“I was born with the devil in me…” these were the worlds of HH Holmes confession a man so depraved he turned being a serial killer into a profitable business. While Chicago has a sortied history full of its share of violence its worst story is a few decades older than bootleggers and mafia bosses. Set in the era of cobble stone alleys and gas-powered lights. It was one these Chicago streets that sat the home of evil.

A portrait of Holmes

The infamous HH Holmes is mistakenly called America’s first serial killer but he does certainly make it on the list of worse Americans to have ever lived. Holmes was a master con man and prolific serial killer. Holmes known as Herman Mudgett at the time first thought his calling was medicine but ended up being thrown out of med school for running an insurance scam with the college’s corpses. Now with no direction Holmes turned to the only other thing he knew coning people out of their cash.

He would make false claims on people he knew’s life insurance sometimes with their help some times without their knowledge. Then he would find a body to steal that would pass for the person in question and collect the policy. It was through these scams that he realized he could kill without remorse and a morbid new way to make even more money. See running these elaborate scams he needed bodies and they didn’t disappear when Holmes was done. Ever looking to make a buck knew that medical schools were always looking for cadavers and skeletons to use to teach with so he would proceeded to sell them the bodies and with that get rid of any evidence. And this is where the horror hotel comes in.

It was at this time that thousands of people swarmed Chicago for the 1893 world’s fair. These people of course needed a place to stay. Holmes saw this as an opportunity. Using cash from his cons and a new job running a pharmacy he built a huge 3 story building. During the building he hired and fired several building companies resulting in no one being aware of the macabre secretes built into the home. Once it was built Holmes set to gathering his victims opening up rooms for rent.

A picture of the hotel.

Unbeknown to those who accepted his offer the building was full of lethal traps. Some of the rooms sealed up almost air tight and had extra vents where poison gas could be pumped in. there were hallways disguised as walls with peeps holes like something out of Scooby doo. If anyone tried to escape they would find it impossible to navigate all fake doors and maze like halls. Holmes even had chutes built-in so he could get the bodies of victims to the basement without anyone noticing. And down in the basement things got really messed up because that’s where he kept his tools that he would use to render the bodies into skeletons fit for sale to any university interested. He even had a crematory furnace for disposing of other bodies.

These victims would then have their life insurance claimed by Holmes. Though grisly it was almost the perfect con that was until He pushed his luck one time too many. In 1894 Holmes planed one of his signature insurance scams with a man named Merion Hedgeworth. When he stiffed Hedgeworth of his cut he promptly informed the police what Holmes was doing. When they investigated the hotel they were shocked to find all his murder tools and several bodies waiting to be dealt with but unfortunately no Holmes. It would be almost few years later when Holmes would be found in Toronto after being held as a person of interest in the deaths of the Pitezel children a family Holmes had staying with while on the run.

In all Holmes would claim to have killed over 27 people. He was hung for his awful crimes may of 1896 in a prison in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The year before his hotel of horrors was mysteriously burnt beyond recognition but still stood until 1934 when it was torn down and partly replaced by a post office. Like Norman Bates in Psycho Holmes used the trust travelers have to lure them to his deaths and was a true psycho if there ever was one.

The current post office.

sources

www.history.com/topics/murder-castle

www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/serial-killers/hh-holmes/

www.biography.com/people/hh-holmes-307622

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