H. H. Holmes and the Murder Castle,
Born Hermann Webster Mudget, H.H. Holmes was a wealthy physician and surgeon who operated the “Worlds Fair” Hotel in Chicago. Holmes had moved to Chicago in 1886, buying a pharmacy and beginning the construction of a massive building next door. The building was three stories high and a block in size with over 100 rooms. Called “The Castle” by the locals because of its size, it was a truly strange building, with a labyrinth of halls and rooms a constructed to a very strange plan. There were stairways that led to nowhere, secret doors, tunnels, and rooms with one way doors that could only be opened from the outside. Holmes hired and fired several contractors throughout the building’s constructors, claiming that they had done inferior work. In truth, he constantly switched crews so that only he knew the layout of his building and no one caught on to what he was doing.
Holmes opened his “hotel” in 1893 just in time for the Chicago Worlds Fair, which brought tourists from all over the world to Chicago. Unknown to the many people who would check in to his hotel, Holmes had designed the building to be his own personal murder castle. Many of his guests would never check out. Along with the labyrinth of hallways and rooms there were several traps designed to kill anyone who happened to wander into the wrong place. There were sealed rooms with gas inlets so that Holmes could asphyxiate unsuspecting victims. Near his office was a large soundproof bank vault where he would lock his victims until they suffocated. There were trap doors leading a room sealed by solid brick where victims would be left to die of thirst or starvation. There was also a hanging room where Holmes would hang some of his victims. There was even a room lined with iron plates and blowtorches, which was entered by a one way door. An unwary victim who wandered into the room would be locked in, then incinerated.
Once Holmes killed a victim, the body would be lowered through a network of chutes and elevators which led to the basement. The basement contained a medical examination room, a torture chamber, two furnaces, an acid pit, and a lime pit. Holmes would incinerate or dissolve the bodies of some of his victims in lime or acid, but most he would dissect, then strip the flesh of the bone, turning the corpses into skeleton models which he would sell to medical schools. Most of his victims were women.
After the World’s Fair, Holmes closed his hotel and traveled the country, supporting himself through various confidence tricks as well as murdering even more victims. On his trail was a Pinkerton Detective named Frank Geyer, who began to connect the dots after investigating a series of murders. He finally apprehended Holmes in Boston on November 17th, 1894. Police then searched his hotel, discovering the grisly nature of his murder hotel. Holmes himself confessed to the murder of 30 people, although it is theorized that his body count is much more, perhaps as many as two hundred. Holmes was executed by hanging on May 7th, 1896.