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!