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'Da Serial Killer
February 3, 2003 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Shortly after Jack The Ripper retired, a man named Henry Holmes moved to Chicago. Using insurance fraud money, in 1892 he built an elaborate mansion with over 60 rooms. This mansion, which became known as The Murder Castle, was perhaps the first extraordinary building in a city that has become known for its architecture, from Frank Lloyd Wright to the Sears tower. In his home, which he ran as a hotel for the unfortunate traveler, Holmes murderd & disposed of as many as 200 victims over the course of the next four years... (more inside)
posted by jonson (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Holmes' hotel drew a great deal of business from the 1893 World's Fair, the Columbian Exposition that helped mark Chicago as one of the world's pre-eminent cities. Holmes killed lodgers, and employees, and even lovers he grew tired of. The home was a madhouse of hidden rooms & passageways, gas chambers, lime pits and a torture chamber in the basement, replete with surgical table & tools. Holmes was eventually done in by an insurance scam gone wrong, but now, a century later his name is lost to the mists of time, while the Ripper lives on in books & movies. For those interested in more about this long dead & overlooked victorian era madman, Erik Larsen, the historian behind the book Issac's Storm, the story of the Galveston Flood, has written a new novel about Holmes & the Columbian Exposition, entitled The Devil in the White City.
posted by jonson at 9:16 PM on February 3, 2003


Somewhat related: a new text adventure (!?) game by a Chicago historian has just been released: 1893 - A World's Fair. The setting is that of Holmes, but whether he exists in the game at all, I don't know (haven't played it).
posted by mkn at 9:35 PM on February 3, 2003


That book excerpt, though morbidly interesting, has some fantastically bad writing. Good stuff: She accepted the job and came to the Castle -- only to never leave it.
posted by ericost at 9:41 PM on February 3, 2003


Yeah, it's a tad melodramatic. Wish I could have found something as detailed, yet not as goofy. Oh well, like I said, there's not much out there about this guy.
posted by jonson at 9:47 PM on February 3, 2003


A fascinating/frightening read. But, I'm curious - was your line "Shortly after Jack the Ripper retired..." supposed to implicate that Holmes was the Ripper? Or just give us a timeframe?
posted by Monster_Zero at 9:59 PM on February 3, 2003


great post; thanks.
posted by fishfucker at 10:26 PM on February 3, 2003


Well, maybe from now on, I'm only staying at places that are AAA approved. And don't boast Pool, HBO, Jacuzi, Lime Pit, Gas Chamber....

On the other hand, some of the discount rates at those hostels are just fabulous....
posted by namespan at 10:41 PM on February 3, 2003


Just a timeframe, Monster Zero. And to compare the relative crimes. Eight prostitutes killed on the streets of London, and you're eternal. 200 good citizens murdered in an ingenious deathtrap, and you're on history's dustbin. It's called first mover advantage, people!
posted by jonson at 10:45 PM on February 3, 2003


Not necessarily just a timeframe, some legends say H.H. Holmes admitted to being the ripper as he was being hanged.
posted by banished at 10:47 PM on February 3, 2003


But he was only 36 when they killed him. He'd have to have been a mighty young ripper. It's pretty coincidental... Also, makes me feel bad for not having accomplished more.
posted by jonson at 10:58 PM on February 3, 2003


I wonder if Pogo the Clown heard about Mr. Holmes. Nice find, jonson.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:30 PM on February 3, 2003


Also, makes me feel bad for not having accomplished more.

another reason not to have your physical location listed anywhere online if at all possible ;)
posted by juv3nal at 11:46 PM on February 3, 2003


i first heard about H.H. Holmes (a.k.a. Herman Webster Mudgett) right here on metafilter, i was shocked to discover such an amazing story that had happened so nearby where i live, yet i had never heard of him. My research provided me with this link which seemed to provide a good background in his history, i also discovered that a movie was in the works.

i guess he won't be unknown for much longer.
posted by quin at 12:08 AM on February 4, 2003


That would be this link.

[closes eyes and crosses fingers]
posted by quin at 12:11 AM on February 4, 2003


Other books.
posted by lucien at 1:47 AM on February 4, 2003


some believe that jack the ripper was the first american serial killer.

banished - 'some legends say H.H. Holmes admitted to being the ripper as he was being hanged.'
he is not the only one.
posted by asok at 3:42 AM on February 4, 2003


Cecil Adams' article on Henry Holmes.

I don't know that Jack the Ripper is more famous because he was first; I always thought that some of the enduring fascination of the Ripper murders was that they were never solved. Sure, Holmes' crimes were more horrific, but at least he was caught...
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:17 AM on February 4, 2003


And to compare the relative crimes. Eight prostitutes killed on the streets of London, and you're eternal. 200 good citizens murdered in an ingenious deathtrap, and you're on history's dustbin.

jonson, I know you don't mean it, but once again somebody falls into the trap of implying that the lives of "eight prostitutes" are somehow less worthy than, well, "citizens".
posted by 111 at 6:19 AM on February 4, 2003


200 "citizens".
posted by ook at 6:40 AM on February 4, 2003


200 "good" citizens.
posted by 111 at 7:01 AM on February 4, 2003


Well, maybe they were eight "good" prostitutes.

yes yes I see your point, and in general I'd agree, but the 25:1 ratio is maybe a bit more relevant to jonson's point than his choice of adjectives.
posted by ook at 7:09 AM on February 4, 2003


I believe one of the stories in the 2002 Best American Short Stories was inspired by this guy (or was it 2001?). I can check when I get home.
posted by hyperizer at 9:35 AM on February 4, 2003


This was just featured on Wild Chicago the other day.

Perhaps more creepy than his crimes were his burial requests, which were carried out after his execution: He had his body encased in concrete within a coffin, and then burined beneath more concrete - to a depth of 10 feet.

As to why he hasn't received more attention, I can only join the speculation. Jack taunted the police, leaving notes and clues behind him. Holmes operated in secrecy. What's more, he was eventually apprehended and executed. Jack the Ripper was never identified.

Which perhaps makes for a more interesting story. Whatever the case, both of them give me the creeps.
posted by aladfar at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2003


Anyone have a link to a more detailed drawing of the house? Sounds interesting in a architectural sort of way.
posted by Mitheral at 10:27 AM on February 4, 2003


Yes, there's a tantalizing but way-too-small diagram on jonson's link. I'd really like to see a big floorplan. Not, y'know, not because I'm thinking about it...*cough*
posted by Monster_Zero at 8:31 PM on February 4, 2003


after he retired , did they have a ceremony ?
did he get a commemerative clock or anything?
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:03 AM on February 6, 2003


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