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5 Strange Facts About HH Holmes, America's First Serial Killer

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HH Holmes and his Murder Castle

HH Holmes and his Murder Castle

HH Holmes: America's First Serial Killer

Many consider HH Holmes to be the first American serial killer. Holmes was considered a charming and intelligent man who built a "murder mansion" just outside the World's Fair in Chicago.

Here are five surprising facts about the serial killer who viewed himself as being born to kill.

1. His Crime Spree Started at a Young Age

HH Holmes enrolled in the University of Vermont when he was 18 but left after just one year. He would go on to attend the University of Michigan's School of Medicine and Surgery. While at UofM, he later admitted to committing fraud, which foreshadowed his future crime spree. Holmes stole multiple cadavers from the medical lab and collected their insurance money, claiming they died in an accident.

Holmes took his criminal lifestyle to Philadelphia, where he was the prime suspect in the suspicious death of a child who received medication from the drug store where Holmes worked. He continued his insurance scams and became the beneficiary on policies belonging to several women who worked for him, who later ended up dead.

2. He Designed and Built a "Murder Castle"

In Chicago, Holmes acquired a local Englewood drugstore, where he would begin constructing a new building that would occupy the drugstore and nearby lot. Holmes designed the "Murder Castle," which ended up being three stories.

Construction workers reported that the project would take 18 months instead of the expected six. This delay was intentional as Holmes would routinely hire and fire workers so no single person would know the design of the building. While his building drew the attention of the public, Holmes managed to charm the police, and the truth of his "Murder Castle" was never revealed.

The building was constructed with countless traps, dead ends, and secret passageways. Holmes's castle had a cellar along with three floors. He kept the first floor to be open to the public. Holmes even rented out some of the shops to businessmen.

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As the World's Fair arrived in 1892, Holmes rented out some rooms to visitors. Guests began to realize the rooms were oddly built, as they walked up and down stairways that led nowhere and tried opening locked doors.

3. He Lured His Victims With Newspaper Ads

Nobody really knows how many victims Holmes killed inside his Murder Castle. He eventually confessed to 27 murders, but police believe that number is way off and closer to 200. Holmes tricked his victims into entering his Murder Castle by advertising his rooms as the best for tourists looking to visit the World's Fair. He targeted his female victims by placing ads in local newspapers, offering jobs and even himself for marriage.

His tricks worked, and he was able to lure multiple women, including Emeline Cigrand, who became his personal secretary and, eventually, his wife. Cigrand later disappeared.

4. He Was Executed and the Murder Castle Exploded

Holmes didn't deny his actions or ask for forgiveness. Holmes said he was born with the devil inside him. He claimed he could not help but murder, just like a poet can't help but write. Holmes refused to ask for forgiveness, even after meeting with two Catholic priests. He ended up dying on May 7, 1896, the day he was executed by hanging.

Strangely, just as Holmes's life came to a violent conclusion, so did his sinister home. The Murder Castle was purchased by AM Clark, who wanted to open it as a tourist attraction. But the castle ended up catching fire and, seconds later, explosions blew out the first floor. The fire department arrived too late to save the building.

5. There Are Rumors That He Escaped

While HH Holmes was witnessed dying at the gallows, some believe the serial killer managed to escape. The rumors suggest that Holmes bribed police officers and a cadaver was put in his place.

A descendant of HH Holmes, Jeff Mudget, believes the rumors to be true. Jeff claims that Holmes escaped and fled to London to continue his violent spree—but under the name of Jack the Ripper.

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© 2019 Lawrence

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