H.H. Holmes Letter Found

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.

Full story

 

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H H Holmes’ Exhumation

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.

The Congress Plaza Hotel

1462288160807 I recently visited Chicago and stayed at The Congress Plaza Hotel, situated at 520 S Michigan Avenue facing Lake Michigan.

I knew from my best friend that CPH is allegedly the most haunted hotel in Chicago and admittedly was slightly apprehensive at staying there, but not enough to make me change my reservations.

Dating from 1893, the hotel has two towers and is clearly full of history.  As most buildings built around this time and in this area of the Windy City, the Congress was built to provide accommodations for those attending the World’s Columbian Exposition. At that time, however, it was called the Auditorium Annex and was meant to be a complement to Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building which was situated across the street. By 1908, the 1,000 room hotel was experiencing innovations to keep up with modern conveniences and a new name was part of that change. The new name was derived from the hotel’s location at the intersection of Congress Street and S Michigan Avenue as well as the Congress Plaza portion of Grant Park across the street.

Over the years, the hotel has hosted many famous guests, among them many of our nation’s presidents. It was even referred to as the “Home of Presidents” among Chicago hotels. Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, F. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and T. Roosevelt all stayed at the hotel. In the early 1900s, the White House presented a special chair to the hotel which was a favorite of Presidents Polk, Van Buren, Harrison and Harding. The chair can be seen in the lobby of the hotel.

Aside from mentioning further remodeling down through the years, that’s about all of the history the CPH’s official website offers. I haven’t, until now, read about any of who or what is supposed to be haunting this hotel to qualify it as “Chicago’s Most Haunted Hotel.” I saw vague references to experiences had by people who reviewed the hotel for travel sites, but nothing specific. Not until I decided to write this blog piece did I look into it, lest I be influenced by the stories.

Another blog indicates that there have been rumors of Al Capone’s ownership of the hotel, but no proof has ever been found that he even stayed at the hotel, much less owned it. The blog also sheds light on our first potential ghost, Peg Leg Johnny, a hobo who is assumed to have died in the area of the hotel, but at an undefined time.

I also found an article on rent.com which states definitively that Al Capone had a suite of rooms on the 8th floor of the North tower and haunts the hotel. A third potential spirit is that of a little boy who haunts the 6th floor, but there’s no indication of which tower he haunts, though.

In the 1930s, a young, Polish mother came to Chicago with her two sons. She was supposed to wait for her husband to arrive and then they’d start their new life on the city’s northside. He never came. The depressed mother threw herself and children out of a 6th floor window to their deaths. However, the body of one of the boys never made it to the city morgue. He’s thought to play tricks on guests staying on the 6th floor.

The article also mentions Peg Leg Johnny as being a rather goofy spirit who turns appliances off and on.

Then, of course, because every haunted hotel must have a specific room that is the creepiest of them all, CPH has Room 441. Naturally you can specify if you wish to stay in this room, but be warned there seems to be a female spirit who doesn’t take kindly to sleeping guests.

…a female specter haunts Room 441. Witnesses say she manifests as a shadow at the foot of your bed. She then kicks it to wake you. We don’t know how this spirit came to haunt the room. As far as we know, no one committed suicide or killed anybody there. Anyway, this scary lady wants the room for herself.

The final bit of haunting I read about is the “hand of mystery” that often appears in photographs from events in the Gold Room – one of the ballrooms in the hotel. Allegedly one of the workers got trapped when the wall was sealed up.

1462288192040I have to say that from my perspective, the creepiest part of the hotel was the hallway because it had muted lighting and definitely and had a Shining vibe going on. I half expected to see two little girls standing at the end of the hall. Considering The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for The Shining was built in 1909 and the second tower of the Congress Plaza Hotel was built around the same time, it stands to reason they’d resemble each other. I really liked the muted lighting, especially at night, because it meant less light shining in under the door when you’re trying to sleep. I had a one night stay in the North tower, but changed rooms the next morning because there was little in way of storage space and I couldn’t plug my phone charger into any of the outlets due to their design. The only time I really thought about any potential ghosts was that one night in the North tower because I sensed it was older and my only thought was, I’m too tired to bother with any of you if you decide to pass through here. What can I say? It was an exhausting day.

Would I stay in the Congress Plaza Hotel again? Absolutely! It has lots of character and it’s conveniently located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of many many attractions. Don’t go there, though, if you’re expecting ghosts. I’m just not sure there’s anything there. Do, however, go if you like history. Beware of the leather couches in the lobby though…. I sat in one and almost didn’t move again. Lol

Sources:

Congress Plaza Hotel

The Paranormal Corner

Chicago’s Most Haunted #1: The Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, Illinois