Every city has a house or historical building associated with numerous interesting stories and legends. It adds further mystery and increases the interest of locals and tourists. Chicago is no exception. In the 19th century, the city had a hotel called the Murder Castle, which got a gruesome reputation thanks to its owner, serial killer Henry Howard Holmes. Chicago-future reports.
The childhood and youth of the first officially recognized serial killer in the United States
The real name of the “Murder Castle’s” future owner was Herman Webster Mudgett. He was born in 1861 to a wealthy family. On the one hand, the young man’s parents were deeply religious people and regularly attended the Methodist Church. But, on the other hand, they used to drink alcohol and expressed all their anger towards their child, beating him for the slightest fault.
Although Herman was a good student at school, he suffered from abuse by his classmates, who never missed an opportunity to mock him. Knowing Herman was terrified of the dead, his classmates dragged him by force to the house of a local doctor, which had a real skeleton in the hall. Even though the boy was crying and screaming, he was forced to come up and touch the skeleton.
As Herman later recalled, at first, he felt fear and humiliation, quickly followed by a sense of satisfaction. Probably, it was the first step towards turning into a serial killer.
After graduating from high school, Herman enrolled in medical school, where he studied pharmacy. He continued his medical education at the University of Michigan.
The first crimes of Herman Mudgett
During his time at the University of Michigan, he first sided with evil. The institution had a morgue, which was hardly guarded. Herman got an idea of how to make a living. He began stealing corpses, distorting them, and falsifying documents to get insurance for the dead.
However, the lack of funds hindered the development of the so-called business. Marriage and the birth of a child further complicated the situation. Clara Lovering became his first wife. Throughout his life, Herman Mudgett married numerous times, never divorcing his previous wives.
In 1886, he moved to Chicago to start a new life and finally get out of poverty. The future murderer changed his name to Henry Howard Holmes, under which he made history.
The construction of the “Murder Castle”
After moving to Chicago, Henry Holmes kept thinking about expanding his business. He fraudulently acquired a land plot and began constructing a three-storey building. The owner did not inform anyone about the purpose of the building, even the builders were not aware of its detailed plan.
The three-storey building was completed rather quickly. It did not differ much from the local houses, but it had few windows. All the rooms in the house were narrow and low, resembling a closet. The walls, ceiling, and floor in some rooms were covered with asbestos, which ensured sound isolation. The only common feature of all the rooms was tubes connected to a large tank, through which the rooms were supplied with gas.
All the rooms were operated from the owner’s bedroom. There were also hidden rooms with built-in troughs on the second floor. They led to a basement with a crematorium and an acid bath. The basement also included cremation ovens and torture instruments. An anatomical table with numerous torture instruments complemented the eerie image. Henry Holmes turned an ordinary house into a “death factory”.
The killings in the “Murder Castle”
The first killings in the hotel started as soon as visitors arrived. In the 19th century, people often changed their homes, which is why hotels were almost always full. So, if some of the residents disappeared, no one noticed.
Most of the serial killer’s victims were blond women whom he hired. Holmes opened a jewelry store on the first floor of the hotel and hired a manager. He had a wife named Julia and a young daughter. The beautiful blonde woman instantly caught Holmes’ attention and became his lover shortly afterward.
Julia insisted on legalizing the relationship, which was her fatal mistake. Nobody saw the young woman and her daughter again. The same fate befell Holmes’s secretary Emeline Cigrand and maid Lizzie, also lovers of the serial killer.
In 1893, Chicago hosted a large-scale exhibition celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. About 27 million people attended the vernissage. It was a glorious time for the Murder Castle, as many exhibition visitors stayed at the hotel. Its residents frequently disappeared with no trace. Henry Holmes used to lock people in secret rooms and poison them with gas until they died.
The maniac often sold the corpses of unfortunate people to anatomical theaters, but the biggest profit he made was from the money and property of the murdered guests. Fifty hotel residents vanished during the exhibition in Chicago.
Holmes’ last crime
Eventually, the serial killer’s luck ran out and the police became interested in him. Yet, the reason was not the many mysterious murders, but rather insurance fraud. Henry Holmes had to urgently leave Chicago for Philadelphia.
The criminal met a man named Pitzel and offered to fake his death to receive an insurance payment. Holmes was to have half of the money. Not to waste time faking the incident, the maniac killed his new acquaintance and convinced his wife that her husband was alive and everything was going as planned. Subsequently, the serial killer murdered all members of the Pitzel family one by one.
However, the mysterious death of the head of the family attracted the insurance company’s attention and they hired the Pinkerton Agency to catch the brazen crook. Finally, Holmes was arrested in 1894. The man strongly denied the crimes and told the police that Pitzel’s family had moved to warmer climes. However, the police found the corpses of the children and the wife of the deceased head of the family in the yard of the house.
Following this incident, the police managed to find Holmes’ Murder Castle, where they uncovered startling evidence in the rooms and basement. A lengthy trial began, which was actively followed by the public. Although the accused tried to mislead the court, the evidence was against him.
Moreover, even after the verdict, Henry Holmes still managed to make money from his crimes. One publishing house paid him $200,000 to write about all his atrocities. The serial killer only confessed to 27 murders, while in reality, the number was about two hundred. Women and children were among the victims.
The “Murder Castle’s” owner was sentenced to be hanged. Holmes was executed in the spring of 1896. The man who took so many lives showed a strong desire for life, as he stayed alive for another 15 minutes with a broken neck after the sentence was carried out.
Interestingly, after Henry Holmes’s death, the participants involved in his execution experienced strange accidents. Since then, there have been rumors about the so-called Holmes’ curse. The murderer was allegedly buried in a coffin, covered with concrete.
As for the Murder Castle, it burned down completely in 1895. A post office was built in its place.