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H. H. Holmes

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“Crime writers reserve the word ‘monster’ for top-notch murderers…He must meet certain rigid requirements. His victims killed over a period of years and not for money alone and preferably female and he must do unusual things with their bodies; he must inhibit a gloomy, forbidding dwelling, he should be scientific bent. The master of the murder castle possessed all of these and more,” (Martin). ‘The master of the murder castle’ was born Herbert Webster Mudget on May 16, 1860. Later he changed his name to Henry Howard Holmes. Holmes lived with his family in Gilmation, New Hampshire. He expressed an interest in medicine and became a certified doctor. H. H. Holmes was a true born monster; he led an exceedingly dark life as both a con-artist and a serial killer.

During his childhood, H. H. Holmes was “born to an affluent family… was unusually intelligent at an early age… and expressed an interest in medicine” (H. H. Holmes). This interest in medicine “led him to practice surgery on animals,” (H. H. Holmes). Holmes was not well liked among the other children at his school. He was forced to touch a skeleton when he was young; instead of being scared like the other kids intended, Holmes was interested in the skeleton. He had one friend, but coincidentally that friend died while they were playing together. His home life included an alcoholic and abusive father (Spikol) and a dedicated Methodist mother. His father’s abuse drove Holmes toward the dark life he led. When Holmes was 16, he married Clara Lovering. Clara taught Holmes more about science because she was from a wealthier family. He was able to learn more about cadavers which would become part of his financial schemes.

In the next sequence of Holmes’ life, “he went to medical school, and left his wife,” (Spikol). At the age of 19 Holmes attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to study medicine. By attending medical school, Holmes was learning how to dissect bodies and how chemicals affected the human body. Shortly after graduating college Holmes moved to New York. New York had been the first place he had broken the law when some questionable corpses were found in his possession (Varma). Holmes became a con-artist, using the corpses as false insurance claims. Also, Holmes “was good at making people feel special,” (Spikol). Holmes could dazzle salesmen and many young women because of his skills. Holmes would sell off the corpses for money that money would then go towards housing or some other financial scheme. Later, in Chicago he would buy, with his false insurance claim money, a medicine store from an older lady that disappeared after going to visit her relatives.

Holmes went on to develop much worse skills than just being a con-artist. He moved to Chicago just before World’s fair. “Holmes opened up his home as a hotel for visitors to the world’s fair,” (H. H. Holmes). This would have added “hospitable” to the long list of names for Holmes, but his guests were subjected to horrible torture. Holmes had the perfect home to support his dark ways. Holmes switched the contractors often because he wanted to be the only one to know the layout of his house. “The building was built by several builders over time and had a labyrinthine network of passages that would become his ‘torture chambers’,” (Varma). He would subject his victims to different types of torture; two examples were peeling off the victims’ skin while they were still alive and asphyxiating them while he watched from outside the room. Holmes had chutes built in his house so he could easily dispose of the bodies in the basement. He would burn them, put them in a lime bath, or claim them from an insurance company. Holmes was discovered after one of his insurance scandals was found out. He was running a false insurance fraud with Marion Hedgepath which he offered to pay her $500 for her help. “When Holmes failed to deliver Hedgepath’s share of the deal, Hedgepath tipped off the authorities,” (H. H. Holmes). Another one of his partners was Benjamin Pitezel; Holmes and Pitezel tried to run a similar scheme before Holmes was arrested by the authorities. He was apprehended, but between the time of being searched and being imprisoned, Holmes killed Pitezel and a few of Pitezel’s children. Holmes was charged with the murder of Pitezel and confessed to other murders as well.

To conclude, Holmes was hanged on May 7, 1896. Holmes asked that he be buried in concrete: he didn’t want any person to dissect his body. During Holmes’ life he created an everlasting description for people like him. With a life like his, he will be labeled as a ‘monster’ for the rest of time. He showed the world the true meaning of ‘serial killer’. Holmes murdered about 200 people according to some sources. His unique murder method helped police and FBI agents track down similar serial killers for year after Holmes was hanged. Holmes being the first serial killer in America had caught many people off guard. The entirety of Holmes’ life and his problems in childhood amounted to the monster that he was.





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