Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Halloween in Chicago is the best. With all of our local ghost stories and lurid tales of murder and mayhem, Chitown is one hell of a town for scary. Let me share one of our local nightmarish tales
H.H. Holmes and the Murder Castle
Herman Mudgett aka H.H. Holmes came to Chicago in 1885 where he began working at a drugstore in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, which was then a suburb. A charmer, H.H. was a popular fixture at the store, building a social reputation, drawing in customers with his wit and his skill as a pharmacist. After he considerd himself "established", he struck like a raptor. His first victim here is believed to be the store owner, Mrs. Dr. Holden, who mysteriously disappeared one day while Holmes took charge of the store. He told customers she had decided to "move West." His true plans began in earnest.
Holmes chose his victims from amongst the unsuspecting visitors to the White City of the Columbian Exposition. They were excited, many having never left home before and were naively trusting. Holmes spread the word about his "hotel" and the people came, many never to be heard from again. He also lured many of his female victims with ads promising jobs and safe lodging to young ladies alone in the world. When these eager young women arrived, he kept them prisoner until he was ready for them. Some he locked in a soundproof bank vault near his office, others in the windowless rooms. He tortured his victims to death, stripped them of their flesh and sold their skeletons and organs to medical schools. Some he just disposed of in the crematorium and pits.
Holmes confessed to 27 murders, including the Pietzels, but the body count is estimated to be as high as 200. There were too many body parts found to get an actual identifiable count. Holmes was sentenced to death by hanging and died on May 8, 1896 at Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia
H.H. is America's first known serial killer and probably the most prolific. I tell you, Jack the Ripper had nothing on this guy. A very good book to read if you want to know more is Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.
Now after reading this gruesome tale, go enjoy your Halloween.