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

Updated on January 30, 2019
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College graduate, freelance writer, cooking aficionado. Political junkie by day and screenwriter by night.

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. These are 10 facts about the serial killer that proves he was born to kill.

1. Crime Spree Started at Young Age

HH Holmes enrolled in the University of Vermont when he was 18, but left after just one year. He later enrolled in 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 the insurance on the cadavers, claiming they died in an accident.

Holmes took his criminal lifestyle to Philadelphia, where he was the prime suspect after a kid died after receiving medication from a drug store that Holmes worked at. 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. Construction of "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 months. 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 police and 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. Holme'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. As the World's Fair arrived in 1892, Holmes rented out some rooms to visitors. Guests began to realize the rooms were oddly built. Guests ended up walking up and down stairways that led nowhere. Guests tried opening locked doors.

3. Luring his Victims

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 married him. Cigrand later disappeared.

4. Holmes Confession

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 murder, just like a poet can't help singing. Holmes refused to ask forgiveness, even after meeting with two Catholic priests. Holmes ended up dying on May 7, 1896, as a result of being executed by hanging.

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

5. Rumored Escape

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 believes the rumors to be true. Jeff Mudget believes that Holmes escaped and fled to London and continued his violent spree but under the name of Jack the Ripper.

© 2019 Lawrence

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