H.H. Holmes

(appeared in "No Exit" episode)

H. H. Holmes
Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1860 – May 7, 1896), better known under the alias of "Dr. Henry Howard Holmes", was an American serial killer. Holmes trapped and murdered possibly hundreds of guests at his Chicago hotel, which he opened for the 1893 World's Fair. He confessed to 27 murders, although only nine have been confirmed. Holmes is often cited as the first American serial killer. The case was notorious in its time, and received wide publicity via a series of articles in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers.

Early life

Herman Webster Mudgett was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. He was the son of Levi Horton Mudgett and his wife, the former Theodate Page Price. He grew up poor with an alcoholic father, and he was often bullied as a child. He claimed that, as a child, he had been forced by other students to view and touch a human skeleton after they found out about his fear of the local doctor's office. In reality, the bullies initially brought him there to scare him but instead, he was utterly fascinated. He graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1884. While enrolled, he stole bodies from the school laboratory. Disfiguring the corpses and claiming that the unlucky souls had been accidentally killed, Mudgett collected insurance money from policies that he, personally, took out on each and every one. After graduating, he moved to Chicago to practice pharmacy. He also began to engage in a number of shady businesses, real estate, and promotional deals under the name "H. H. Holmes". On July 8, 1878, Holmes married Clara A. Lovering of Alton, New Hampshire. On January 28, 1887, he married Myrta Z. Belknap in Minneapolis, Minnesota; he was still married to his first wife at the time, making Holmes a bigamist. He and Belknap had a daughter named Lucy. The family of three resided in the upscale Chicago suburb of Wilmette - although Holmes spent most of his time in the city tending to "business". He filed a petition for divorce from his first wife after marrying his second, but the divorce was never finalized. He married his third wife, Georgiana Yoke, on January 9, 1894. He also had a relationship with Julia Smythe, the wife of Ned Connor, a former employee of his who fled Chicago. Julia would later become one of his victims. Holmes was good looking, slight of build, and had an ingratiating charm which made him very much a "lady's man".

Chicago and the "Murder Castle"

While in Chicago, Holmes came across Dr. E.S. Holton's drugstore. It was located at the corner of Wallace and Sixty-Third in the suburb of Englewood. Holton was suffering from cancer while his wife minded the store. Through his charm, Holmes got a job there and then manipulated her into letting him purchase the store. The agreement was that she could still live in the upstairs apartment even after Holton died. Once Holton died, Holmes murdered Mrs. Holton and told people she was visiting relatives in California. As people started asking more and more when she would be coming back, he elaborated the lie and told them she loved it so much in California that she decided to live there. He then purchased a lot across from the drugstore, where he built his three-story, block-long "Castle" - as it was dubbed by those in the neighborhood. Holmes opened it as a hotel for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, using the rest of the structure for shops he rented. The bottom floor of the Castle contained these shops (one a jeweler, for example), while the upper two floors contained his personal office as well as a maze of over one hundred windowless rooms with doorways that would open to brick walls, oddly angled hallways, stairways to nowhere, doors that could only be opened from the outside, and a host of other strange and labyrinthine constructions. Over a period of three years, Holmes selected female victims from among his employees (many of whom were required as a condition of employment to take out life insurance policies for which Holmes would pay the premiums but also be the beneficiary), lovers and hotel guests, and would torture and kill them. Some were locked in soundproof bedrooms fitted with gas lines that permitted him to asphyxiate them at any time. Some victims were locked in a huge bank vault near his office; he sat and listened as they screamed, panicked and eventually suffocated. Holmes had repeatedly changed builders during the initial construction of the Castle to ensure that only he fully understood the design of the house he had created, thereby decreasing the chances of any of them reporting it to the police. In addition, according to law at that time, by firing workers every two weeks, he didn't have to pay them. The victims' bodies went by a secret chute to the basement, where some were meticulously dissected, stripped of flesh, crafted into skeleton models, and then sold to medical schools. Holmes also cremated some of the bodies or placed them in lime pits for destruction. Holmes had two giant furnaces as well as pits of acid, bottles of various poisons, and even a stretching rack to create a race of "giants". Through the connections he had gained in medical school, he was able to sell skeletons and organs with little difficulty. Holmes picked one of the most remote rooms in the Castle to perform hundreds of illegal abortions. Many of his patients died because of his abortion procedure, and their corpses were also processed and the skeletons sold.

Later life, arrest, and execution

Following the World's Fair, with creditors closing in, and the economy in a general slump, Holmes left Chicago. He next appeared in Fort Worth, Texas where he had "inherited" some property from two railroad heiress sisters whom he had murdered. There he sought to construct another "castle" along the lines of his Chicago operation. However, he soon abandoned this project, finding the law enforcement climate in Texas inhospitable. He continued to move about the United States and Canada, and while it seems likely that he continued to kill, the only bodies discovered which date from this period are those of his close business associate and three of the associated children. He was arrested in 1895 when police discovered his connection to a life-insurance fraud scheme involving this business associate, Benjamin Pitezel. Pitezel had agreed to fake his own death so as his wife could collect on the $10,000 policy, which she was to split with Holmes and a shady attorney. The scheme, which was to take place in Philadelphia, was that Pitezel should set himself up as an inventor and then be killed and disfigured in a lab explosion. Holmes was to find an appropriate cadaver to play the "role" of Pitezel. Holmes, however, then allegedly killed Pitezel, although some have argued that Pitezel, an alcoholic and chronic depressive, might in fact have committed suicide. Holmes proceeded to collect on the policy on the basis of the "genuine" Pitezel corpse. He then went on to manipulate Pitezel's wife into allowing three of her older children to stay in his custody. He traveled with the children through the northern United States and into Canada, all the while using various aliases and lying to Mrs. Pitezel concerning her husband's death, claiming that Pitezel was in hiding in South America. The three children were killed at various points during the course of this escapade which ended when Holmes was finally arrested in Boston, after being tracked there from Philadelphia by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He was held on an outstanding warrant for horse theft in Texas, as the authorities had little more than suspicions at this point and Holmes appeared poised to flee the country, in the company of his unsuspecting third wife. After the custodian for the Castle informed police that he was never allowed to clean the upper floors, police began a thorough investigation over the next month, learning Holmes' efficient methods for committing the murders and disposing of corpses. A fire of mysterious origin consumed the building on August 19, 1895, and the site is currently occupied by a U. S. Post Office. The number of his victims has typically been estimated between 20 to 100, and even as high as 230, based upon missing persons reports of the time. The discrepancy in numbers can be attributed to a great many people who came to Chicago to see the World's Fair but who, for one reason or another, never returned home. The only verified number is 27, although police had commented that some of the bodies in the basement were so badly dismembered and decomposed that it was difficult to tell how many bodies there actually were. Holmes' victims were primarily women, but included some men and children. Holmes was put on trial for the murder of Pitezel, and confessed, following his conviction, to 27 murders in Chicago, Indianapolis and Toronto, and six attempted murders. He gave various contradictory accounts of his life, initially claiming innocence, and later that he was possessed by Satan. His facility for lying has made it difficult, if not impossible, for researchers to ascertain any truth on the basis of his statements. On May 7, 1896, Holmes was hanged in Philadelphia. The evening prior to his execution, Holmes retired at his usual hour, fell asleep easily and awoke refreshed. "I never slept better in my life," he told his cell guard. He ordered and consumed a large breakfast an hour before he was scheduled to be hanged. Until the moment of his death, Holmes remained calm and amiable, showing no signs of fear, anxiety or depression. According to the The New York Times coverage of the execution, Holmes said to the executioner: "Take your time, old man." Holmes' neck did not snap immediately; he instead died slowly, infrequently twitching over ten minutes before being pronounced dead fifteen minutes after the trap was sprung. He requested that he be buried in cement so that no one could ever dig him up and dissect his body, as he had dissected so many others. This request was granted.

Latest page update: made by DeansGirl666 , May 17 2008, 5:55 PM EDT
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