The rumors behind a Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio film adaptation of Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City have been around for literally years now. (Read more on my blog post about this very thing.) DiCaprio purchased the film rights back in 2010, and it sounds like it’ll be a Hulu mini-series instead of a full feature-length movie. The latest news/gossip is that Keanu Reeves is in talks to star in the movie. I’m not sure if I’d prefer Reeves or DiCaprio as the villain, personally. After years of watching DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet thanks to teaching high school English, I couldn’t imagine him as Holmes, but when I saw him in Shutter Island, I changed my mind. However, Reeves definitely has the tall, dark, and handsome looks that H. H. Holmes is repeatedly described as having. What do you think? Who would be the better H. H. Holmes?
Back in February of 2019, Hulu announced that it would be teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to introduce the world to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, the book that brought H. H. Holmes back into the limelight, via a television series. Back in 2003, DiCaprio bought the rights to make it into a movie, and he and Scorsese had been at some level of the production since 2015. I have to admit, I’d rather have a television series that I can enjoy than one single movie, but then I’m a smidge obsessed with Holmes.
Apparently, Tom Cruise was originally the first Hollywood hot shot to be interest, but that fell through, and within a year, DiCaprio picked it up. When he and Scorsese were planning the film version, the plan was for DiCaprio to play Holmes–and wouldn’t he be amazing in that role? His gentlemanly manner and charming smile certainly remind me of Holmes. However, now that Hulu is involved, it’s likely that they’ll come up with a different lead, but Hulu is not releasing any details. (And I’d looooove some details!)
Don’t forget, Larson’s book was not solely about Holmes. It has a broad appeal to non-fiction lovers since Holmes’ story is spliced into that of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. If you’re a history buff, a lover of architecture, or enamored with life in the late 19th century, there will be something for you in the book and the television series.
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Though we don’t have H. H. Holmes’ “murder castle” to check out anymore (it sat where today’s Englewood post office sits), there are other locations that Holmes is connected to. Some are simply connections by way of the 1893 World’s Fair, like Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, but some are more, well, gruesome. One of those locations is a house in Irvington, Indiana, featured on this season’s first episode of Ghost Hunters. For you paranormal lovers, you can watch that here!
On October 5, 1894, Holmes rented the cute little cottage from J.C. Wands. He was seen on the premises with Howard Pitezel, the son of his right-hand man, Benjamin–whom he had already killed. Eventually, once Holmes’ number was up, Detective Frank Geyer investigated the Irvington house and discovered bones belonging to Howard Pitezel. Howard was just a child, and Howard seems to be one of the spirits haunting the house.
Read a first-hand (and beautifully-written) account of what living in the house is like by former resident Pepper Partin. Here’s an excerpt: “When America’s first serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes, turned the key to the rental house nestled on the outskirts of a beautiful little town six miles east of Indianapolis, did the threshold buckle with the weight of what would happen here? The trees, it seems, aren’t talking. But the lingering spirits share evocative vignettes.”
What do you think? Does little Howard Pitezel pine for a transition to the other side? Or is he destined to haunt his last home?
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Who was H. H. Holmes? Many things. A physician. A brother. A master manipulator. Chicago’s first serial killer. The source of my unending curiosity for the past few years.
H. H. Holmes was born in Gilmanton, New Jersey, in 1861. Made infamous through Erik Larson’s non-fiction The Devil in the White City, Holmes has now been the feature of several documentaries and bus tours in Chicago that will take you by his killing grounds–including the former location of his Murder Castle.
Sound ominous? It should. The more I learn about him, the more intrigued/baffled I become. (So much so that I wrote a novel, published some short stories, and started this website and blog!)
Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’ great-great grandson and author of Bloodstains, was the driving force behind the History Channel’s American Ripper docuseries. One goal of the show was to determine if Holmes could have been London’s Jack the Ripper (there is documentation that he was in London at the time of the murders), and another was to determine if Holmes was actually the body in his grave. His really weird double-grave, encased in concrete. No, I’m not making this up.
In the end, the History Channel’s experts determined that the body in Holmes grave was a “conclusive link” to the real Holmes.
Jeff Mudgett disagrees, and I can’t say I blame him.
On a recent Facebook post, he outlines his reasons–based upon admissions of court-appointed anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania:
- The physical injuries that should occur upon hanging, like a broken hyoid bone, were not there.
- The DNA did not match.
- The skeleton size itself did not fit the descriptions of Holmes.
Holmes was a mastermind when it came to life insurance scams, stealing bodies, killing people, forging dental records, etc. Let’s not forget he was a doctor who was intimately aware of the human body, as he often stole bodies and killed people to make articulated skeletons that he could then sell to universities. Is it such a leap to think he could have managed to fake his death?
If you too are morbidly interested in this man, check out the rest of my website and short stories. And sign up for my email list. I have the H. H. Holmes Handbook coming out soon, and my subscribers will not only get a first look but get it for free!
As part of a mini-series of unsolved crime blogs, I wrote about Robert Bee, a 13 year old who went missing from very near where I live and work. Too near. Later on, his remains were discovered scattered mere miles from his home. Most of us here feel his case has not received the attention it–or he–deserved.
Enter Ashes To Ash TV. According to their Facebook page, they are “an episodic true crime series” in the form of a documentary and podcast. They chose the Robert Bee case as their first. Episode 5 was just released.
And if you are indeed a true crime/unsolved mystery kind of person, sign up for my email list. There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and explorations of the serial killing mind.
Ah, January 1. A fresh start no matter how you look at it. Even if you aren’t ambitiously making goals, it is still the first day of a brand new year, and there’s something to a brand new year.
If you are making goals, check out my last New Year’s post on how to take time for successful goal-setting.
But if you aren’t…read on.
Has life handed you challenges over the past few years? Is the thought of adding goals to your already-full plate enough to make you crawl back into bed?
Sometimes goals are overrated.
Yep. I said it.
Oh, I think they are important. To progress in life, we must aim for something. However, one thing we overlook is that word: progress.
Life happens. Illness happens. Job change happens.
When those things happen, our goals end up on the backburner, and we often say forget it. I can’t do it now. I don’t have enough time. I might as well just quit on it and try again next year. And then we quit. And we don’t progress.
Why don’t we cut ourselves slack and revisit and revise our goals instead of quitting on them–and on ourselves?
Last year, I wrote about my own need to revise my goals. I wasn’t sure how or when I would manage to revise my submitted manuscript, but I knew I would do it.
Then life happened.
I had an opportunity to shift from teaching English to Spanish, and, as something that has been in the back of my head since I began teaching (my Spanish texts have always sat alongside my English texts on my classroom bookshelves), I jumped.
People thought I was crazy. I have 13 years in as an English teacher. Why change now?
It was one of the most freeing things I’ve done. Just making that choice, knowing that I could do it, created an epiphany for me: If you don’t grab those opportunities when they arise, will you ever see them again? (Cue Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”)
I also knew making that choice would impact my revisions. The paying job has to come first. Instead of giving up, I revised my goals. AGAIN.
As the first semester came to a close, out came my manuscript. I was so stoked to be back at it that I worked at it every single day. Looking back, the wait was good for me–and for the manuscript. Fresh eyes and a revived passion made a world of difference, and I’ve already made the first round of revisions.
Heading into the new year, I’ll begin the more arduous round of revising, but still with the same fresh eyes and revived passion. My new goal is to have it ready for submission by the end of May.
So don’t quit–on those goals, those dreams, or yourself. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing right now. Keep progressing, for that’s what we should really measure ourselves by.
Happy New Year!
Please share your journey with me! I love to hear from other writers. Not a writer? You should still sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and explorations of the serial killing mind.
I planned to take a nice little sabbatical from social media and blogging over the summer to do a massive edit/re-write on The Devil Inside Me. Life, however, presented me with a wonderful opportunity: to teach Spanish instead of English. I love languages and their connections and differences, and a tiny voice has been in the back of my head for YEARS telling me to take this leap. Even better: it’s at the school I was teaching at anyway, which makes for a seamless transition with peers and administration.
Needless to say, I spent my summer prepping for Spanish I, II, III, and IV. I’m a department of one.
With the first semester finishing this week, the feeling that I’m subbing for someone else has subsided and my students are doing well. Time to get back to writing and blogging!
At first I was annoyed about putting my manuscript on the backburner, despite the advice of letting it sit and stew–but there’s a reason that’s repeated advice: it makes a huge difference. Finally, I was able to re-read it with fresh eyes and an equally fresh perspective, open to changes and suggestions from agents. Most importantly: I finished one round of massive editing. Winter break will herald the start of equally massive revisions.
I’ve got some short stories in the works, I’ve refreshed the website, and via the blog I’ll be sharing good things I discover along this new part of my path toward publication. Please share your journey with me as well! I love to hear from other writers. Don’t forget to sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and helpful guides on writing!
Ah, summer. Beaches, vacations, rest, and relaxation. Right?
I had been looking forward to this summer to finish a massive edit/re-write for my novel based upon feedback I received from agents. However, as it often does, life stepped in. For over a year, I’ve been dealing with random and violent vomiting. (PSA: If you are vomiting a lot of bile after your gallbaldder is removed, do not suffer. Ask your doctor for sucralfate. It’s super safe and lines your stomach from the bile, and it has absolutely changed my life.) For over a year, I’ve had a lot of time to practice not being in control of everything. Ha! Everything but the essentials was put on the backburner, including those edits.
I’ll get back on those edits soon, now that my stomach is behaving itself, but I wanted to remind you in case you need to hear it–allow yourself to take a break. Sometimes your brain will berate you for doing it, but don’t wait until your body forces you to.
Dressed warmly for the winter weather in a gold-colored jacket, green rubber insulated boots, and a brown ski mask, 13 year old Richard William Griener left home for an afternoon of sledding on January 17, 1972. The boy headed toward a local park just four blocks from his house in Pekin, Illinois. He made it, for he joined some friends; however, the last time they saw him was around 5:30pm. Richard Griener was never seen again–alive or dead.
The entire area was searched multiple times, but zero evidence was found of Griener, not even the blue sled that he’d been carrying that day. At this point, experts believe he is dead, but the case is still considered active as they’re always looking for leads.
There was one lead–and only one lead–that was a plausible one. William “Freight Train” Guatney confessed to multiple murders of children during this time, including one that was kidnapped just 200 yards from where Griener was last seen. In the late 70s, fourteen children were found dead near various railroad switches and near towns with an ongoing or just-ended fair. Griener was never found, but he did have to cross a railroad switch to get back and forth from the sledding hill. Guatney, whose nickname came from his ability to mimic a train whistle, traveled by trains around the Midwest to make money helping out at state and county fairs. After his confession, he was found incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a mental institution, where he died.
Guatney may have been a lead, and Griener’s age was within Guatney’s preference, but there was one huge difference: the missing and murdered children attributed to Guatney all disappeared in the summer. Griener went missing in the winter.
If you have any information on this case, please contact the Pekin Police Department at 309-478-5300.
Sixteen years ago, Dalton Mesarchik waited on his front porch in Streator, Illinois, for a church van to pick him up for Bible school. The church van never arrived, and seven year old Dalton never came home.
The next day, Dalton’s body was found floating in the Vermilion River, less than three miles from his home.
When Dalton’s sister left that evening, Dalton was still waiting on the porch. When she returned, she asked, “Where’s Dalton?” Their mother contacted church officials, only to discover that the van had not made its usual rounds that night–their normal driver was gone due to an illness in the family. Dalton had not been picked up for Bible school.
K-9 units indicated that someone picked up Dalton that night. But who?
Early the next morning, people went out searching neighborhood after neighborhood. There were no sightings until a fisherman found Dalton’s body in the Vermilion River. He notified police immediately, and upon investigation, they determined it was a homicide. Shortly after the body’s discovery, the murder weapon was found: a Benchtop Pro three-pound hammer.
Dalton’s immediate family members were cleared, as was the fisherman who discovered the body. Church members were cleared, even the 30-some registered sex offenders in the town were cleared.
Local police, state police, and the county sheriff’s office were stymied. The state police even set up a headquarters at Streator’s National Guard Armory. Who would want to kill a seven year old boy–and why?
For a few years, Dalton’s mother said that police were getting closer to making an arrest and that they knew who the killer was. However, no arrests have ever been made nor any pronouncements of who the killer was.