Thursday, November 18, 2010

H.H. Holmes: America's first serial killer (2004)

 Like many horror nuts I am as obsessed with real life horror as I am with fictional.  Give me Serial Killer day on Biography and I am one happy girl.  We know all about our modern day Monsters such as Dahmer, Manson, and Fish, but most people haven't heard about the Grand-daddy of them all: H.H. Holmes, known as America's first Serial Killer.

I was introduced to H.H. Holmes by Erik Larson's amazing book Devil in the White City.  Believe it or not I did not pick up this book because of Holmes but because of my weird obsession with World's Fairs.  This book is about both the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and Holmes, who opened a hotel during the Fair and used it as an opportunity to procure more victims. 

Holmes was unusual for a Serial Killer in that he was highly educated.  Trained as a Doctor, he used his ties to the medical world to dispose of his corpses.  He would sell the bones to schools and hospitals to be used as training materials!  As well as being a killer Holmes was also a swindler and con man, taking his victims money as well as their lives.  He was also an architect.  He designed his hotel in Chicago that became known as "The Castle."  He designed it to be respectable on the outside, but a chamber of horrors on the inside.  He built a crematorium, lime pit, and torture chamber in the basement.  He would lock victims into the massive vault he had installed until they died of suffocation.  He killed his business partner and the partner's three children.  When he was finally caught he claimed that Satan had possessed him. 

For more on Holmes please read Erick Larson's book or check out John Borowski's documentary H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer.  This short film tells the story of Holmes through re-creations, newspaper clips from the era, and photos of Holmes and his victims.  I found it very well made and more than a little creepy.


Shoshanah Marohn said...

Is "The Castle" still standing? Just wondering, because there are more than a few buildings in Chicago that would fit that name.

World fairs are fascinating. My grandpa went to one and had his reflexes tested and was told that he had the fastest reflexes ever recorded- something he believed until his dying day, without ever considering that your reflexes slow with age.

I wish they still had world's fairs.

Jen said...

The Castle burned to the ground and is now a post office. Quite fitting actually.