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America's First Serial Killer

Herman Webster Mudgett: 200 Lives Lost

It was during one of my psychology classes that I had the pleasure of writing a paper on a man called, Herman Webster Mudgett. Or better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes…commonly known as America’s first serial killer H. H. Holmes. Born May 16th, 1861 and died on May 1896. While he was considered to be a monster in that time era; I personally find him fascinating in a strictly professional way of course. H. H. Holmes himself had a very unique and cold way of disposing of his victims which was not common for that time.

One of the reasons that I personally found him so fascinating was the fact that he was able to attend college at the University of Michigan and graduate with a degree in surgery. Serial Killers do not usually have the discipline to complete school or even get any sort of education. He was even able to hide the fact that he was a murderer from his wife and child. He showed huge amounts of the disciple with everything that he was able to accomplish in his life. Even when it came to building what he referred to as his castle. In Chicago in the year 1886, he bought a drug store.

Then H. H. Holmes purchased an empty lot across the street from the store where he built his murder castle. The first floor was stores, the second floor were apartments, and he announced that the third floor was to be used as a hotel of some sort. And of course, it was to be his home. Holmes was really good at manipulating people so he would purchase furniture as well as other supplies then hide them without paying. There were lawsuits filed but nothing ever came of them. Then he had hidden rooms built, which the construction workers knew nothing about. Holmes would promptly fire workers and hire new ones so that no one would be able to identify the actual layout of the building. In the basement of the building, he installed a vat of acid in one room as to clean the bones of his victims. And there was another room in his basement for torture with one of those stretchers. Of course, the basement was soundproof as well so no one could hear the screams. Holmes built the apartments as well as the hotel area like a maze so only he knew the exact layout, with body shoots in nearly every room that led to the basement so that it would be easier to dispose of the of the bodies. Any guests that would stay for the night would not check out. Holmes would lock them in the room and pump toxic gas into the room via pipes that led directly into each room. Holmes was said to sit outside the room and listen to his victim's screams. He used to love cutting them open, hearing them scream. He even kidnapped his friend's children and buried them alive.

After the acid treatment of the bodies, Holmes would reassemble the bones in perfect order and then sell them to colleges for two hundred dollars a piece. Which back then was a lot of money. Any bodies that were not sold along with other evidence was burned in his crematorium which was also located in his basement.

In the end, only nine victims could be confirmed because forensics were not what they are today. Even though he confessed to twenty-seven murders, it is said that at least two hundred people disappeared into his murder castle never to return. That is two hundred unidentified bodies that couldn’t be confirmed. The police paid Holmes to confess which Holmes basically just took the money and ran. But on May 7, 1896, Holmes was hung in prison and his final wish was that his coffin is surrounded by concrete and buried ten feet deep for fear of grave desecration. Other than that Holmes was very calm amid the fact that he was about to die. He was not upset nor was he scared.

On March 4, 1914, the caretaker of the murder castle was found dead by a form of suicide. His note read “I couldn’t sleep”. It was reported that he was apparently suffering hallucinations. No doubt the work of the building being haunted. I'll let you think about it…

Here are some fun facts about H. H. Holmes:

  1. He was bullied as a kid
  2. He stole disfigured cadavers during medical school
  3. He was married to three women at the same time
  4. The construction of the “Murder Hotel” was a mystery to many, even to those building it
  5. He made his business partner fake his own death
  6. He was brought to justice by a horse

Holmes was, in the end, an expert manipulator and could convince anyone of anything.


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