Saturday, 14 October 2017

October Frights Blog Hop Day 5

H. H. Holmes

One of America's well known serial killers was a man born Herman Webster Medgett but went by the name of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, or more commonly known as H. H. Holmes.

Born in 1861 in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, H. H. Holmes  took over a Chicago pharmacy, after the owner mysteriously disappeared, and built it into an elaborate maze of death traps to which he lured numerous victims during the 1893 Columbian Expedition.

The upper floors contained his living quarters and many small rooms where he tortured and killed his victims. Some of these rooms had gas jets so that Holmes could asphyxiate his victims. There were also trapdoors and chutes so that he could move the bodies down to the basement where he could burn his victims’ remains in a kiln there or dispose of them in other ways.

During this time Holmes was involved in a lot of insurance scams and it was one of these scams that led to his undoing. He joined forces with Benjamin Pitezel to collect $10,000 from a life insurance company. The two traveled around for a time committing other frauds. Landing in jail in Texas, Holmes brought fellow inmate Marion Hedgepeth—who knew Holmes as H.M. Howard—in on the life insurance scheme with Pitezel. When Holmes failed to deliver Hedgepeth's share of the deal, Hedgepeth tipped off the authorities.
While they eventually identified Howard as Holmes, the authorities did not catch on to Holmes soon enough to stop his final murders. He killed Pitezel and then convinced Pitezel’s widow that her husband was still alive. Becoming concerned that the five Pitezel children might expose him, he went away with three of the children, eventually killing them
At first, Holmes was charged with insurance fraud. He later stood trial for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. During his time in custody, Holmes gave numerous stories to police, once admitting to killing 27 people. Estimates range from 20 to 100 victims, with some going as high as 200 victims. If Holmes even did half of the crimes associated with him, he clearly surpassed later American serial killers such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy in his depravity.
After his conviction, Holmes appealed his case, but lost. He met his end on May 7, 1896, when he was hanged for the Pitezel murder in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His life as one of America's first serial killers has been the subject of many books and documentaries, including The Devil in the White City (2003), written by Erik Larson.
Now, initially when I began my search I was looking for the world's first serial killer and H. H. Holmes kept coming up. After digging further I can now say that the first documented serial killers were two women, dating back to 331 BC. 
It is said that several Roman men died in what was thought to be the plague until a servant woman revealed that they had in fact been poisoned by two matrons. 
The women admitted to preparing the concoction and but said it was medicinal and they would prove it by drinking it. They died immediately.
Do you think they were guilty and they drank the 'medicine' to not get the death penalty? Or was it a genuine mistake and they believed what they were doing was helping?

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  1. A wonderful post, H. H. Holmes is a fascinating case study.

  2. Hi there Lavinia. Nice to meet you - I'll have to have a proper browse next week.