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the Unexplained => Vanishings & Unsolved Murders => Topic started by: Rorschach on September 24, 2007, 02:29:40 am

Title: America's 1st Serial Killer
Post by: Rorschach on September 24, 2007, 02:29:40 am

Holmes' mugshot, 1895
Birth name: Herman Webster Mudgett
Alias(es): Dr. Harry Howard Holmes
Born: May 16, 1860
Location: Gilmanton, New Hampshire
Died: May 7, 1896 (aged 35)
Cause of death: hanging
Number of victims: 27
Country where killings occurred: U.S.
States where killings occurred: Chicago, Illinois
Span of killings: 1893 through 1895
Penalty: Death  

Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1860 May 7, 1896), better known under the alias of "Dr. Harry 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.

The case was notorious in its time, and received wide publicity via a series of articles in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers. Interest in Holmes' crimes was revived in 2003 by The Devil in the White City, a best-selling non-fiction book that juxtaposed an account of the planning and staging of the World's Fair with Holmes' story. In addition, Mudgett's story has been told in a biography of his life by Harold Schechter entitled Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago, as well as a documentary film by John Borowski entitled H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer.

Title: Re: America's 1st Serial Killer
Post by: Rorschach on September 24, 2007, 02:30:20 am
Herman Webster Mudgett was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire on May 16, 1860. 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. It was the bullies who ran scared.

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. 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.

Title: Re: America's 1st Serial Killer
Post by: Rorschach on September 24, 2007, 02:30:57 am
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.

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, lovers, and hotel's guests, and tortured and killed 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". Because of the connections he gained through medical school, he was able to sell skeletons and organs with little difficulty.

Title: Re: America's 1st Serial Killer
Post by: Rorschach on September 24, 2007, 02:31:29 am
Following the World's Fair, and with creditors closing in, Holmes left Chicago and apparently murdered people as he traveled around the United States and Canada, though only the corpses of his close associate and three of children were ever located. He was arrested in 1895 when police discovered his life-insurance scam connection with this former business associate, Benjamin Pitezel. Pitezel had agreed to fake his death so that his wife would receive the $10,000 policy, which she was to split with Holmes and a shady attorney. Holmes then killed Pitezel and manipulated Pitezel's wife and children, splitting them up and keeping them traveling from city to city while using various aliases and lying about Pitezel's death. Three of the five Pitezel children were killed during this escapade.

After the custodian for the "Castle" informed police that he was never allowed to clean the upper floors, terror seized the local department. Police spent about a month inspecting the building and learning Holmes' efficient methods for committing the murders and disposing of corpses. A fire of mysterious origin consumed the building on August 19, 1895.

The number of his victims has typically been estimated between 20 to 100, and even as high as 230 by using missing persons records at that time; however, 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 murder, and confessed to 27 murders (in Chicago, Indianapolis and Toronto) and six attempted murders. He wrote various contradictory accounts of his life, initially claiming innocence, and later that he was possessed by Satan. His talent for lying at will made it difficult for researchers to determine any truth in his writings.

On May 7, 1896, Holmes was hanged in Philadelphia. 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.