I FIRST HEARD of Herman Webster Mudgett (1861-1896) or H.H. Holmes, in Wonderpedia several years ago. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and why hadn’t I heard of him before?
The short version, is that Holmes, trained to be a surgeon, procured a lot in Chicago, and to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition and influx of visitors hoped to cash in – in more ways than one – by building a custom made hotel. A three story hotel in fcat, purpose built with one thing in mind: murder – and lots of it. Serial killers such as Jack the Ripper, were amateurish by comparison. I’m not sure if the Saw horror films were inspired by the events, but the contractors built in trap doors, doors that led nowhere, doors that only opened from the outside, a dungeon, an incinerator and various other terrifying ‘peculiarities’ to Holmes’ specifications. Then once the hotel was ready, many of the workmen disappeared.
What they had created for Dr. Holmes was a murder house, a hotel of terrors, that Holmes would utilise to kill guests and anyone else he managed to lure into the building. A room with piped gas could be used to kill Holmes’ victims. He had torture rooms where he’d dissect bodies and chutes to get rid of the remains in the basement, by burning them, or soaking them in lime and acid. Victims included men and children, but he had a predilection for women.
Incredibly, Dr. Holmes was married several times and had children of his own. It’s hard to believe, and they must have had a horrifying existence, although the ones that didn’t die may never have known they were living with a homicidal psychopath, who once caught was found guilty by law of 27 murders. However, there were likely hundreds more. In an age without fingerprints or police databases combined with Dr. Holmes undoubted skill as a surgeon, it meant he was not caught for a long time, until in his mid thirties.
Several books have been written about the ‘first serial killer’ and in fact a film is in development by Martin Scorsese starring none other than Leonardo Di Caprio. The Devil in the White City written by Erik Larson is an intriguing whirlwind of architecture and historical information that plays alongside the dark and bloody story of H.H. Holmes.