Just when you thought he was going to fade into obscurity, there’s still yet more news about the man we all know as H. H. Holmes. If you’re new to our blog, we have several old posts about him, most notably regarding his exhumation to find some shred of evidence that he and Jack the Ripper were one and the same. If you’re interested in reading further details about who Holmes was and his infamous Murder House, you can find those stories in these links: America’s First Serial Killer and H. H. Holmes’ Murder Castle. Now on to today’s story…
The first American serial killer may have felt remorse for his crimes, after all.
H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) constructed an elaborate “Murder Castle” full of trap doors, acid vats and a crematorium in Chicago in 1892 where he lured the unsuspecting in with the promise of apartments.
Holmes was caught in 1894 and convicted for the murder of one of his accomplices, Benjamin Pitezel. At the time he confessed to killing more than 20 people (although he later altered the number to just two). He was hanged in 1896 in Philadelphia for his crimes and largely believed to have been unremorseful to the end.
His life and crimes went on to become the subject of the book “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson.
The most notorious murders, scams and scandals in Pennsylvania can be irresistible to Hollywood. Here are more than 20 that have become true crime movies, documentaries and television shows.
But a family in New Jersey has a found a note, written in Holmes’ hand, that may imply he felt guilt at the end, according to NBC 10.
Seven years ago we shared with you two stories of one of America’s first serial killers who plucked his victims from the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Chicago World’s Columbia Exposition (the forerunner to the World’s Fair subsequently held in cities around the world) of 1893. Young women would travel to Chicago seeking work and would simply vanish, all thanks to a man who would become known as America’s first serial killer. Though his notorious Murder Castle no longer occupies its previous space in the city of Chicago, there is one aspect of this grisly tale that does still exist: the mortal remains of Herman Webster Mudgett a.k.a. Dr Henry Howard Holmes. His remains are due to be exhumed at the request of his great-grandsons John and Richard Mudgett as there has been rumors that not only was Mr Mudgett a serial killer but also a consummate con artist and he somehow conned his way out of the death penalty and took off for parts friendlier to unknown individuals.
If you’re unfamiliar with Holmes’ tale, you can read our previous posts here: H H Holmes’ Murder Castle and America’s First Serial Killer. More information about the exhumation can be read here: The Body Of ‘Devil In The White City’ Serial Killer H.H. Holmes Is Being Exhumed and Who Is Really Buried in the Grave of the ‘Devil in the White City’? There’s also the book titled Devil in the White City A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.
As a personal note, I tried listening to the audio version of this book and I have to say it’s pretty boring. It’s non-fiction and there’s only a very tiny amount of dialogue. The book takes you through the entire creation of the World’s Fair from the very very beginning when it was all still in the planning stages. Truthfully, the most interesting part for me was learning of the various ideas that the planners were trying to come up with to top the centrepiece of the previous World’s Fair in Paris (1889): the Eiffel Tower. In the end, as you probably are aware, it was the Ferris Wheel (also known as the Chicago Wheel) which was created by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. and debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair. Some of the ideas people came up with were pretty crazy, even by today’s standards.
Skatha wrote a great article about H.H. Holmes called “America’s First Serial Killer“. I’d like to take that a step further and discuss Holmes’ Murder Castle because it is so horrific that it deserves its own page.
While Holmes’ villainous behavior began much earlier, it wasn’t until he constructed his Murder Castle that he was able to facilitate his macabre designs. In 1889, H.H. Holmes purchased the lot across the street from the drugstore in the Englewood section at the corner of 63rd and Wallace Street, where he worked under a Mrs. Dr. Holden– the older woman having strangely vanished in 1887 and allegedly bequeathed her store to Holmes.
Photo of H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle
The behemoth of a building was erected on the empty lot and construction on the property commenced in 1889 under the direction of Holmes himself. Holmes regularly hired and fired his construction crews– usually without payment. It is also unclear whether he paid for any of the materials used to build his Murder Castle. Given Holmes’ knack for dismissing construction crews without payment, it is highly likely that he also neglected to pay for building supplies. Holmes’ frequent dismissal of the construction crews is also suspect to having been intentionally done so as to conceal the real horrors contained within the building. Continue reading