An H. H. Holmes Haunting?


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?

Sign up for my email list today! 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!


The Case of Robert Bee


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.

If you are a true crime/unsolved mystery kind of person, this is a must watch. Check them out on their Facebook page or on Youtube. Let me know what you think after you watch!

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.

Unsolved Crime: Robert Bee


When kids run away from home, they often return shortly after: they realize that it’s not as fun on their own. However, when a child has a great deal of freedom, few rules, and a questionable home life, returning may not be a huge deal.

Such was the case with 13 year old Robert Bee.

One warm November day in 2016, Bee ran away from home–allegedly to avoid a truancy officer. Running away was not unusual for him (nor was avoiding the truancy officer), but this time, Bee did not return home.

In fact, he didn’t return home a week later or a month later. Instead, his remains were found eight months later, already decomposed after a long winter, already disturbed by animals in the rural area his bones were found.

So what happened to Robert Bee? We still don’t know.

Bee, from the small town of Pekin in central Illinois, had some behavioral issues. His mom readily admitted that she may have been too lax with him, allowing him too much freedom for his age. Others in the community said that while he was high energy, he was a kind-hearted boy.

When he went missing, multiple stories cropped up. Did he spend the night at a friend’s house? If so, why didn’t he take his bike? Why didn’t he take his cell phone? Both were left at home, and it didn’t appear he took any clothing to run away for an extended amount of time, either.

Of course, the first place the police must look is within the home, and that’s where the case became muddied. Lisa Bee, Robert’s mother, was not exactly mother of the year. Her social media alone made that clear. She was also involved with a man who was violent–and against whom she took out an order of protection a month before Bee’s disappearance. Then, not even a month after her son went missing, she moved out of her home and to a town about an hour south.

While Bee’s extended family was prominent in the search for the boy, his mother was noticeably absent. Multiple state agencies searched for him as well as a missing-persons search group, but no one had any luck.

About eight months after Bee went missing, his remains were found two miles from his home. By remains, I mean just that. The elements had helped decomposition along as well as animals roaming the wooded area where he was found.

The remains elicited no further leads on the case, aside from this: the property on which his remains were found belonged to a woman who lives nearby. She is related to someone “who is involved in the investigation,” according to Pekin police detective Seth Ranney.

Over two years later, the case remains unsolved and no one has been charged with any crime.

H. H. Holmes Hits the Headlines


Imagine my surprise when I saw a link pop up in my Facebook feed with this headline: River North hotel invites guests to spend a killer night in H.H. Holmes pop-up suite

Yep. You read that correctly.

If you’ve followed by blog for any length of time, you know that my novel is based on the murders of H.H. Holmes. He’s received some cult-level popularity via Erik Larsen’s book, The Devil in the White City, the recent History channel American Ripper docuseries, and even American Horror Story. And now, for a limited time, the Acme Hotel Company in River North is converting a hotel suite into a Holmes-lover’s dream. Or is that nightmare?

Decor included in your scare stay: old newspaper clippings, surgical tools, and Holmes’ mug staring at you. All. Night. Long.

Acme Hotel, this Holmes fanatic thinks you’ve landed on a spectacular idea.

Attached in the same Tribune article? A link to an interactive “walking tour” of the 1893 World’s Fair. Incredibly cool, and not just for a writer’s research either! 

Good Book Alert!


Good book alert! I recently finished Fiona Cummins’ book Rattle (The Bone Collector #1). I have been relatively lost in the world of H.H. Holmes, reading everything I can that’s within a certain time-frame to his life. I go to sleep dreaming about The Gangs of New York and wake up thinking about Alex Grecian’s The Yard. During the day, my mind wonders how Caleb Carr’s brain works. (Side note: If you haven’t read or watched The Alienist, what are you waiting for??)

I needed a break. Not from crime and mystery and the horrors of humanity, mind you, but from the 19th century. Enter Rattle. Set in modern-day England, it traces the story of missing children from various viewpoints–including the kidnapper, who is much more than a kidnapper. I didn’t read it in one sitting because I’m a teacher and need to be with-it during the day, but I did get it read in two nights. If you’re fascinated by the psychology behind why we do what we do, clear your schedule and pick up Rattle.

Here are two reviews that give a few more details…one from The Suspense is Thrilling Me (I gave them some props in February), and one from The Book Review Cafe.

Rescue Dogs Rock


When I started this blog, I assumed I would focus it entirely on writing and my own personal journey toward publication: all the bumps along the road, all the kind people I would meet, all the advice I can find. BUT–I would like to share a positive experience I had last week that has not a thing to do with writing.

I’ve been heavily involved in the animal rescue world for about eight years now. We currently have Baxter, a sixteen year old lab mix that I’ve had since he was found in a farmer’s field as a nine month old pup; Artie, aka Spartacus, a seven year old Doberman/German shepherd mix who is as good a mouser as any cat, but hates cats, and Scooby-Pedro, a twelve year old hospice foster Boxer/pittie mix.

Scooby-Pedro was supposed to be a short-term hospice foster when we took him in last June from the wonderful no-kill shelter I volunteer with. He was a mess. Emaciated. Missing fur. Upper respiratory everything. Heart murmur. Crack-a-lackin’ arthritic joints. We later found out he has kidney issues that required subcutaneous fluids twice a week for a month. He was a sweet boy, and this isn’t my first go-round at hospice fostering. I was prepared to give him the best for the month or two he might be around. 

What happened last week has my heart overflowing right now: Scooby fell very ill, but thanks to his sponsoring shelter, the local emergency vet, and our regular vet, he is enjoying life again. For however long or short that is, we will take it and be thankful for it. Here’s his story: “But Scooby Shouldn’t Be Alive.”

But Scooby shouldn’t be alive.

As of last spring, he lived in a home with a drug user. He was kicked and starved and often left to fend for himself. Why did he live? Good souls saw him and his emaciated body and called their local animal control.

But Scooby shouldn’t be alive.

A rural animal control (AC) has little by way of funds. A dog that old and that sick would be put down in other animal control facilities, but this AC wasn’t just any AC. This one is run by people who try their best to save the animals that come into their care. They don’t euthanize unless they absolutely have to, even though that means much, much more work for them. And they made sure Scooby was fed all he could eat and networked the heck out of him to try to give him a chance.

But Scooby shouldn’t be alive.

What rescue could afford the unknown costs of a sick dog with who-knows-what ailments? What rescue would want to spend money on a dog who wasn’t likely to live long anyway, just based upon his age–nevermind his atrocious body condition? A special no-kill shelter, that’s who. This shelter and this AC have a good working relationship, and their director made sure Scooby would get a chance.

But Scooby shouldn’t be alive.

He was malnourished, had serious respiratory issues, and failing kidneys. No one would have blamed the rescue if they said no to treatment upon discovery of these problems. But they didn’t. No one would have blamed the vet if he had said, “Are you sure you want to go this route?” But he didn’t. And Scooby lived. And thrived. And got fat and sassy and ate stuffed animals and a slipper sock and lived to tell the tale–for six months longer than we thought he would (and counting!).

But once again, Scooby shouldn’t be alive.

Last weekend, he got very sick and we rushed him to the emergency vet. If you’ve ever gone to one, you know they’re expensive. Scooby’s no-kill rescue is run solely on donations. Would they want to run tests and x-rays on an old dog that they’ve already invested so much money in? Would the emergency vet be willing to work with them? Yes and yes.

But Scooby shouldn’t be alive.

One of the vets even said we were lucky he was still with us. His pneumonia that he gets frequently (because of his respiratory issues) had worsened, as had his heart murmur. Scooby transferred Monday morning to his regular vet. More unknowns. More costs. Would they–? Yes and yes.

Because of all of those people caring, making hard decisions instead of what’s fastest, easiest, or cheapest, Scooby is alive.

And now he’s back in his foster home with us. We had forgotten his label of “hospice” foster because of his spunk and spirit; we had forgotten he was already on borrowed time. But he’s never been “just a dog.” He is a soul who has bettered everyone he’s come into contact with. His life matters. It mattered enough for people to call animal control instead of turning a blind eye, for AC to network him instead of euthanizing, for the rescue to want him to know what love and kindness are no matter how much or little time he has left. And in a world where it seems so much is disposable, I want to say thank you to those in the trenches who save animals just like Scooby. I think we save a tiny bit of our own souls when we do good for others, whether two-footed or four.