You might be familiar with the popular series called American Horror Story. Season 5 titled Hotel features a central character that is somewhat based on Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, who happens to be the first recognized American serial killer. Played by Evan Peters, the character in the series is called Mr. James March.
H.H. Holmes aka Herman Mudgett
If you haven’t seen the show don’t worry, that’s just for those of you who have seen the show, but were unaware that the character was actually based on a real person who confessed to 27 murders in the late 19th century.
He was born on May 16, 1861 and died at the age of 35. I guess killing that many people really takes a toll on you, right?
Being Expelled From the University of Michigan Medical School
Holmes attended medical school at the University of Michigan but couldn’t keep his hands to himself and was eventually expelled for stealing corpses. For what purpose he was taking dead bodies home with him like a young kid stealing a candy bar, it’s not known.
Some speculate he stole them to perform surgeries on the corpses because he was just a curious guy I guess… He also used them for false insurance claim scams that he was running at the same time.
After being expelled, he moved to Chicago and found a job working at a local drugstore.
Chicago and the Infamous “Murder Castle”
Eventually, in the spirit of achieving the American Dream, he worked his way up until he bought the store from a lady named Elizabeth S. Holton. As a side note, some sources say that he verbally manipulated Elizabeth into allowing him to buy the store.
One year later, in 1887, he purchased a nearby empty lot and began building a three-story building that would later become known as the “Murder Castle”.
Red Flag, After Red Flag, After Red Flag
One red flag in Holmes behavior was the fact that even after he hired steel workers and architects to construct an ornate maze of a building, he refused to pay them for their services.
The Murder Castle had secret passageways, trapdoors, soundproof rooms, gas jets, and a human crematorium. What kind of asshole hires a crew of skilled laborers to build his twisted, adult Disneyland and doesn’t pay them for their hard work? The same kind of narcissistic asshole that enjoyed stealing corpses from college and murdering a bunch of people in cold blood on his days off.
The tally is really starting to add up against this man, isn’t it?
He was a known con man, and displays a repeated disregard for the effect of his behavior and the consequences of his actions. There has to be something else going on behind that mustache.
“Never Trust a Man With a Mustache”
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche, “never trust a man with a mustache” before. That would definitely apply here. Not everywhere, but definitely here. That would be a safe bet.
I wonder if the nice people of Chicago had any inkling of a suspicion that Holmes wasn’t just your friendly family pediatrician. I can’t say either way, if I was in their shoes, whether I would’ve gotten a bad vibe from the guy or not. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can’t. Unfortunately, that seems like a pretty consistent sentiment across the board when it comes to serial killers.
More Insurance Scams and Murder
Holmes clearly had a modus operandi. He had both a knack and a pathological problem for committing and getting away with insurance fraud.
He even went as far as to require employees of his to list him as their beneficiary so that when they ended up missing, or dead, he would be the one to collect the check. I wonder if he even paid his employees.
He went on to scam more people out of their money which led up to him being arrested for the murder of Ben Pitezel. Holmes and Ben Pitezel were partners in crime previous to this. Holmes actually had an insurance scheme with Pitezel where Pitezel agreed to fake his own death in order to collect insurance. Once again, his appetite for murder and financial gain got the best of him and Holmes killed his business associate. In order to cover his tracks, he also murdered three of Pitezel’s children.
The Arrest, Conviction, and Execution
He doesn’t respect business relationships, intimate romantic relationships, or any other form of human bond or life. Another one of his business associates that he met in jail, named Marion Hedgepeth, actually turned him in on the murder of Ben Pitezel, in exchange for a pardon. If that’s not some form of karma I don’t know what is.
Holmes was convicted and put to death.
Clearly his execution was for the betterment of society.
Read the Full Account Here
If you’d like to do further reading on the subject of H.H. Holmes, Adam Selzer has a book called H.H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil, which goes into more detail about the life and times of Holmes.