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Herman Webster Mudgett (aka H. H. Holmes)
Transcript of Herman Webster Mudgett (aka H. H. Holmes)
Born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire on May 16, 1861
Father a "violent alcoholic", mother a "devout Methodist"
Spent one year at the University of Vermont, then transferred to and graduated from the Medical School at the University of Michigan The Pitezels Newspapers Media Herman Webster Mudgett was hanged on May 7th, 1896, at the Philadelphia county prison. Hanged at 10:12, pronounced dead 20 minutes later.
After his death, Mudgett requested that his body be imbedded in cement in a pine box so that his body couldn't be used for medical research. The box was to be buried 10 feet deep to keep it safe from grave robbers. The box ended up weighing over a ton. Benjamin Pitezel Carrie Pitezel (Canning) Howard Dessie Alice Aliases Dr. Henry Howard Holmes Henry Mansfield Howard D. T. Pratt Harry (Henry) Gordon Edward Hatch J. A. Judeson Alexander E. Cook A. C. Hayes George H. Howell G. D. Hale Mr. Hall H. H. Howard Bibliography: Nellie Books Court Documents Some Popular Newspapers Include: Popular Credible Some Credible Newspapers Include: Forensic Evidence Identification Chloroform In the 1890s, identification of bodies were determined by a combination of measurements including height, arm span, hair color, length of left foot, and other external characteristics.
Fingerprinting didn't emerge until 1903, and was only an option if the deceased's finger prints were on file. Holmes smothered Benjamin Pitezel with chloroform before staging the explosion.
It was invented in 1847 and became very popular over the next five decades. It had many uses such as being mixed with cough syrups, dispensed as a sedative, a sleep aid, a pain killer, a colic, and seasickness.
At the time, no one knew what amount was a safe dose, but most doctors prescribed chloroform in abundance. People died at different rates, but children and alcoholics were among those who died the fastest.
It can be detected in the brain months after death and it darkened the blood, which gathered in the brain, lungs, liver and kidneys. The possibility of detection was available at the time, but it wasn't widely known or looked for. The Holmes Castle Arrival In Chicago Holmes arrived in Chicago in the summer of 1886, where he got a job at a drugstore in Englewood, a suburb of Chicago, and close to the proposed site of the Chicago World's Fair.
The drugstore was owned by a Dr. Holton, who was quite ill. His wife had taken over running the store, and was overwhelmed. After her husband passed away, Holmes convinced Mrs. Holton to sell him the store.
Soon after, Mrs. Holton suddenly disappeared. Holmes claimed she had gone to visit relatives in California and decided to stay there permanently. On the property across the street from the drug store, Holmes decided to design and construct his own building.
Holmes wanted to keep the inner-workings and true floorplan of his building a secret, and changed workers frequently, often firing them without pay, claiming their work was shoddy, even when it was perfect.
Here he met Benjamin Pitezel, the carpenter.
Construction took one whole year, and was finished in May of 1890. The Holmes castle included: Winding hallways with dead ends and doors that led nowhere
A secret chute from the second floor to the basement coated in axle grease
A room next to his office fitted with an airtight walk-in vault with asbestos-coated walls
Gas pipes routed to various rooms in the building, controllable only from his office closet
A basement with hidden chambers and a very large kiln
A sub-basement "for the permanent storage of sensitive materials" Castle Turned Hotel Holmes had planned for the whole first floor of his building to be occupied by shops. He sold his old drug store and created a new one in his own building. He also added a restaurant and barber shop, along with several fronts, including a doctor's office and the headquarters of the Warner Glass Bending Company. Holmes also turned the apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors into hotel rooms. During this process, Holmes bought fine furniture and light fixtures on credit, without any intention of paying for them.
When creditors came to collect money, Holmes would refer them to an H. S. Campbell, the supposed owner of the building, that Holmes made up to serve this exact purpose. Buying on Credit Insurance Scams Holmes began to approach people, often who worked for him, to take out life insurance policies and name himself as beneficiary. When asked by one woman, who did his laundry, why this would benefit her, he explained that if she took out a $10,000 policy, he'd pay her $6,000 right now. This way, he'd make a profit of $4,000 upon her death, but in the meantime, she'd have $6,000 to spend.
Holmes also formulated a plan that ideally involved a family of three taking out a life insurance policy. If he could find three similar cadavers, he could present the them to the insurance company and collect their benefits without the family ever having died. He also knew through his medical education that it was almost impossible to identify burned bodies at the time. Alexander Bond Emiline Cigrand Minnie and Nannie Williams Robert Lattimer Wade Warner The Pitezels Holmes Is Arrested On November 17, 1894, Holmes is arrested in Boston. He is charged with swindling the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Association the city out of $10,000 by palming off a corpse as the body of Pitezel. The Trial During the trial, Holmes elected to represent himself in court. Julia and Pearl Conners Julia Conners was told she was getting an abortion, but instead of using enough chloroform to sedate her, Holmes used enough to kill her. This was not an accident.
Holmes then went into Pearl's room and killed her with chloroform as well. Christmas Eve, 1891 Robert E. Phelps Holmes asked Emiline to get a paper from inside the vault for him. Once inside, he closed and locked the door, then listened to her scream for the next few hours. She suffocated.
Inside the vault, Emiline's footprint was etched into the door. It is believed that she stepped in some kind of chemical, then tried to force the door open with her foot. The trial began on October 28th, 1895, and lasted 6 days.
Holmes was convicted of the murder of Benjamin Pitezel (1st Degree Murder) on November 19th, 1894. Other Newspaper Headlines: “A CHAMBER OF HORRORS!”
"CASTLE IS A TOMB!”
“SKELETONS TAKEN FROM HOLMES CHARNEL HOUSE!” Books Holmes Murders Alice and Nellie Pitezel Their naked bodies are found in shallow graves in the basement of an old house in Toronto. Holmes had made them climb into a large suitcase. He then ran a tube into the suitcase, suffocating both girls with gas. Holmes Kills Howard Holmes poisoned Howard, then cut him into pieces so that he would fit into a small oven. His charred remains were all that the police could find. The Original Plan Holmes and Benjamin Pitezel formed a plan to collect insurance money. Holmes was going to find a cadaver, burn it, and turn it into the insurance company claiming it was Mr. Pitezel, who had a life insurance policy of $10,000.
Mr. Pitezel told his wife, Carrie, and his 4 children of this plan, so that they would not worry. Holmes's Plan Unfortunately for the Pitezel family, Holmes had a plan of his own. He killed Mr. Pitezel himself by poisoning him with chloroform. Holmes then set a fire to burn the body.
Mrs. Pitezel sent one of their daughters to identify Mr. Pitezel as planned. Both the daughter and Holmes signed written statements that this was, indeed, Mr. Pitezel's body. From the start of this case, it was front page news, not only in the major cities where he committed his crimes, but throughout the country.
The nation had a powerful fascination with Holmes, and he became an overnight sensation.
Before the horror and outrage, there was an admiration for his audacity. However, in the 1890's, most court cases involved sit-in reporters. For these reasons, most of the dialogue from the court room during the Holmes case can be found in public newspaper articles. Unfortunately, we were unable to access any official court documents due to time restrictions and limited access to non-circulating items in the library system. Holmes killed Nannie by locking her in one of the rooms that was connected to the gas system.
An old stove was found in the cellar and inside there were charred human bones a watchchain that was owned and worn by Minnie Williams. Mr. Lattimer was also locked in one of the gas-filled rooms Holmes also killed a man named Wade Warner by locking him in the kiln in the basement. (We'll get to them in a minute) Media Explodes Fire In The Castle Holmes asked a mechanic to put an oil burner in connection with a glass-bending scheme in the basement.
“…I began to suspect him from the time I went in. the construction was peculiar, the noxious gases in the basement did not strengthen my confidence in him, and then his methods. Why, I had not been there two weeks before he talked to me about having my life insured. I then told him that I was not only not going to have it insured, but that thereafter I would take my meals elsewhere. I found, in many ways, that he was anxious to have the building burn up through my apparent carelessness, and I learned about that time he had it heavily insured.”
- Mechanic that worked on the Holmes Castle On August 20th, 1895, the Holmes Castle caught fire.
A nightwatchman heard an explosion, saw that the building was on fire, then heard three more explosions.
Two men were seen entering the building between 8 and 9pm that night, and they may have placed the kerosine that had been determined as the source of the explosions.
Interestingly, Holmes is said to have installed his own arson device in the building. Detective Frank Geyer wrote a book about the case titled The Holmes-Pitezel Case, published in 1896. The book starts with the Benjamin Pitezel murder, continues with his investigation on locating the missing Pitezel children, and includes information about Holmes' trial.
The book includes a lot of information from the case including an interview with Mrs. Pitezel, many photographs, and the perspective of someone that worked the case.
Holmes thought he could commercially gain from his infamy and he wrote a book. He saw this as a way to counter the many charges other books had written about since there was a booming market for books on the case. Books: 1. Blum, Deborah (2010). The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the birth of forensic medicine in jazz age New York. New York: Penguin Books.
2. Franke, David (1975). The Torture Doctor. New York: Avon.
3. Geary, Rick (2003). The Beast of Chicago: An Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World as H. H. Holmes. New York: NBM Publishing.
4. Larson, Erik (2003). Devil In The White City. New York: Crown Publishers.
5. Ramsland, Katherine M. (2012). The Devil's Dozen. Berkley Trade.
6. Geyer, Frank P. (1896). The Holmes-Pitezel Case: A History of the Greatest Crime of the Century and Missing Pitezel Children. Philadelphia (?)
7. Schechter, Harold. Depraved. New York: Pocket Books, 1994. Print. Newspapers: Documentary: Borowski, John (November 2005). Estrada, Dimas. ed. The Strange Case of Dr. H. H. Holmes: World's First Serial Killer. West Hollywood, CA: Waterfront Productions. Thank You! 1. The Capital Journal of Salem, OR
2. The Evening Bulletin of Maysvile, KY
3. The Evening Herald of Shenandoah, PA
4. The Hopkinsville Kentuckian of Hopkinsville, KY
5. The Islander of Friday Harbor, WA
6. The Morning Times of Washington, D.C.
7. The New Ulm Review of New Ulm, MN
8. The New York Times of New York, NY
9. The New York Tribune of New York, NY
10. The Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NA
11. The Pike County Press of Milford, PA
12. The Princeton Union of Princeton, MN
13. The Record-Union of Sacramento, CA
14. The Roanoke Times of Roanoke, VA
15. The San Francisco Call of San Francisco, CA
16. The St. Paul Daily Globe of St. Paul, MN
17. The Sun of New York, NY
18. The Warren Sheaf of Warren, MN "The gathering outside the Tribune included businessmen, clerks, traveling salesmen, stenographers, police officers, and at least one barber. Messenger boys stood ready to bolt as soon as there was news worth reporting." - Excerpt from Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson Fun Fact: At the time of Holmes' conviction, he had 5 wives. None of them knew of the others' existence, partially because he used several different aliases between them. Clara Lovering
Emiline Cigrand (killed)
Minnie Williams (killed)
Georgiana Yoke Pictures: Castle:
Holmes photo 1:
Holmes photo 2:
http://blogs.suntimes.com/news/holmes2.jpg Skeletons In The Closet... ...And the Basement Holmes removed the skin from his victims to hide their identities. He then had a friend of his, Charles Chappell, clean the bones for $35. Holmes told him that he had been performing experiments on the bodies for research. Chappell believed him. He was, after all, a licensed physician.
After Chappell cleaned the bones, Holmes would mount them and sell them to medical teaching facilities for around $125.