HWM in the recent light of day
The West Side was consumed first. The firestorm surged across the Chicago River propelled by gale force winds, sweeping eastward into the downtown business district and then raced into the North Side, the city's most affluent area. Pandemonium was accompanied by wide spread looting and federal troops under the command of General Philip Sheridan were rushed in to restore order. Several blocks were blown up in an attempt to halt the spread of the "ocean of flame" on the South Side. A steady rainfall began late Monday night, dowsing all the flames by early Tuesday. Before it was finally extinguished the conflagration laid waste to a three square mile area, killing 300 people, leaving 100,000 homeless and destroying over 17,000 buildings. When the news eventually reached the New Hampshire hamlet of Gilmanton Academy, a ten year old boy named Herman was spellbound by the tales of devastation and longed that his religious and authoritarian parents Levi and Theodate had been trapped in the inferno, their flesh melted away and bones reduced to ash.
Frank Geyer - Philadelphia Detective
The Pittsburgh Press - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Thursday January 20, 1898
SAYS HOLMES IS ALIVE. A Chicago Man's Startling Tale About the Multi-Murderer. News Publishers' Press Dispatch. Chicago, Jan. 20. The Inter-Ocean has this remarkable story this morning: "H. H. Holmes was never hanged. On the contrary, he Is to-day alive and well, growing coffee at San Parinarimbo, Paraguay, South America.” This is the extraordinary statement made by Robert Lattlmer, a resident of Englewood, and a man who, having been intimately acquainted with Holmes and a frequent visitor at the "castle," was at one time reported in the long list of the multi-murderer's alleged victims. Lattlmer declares that certain railroad men in Englewood are in constant correspondence with Holmes. The story of Holmes's alleged escape from death, as Lattlmer tells it, is as sensational as any of the events connected with the career of this extraordinary criminal. According to the story told by Lattlmer, a body strongly resembling that of Holmes In height, weight and general appearance was smuggled into the jail at Philadelphia and a substitute placed under the scaffold. When Holmes mounted the death machine, so the story goes, all was In readiness for the substitution, and when the murderer had concluded his speech the trap was lowered. Holmes disappeared, the cadaver was hoisted up and the noose was placed about the dead substitute’s neck. Then the huge weight which is used In Pennsylvania executions was released and the body of the unknown man shot into the air. As is customary in other states, persons executed in Pennsylvania are not shot through a trap, but are suddenly jerked off the platform, although a trap is always built in the scaffold. Within two hours of the hanging an undertaker with a casket drove into the prison yard. That casket was supposed to contain the body of Holmes. Instead, it is alleged, it contained Holmes living. The horses were lashed into a run and quick time was made to Mount Moriah cemetery, where the casket, instead of being entombed, was deposited in the vault. That night, it is alleged, the cadaver was smuggled from the prison and taken to the cemetery, where it was placed in the casket from which the living Holmes had been released some hours previously. Before midnight Holmes, his face cleanly shaven and in new and elegant clothing, was calmly seated in a New York hotel reading of his supposed execution. A few days later, so Lattimer's story goes, under an assumed name Holmes was on his way to Paraguay. It is further alleged that, after having made his arrangements to reside permanently in South America, he sent to the United States for at least one and perhaps two of his alleged victims, through whose disappearances he had profited, and is now living with them. (Criminals are hanged in Philadelphia as In Pittsburgh, that is by dropping through the trap and not being jerked up as stated above - Ed.)
Mr. Mudgett's repose is unmarked in the foreground.
(Section 15, Range 10, Lot 41, Graves 3 & 4)
George S. Graham
Philadelphia DIstrict Attorney
The (Murder) Castle was located at 601-603 West 63rd Street (at the SW corner with Wallace Street) in the Englewood section of Chicago. The ground floor contained a pharmacy, jewelry store, barber shop, restaurant and blacksmith. The basement was equipped with acid vats, a quicklime pit, a dissecting table, a crematorium, and an elasticity determinator (more commonly referred to as a torture rack).
Update - Excerpt from an article by Eric Killelea appearing in the 5/4/17 issue of Rolling Stone magazine:
The remains resting in H.H. Holmes's coffin are being removed from his grave, and a team of researchers are hoping to find out if they do indeed belong to America's first serial killer. Last week, Philadelphia based analysts started exhuming the body of what they presume to be Holmes. Given his history as a skilled con-man, rumors emerged soon after his death that Holmes managed to escape through some subterfuge, that someone else was hanged and buried at the grave site and that Holmes fled to South America, living on a coffee farm in San Parinarimbo, Paraguay. Holmes expert Matt Lake recently told NBC Philadelphia that was an immediate theory - Holmes faked his own death. "It's very tempting to believe it," Lake said, "because the guy was a consummate trickster!" Now, his descendants want to put a stop to this story once and for all. Holmes' great grandchildren (from his marriage to Clara Lovering), John and Richard Mudgett and Cynthia Mudgett Soriano, petitioned the Delaware County Court to exhume the body last year. On March 9th, the Delaware County Court granted permission for the exhumation of Holmes's body and tasked the University of Pennsylvania's Anthropology Department with performing DNA analysis. But the court order states that the remains will be reinterred in the same grave site in the cemetery regardless of whether or not those remains are determined to be his, according to NBC Chicago. The court also ordered that no commercial spectacle or carnival atmosphere shall be created either by this event or any other incident pertaining to the remains. The exhumed body, whether Holmes' or not, must be returned within 120 days. If DNA testing proves the body is someone else's, the great grandchildren will still have to pay for its reburial.
- From the 9/1/2017 edition of Rolling Stone by Daniel Krebs:
Forensics tests have confirmed that the person buried in H.H. Holmes' Philadelphia-area tomb is in fact "America's first serial killer" whose murder spree was documented in the book 'Devil in the White City'. In March, the Delaware County Court approved a request by Holmes' great-grandchildren to exhume the grave, a pine box that was "filled with cement, buried 10 feet in the ground and covered again with cement," the Associated Press reports. The body was exhumed in April. The exhumation came after a History Channel special titled 'American Ripper' revived a century-old rumor that Holmes bribed his way out of Philadelphia's Moyamensing prison on the day of his execution by hanging and, after his grave was filled with a cadaver, escaped to South America. Because of the amount of cement in Holmes' grave – to "ensure his body against the vandalism or scientific curiosity of ghouls" – the corpse's clothes and even Holmes' mustache remained in good condition. However, the body had completely decayed, and with no available DNA for testing, forensic experts relied on Holmes' teeth to confirm his identity. "It stank," University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Samantha Cox said of Holmes' corpse. "Once it gets to that point we can't do anything with it. We can't test it, can't get any DNA out of it." Following the tests, Holmes' body was reinterred at Yeadon, Pennsylvania's Holy Cross Cemetery.
In great-great grandson Jeff Mudgett's Bloodstains (2011), the author speculates his ancestor was also Jack the Ripper. Jeff also co-starred with former CIA analyst Amaryllis Fox in the eight part investigative series American Ripper presented during July and August 2017.
Chicago rose from its ruins to become a great financial center and the first skyscraper city by 1885, reaching a population of one million five years later. As the city prospered so did its suburbs and none more so than Englewood, which had grown in 20 years from 20 families immediately after the Civil War to 45,000 residents. The locality (annexed by Chicago in 1889) was served by seven railroad lines with 45 trains stopping daily each way.
Dr. H.H. Holmes sought and gained employment at Dr. E.S. Holton's drugstore at the corner of 63rd and Wallace Streets in July 1886. When the proprietor succumbed to cancer the following month his widow agreed to sell the store to Holmes on condition she could remain in the upstairs apartment she had shared with her husband. To this Holmes consented and made a down payment. Subsequent monies were not forthcoming and Mrs. Bolton was obliged to bring suit. After filing legal papers she disappeared shortly thereafter, Holmes telling customers she had decided to live with relatives in California.
Holmes married Myrta Belknap from Minneapolis, Minnesota in January 1887 (he was already wed - as Herman Mudgett - to Clara Lovering from Alton, New Hampshire). She bore him a daughter named Lucy. Because of his philandering, they separated in 1888 and she moved to nearby Wilmette, Illinois where her parents had relocated. Holmes provided financial support to Myrta and Lucy for the rest of his life.
Holmes secured a lease on the vacant property across the street from his store in the summer of 1888 and construction of the building he personally designed soon began. Because of his practice of dismissing crews after completing only a small portion of the work and then hiring another for the next, the project wasn't completed until May 1890. Holmes's reasons for doing so were twofold: 1) he avoided paying laborers by claiming they were fired for shoddy workmanship; and 2) nobody besides himself knew everything that was contained within. His suppliers were screwed as well. Holmes purchased on credit a safe as large as a walk-in bank vault and had it installed in a vacant area on the third floor, then constructed a room around it with a door too small for the safe to pass through. When he failed to make payment and the company tried to repossess, Holmes said they could do so but if they caused any damage to his building in removing it he would sue. The vault stayed at no charge. Similar strategies were employed to acquire an oil fueled kiln with a cast iron door and rolling grate (for a glass bending enterprise he said he was planning) that would fire up to 3000 degrees, and for asbestos lined sheet iron plates to cover the walls of several rooms (equipped with gas pipes operated from a control panel in Holmes's bedroom). The second story (where Pat Quinlan the caretaker was never allowed to clean) contained secret passageways, zigzagging hallways, doors opening to walls, a 'hanging' chamber, concealed closets and large greased chutes leading to the basement. There was also a 'starvation' room completely off sealed by solid brick that could only be entered through a trapdoor in the ceiling. The completed edifice turned out to be a magnificent structure (at least its exterior was) and the people of Englewood soon began referring to it as The Castle.
In November 1889 Benjamin Pitezel, newly settled in Chicago with his wife Carrie and their five children, saw a help wanted advertisement in a local paper for carpenters needed to work on a new building in Englewood and that applicants should contact Dr. H.H. Holmes.
In June 1890 Holmes sold his drugstore with the understanding he was retiring from that business as he was too busy managing his other affairs. A few weeks later he opened a new pharmacy in the Castle, driving his now competitor across the street into bankruptcy. Besides operating the other stores on the ground floor Holmes tried to market his invention the Chemical Water Gas Generator, which he claimed could manufacture gas from tap water. He would pour water into the device, add some chemical compound he had developed, turn some knobs and then light the jet from which the resultant gas escaped. He was about to sell the patent to some Canadian investors for $10,000 when the Chicago Gas Company decided to investigate. Their inspector quickly discovered a hidden pipe in back of the contraption going under the floor and tapping into a public gas main. The company did not prosecute but did confiscate the machine, which left a large hole in the cellar floor. Holmes quickly decided this was actually an artesian well he had just discovered and provided his new product Linden Grove Mineral Water (tap water, vanilla extract and bitters) to health conscious customers for five cents a glass.
In November 1890 Ned Conner obtained the position of manager of the jewelry shop in the Castle. Room and board were included, so he, his wife Julia and their three year daughter Pearl took up residence on the third floor. It wasn't long before Julia, buxom, nearly six feet tall and despising her humdrum husband became attracted to the dashing and dapper doctor. They were lovers by March 1891 when Ned confronted his wife about her scandalous behavior with her employer (Holmes having installed her as the drugstore cashier). She refused to end the affair and Ned moved out, taking another job downtown. Julia became pregnant and demanded Holmes divorce Myrta and marry her. He agreed on condition she have an abortion as they both already had children. She assented and they decided he would perform the procedure (assuring her he was well experienced at doing so) on Christmas Eve Day. Neither Julia nor Pearl were ever seen thereafter.
Holmes had in his employ a machinist who was skilled in the mounting of human skeletons. In January 1892 Holmes offered Charles Chappell $35 to strip, clean and articulate the bones of a cadaver he had performed a postmortem examination on. When that work was completed Holmes sold the unusually tall female skeleton to the Hahnemann Medical College for $200.
Benjamin Pitezel developed a very close relationship with Holmes as he performed various duties for the doctor, never objecting to being involved in the more questionable ones. Pitezel was an alcoholic, and a popular treatment at the time was the Gold Cure offered by the Keeley institute in Dwight, Illinois. Holmes paid the $100 fee so Pitezel could attend the four week program in March 1892. While there Pitezel became captivated by a beautiful blonde employee named Emeline Cigrand. Although a drunkard and petty thief, Pitezel was a faithful husband and thought she would make a fine companion for his benefactor. Back in Englewood his rhapsody of Emeline whetted Holmes's interest, who wrote and offered her job as his private secretary at a substantial increase in the wages she was paid by Dr. Keeley. She accepted and in May moved into a boardinghouse close to the Castle. By the summer Emeline was Holmes's mistress. She insisted on marriage, so they planned a private civil ceremony for early December. Holmes explained to her that due to complicated legal issues arising during his divorce proceedings from Myrta he would need to use an alias of Robert Phelps for their union. In November Holmes gave Emeline envelopes to personally address to her friends and family, saying he was going to have wedding announcements printed and mailed after the ceremony. On December 6th, Holmes was working in his office and asked Emeline to retrieve some documents from that walk-in vault next door. As she searched for the papers he locked her in. Taking a seat in front, he listened to her pleas and screams for hours as they escalated from shock to panic to terror. It was so arousing that he pleasured himself repeatedly. How long it took Emeline to die of asphyxiation is unknown. By December 17th the notices for the wedding of Emeline Cigrand and Robert Phelps were posted. Not too long afterwards the LaSalle Medical School acquired an articulated female skeleton from Dr. H.H.Holmes, who never did divorce Myrta.
In the 1880s plans to celebrate the quadricentennial of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World took shape. By the end of the decade four cities - New York, Washington, St. Louis and Chicago - were competing to host the World's Columbian Exposition. On April 25, 1890 President Benjamin Harrison signed a bill designating Chicago as the site, to be staged on the shore of Lake Michigan. Construction under the supervision of chief architect Daniel Burnham commenced in February 1891 and was ready for Dedication Day on October 21, 1892. The exhibition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair or the White City (so named for the marble like appearance of its palaces, pavilions, museums and monuments) was open to the public from May 1 to October 31, 1893. More than 27 million people are believed to have attended. The hordes of tourists descending on the city created such a demand for lodging that any landlord with a spare room could pick up some easy extra money. The two upper floors of the Castle were now advertised as the World's Fair Hotel. No one knows how many who checked in never checked out, but some accounts gave the tally as upwards to 50. The bed / gas chambers, acid vats and crematorium were all called into service. Sometimes Holmes would use his master key to enter a room, incapacitate the occupant and, if an attractive woman, have his way with before disposal. His coffers grew heavy with cash and jewelry.
In March 1893 an employment agency sent Minnie Williams to the Castle in response to Holmes's request for a stenographer. In short order she became his private secretary and mistress. His attraction was enhanced by her $40,000 property holdings in Fort Worth, Texas, which she soon signed over to him after he proposed (even Holmes was impressed by his persuasiveness in getting her to do so). Also in the Lone Star State Minnie had a younger sister named Nannie. Holmes learned that Nannie was as shrewd as Minnie was naive, which might pose a problem. Steps would have to be taken. In May Holmes suggested Minnie write Nannie and invite her to Chicago. Nannie arrived the next month and soon was calling the charming doctor Brother Harry. On July 3 the trio spent the entire day taking in the sights and delights of the White City. The next day, while Minnie was cleaning the apartment she shared with Holmes, he took Nannie for a tour of the Castle (empty now as the shops were closed and the tenants out enjoying the holiday festivities) which ended at the vault. Holmes returned home and told Minnie they were going to dine out after picking up Nannie, who was waiting at the Castle. Holmes ate alone that evening.
Then again he might have supped with Georgiana Yoke, who he also met that March and was courting while cohabiting with Minnie. They were married on January 9, 1894 in Denver, Colorado (Holmes respected the sanctity of marriage in his own fashion by not murdering any of his legitimately wed wives), he again explaining that for legal reasons he had to use an alias - this time Henry Mansfield Howard.
Holmes's creditors were closing in, and arson seemed an appropriate course of action. In October fire destroyed the Castle's third floor and Holmes, having taken out $25,000 in insurance with four different companies, tried to collect. An investigation quickly determined it was deliberately set. Holmes escaped criminal charges but his claims were rejected. Adding insult to injury he was served notice if he didn't settle his accounts for $50,000 a warrant for his arrest would be issued. Holmes had another scheme in mind. On November 9, 1893 the Fidelity Mutual Life Association of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania insured Benjamin Pitezel's life for $10,000 with Carrie as the beneficiary. The plan was after a few months Pitezel's accidental death would be staged and a disfigured cadaver substituted and identified as his remains. Pitezel would go into hiding and when the policy was paid the two men would split the proceeds, or at least that was Pitezel's understanding of how it was to be.
The two men took to the road becoming traveling hucksters, moving from state to state working swindles. They went to Fort Worth where Holmes was the owner of a large vacant lot he finagled from the now missing Minnie Williams. He repeated what he did in Chicago, beginning construction of a three story office building, acquiring materials on credit and using the property deed as collateral for substantial loans. Holmes was discovered trying to steal a freight car load of thoroughbred horses and had to make a hasty exit from Texas. He and Pitezel kept on the move for the next six months throughout the Midwest and the East, finally coming to rest in St. Louis, where Pitezel brought his family and Holmes his bride. Here Holmes purchased a drug store for a modest down payment, stocking it with merchandise bought on credit then selling off the entire inventory. This time he got caught; on July 19 he was arrested and jailed for fraud. Georgiana bailed him out ten days later, Holmes convincing her this gross miscarriage of justice was instigated by unscrupulous competitors (Holmes had told her the reason for his extensive travels were to market his ABC Copier, a kind of mimeograph machine). While locked up (for the first time in his life) Holmes made the acquaintance of Marion Hedgepeth, a notorious outlaw. Convicted of a 1891 Missouri train robbery Hedgepeth, nicknamed 'The Handsome Bandit' by the press, had been sentenced to 25 years at the state penitentiary and was being held in the St. Louis jail pending his appeal. Holmes confided his plan with Pitezel to Hedgepeth and offered him $500 for the name of a crooked lawyer. Hedgepeth knew of such a shyster right there in town. Holmes promised payment once the insurance money was received.
Holmes decided to stage Pitezel's death in Philadelphia, the home office of Fidelity Mutual. Pitezel arrived in the city on July 30 and Holmes a week later to work out the final details. They rented the house at 1316 Callowhill St. with a shop downstairs and rooms above, where Pitezel opened the office of B.F. Perry, Patent Dealer (he had some experience in this line of work from years before). On the morning September 2 Holmes let himself in Pitezel's place and found him upstairs sound asleep with an empty liquor bottle nearby, just as he had expected. Holmes suffocated Pitezel with a chloroform soaked rag, poured benzine on his face and lit him up. He now had his disfigured cadaver. Holmes later wrote that he felt somewhat bad about doing this, as he had genuinely liked the agreeable Pitezel.
The body was discovered the next day by a customer who, noticing a putrid smell, went up the staircase to find its source. The scene indicated an accidental death - the decedent, carelessly lighting his pipe too close to the mantelpiece lined with uncorked bottles containing highly flammable chemicals, set off the lethal explosion. An autopsy was performed with the coroner concluding death was caused by chloroform poisoning (the chemical being found in the stomach's contents), but the police held to their theory of death by misadventure. Holmes returned to St. Louis and gave Carrie (who never wanted her Benny to go through with this) the card of Jeptha D. Howe, Esq. (Hedgepeth's recommended mouthpiece), to whom she was to bring the life insurance policy. Soon the manager of the St. Louis branch of Fidelity Mutual received a letter from Carrie that B.F. Perry, recently deceased in Philadelphia, was actually her husband and holder of policy number 044145. Mr. Howe wrote to the president of the company at its headquarters that he and a member of the Pitezel family would journey to that city to identify the remains and collect the $10,000.
As Carrie and her baby son Wharton were ill and Dessie, the eldest child at 17, would have to remain home to help care for her siblings, it was decided that Alice (next oldest at 15) should accompany Howe. Holmes assured Carrie that Alice would be well provided for as he had made arrangements with a very responsible female cousin of his named Minnie Williams to take charge of Alice once she arrived in Philadelphia. Howe and Alice left St. Louis on September 18. Holmes boarded their train in Cincinnati, with Howe departing in Washington as the two men agreed they should not be seen arriving at their final destination together. Holmes represented himself to Fidelity Mutual officials as Pitezel's former employer, friend and now advocate for the family's best interests. It was largely his demeanor that allayed suspicions of the circumstances of Pitezel's death, and the policy was paid in full. Holmes returned to St. Louis and told Carrie that Pitezel and he had worked out a plan on how to reunite the family while Benny was in hiding. Holmes would take 13 year old Nellie and 10 year old Howard to Indianapolis, Indiana where he and Minnie had already brought Alice and then the five of them would go to Cincinnati to stay at a house he had rented there. Carrie, Dessie and Wharton must first go visit her parents in Galva, Illinois and then come to Cincinnati where Benny would join them. Holmes picked up Nellie and Howard on September 28. By now he had decided to kill the entire Pitezel family.
The three siblings were happily reunited in Indianapolis and continued to Cincinnati as planned. Holmes then returned to St. Louis to be with Carrie when she collected the $10,000. Holmes determined his share to be $6500, Howe's $2500 and Carrie's, after expenses, $500. Holmes forgot about the $500 he promised Hedgepeth. Holmes returned to Cincinnati and brought the children back to Indianapolis. On October 4 he told them that Howard was going to live with Cousin Minnie (whom they obviously had never met) for awhile. Holmes had already rented a cottage in nearby Irvington. On October 9 he brought Howard there along with some furniture and a large coal stove. Holmes took the girls first to Detroit and then Toronto, lodging them in a hotel. At this point Holmes was staying in one place with Georgiana (they were going on to vacation in Niagara Falls). He had Alice and Nellie in another, and put Carrie, Dessie, and Wharton up in a third (Holmes telling Carrie that Benny was now in Montreal and would come to Toronto as soon as Carrie arrived). Only he knew all were in walking distance of each other. On October 25 Holmes brought Alice and Nellie to a house he rented on St. Vincent St. He had already deflowered the older sister.
Holmes told Carrie the house he had rented for her rendezvous with Benny was now under surveillance by the authorities, so Toronto was out. She was to go to Odgensburg, NY and await further instructions. On November 1 she was directed to travel to Burlington, Vermont where Holmes had rented a house on Winooski Avenue, in which he had very carefully placed a large bottle of nitroglycerin in the cellar behind the coal bin. Arrangements had been made for Benny to join Carrie, Dessie and Wharton there. Holmes assured her the other children were being well cared for. On November 7 after telling Carrie he was leaving the next morning to bring Benny down from Montreal, Holmes told Georgiana to meet him in Lowell, Massachussets in one week's time and they would go to Boston together to board a steamship for Europe. Holmes then went to New Hampshire, first to Gilmanton to visit his parents and then Tilton to see his first wife and their now 14 year old son Robert. On November 15 Holmes was in Boston where he wrote a letter to Carrie to meet him in Lowell next week where Benny would be waiting, but to do two things first: 1) destroy this letter after reading it; and 2) bring the bottle of an expensive chemical from the cellar to the attic for better safekeeping until he was able to retrieve it. Holmes regretted that he would not be in Burlington to view the shattered corpses of the remaining Pitezels in the aftermath of the explosion. Fortunately Carrie didn't comply with the second directive. When Holmes left his boarding house on Hancock St. the morning of November 17 he was taken into custody by four policeman. A search of his rooms revealed a parcel of letters Alice had written home, none of which Holmes had bothered to mail. Her letters all followed the conventional format, being headed with both date and place of origin. Also found was a trunk with a small hole drilled just below the lid. What was the cause for his arrest?
On October 9 a letter arrived at the St. Louis Police Department from Marion Hedgepeth. Realizing he was stiffed the promised $500 he now gave full details of the plan Holmes revealed to him. The Fidelity Mutual office was notified and a sworn statement was obtained from Hedgepeth, still being held in the city jail. The company's chief investigator William Gary set off from Philadelphia the next day, authorized to track down and capture Holmes. Gary first interviewed Myrta Holmes in Wilmette. From Holmes's acquaintances and authorities in Englewood Gary learned of his various shady activities and that both Pitezel and he were wanted in Texas. Gary realized what he needed was a detective agency capable of conducting a nationwide manhunt. Fidelity Mutual called in the Pinkertons (whose company logo was an eye over the motto "We Never Sleep", resulting in the slang term 'private eye'). Pinkerton agents soon were trailing Holmes from Odgensburg to Burlington to Gilmanton to Tilton to Boston. On November 15 they followed him as he was making the rounds of different steamship offices. The next day the head of the Boston Pinkerton office met with the city's police deputy superintendent and a decision was made to arrest Holmes before he fled the country.
Holmes was taken to Philadelphia on November 20 along with Carrie, who had been charged as an accessory after the fact. He remained in the city jail for three days and then transferred to the county prison known as Moyamensing at 10th and Reed Streets. In Boston he confessed to his role in the insurance scam when informed he could be returned to Texas on the horse theft charge. Holmes still insisted Pitezel and the three missing children were alive and well, although his story as to their whereabouts kept changing which each telling. He claimed the cadaver found at the Callowhill St. house was supplied by a New York physician (whom he would not name), a classmate from their Ann Arbor, Michigan medical school days. When he learned police were about to exhume the remains from potter's field Holmes admitted it was Pitezel, but that he had committed suicide. These questions of identity and cause of death caused legal complications that delayed the start of Holmes trial for insurance fraud until May 27, 1895. At the end of the first day Holmes instructed his lawyers to cut a deal - he would plead guilty in return for a reduced sentence (with time already served included). The judge announced he would defer sentencing until after the trial of Jeptha Howe (who had been indicted on charges of conspiracy). On June 19 Philadelphia District Attorney George Graham dropped the charges against Carrie, believing she had been completely manipulated by the cunning Holmes and out of compassion for her plight in not knowing the fate of her husband and three of her children.
Graham was determined to locate the children, convinced Holmes was guilty of far worse than insurance fraud that he must be held accountable for. He charged Detective Frank Geyer, a twenty year veteran of the Philadelphia Bureau of Police with the task. Geyer began his mission on June 26. Using Alice's letters as a map he would go to a city, make contact with the local police then check the hotel registries and real estate agencies (for house rentals). He would enlist the local newspapers to run stories and pictures of Holmes and the children, requesting anyone with information to come forward. This he did in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit and Toronto. On July 15, in a shallow pit in the cellar of the house on St. Vincent Street, Geyer found the naked corpses of Alice and Nellie Pitezel, whose feet were missing. Geyer had learned from Carrie that her youngest daughter was clubfooted and considered that Holmes had amputated the misshapen extremities to obscure the identity. An autopsy was performed the next day. A cause of death for either was difficult to pinpoint because of the advanced state of decomposition in the bodies, but the coroner believed both had been suffocated before interment. Remembering the trunk discovered in Boston, Geyer saw Holmes somehow getting the girls inside and locking it, passing a rubber tube into the hole and affixing the other end to a gas jet. On July 19 Carrie, who had come to Toronto alone, identified her two daughters by their teeth and hair. The next day Alice and Nellie were buried in St. James Cemetery, funeral expenses paid by the City of Toronto.
Geyer returned to Detroit to continue the search for the missing boy, but concluded Howard never got this far. Going home to a hero's welcome on August 1 he rested a week then went back to work, this time with William Gary. The two men traveled to Indiananapolis. On August 28 in the cellar of the cottage in Irvington they found the charred dismembered remains of Howard Pitezel.
The Holmes story was a national news sensation from the time of his arrest in Boston. There was a certain admiration for the great Arch-Swindler and his enterprising ways, but that rapidly changed with the discovery of the Pitezel girls' fate. The public now perceived him as the great Arch-Fiend. On July 19 the Chicago police entered the Castle because of suspicions that the missing Williams sisters were buried in the basement. Soon descriptions of the Modern Bluebeard's Chamber of Horrors were picked up by all the news services. After the police had completed their investigation (the sisters were never found) the building was leased by one A.M. Clark with the intention of turning it into a 'murder museum'. After midnight on August 19 his plan went up in smoke, as did the Castle when it burnt to the ground. Somebody apparently didn't like the idea of it becoming a tourist attraction. Fully aware of his growing notoriety while languishing in Moyamensing, Holmes decided to cash in. Working with journalist John King, Holmes' Own Story was published in the early fall selling for 25 cents a copy. Admitting that though forced to commit felonious undertakings to stave off abject poverty (due to the pro bono publico medical service he charitably provided his poorer patients) he claimed to be innocent of the horrific homicides the press accused him of, and would indeed reclaim his good name and reputation. Frank Geyer later wrote his own best selling account titled The Holmes-Pitezel Case: A History of the Greatest Crime of the Century.
Holmes's trial for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel commenced on October 28 in Philadelphia City Hall (Court Room 676), with the Honorable Michael Arnold presiding and George Graham representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Holmes provided the initial theatrics by dismissing his attorneys and representing himself (actually acquitting himself quite well) but then requesting they be reinstated. Testimony and closing arguments were completed in six days, with Carrie making a very emotional appearance on the third. Graham's explanation that, given the appearance of the crime scene and the autopsy findings, Pitezel could not have committed suicide was very persuasive and the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree on November 2. On November 30 Holmes was sentenced to death by hanging. On April 12, 1896 the Philadelphia Inquirer published Holmes's confession to the murders of 27 and his attempts on six others. William Randolph Hearst had paid him $7500 for the exclusive rights to the story. Not surprisingly this tale too turned out to be a Holmesian stew of fact and fiction when two of the dead later came forward to prove they were otherwise. Holmes was executed on May 7 at Moyamensing. Standing on the gallows he recanted his confession and admitted responsibility only for the deaths of two women while they were undergoing 'criminal operations' at his hands. Although the drop broke his neck it took 15 minutes for him to die. Holmes was very concerned that his body would end up being displayed in a medical school, museum or carnival. He requested it be placed in an over sized casket, encased in poured cement and buried in a double grave, covered with more cement and then dirt. This last wish was granted. How many people did he really kill - 2, 9, 27, 50, more? Since mendacity and prevarication were as automatic as respiration to Herman Webster Henry Howard Mudgett Holmes, he probably had no clue.
Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Delaware County, PA
His nine confirmed kills encircle.
Whether or not it was Mrs. Patrick O'Leary's bovine kicking over a lantern and starting the blaze in the barn at 137 De Koven Street on Sunday evening October 8, 1871 that became known as the Great Chicago Fire was never determined.
Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1861 - May 7, 1896) DBA Dr. Henry Howard Holmes a.k.a. Torture Doctor, Modern Bluebeard, Monster of 63rd Street, Multi-Murderer!
The hanging of Holmes (purportedly)
"I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing. I was born with the 'Evil One' standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since."
This account is drawn from DEPRAVED: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer by Harold Schechter (originally published in 1994), which you need to read for the complete story of this moral degenerate (nowadays sociopath) as well as for the astounding 'Holmes Curse' detailed in the Epilogue. You also want to see H.H. Holmes America's First Serial Killer (2004), a documentary film by John Borowski including commentary by Dr. Schechter. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (2003), another book about H.H. Holmes is now under development as a film also thus titled to be directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as this demon spawn. I'm there!
Anna "Nannie" Williams
Benjamin, Alice, Nellie and Howard Pitezel
1893 World Columbian Exhibition The White City
Ready for a rather unusual political dinner party? Then sink your teeth into Alferd Packer, figuratively speaking of course.
Now wait just a gall darn minute here!
Marion Hedgepeth The Handsome Bandit
Evan Peters did a splendid job as the ghost of an enchanting Holmesian character named James Patrick March, builder of the Cortez in American Horror Story Season Five: Hotel.