H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes

 

Abigail Moss | Reporter

H.H. Holmes was America’s first known serial killer. Holmes was born on May 16, 1861, in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. When Holmes was born he was originally named Herman Webster Mudgett, however after he graduated high school when he was 16, he changed his name to Henry Howard Holmes. During his childhood, Holmes was subjected to both mental and physical abuse from his father, who was a violent alcoholic, and his mother, who was almost never around. Some say his parents even went so far as to leave the children without food for days. This is thought to have some effect on his mental state. Even from a very early age, Holmes was very intelligent and always interested in learning new things, especially the study of medicine. After graduating from high school he continued his studies at the University of Vermont but was not happy with the curriculum. He then left Vermont and studied medicine at the University of Michigan. In 1884 Holmes got a degree in medicine and surgery. 

After receiving his education, Holmes had started getting involved with insurance fraud and other scams, including getting his business partners to put him into their will and then killing them. However, Holmes didn’t get involved with his first major crime until around 1885. At that time he was still using his birth name but after being questioned about a case involving a missing boy, he changed his name and moved to Chicago. He became a pharmacist and murdered several people in order to steal their property. Later on, he built what is now known as the “Murder Castle.” Located in Chicago, the castle was used as a house for himself, a hotel for those attending the World’s Fair that was lit by Nikola Tesla, and a place to commit more gruesome crimes. As Holmes was building the castle he would often fire people after doing “unsatisfactory work” so only he knew the exact layout of the building. The castle was used as a torture chamber for years after. It consisted of hidden passageways, a room for cremating victims, soundproof rooms, and trapdoors. Holmes used this sinister property to commit an estimated 200 murders but he only ever confessed to killing 27. 

 

Holmes’ killings consisted of lovers, localists, tourists, and even business partners. One of these partners included Ben Pitezel and three of his five children. Pitezel and Holmes had been committing insurance fraud together for around seven years. Soon after they met, Holmes became a part of the family. The Pitezel family welcomed him into their home, invited him to dinners, and  the children called him ‘uncle.’ However, in 1895 it was revealed that Holmes had killed Pitzel and three of his children while trying to cover up the insurance fraud he and Pitezel had been committing. 

 

In the end, Holmes was sentenced to death after being accused of murdering Pitezel. During the trial, Holmes confessed to 27 murders, though some of those people were still alive. It is estimated that he killed up to 200 people in total. He became an inspiration for serial killers today such as Ted Bundy, The Zodiac Killer, and Jeffery Dahmer. Some even believe H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper are the same people, though others disagree. Holmes was executed on May 7, 1896.