"Husbands should be like kleenex: soft, strong, and disposable."
The maneater, the woman
whose husbands/Love Interests
keep on dying.
Usually, a Black Widow is a cross between a Con Artist
and a Serial Killer
, a woman who seduces, marries, and then murders men for their money, always using a different name and identity each time to keep the police and her intended victims from twigging to her real identity. She's very much a highly successful vamp
Black Widows' methods may vary, but poisoning is often favored: it doesn't demand superior strength or leave obvious marks, and it's traditional for wives to do the cooking for their husbands.
There are too many Truth in Television
instances to count.
Occasionally there are more nefarious reasons
The name "black widow" comes from the official FBI designation for this kind of killer and from the black widow spider, which is so named because of the occasional habit of female black widow spiders (particularly the Australian redback spiders and the southern black widows) to devour their mates after mating. For this reason the trope may be paired with Arachnid Appearance and Attire
drive the spider metaphor home.
of Gold Digger
(this one prefers to kill her Meal Ticket
instead of living with him).
A Sister Trope
to The Bluebeard
(the Spear Counterpart
, Comforting the Widow
, Widow Woman
(for other widow tropes), Will And Inheritance Tropes
. When a pregnancy is involved, this intersects with Conceive and Kill
Not to be confused with Out with a Bang
or any of the many characters named "The Black Widow", including the comic book character
or female Chechen suicide bombers
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Junji Ito's Tomie series, the titluar character does, indeed, go after the money like a typical Black Widow... Except she gives men an odd feeling of wanting to kill her.
- Roxanne in Claymore was a low ranked warrior, who consistently would become the best friend of a higher ranked warrior, learn her techniques through yoki synchronization, and kill her. This continued until she became one of the strongest and most notorious Claymores in history.
- Fujiko from Ana Satsujin is a Black Widow who has killed at least three of her husbands after checking out large life-insurance claims for them. She is constantly getting underground plastic surgery to fool the police but she has noticeable beauty marks on her shoulder. Rio wants to kill her.
- Ava Lord from Sin City turns out to be one, though she's not above having other people do her dirty work (such as Dwight McCarthy, who she tricks into murdering her innocent husband so that she can get her hands on all his money).
- Black Widow used to be this trope when she was a spy for the KGB. To quote Pepper Potts, "She mates and then she kills." Also, see the page image. (The cartoon was a joke, and she's been the subject of many.)
- One of the women at the Serial Killer Convention complains about female serial killers being stereotyped as nothing but Black Widows & Killer Nurses in The Sandman book The Doll's House.
- This is made all the more amusing because she says this while participating in a panel discussion on "Women In Serial Killing"... whose fellow panelists are a Black Widow and a Killer Nurse who are visibly annoyed with her. And for extra laughs she's complaining about stereotypes despite being an Asian working under the nom de guerre of "Dog Soup".
- In a Nightwing Annual, Dick suspects a young woman who's buried three husbands in three years of being one of these, and decides to investigate by pretending to marry her. It's actually her former best friend, as it turns out.
- A Batman story has Bruce Wayne meet, fall for, and almost marry a woman who turns out to be this. He figures it out in time. As for why he'd nearly wed a woman in such short order, it turned out he was unknowingly affected by Scarecrow's fear gas in a previous fight, and it made him afraid of spending his life alone.
- In The One-Handed Girl, the heroine's brother accuses her of this.
"By the kindness of your heart have you been deceived, O king," said he. "Your son has married a girl who has lost a hand. Do you know why she had lost it? She was a witch, and has wedded three husbands, and each husband she has put to death with her arts. Then the people of the town cut off her hand, and turned her into the forest. And what I say is true, for her town is my town also."
- Many Harry Potter fanfics embrace what in canon is only implied about Blaise Zabini's mother (as mentioned in the Literature section below). Here for example:
Blaise: *says something about his mother*
Draco: And how is husband number nine?
Blaise: Still breathing.
Pansy: For now.
- When In Doubt Obliviate exaggerates this to the degree that Blaise can't keep track of the names of his stepfathers - or doesn't, intentionally, in order to be less affected by their deaths.
- Hail Odysseus not only has this happen, but Blaise intends to become the male version of this. At least, until Harry and Ginny kill him.
- Gravity Falls Rule 63 has widowed mother Bonnie Gleeful, who claimed her husband died on the day her daughter, Jennifer, was born. However...
(talks to a photo of her dead husband while playfully holding a blood-stained knife) "All I needed was for you to help me conceive a child. That precious car lot of yours was a nice little bonus. Nothing personal, dear. It was all part of the plan."
- In Discworld Why And Were, Assassin Ruth N'Kweze proves herself worthy of her Guild membership when she effectively has to inhume her own husband - moments after marrying him. As she is from Howondaland, Vetinari later reflects that this literally as well as metaphorically makes her into a Black Widow.
- Bad Alert: The Extreme, while mostly a fan's response to the way a few villains are portrayed in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, is partly based on the theory that Lady Tremaine murdered Cinderella's father after marrying him for his money.
- Blaise Zabini's mother is implied to be this in Harry Potter.
- A real-life example is in the non-fiction book 'Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets' (later made into the popular TV drama Homicide: Life on the Street) which goes into detail on the case of Geraldine Parish, who was murdering her husbands and relatives (using a contract killer) for insurance money. An FBI profile mentions that the typical "black widow" killer is an older and less attractive woman than the beautiful young fatales of Hollywood stereotype.
- Marcus Didius Falco (a private investigator in Ancient Rome) investigates professional widow Severina Zotica in the novel Venus in Copper.
- Nora Roberts, the main character in James Patterson's Honeymoon, is one of these. She kills two rich guys a short while after they propose to her with her two piece signature dish: an omelet laced with one poison, and sparkle water mixed with a second poison.
- Madame Olympia and (a rare gender-flipped example) Sir Simon Montpelier in Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch?.
- The Duchess D'Longeville from The Darksword Trilogy.
Simkin: I decided a change was in order, as the Duchess D'Longeville said when she married her fourth husband. Or was it her fifth? Not that it matters. He'll be dead like the others before long. Never take tea with the Duchess D'Longeville. Or, if you do, make certain she doesn't serve you from the same pot she serves her husband.
- Alison, the wicked stepmother character from Mercedes Lackey's Cinderella retelling, Phoenix and Ashes. Eleanor's father and the father of the stepsisters were merely the bookends of a long career of using and killing men.
- Julia Valerian is widowed twice in A Voice in the Wind, having poisoned her violent second husband; her significantly older first husband technically died of a heart attack/fall from his horse, but it’s implied that Julia’s resentment towards him, rebelliousness, and flirtations with other men contributed to his weak health.
- Joanna in Ben Bova's Grand Tour series loses no less than three husbands in such a way.
- Faye Cochrane in Wings was thought to be one of these in one episode, what with the mysterious deaths of all her husbands George. Although that may have been a coincidence, considering all the angst over the likely fate of her latest fiancée George during the show.
- The Practice had an episode where they defended a woman accused of being a black widow, due to her habit of marrying much older men. Her most recent husband had died of a heart-attack induced by viagra.
- Maggie O'Connell in Northern Exposure. She doesn't kill any of them; her boyfriends just seem to keep dying on her. One was hit by a falling satellite.
- Monk had this in the episode "Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding". Natalie's brother was about to marry a Black Widow, and she murdered the photographer after he recognized her.
- In the two-part final episode of Highlander, it's shown that if Duncan were never born, this is what would have become of Amanda.
- From an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody:
Carey Martin: You know you're heartless.
Miss Klotz: Didn't bother me when my four ex-husbands said it; Doesn't bother me when you say it.
Carey Martin: You've been divorced four times?
Miss Klotz: Oh, no, no...widowed.
- Get Smart's Maxwell Smart had to marry a KAOS agent who used this as her modus operandi for knocking off CONTROL agents in the episode "Widow Often Annie." 99 was not amused, as Max had already married her.
- Stargate SG-1: It is not an actual example of the trope, she actually has a pretty effective Cartwright Curse instead (And provides a page quote), but Samantha Carter's boyfriends all seem to wind up six feet under in pretty short order (Unless you're MacGyver). DVD audio commentary reveals that the writers actually called her "Black Widow Carter," and were going to title an episode as such until they went with Chimera.
- Minus the wealth part, on CSI the youngest daughter of a compulsive hoarder seduced boys from the halfway house where her brother worked and after she killed them to make sure they wouldn't leave she hid them around her mother's cluttered house. When mom found out what was happening she handcuffed her daughter to her bed and barricaded her behind a wall of boxes, and when her other daughter found one of the bodies she got hit on the head and left to die in a pile of newspapers.
- They also did an episode where two women conspired to act as wife and secretary for their victim and poisoned him with Selenium (and further investigation revealed they had done the same previously). Unusually, our heroes weren't able to prove either of them guilty.
- Slightly subverted in that the wife actually fell in love with her husband, despite his numerous infidelities, and was considering backing out of the deal.
- In one episode of Sledgehammer, Hammer and his partner tracked down a criminal like this who targeted used car dealers, not because she was after their money or anything else they had, but because she really hated used car dealers. In fact, when finally caught, she hissed to her most recent intended victim, "Is it really a crime to rid the world of car dealers?"
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: The It Lives by Night episode ends with Pearl Forrester regaling Professor Bobo and Brain Guy with slides from her numerous honeymoons, and descriptions of the untimely demises that each of her husbands and fiancés met with.
- White Collar: In "Veiled Threat", Neal, Peter and and Jones go undercover as wealthy bachelors to snare a black widow. She latches onto Peter, much to his consternation (what with his adorable attachment to Elizabeth).
- Batman once had to capture a criminal known as the Black Widow. Her deceased husband's name was Max Black. However, instead of having to prevent her from killing husbands for money, he had to prevent her from robbing banks.
- In a two-parter featuring a villain known as the Sandman (not that one) who plans to marry and rob a rich insomniac widow (he's posing as a sleep doctor). However, when she starts prattling on about the fates of her previous four husbands the viewer is left to wonder if she's a Black Widow or just ridiculously unlucky.
- Leverage had the team discover a team of these.
- Kickin' It: Bobby Wasabi almost married one.
- In the Made In Canada episode "Veronica's Friend", a former school friend of Pyramid production adviser Veronica is implied to have murdered two rich husbands, and has set her sights on clueless Pyramid CEO Alan as Husband No.3. She is steered instead toward the "Plumbing King of Pennsylvania", who is hoarding the logical domain names for the planned Pyramid website and asking unreasonable sale prices; by the end of the episode, he has indeed become Husband, and Victim, No.3 (but not before being persuaded to sell the domain names at reasonable prices).
- Victoria from WHO dunnit, who has already buried two husbands before she plots against her third.
Religion and Mythology
- Subverted in the Book of Tobit: a woman named Sarah has lost seven husbands before any of her marriages could be consummated, but it's because a demon named Asmodeus is in lust with her and doesn't like the competition. The Archangel Raphael fixes this problem by advising her cousin, Tobias, to marry her, and teaching him how to drive Asmodeus away.
- Natasha Kerensky from BattleTech is actually a subversion. She became known by her moniker after her lover (who was one of the founders of the renowned Wolf's Dragoons) was taken hostage and later killed by Anton Marik, due to a fallout in relations. She reacted violently to this and lead her unit to storm Marik's stronghold and kill him and his remaining forces.
- Ravenloft uses this trope with Ivana Boritsi (who's even called "the Black Widow") and her mother Camille, who are both murderers with a tendency to poison their lovers (not helped by the fact Ivana is a Poisonous Person who basically can't shut her powers off). Also done with the red widow monster, which seduce men in their guise as gorgeous redheads, then paralyze them and fill their bodies with eggs after they have been fertilised. Ermordenungs, though it's not the focus of their character, are naturally made to be Black Widows and Bluebeards, since they are invariably very beautiful and they're all as poisonous as their creator Ivana Boritsi.
- The Dark Eye has Alara Paligan, widow of Emperor Hal and grandmother of the current Empress. Though she's not actually a self-made widow, she is a grand weaver of intrigue, and her soul animal is a black widow spider.
- Warhammer has Lucrezzia Belladonna a Tilean princess who marries several mercenary generals to protect her city, who soon meet untimely deaths when they are of no use to her or to replace them with a new one.
- Lady Amalsand Jakoba in Ironclaw, widow of the most recent High King of House Rinaldi, who was found gruesomely murdered along with his eldest son barely a month after marrying her, and three days after announcing their divorce. And given that she has an adult son, whom she intends to put on the throne, it's presumed that she has been married at least once before. And did I mention that she's a Necromancer?
- Twilight Sparkle's Secret Shipfic Folder has Black Widow Rarity, who apparently stars in a Casablanca parody.
- In Chicago, the five of the Six Merry Murderesses who actually did it are all in jail for killing their husband or lover, and even though they only killed one each (well, Velma Kelly also killed her sister) they may qualify for this trope on sheer...merriment. They show no remorse at all and say things like "He ran into my knife ten times" and "I fired two warning shots. Into. His. Head."
- The song "To Keep My Love Alive", from the Rodgers and Hart musical AConnecticutYankee is all about this trope.
- "Cleopatterer" from the Guy Bolton/P. G. Wodehouse/Jerome Kern musical Leave It to Jane:
She couldn't stand, by any means,
Reproachful, stormy farewell scenes,
To such coarse stuff she would not stoop,
So she put poison in his soup!
When out with Cleopatterer
Men always made their wills.
They knew there was no time to waste
When the gumbo had that funny taste.
They'd take her hand and squeeze it,
They'd murmur, "Oh, you kid!"
But they never liked to start to feed
Till Cleopatterer did.
- The latest Revamp of The Haunted Mansion at Disney Theme Parks replaced the bride in the attic with a creepy Axe-wielding Black Widow Bride - cackling wedding vows including "In sickness and in... Wealth" (being proceeded by portraits of her former husbands' heads disappearing after a chopping noise).
- The band My X was the main attraction at Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream 2010. It used to be called XY, but female lead Sylvie took over the band and renamed it when the male lead/her ( apparently abusive) boyfriend mysteriously vanished. Now Sylvie spends her nights picking out guys from the concert crowd, hooking up with them backstage, and bringing them to her dressing room where she hangs them up, chops off their fingers, and kills them. Check out their signature song. (My X was actually an unsigned band from Tampa; they renamed the band and wrote three new songs for the park's Halloween special.)
- There's a player challenge for The Sims 2 that revolves around creating one of these.See it here.
- Also in the pre-made neighborhood Strangetown, Olive Specter is implied to be one of these. And for the bonus Visual Pun, she is indeed black.
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game. In the second visit to the Hotel Sedgewick you fight the "Spider Witch", the ghost of a woman who murdered her previous husbands who takes the form of a giant spider. She hung them upside down and drained them of all their blood in the service of Gozer's cult. It's not clear if she did this before or after she killed them.
- Mad Moxxi in Borderlands. Her partners tend to still be alive, until the vault hunters see to that. Her first husband forced her to kill him after threatening to enslave their daughter as the "clan wife", her second husband was a serial killer taken down by the players (and emotionally mourned by Moxxi), her third husband is the amoral gun runner supplying to the players, and various lovers were murdered either by the players or Moxxi's son. Less a black widow, more a dubious judge of character.
- The Furies attempt a trick like this against Kratos in God of War: Ascension, where Tisiphone creates an illusion of a house full of lovely nymphs who try to seduce him, hoping to lead him into an ambush. Fortunately for Kratos, he realizes it's a trap when he sees one of them (Tisiphone herself) wearing his wife Lysandra's ring.
- Mass Effect 2 reveals that a small percentage of Asari suffer from a genetic defect that causes their Mind Meld-esque mating to kill their partners. Ardat-Yakshi("Demon of the Night Winds") who kill in this manner experience an addictive rush when this occurs, as well as an increase in biotic ability. They are a variant of this trope because most Ardat-Yakshi hunt for victims to satiate their addiction rather than for money.
- Morinth is the first example, and a highly successful one, having done this for 400 years. She seeks out interesting individuals, generally strong, clever, or artistic, and seduces them. She rarely stays in one location for long, both due to the number of bodies she leaves behind and the Justiciar dedicated to killing her.
- Lady D from Henry Hatsworth, who hangs around a graveyard swamp and stands on a giant wedding cake/fort, shooting skulls out of a fake groom at anyone who rejects her.
- The talking black widow spider in King's Quest VI. Needless to say, Alexander can Have a Nice Death if he makes the mistake of giving her his hand.
- In A Vampyre Story, the Baroness, previous owner of the castle in which the protagonist is currently imprisoned, is heavily implied to be one of these; that, or crazy unlucky in marriage. In her old bedroom is a shelf full of funerary urns, each containing the remains of a husband. Whatever the reason, she's spent so little time actually married that she has to resort to black magic in order to have a child, namely the villain of the piece (well, maybe "resort" is the wrong word; she was a witch to begin with).
- In Fallout 3, your female character can learn an ability by this name, which allows you to charm and manipulate members of the opposite sex with ease. Also, this perk grants a minor combat damage increase against male characters. Lady Killer is essentially the inverse perk for men.
- Also the moniker of Penelope Chase, former leader of the Slavers.
- Fallout: New Vegas as well. You can even seduce and kill Benny if you have the perk. New Vegas also adds Cherchez La Femme (for female PCs) and Confirmed Bachelor (for male PCs), which are isosexual versions (other females if you're female, other males if you're male).
- In World of Warcraft, it's implied that Elder Crone Magatha Grimtotem murdered her husband, the chief of the Grimtotem clan of tauren, to claim his leadership position.
- The Contessa of Sly 2: Band Of Thieves is heavily implied to be this. While it is never explicitly stated that she killed her wealthy husband, she definitely used his money for illegal purposes after his death.
- Lucrezia Flathead of Zork Zero was married eighteen times, and none of the husbands lasted more than ten months. Fourteen of them died on the wedding night. Some of the details provided in her biography make it pretty obvious that the deaths were not accidental, though nobody at the time (Including the biographer) was able to figure this out.
- Blackarachnia (who is an actual black widow spider, or at least turns into one) threatens to do this to Silverbolt in Beast Wars, citing her beast mode's predilection towards eating their mates. The fact that he still refuses to stop loving her both endears Silverbolt to her and makes her think he's a moron.
- Hilariously, she's right on both counts.
- Piella Bakewell of Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death, marries bakers, then kills them, to get a "baker's dozen". Naturally, she tries to kill Wallace.
- Subverted on American Dad!—ever since Stan's dad walked out on her, his mother's new beaus always disappear after their third date. Francine and Roger believe that she's killing them, when actually Stan is kidnapping them to make sure she never has her heart broken again.
- In Code Monkeys, Mr. Larrity is a rare, repeatedly successful male example. How he can keep this success when he profits obscenely off of it and stuffs his wives to keep in his office, we don't know.
- "Black Widow" is the official FBI designation for this type of killer.
- Mary Ann Cotton ("she's dead and she's rotten"), who poisoned three husbands and at least eleven of her children with arsenic in Victorian County Durham, to a large extent for the insurance money. Their deaths were attributed to stomach fevers, and nobody suspected her until she happened to slip up and mention that her last (then apparently healthy) little boy would "probably go like the rest of them" while speaking to a local preacher.
- Anjette Lyles used the same method to slowly poison her two husbands, her mother-in-law, and her daughter Marcia for the insurance money. She also is believed to have intended to kill her daughter Carla for the same reason.
- Black Widow Spiders, Praying Mantis, and too many insects to count. Though interestingly, the spiders that give this trope its name have a number of different species, and most do not kill their mates and let them hang around in their webs for a while. Also, usually the male spiders offer themselves because they could only mate once anyway and if the female gets to eat, they usually have a higher chance of having offspring.
- There's also (controversial) speculation that at least some of these occurrences may actually be caused by the very lab conditions under which they're usually observed, i.e. cases of stressed animals under human-imposed conditions showing 'unnatural' reactions that they might well not while mating normally in the wilderness.
- The whole point of the Oxygen channel's show Snapped. The show highlights women who killed their husbands (usually for the insurance money). At least, when the show isn't making the victim out to be an asshole.
- Annie Palmer, the (in)famous "White Witch of Rose Hall", who resided at the eponymous plantation outside of Montego Bay, St. James in Jamaica, and who is reported to have murdered three husbands and countless lovers, as well as many of her slaves.
- Margaret Rudin, who married five times and at least two of her husbands perished in very strange circumstances. The fifth one, Ron Rudin, turned out to be somewhat more Genre Savvy than believed...
- Belle Gunness was a Norwegian immigrant to the United States who killed both of her husbands, all of her children, and numerous other suitors and boyfriends to collect insurance money. Gunness advertised in personals columns in newspapers throughout the midwest looking for victims. She also killed other individuals such as hired hands to cover her tracks and may have killed as many as 40 people, netting a total of $6.3 million adjusted for inflation. She was never brought to trial having faked her own death but was incarcerated in 1931 at the age of 72 for allegedly killing another husband for insurance money. She died before trial.