Two portraits (one a profile) of American pharmacist and convicted serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett (better known by his alias H.H. Holmes, 1861 – 1896), mid to late 1890s. Holmes built the World’s Fair Hotel (labelled as ‘Holmes’ ‘Castle’,’ but also known as the ‘Murder Castle,’ after it’s actual purpose became known) (on W. 63rd Street) as a structure to lure his, mostly female, victims from the World’s Columbian Exposition, then occuring in Chicago. The interior was a mazelike, with rooms for torturing his captive victims, as well as both a lime pit and furances in the basement, which were used to dispose of the bodies. Holmes was convicted of four murders, but he confessed to 27 and there was widespread, and credible, speculation that he could have been responsible for several hundred. The photo originally appeared in the book ‘The Holmes-Pitezel Case, a History of the Greatest Crime of the Century’ (by Frank P. Geyer). (Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images).
H. H. Holmes is the commonly-known name for American serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett (or Dr. Henry Howard Holmes). He killed at least nine people in the 1890s across three cities: Chicago, Illinois; Toronto, Ontario; and Indianapolis, Indiana. He was arrested by authorities in Boston on this day in 1894, bringing an end to his crimes.
Holmes’ early life
The man that would become best known as H. H. Holmes was born as Herman Webster Mudgett on May 16th, 1891 in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. Herman’s childhood was, for all reports, a relatively normal one, lacking in the signs often seen in serial killers as children.
Herman graduated high school at 16 and soon after married Clara Lovering, the first of three wives. He enrolled in and graduated from the University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery. Some of Holmes’ first crimes occurred during this time as he used cadavers from the medical school to commit insurance fraud.
Crimes, arrest, and execution
The exact number of people Holmes killed is still unclear. He confessed to 27 murders, but could only be linked to nine. Fictional stories of the time and since has blown the number of his victims to over 200.
Holmes was arrested in Boston on November 17th, 1894 and originally put on trial for the killing of Benjamin Pitezel, an accomplice of Holmes’. During the trial, Holmes confessed to other killings and crimes. He was found guilty and eventually executed on May 7th, 1896.
“The Murder Hotel”
Perhaps more famous than Holmes himself was the building he built in Illinois. He bought the property in 1886 and began constructing a two-story hotel on it the next year.
Many of Holmes’ victims, both the provable ones and the fictional ones, lived or worked in the building, leading it to be dubbed Holmes’ “murder castle” or “The Murder Hotel.” Serial killer fiction has popularized many stories based on this building, including a season in the popular horror television show American Horror Story.