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THE MURDER CASTLE OF H.H. HOLMES

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Author Topic: THE MURDER CASTLE OF H.H. HOLMES  (Read 5855 times)
Christa Ewing
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« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2009, 04:40:45 am »

Holmes also placed newspaper ads for marriage as well, describing himself as a wealthy businessman who was searching for a suitable wife. Those who answered this ad would get a similar story to the job offer. He would then torture the women to learn the whereabouts of any valuables they might have. The young ladies would then remain his prisoners until he decided to dispose of them.

Amazingly, Holmes was able to keep his murder operation a secret for four years. He slaughtered an unknown number of people, mostly women, in the castle. He would later confess to 28 murders, although the actual number of victims is believed to be much higher. To examine the details of the story, the reader cannot help but be horrified by the amount of planning and devious detail that went into the murders. There is no question that Holmes was one of the most prolific and depraved killers in American history.
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2009, 04:40:55 am »

In 1893, Homes met a young woman named Minnie Williams. He told her that his name was Harry Gordon and that he was a wealthy inventor. Holmes’ interest in her had been piqued when he learned that she was the heir to a Texas real estate fortune. She was in Chicago working as an instructor for a private school. It wasn’t long before she and Holmes were engaged to be married. This was a turn of events that did not make Julia Connor happy. She was still involved with Holmes and still working at the store. Not long after his engagement became official, both Julia and Pearl disappeared. When Ned Connor later inquired after them, Holmes explained that they had moved to Michigan. In his confession, he admitted that Julia had died during a bungled abortion that he had performed on her. He had poisoned Pearl. He later admitted that he murdered the woman and her child because of her jealous feelings toward Minnie Williams. "But I would have gotten rid of her anyway," he said. "I was tired of her."
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2009, 04:41:17 am »



A Newspaper illustration of Minnie Williams (Illinois State Historical Library)
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2009, 04:41:33 am »



    Minnie Williams lived at the Castle for more than a year and knew more about Holmes’ crimes than any other person. Police investigators would state there was no way that she could not have had guilty knowledge about many of the murders. Besides being ultimately responsible for the deaths of Julia and Pearl Connor, Minnie was also believed to have instigated the murder of Emily Van Tassel, a young lady who lived on Robey Street. She was only 17 and worked at a candy store in the first floor of the castle. There is no indication of what caused her to catch the eye of Holmes but she vanished just one month after his offer of employment.

    Minnie also knew about the murder of Emmeline Cigrand, a beautiful young woman who worked as a stenographer at the Keely Institute in Dwight, Illinois. Ben Pietzel went there to take a drunkenness cure and told Holmes of the girl’s beauty when he returned to Chicago. Holmes then contacted her and offered her a large salary to work for him in Chicago. She accepted the job and came to the Castle -- only to never leave it. Emmeline became homesick after a few weeks in Chicago. She had planned to marry an Indiana man named Robert E. Phelps and she was missing him and her family. Holmes later confessed that he locked the girl in one of his sound-proof rooms and raped her. He stated that he killed her because Minnie Williams objected to his lusting after the attractive young woman. Some time later, Robert Phelps made the mistake of dropping by to inquire after her at the Castle and that was the last time that he was ever reported alive. Holmes described a "stretching experiment" with which he used to kill Phelps. Always curious about the amount of punishment the human body could withstand (Holmes often used the dissecting table on live victims), he invented a "rack-like" device that would literally stretch a person to the breaking point.
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2009, 04:41:50 am »



    In April 1893, Minnie’s property in Texas was deeded to a man named Benton T. Lyman, who was in reality, Ben Pietzel, the already mentioned accomplice of Holmes. Later that same year, Minnie’s brother was killed in a mining accident in Colorado, which is said to have been arranged by Holmes. A visit to Chicago by Minnie’s sister, Nannie, may provide more evidence of Minnie’s murderous ways and her willingness to go along with Holmes. In June 1893, Holmes seduced Nannie while she was staying at the Castle and had no trouble persuading her to sign over her share of some property in Fort Worth. She disappeared a month later, with an explanation that she had gone back to Texas, but according to Holmes, it had been Minnie who killed her. When Minnie found out that Nannie had been consorting with Holmes, the two of them got into a heated argument. Minnie hit her sister over the head with a chair and she died, then she and Holmes dropped the body into Lake Michigan.

    A short time later, Holmes and Minnie traveled to Denver in the company of another young woman, Georgianna Yoke, who had come to Chicago from Indiana with a "tarnished reputation". She had applied for a job at the Castle and Holmes told her that his name was Henry Howard and that Minnie was his cousin. On January 17, 1894, Holmes and Georgianna were married at the Vendome Hotel in Denver with Minnie as their witness! After that, the wedding party (which apparently consisted of the three of them) traveled to Texas, where they claimed Minnie’s property and arranged a horse swindle. Holmes purchased several railroad cars of horses with counterfeit banknotes and signed the papers as "O.C. Pratt". The horses were then shipped to St. Louis and sold. Holmes made off with a fortune, but it would be this swindle that would later come back and destroy him.

    The threesome returned to Chicago and their return marked the last time that Minnie was ever seen alive. Holmes explained that he believed Minnie had killed her sister in a fit of passion and then had fled to Europe. The police believed him, as he was known for being an upstanding citizen and it was not until much later that he confessed to killing her too. Although her body was never found, it is believed to have joined other victims in the acid vat in the basement.
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2009, 04:42:07 am »

THE HORROR IS REVEALED
In July 1894, Holmes was arrested for the first time. It was not for murder but for one of his schemes, the earlier horse swindle that ended in St. Louis. Georgianna promptly bailed him out, but while in jail, he struck up a conversation with a convicted train robber named Marion Hedgepeth, who was serving a 25-year sentence. Holmes had concocted a plan to bilk an insurance company out of $20,000 by taking out a policy on himself and then faking his death. Holmes promised Hedgepeth a $500 commission in exchange for the name of a lawyer who could be trusted. He was directed to Colonel Jeptha Howe, the brother of a public defender, and Howe found Holmes’ plan to be brilliant.
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #21 on: August 01, 2009, 04:42:21 am »

Holmes then took a cadaver to a seaside resort in Rhode Island and burned it, disfiguring the head and dumping it on the beach. He then shaved his beard and altered his appearance and returned to the hotel, registering under another name and inquiring about his friend, Holmes. When the body was discovered on the beach, he identified it as "H.H. Holmes" and presented an insurance policy for $20,000. The insurance company suspected fraud though and refused to pay. Holmes returned to Chicago without pressing the claim and began concocting a new version of the same scheme.

A month later, Holmes held a conference with Ben Pietzel and Jeptha Howe and his new plan was put into action. Pietzel went to Philadelphia with his wife, Carrie, and opened a shop for buying and selling patents under the name of B.F. Perry. Holmes then took out an insurance policy on his life. The plan was for Pietzel to drink a potion that would knock him unconscious. Then, Holmes would apply make-up to his face to make it look as though he had been severely burned. A witness would then summon an ambulance and while they were gone, Holmes would put a corpse in place of the "shopkeeper". The insurance company would be told that he had died. Pietzel would then receive a portion of the money in exchange for his role in the swindle but he would soon learn, as some many others already had, that Holmes could not be trusted!
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2009, 04:42:36 am »

The "accident" took place on the morning of September 4, when neighbors heard a loud explosion from the patent office. A carpenter named Eugene Smith came to the office a short time later and found the door locked and the building dark. For some reason, he became concerned and summoned a police officer to the scene. They broke open the door and found a badly burned man on the floor. The death was quickly ruled an accident and the body was taken to the morgue. After 11 days, no one showed up to claim it and so the corpse was buried in the local potter’s field. Days later, the police learned that the dead man (Pietzel) had come to Philadelphia from St. Louis and the police of that city were asked to search for relatives. Within days, attorney Jeptha Howe filed a claim with the insurance company on behalf of Carrie Pietzel and collected the money. He kept $2,500 and Holmes took the remainder. He later gave $500 to Mrs. Pietzel but then took it back, explaining that he would invest it for her.

The claim was paid without hesitation and everyone got their share of the money, except for Ben Pietzel and Marion Hedgepeth. Holmes never bothered to contact the train robber again, a slight that Hedgepeth did not appreciate.
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2009, 04:42:58 am »



Train Robber Marion Hedgepeth, whom Holmes made the mistake of crossing
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2009, 04:43:13 am »

He brooded over this awhile and then decided to turn Holmes in. He explained the scheme to a St. Louis policeman named Major Lawrence Harrigan, who in turn notified an insurance investigator, W.E. Gary. He then passed along the information to Frank P. Geyer, a Pinkerton agent, who immediately began an investigation.

Ben Pietzel never received his share of the money either, but even if he had, he would not have been able to spend it. What Holmes had not told anyone was that the body discovered in the patent office was not a cleverly disguised corpse, but Ben Pietzel himself! Rather than split the money again, Holmes had killed his accomplice then burned him so that he would be difficult to recognize. Holmes kept his part of the plan a secret as he and Georgianna were now traveling with Carrie Pietzel and her three children. She believed that her husband was hiding out in New York. The group was last seen in Cincinnati and then in Indianapolis on October 1. Carrie was then sent east and the children were left in the care of Holmes and Georgianna. Holmes made arrangements for Carrie to meet him in Detroit, where he assured her that her husband was now hiding. He arrived in Detroit several days before the appointed time and put the three children into a boarding house. Then, he went to Indiana and returned with Georgianna and installed her in a second boarding house. When Carrie arrived, she was lodged in yet another establishment. Then, he began moving about the country, apparently aware that the Pinkerton detective was on his trail. The journey lasted for almost two months but on November 17, 1894, Holmes turned up alone in Boston and was arrested and sent to Philadelphia.
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« Reply #25 on: August 01, 2009, 04:43:27 am »

As fate would have it though, he was not arrested for insurance fraud but for the horse swindle that he, Minnie and Georgianna had pulled off in Texas. He was given the choice of being returned to Texas and being hanged as a horse thief or he could confess to the insurance scheme that had led to the death of Ben Pietzel. He chose insurance fraud and was sent to Philadelphia. On the way there, Holmes offered his guard $500 if the man would allow himself to be hypnotized. Wisely, the guard refused.

The entire insurance scheme was now completely unraveling. A week later, Georgianna was located at her parent’s home in Indiana and Carrie Pietzel was found in Burlington, Vermont, where Holmes had rented a small house for her to live in while she awaited the arrival of her family. Holmes had lived at the house with her for several days but had left angry when she questioned him about a hole that he was digging in the back yard.
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« Reply #26 on: August 01, 2009, 04:44:02 am »



Veteran Pinkerton detective Frank Geyer (Illinois State Historical Library)
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #27 on: August 01, 2009, 04:44:12 am »

The police came to believe that he was digging her grave, but for some unknown reason, he chose not to kill her. Mrs. Pietzel was arrested and was taken to Philadelphia but was soon released. No charges were ever brought against her.

Detective Geyer was slowly starting to uncover the dark secrets of Henry Howard Holmes, he realized, but even the seasoned Pinkerton man was unprepared for what lay ahead. He was beginning to sift through the many lies and identities of Holmes, hoping to find clues as to the fates of the Pietzel children. At this point, he had no idea about all of the other victims. Holmes swore that Minnie Williams had taken the children with her to London, where she planned to open a massage parlor, but Geyer was sure that he was lying. In June 1895, Holmes entered a guilty plea for a single count of insurance fraud but Geyer expanded his investigation.
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« Reply #28 on: August 01, 2009, 04:44:22 am »

Throughout his questioning, Holmes refused to reveal any other explanation for what had become of Carrie Pietzel’s three children, Howard, Nellie and Alice. Fearing the worst Detective Geyer set out to try and discover their fate -- and his fears soon came to realization. In Chicago, Geyer learned that all of Holmes’ mail had been forwarded every day to Gilmanton, New York. From Gilmanton, it had been sent to Detroit, from Detroit to Toronto, from Toronto to Cincinnati, from Cincinnati to Indianapolis and then on from there. He followed Holmes’ trail for eight months through the Midwest and Canada, stopping in each city to investigate the house that he had been renting while residing there. In Detroit, a house that Holmes had rented was still vacant and a large hole was found to have been dug in the cellar floor. Geyer was relieved to discover that it was empty.
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Christa Ewing
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« Reply #29 on: August 01, 2009, 04:45:38 am »

In Toronto, the Pinkerton searched for eight days before he found the cottage at No. 16 Vincent Street that had been rented to a man fitting Holmes’ description. The man had been traveling with two little girls. Holmes borrowed a shovel from a neighbor, which he claimed he wanted to use to dig a hole to store potatoes in. Geyer borrowed the same spade and when digging in the same location, found the bodies of Nellie and Alice Pietzel secreted several feet under the earth. In an upstairs bedroom, he found a large trunk that had a piece of rubber tubing leading into it from a gas pipe. He had told the girls that he wanted to play hide and seek with them, tricked them into climbing into the trunk and then had asphyxiated them.
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