A Living Demon: H. H. Holmes
May 7th of 1896, Dr. H. H. Holmes was hanged in the Philadelphia County Prison on various charges of murder. His neck didn’t snap, he was strangled slowly and he twitched for 15 minutes before finally dying. Dr. H. H. Holmes’ real name was Herman Webster Mudgett.
He was convicted for 4 counts of murder and 6 counts of attempted murder, though, he had confessed to nearly 30 murders and was suspected to have murdered up to 200 people or more based on the number of missing persons that he may have been able to have pursued during his time.
He had swindled his way into ownership of a drugstore in Chicago, later killing the original owner to keep from having to make good on his payments. He told people that the former owner had moved to California and was never coming back. He then decided to build a three-story block-long structure that people in the neighborhood dubbed as “The Castle” across the street from the drugstore.
For Dr. H. H. Holmes, The Castle turned out to be his very own devils playground. He structured the building like a maze with doors that opened to brick walls, hiring different construction crews to work on the building so that no one would completely understand the structure but himself. The “Murder Castle” also had over 100 windowless rooms, vaults that he would sometimes suffocate victims in, doors that could only be opened from the outside, stairways that led to nowhere, and secret trap doors and chutes to drop bodies to the basement with.
Holmes opened the Castle as a hotel and was very strict about not allowing the help on the 2nd and 3rd floors, which was where he’d take his victims. Among the dead were hired help, lovers, and people that may have just needed a room for the night who would often be seen going in but never seen leaving.
He would strip bodies of their flesh and sell the cleaned skeletons to medical schools. Most of his victims were blonde females, though he did have various corpses of men and children there as well.
He had left victims in various states here in the U.S., as well as often traveling to Canada and other countries. He had finally slipped up by trying to commit life insurance fraud, and when the company didn’t believe he was dead he talked a man by the name of Benjamin Pitezel and Pitezel’s wife into trying the scam with him and if successful they would share over $10,000 with a dirty lawyer that was helping them.
It was up to Holmes to find a body to place at the scene of a lab that was supposed to have caught on fire as part of their faked story, but when he couldn’t find a body to fit the description of Pitezel, he killed Pitezel and used his body for real. He later lied to Pitezel’s wife about his whereabouts saying Ben was in hiding in London, and then ended up killing three of their children while traveling with them to Canada. These were the four murders he was hanged for, but an exact number of his victims will never be known.
Later, Jeff Mudgett (a descendant of Holmes) claimed that Dr. H. H. Holmes was the very same man so famously sought after in London, that most people knew as the great Jack the Ripper! Mr. Mudgett submitted handwriting samples resulting in a 97.95% handwriting analysis match. However, I have another idea, one that defies everything they have been thinking of thus far. Let’s say Mr. Pitezel wasn’t in the fire and they really did find a match, but for whatever reason he had, Dr. Holmes stuck to the story that Pitezel was dead. Who knows how many more victims they claimed.
In 1914, former caretaker of the Murder Castle, Pat Quinlan committed suicide. Quinlan’s relatives said that he had been “haunted” and had not slept well for several months. He finally decided to end it all by taking strychnine.
Jeff Mudgett is the great-great-grandson of HH Holmes, and has a book available called “Bloodstains” You can find Mr. Mudgett’s book via the link provided below. Here is the book description as seen on Amazon.com:
Bloodstains is the startling tale of one man’s search for the truth after inheriting the personal diaries belonging to his great-great-grandfather who he discovers was America’s first and most notorious serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett. Better known by his alias H.H. Holmes, Mudgett was the mass murderer who struck terror into the nation by being the proprietor of the infamous Murder Castle and stalking the streets of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair. During his incarceration awaiting execution, well over a century ago, Holmes admitted killing 27 innocent victims, but the evidence the author locates indicates hundreds more likely. From his investigation, Jeff Mudgett, the direct descendant, learns that Holmes’ reign of terror was worldwide and not limited to Chicago as has been so widely believed. Based upon never before revealed historical facts, Jeff pieces together a dynamic and extraordinary puzzle, including the strong possibility that Holmes was also Jack the Ripper.
Far more than a documentary, Bloodstains is precariously balanced on the very edge between non-fiction and the paranormal, as the author’s research of his evil ancestor quickly takes on a personal aspect. Jeff soon fears his efforts may have awakened the legendary ‘Holmes Curse’ of the 1890s, the one investigated and written about by most of the nation’s major publications, including The New York Times. In fact, the deeper he digs into Holmes’ devilish past, the stronger the monster’s hold on him seems to become, testing the limits of his own sanity, as well as humanity. Racked by a mysterious and never before experienced epilepsy, Jeff suffers crippling grand mal seizures whenever he disobeys the haunting voices in his head. Finally, with nowhere else to turn, Jeff is forced to make the decisions of his genetic lifetime in a life-or-death struggle in order to win the greatest prize of all: his survival.
That’s all. ~ William C. Raustler