two were in the basement, Haigh battered him with a lead pipe, then tossed his corpse into a metal drum filled with sulphuric acid.

When Haigh returned two days later, he discovered that everything went according to plan. All that remained of McSwan was liquid, which he would pour down a manhole in the basement.

7. John George Haigh killed his former employer’s family.

The first family that John George Haigh targeted was the McSwan family. After killing their son, the murderer went after his parents, Donald and Amy McSwan. After McSwan introduced Haigh to his parents, he would trick the couple into believing that their son went into hiding in Scottland to avoid the draft for World War II.

He lured them into the same basement where he murdered their son by telling them that he had returned for a surprise visit. Once they were secluded, he bashed Mr. and Mrs. McSwan in the head and threw them into the acid baths.

8. The Acid Bath Murderer killed a couple with their own revolver.

His next target would be Dr. Archibald Henderson and his wife, Rosalie Henderson. He met the couple by pretending to be interested in an estate they were selling. Rose and Archie Henderson were fond of Haigh and invited him to play piano at their housewarming party, where he would steam Dr. Henderson’s revolver.

On February 12, 1948, the killer took Dr. Henderson to his workshop to show him an ‘invention.’ When they entered the workshop, Haigh shot Henderson with his own revolver, then called his wife, claiming that her husband had become ill.

When she arrived, he shot Mrs. Henderson with her husband’s firearm. He then threw Archibald and Rose Henderson in the dreaded metal drums.

9. John George Haigh was caught because he left incriminating evidence after murdering Olive Durand-Deacon.

Next on his hit list was Olive Durand-Deacon, the widow of solicitor John Durand-Deacon and the killer’s neighbor after Haigh moved to the Onslow Court Hotel. Mrs. Durand-Deacon told Haigh that she had an idea for artificial fingernails, giving him the perfect opportunity to take her to his warehouse. 

The murder of Olive Durand-Deacon would be the one that ultimately got Haigh busted for his crimes as he left crucial pieces of evidence on the scene. Instead of pouring her liquified body down a manhole, he made the mistake of dumping it on a pile of rubble outside his workshop.

When investigators arrived on the scene, they found a dry cleaning receipt for her fur coat, 28-pounds of human body fat, part of her foot, gallstones, and a portion of her denture.

10. John George Haigh used his victim’s funds to afford his lavish lifestyle and gambling addiction.

John George Haigh had a gambling addiction and a taste for the finer things in life. He used the assets of his victims to afford his lifestyle and fuel his addiction.

With the McSwan’s, he posed as William McSwan to sell his parents’ estates and take the profits. He also forged the signatures of the Hendersons to sell their possessions for £8,000. After murdering Mrs. Durand-Deacon’s valuables and her Persian fur coat off her corpse before submerging it in sulphuric acid.

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11. John George Haigh pleaded insanity to avoid his impending execution.

John George Haigh realised that his brutal murders would most likely earn him a death sentence, so during his trial, Haigh pleaded insanity. He told the court that he drank the blood of his victims, although there was no evidence to prove this.

John George Haigh after being arrested. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

John George Haigh furthered this narrative by recalling the supposedly bloody dreams that haunted him throughout his childhood. He talked about how these dreams returned to him in a vivid hallucination when he was involved in a car accident in 1944.

“The whole forest began to writhe and the trees, dark and erect, to ooze blood … A man went from each tree catching the blood…When the cup was full, he approached me. ‘Drink,'” claimed Haigh.

The prosecutor, Lord Shawcross, urged the jury to reject his insanity defense successfully. Haigh’s attempt to convince the court he was insane failed. The jury only took 15 minutes to reach a guilty verdict. After, the judge asked the Acid Bath Murderer if he had anything to say for himself. “Nothing at all,” Haigh replied.

12. The killer’s last words were written in a letter to his girlfriend.

Before he was executed for the murders, Haigh wrote his last words in a letter to his girlfriend:

“It is difficult to say farewell under these circumstances, but you will understand that you will always be in my thoughts. You know I have been proud of our association: it has always been an honorable one. I shall remember your great kindness and devotion. Now I must leave you.”

13. John George Haigh was executed by Albert Pierrepoint, who had hanged other infamous serial killers.

Albert Pierrepoint is one of history’s most renowned executioners to this day, killing between 400 to 550 criminals. He put many high-profile killers to death including; The Blackout Ripper, the Rillington Place Strangler, and the Blackpool Poisoner.

The infamous executioner would take the life of John George Haigh on August 10, 1949, after Haigh’s guilt earned him a death sentence.

14. There was a wax figure of Haigh at the Chamber of Horrors.

Before Haigh’s execution at Wandsworth Prison, he was requested to fit a death mask for Madame Tussauds waxworks. He agreed to model the mask and left his clothes to Madame Tussauds under the stipulation that his wax figure would always be kept in pristine condition, with creased trousers, shirt cuffs showings, and neatly parted hair.

The figure of the Acid Bath Murderer was kept at the Chamber of Horrors in London, England- an exhibition fall of waxworks of famous murderers and other infamous people throughout history. Unfortunately, Madame Tussaud’s exhibit shut down in April 2016.

15. Several directors used John George Haigh as inspiration.

The play about John Haigh, entitled Under a Red Moon, is a fictional retelling by Michael Slade. The reenactment portrays a fictional account of John George Haigh’s mental state and his psychiatric evaluation before the trial.

WAX, a play written by Micheal Punter, is about a fictional meeting between Haigh and an artist from Madame Tussauds who models his wax figure in an exhibition at the Chamber of Horrors while awaiting his execution.

A modern film about John George Haigh is the British television film A is for Acid (2002). In the film, Martin Clunes played Haigh, where he reenacts the life of the famous killer.

Did we miss any facts about the Acid Bath Killer? If so, make sure to comment below!

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