It’s Celebrate the Small Stuff day, and today I’m celebrating serial killer H. H. Holmes. Unlike what you may have heard in the promos for a reality show on the ‘History’ channel, Holmes was NOT America’s FIRST serial killer. In fact I know there are a couple of female serial killers who came before him.
Holmes was also NOT Jack the Ripper. Holmes’ killings were of people he knew and there was a money motive involved as well as the sadism. Would he really stop his serial killing in the US, go off to commit 5 or so slayings in England using a totally different M. O. and earn the nickname Jack the Ripper, go back to the US and commit killings in his normal method, and never even drop a hint in his confession?
Holmes wrote a tell-all confession after he was caught, which included some abortions (“illegal operations”) he committed. He listed a lot of his victims— some of whom were found alive.
He was caught because he killed a partner in crime in an insurance scam, and then took off with three of the partner’s children in order to claim the insurance. The three children were murdered. There was a nation-wide manhunt for Holmes and the children, and he was caught, but too late for the children.
Holmes constructed a building later known as the Murder Castle. It had two rooms in which victims could be gassed to death, a chute to the basement where there was a gas oven which could cremate bodies, and a walk-in vault in which women were left to suffocate. He stripped the flesh from some bodies and sold the skeletons to medical schools.
H. H. Holmes seems like an odd fellow to celebrate. But it was an interesting case, Holmes was caught, and he was executed so he was unable to kill more people. And now his great-grandson has his own reality show from it. Which would be more of a thing to celebrate if they had hired an experienced historical researcher to help. But of course then they couldn’t link the case to Jack the Ripper.
Another thing— H. H. Holmes committed so many more murders than the Ripper that trying to prove Holmes was the Ripper is a little like the Beatles trying to prove that they were the Monkees.
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