Welcome October, the month of fun and sweets and the occasional serial killer. There are a lot of famous serial killers, I personally didn’t care either way. That is until I found out about Herman Webster Mudgett, also know as H.h. Holmes, or The Devil in the White City. Holmes grew up in a privileged family, born in 1861 and died in 1896. He is most known for his insurance scams, faked deaths and homicides inside the Murder Castle. This serial killer wouldn’t have captured my attention, however, he is just plain brilliant. The way he had thought of each plan with precision, he was always two steps ahead of the game. When I first read about him, I came across him on Pinterest and not sure who he was I did more research on him and the more I read the more intrigued I became so here goes!
His homicidal behaviors started when he was a child, he was bullied and the perpetrators found out holmes was afraid of skeletons. They had locked him in a doctor’s office with a skeleton, for hours at a time. After the ordeal Holmes became fascinated with death, he had begun dissecting animals, and it was said he even took part with killing a former classmate.
As soon as he became of age, he had changed his first name to Henry Howard Holmes, down the road his alias would change many more times. During this phase of his life, he met Clara Lovering, whom would be his first of three wives and who would birth his first son, during this marriage he had gone to a university, this is where his insurance scams had started. When he completed his first scam, insuring him over $12,000, he had disappeared. The way his insurance scams would conduct, he had been stealing corpses from the medical labs, at his university, then he would take the bodies and make them look like they had died by accident. Holmes would place them on a life policy with him as the beneficiary. Therefore he got the money from the policy. He had abandoned his wife and infant son, and his whereabouts were unknown for this time however it is stated that he had been a teacher, owner of ABC Copier, and receiver of a bankrupt store.
When Holmes resurfaced, he had gotten a job as a pharmacist, in a drugstore that belonged to a couple. Within two years, he had become a manager. Slightly after the owner had passed and then he bought the store from the widow. Whom mysteriously disappeared shortly after. Shortly after Holmes had taken over the store he had bought a lot, which is where the Murder Castle would be constructed. This is where his true brilliance would come out. Throughout the construction of the Murder Castle, he would meet Myrtle BelKnap, who later had given birth to a daughter, however, their fate is not determined. It is said that her spirit still haunts the household they had previously had lived together in.
Now the Murder Castle was infamous in itself. When Holmes first started construction on it, he hired multiple construction companies to work on different areas of the castle. If Holmes felt suspicion arise, or if he felt someone started to piece together the meaning of the Castle, he would fire and replace them. By the time the Castle was done, it is known to have 100 windowless rooms and 151 doorways. Now this Castle was meant to confuse his future victims, there had been stairways leading to a dead end and doors opening up to brick walls. It is said he even had alarms in the rooms that held his victims, along with these body sized chutes had been made that went straight to the basement, for means of disposal. There had been rooms made with blowtorches, as well as lynching rooms and a seal tight, soundproof room, right beside his office, where he would let his victims suffocate. All of this was built on the second floor, in the basement, however, was 2 furnaces, a lime pit, and an acid pit. The basement was also where he performed his dissections.
Now the way the would commit his murders was incredibly thought out. His main criteria were the female population, he would send out ads in the classifieds in small towns requesting young ladies for an opportunity to work at the hotel at his castle. When they would get there for the interview, he would give them many options for the different jobs he offered, the catch is they would need to sign up for a life insurance policy, where he would pay the premium as long as he would be named the beneficiary. Along with that, no one was to know where they would be working, by saying that he had scandalous competitors, He would also have them clear out their life savings because they would need funds for the places they would go. Once he was sure these ladies hadn’t told anyone, he would take them as his prisoners, until he was tired of them and then disposed of them. Needless to say, he had everything figured out. He also did the same thing to find suitable wives, however, their fate was a little worse after they were engaged and got the assets, his bride-to-be would also become his prisoner, where he would torture them until they told him where their valuables would be hidden.
His Murder Castle was only in operation for 4 years, during these years he had become engaged to Minnie Williams, who has most likely taken part in a lot of the murders. It is said she tended to be the jealous type, her sister had come onto Holmes, and Minnie found out, so she went to confront her. Well, she ended up killing her, by hitting her with a chair. However, after that Holmes met Georgiana Yoke whom he would end by the end of that trip. After Marrying Georgiana the three of them went off to scam horse owners, eventually, this fraud will lead to Holmes downfall. However after this trip Minnie would never be seen again, Holmes said Minnie left due to killing her sister, but knowing his track record that could easily be a lie.
Eventually, he got arrested and this is where his downfall had started. He had met a fellow convict, a train robber named Marion Hedgepeth, whom he devised a plan, where holmes would fake his death. Once he got the money, he would give $500 of it to Hedgepeth. However, Holmes never paid up, so Hedgepeth shared his information with the authorities. While all this went on Holmes involved his accomplice Ben Pietzel in his schemes. However, he never got his cut either. Instead, he got murdered, when he didn’t get his cut he went to the authorities as well, Pietzel was then misconfigured past recognition. However, he told Pietzel’s wife he was still alive. She had then entrusted her 3 children, to his care while going to ‘meet’ her husband. However she had no idea the fate that awaited the three. Howard Pitezel, was the first to die, when he was found by the police only his charred remains was found in a stove. Nellie and Alice Pitezel were next to be found, they were buried in Toronto, they were gassed after being tricked into hiding in a trunk. Holmes started a game of hiding and seek with them and tricked them into a trunk where he would gas them. He would have killed the wife but he was arrested before he could commit the deed.
While on trial, he was found guilty for 28 murders, when the numbers could be as high as 200. Of course he tried to appeal but obviously did not work, he was then sentenced to hang. He had one request, though, he wanted to be buried 10 ft below in 2 tons of concrete, the reasoning is that he didn’t want to have grave robbers digging him up. Before he was hung he asked for Communion by 2 priests but did not ask for forgiveness. He did sell his story between $7500-$10000, although every time he told his tale he changed something, so everything he said was discredited. The one thing that stayed the same was this, ‘ I was born with the devil in me,’ which we can definitely all agree with. There have been two books written on his story, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson(2003) and Bloodstains by Jeff Mudgett(2011), who happens to be Holmes Great-great-great-grandson.
So There you have it HAPPY OCTOBER!!!!! Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson as much as I have researched it!
Link 1- http://www.biography.com/people/hh-holmes-307622#synopsis
Link 2- https://www.prairieghosts.com/holmes.html
Link 3- https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herman-Webster-Mudgett
Link 4- http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/a-serial-killer-is-hanged
Link 5 – http://mentalfloss.com/article/72642/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-americas-first-serial-killer-hh-holmes
Link 6- http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/09/the-murder-castle-chicagos-real-life-house-of-horrors/