Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -
On May 7, 1896, serial killer H. H. Holmes, was hanged in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although his criminal exploits were just as extensive and occurred during the same time period as Jack the Ripper, Holmes’ crimes have not endured in the public’s memory.
Born Herman Mudgett in New Hampshire, Holmes began torturing animals as a child. Still, he was a smart child who later graduated from the University of Michigan with a medical degree. Holmes financed his education with a series of insurance scams whereby he requested coverage for nonexistent people and then presented corpses as the insured.
In 1886, Holmes moved to Chicago to work as a pharmacist. A few months later, he bought the business from the owner’s widow after his death. She then mysteriously disappeared. With a new series of cons, Holmes raised enough money to build a giant, elaborate home across from the store.
The home, which Holmes called “The Castle,” had secret passageways, fake walls, and trapdoors. Some of the rooms were soundproof and connected by pipes to a gas tank in the basement. His bedroom had controls that could fill these rooms with gas. Holmes’ basement also contained a lab with equipment used for dissections.
Young women in the area, along with tourists who had come to see the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and had rented out rooms in Holmes’ castle, suddenly began disappearing. Medical schools purchased many human skeletons from Dr. Holmes during this period but never asked how he obtained the anatomy specimens.
Holmes was finally caught after attempting to use another corpse in an insurance scam. He confessed, saying, “I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than a poet can help the inspiration to sing.” Reportedly, authorities discovered the remains of over 200 victims on his property.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes the award winning In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime. 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: