When a child is born, most often their parents are imagining all the possible things they could grow up to be. I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Mudgett didn’t have serial killer on that list for their baby boy Herman. Born on May 16, 1860, Herman Mudgett a.k.a Dr. Henry Howard Holmes grew up to be America’s most deadliest serial killer. It’s believed the body count mounted in to the hundreds but only twenty-seven were confirmed. How does a person kill hundreds of people without drawing unwanted attention? Mix a big city with a large fair and you have the perfect disguise.
In 1889, Holmes arrived in Chicago taking up residence in what is now know as the Englewood neighborhood. He began working for Dr. and Mrs. Holden as a pharmacist. His charming demeanor masked the divorces, frauds and indiscretions performed during medical school, leading the couple to believe they had the perfect assistant. When Dr. Holden succumbed to cancer, Mrs. Holden mysteriously disappeared. Holmes explained to the community she had headed west after he bought the store from her. Business continued to do so well that he bought a lot across the street at 63rd and Wallace with the intentions of building a hotel. The reason for this endeavor was to provide housing for tourist during the upcoming 1893 Columbian Expedition World’s Fair.
The result was a heft three-story building with 60 rooms dubbed “The Castle”. There were also hidden passages and secret stairways, trap doors, chutes plunging to the basement, a staircase that opened to the alley below, asphyxiation champers, a dissecting table and a crematory. Guests who checked in to The Castle often didn’t check out. Even female employees made up of tourists and small town or country girls fell victim to his torturing and murdering ways. After the fair and successfully faking his own death and collecting on the insurance, Holmes traveled for a while looking for the right place to set up shop once more.
He was arrested and incarcerated in St. Louis after a horse swindle in July of 1894. It was during this period he struck up a conversation with the person who was to later snitch on him, Marion Hedgepeth. Holmes failed to deliver Hedgepeth’s share on a failed insurance scam. Hedgepeth’s tip led to the doctors arrest on November 17, 1894 in Boston. Police obtained a warrant to search The Castle. What they found defied all imagination: a dissecting table, bottles of poisons, containers of quicklime, acid big enough to eat away a body, stretching rack, a gas chamber, coffins holding female corpses, an incinerator littered with charred human remains. Holmes was tried and found guilty. He was hanged at Moyamensing Prison On May 7, 1896.
On August 19th, The Castle mysteriously burned to the ground. It was rumored a former accomplice burned it in order to cover up his part in the horror. Some think it was burned down by neighbors or perhaps by accident. Either way, the lot remained vacant until 1938 when a U.S. Postal Office was built. Because of all the blood shed on the property, many believe it to be haunted, maybe even cursed. A number of people involved with his trial died under bizarre circumstances, including a priest who had visited him before his execution, the doctor who certified him dead, the jury foreman, Marion Hedgepeth (who was pardoned) was shot by police at a saloon, and others. There are reports of poltergeist and spirit activity as well as strange noises and unexplained weary feelings. Some even claim Holmes’ ghost visits the Museum of Science and Industry, one of the few remaining structures from the 1893 Exposition, located nearby.
Is Dr. H.H. Holmes continuing his joy of killing or is the horrific history enough to fuel the legend for years to come?