Saturday, November 30, 2013

Herman Webster Mudgett's (H. H. Holmes) Grave

Photo by Karen Valentine

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Pennsylvania, one can find an unmarked grave.  This is not because the purported body inside the coffin encased by cement belonged to someone of little means who could afford no marker, but because there is a need to protect this final resting place.  If indeed there is rest for this person. 

This unmarked grave is where they buried the most prolific serial killer in America and possibly in all of
history.  Herman Webster Mudgett's life of crime did not necessarily start with murder, although some have speculated that he murdered as a young child.  He started out as a fraudster and a bigamist.  While in medical school, he bought insurance policies on bodies that were suppose to be used for medical research and teaching.  He stole the bodies and disfigured them, so that they were unrecognizable and collected on the insurance policies.  During his lifetime, he was married the three women at one time.  Around 1885, he purchased a drugstore in Chicago and a plot of land across from the drugstore where he began construction on a building that would become a place of horrors for possibly hundreds of people.

The Murder Castle was completed and opened as a hotel in 1893 to coincide with the opening of the Chicago World's Fair.  It was the pinnacle of a sinister and macabre plan by Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, the name Mudgett now called himself.  This "hotel" was built near the railroad, so that Holmes would have easy access to visitors to the World Fair and his hotel was in a desirable location and known to be quite posh.  What most people did not know, including the contractors who built the hotel, was that the building housed mazes, chutes, toxic gas lines, doors that opened only from the outside and other terrors.  No contractor knew the complete plans because Holmes fired them on a regular basis to keep his plans secret.  The chutes facilitated the transfer of bodies to gurneys where Holmes would conduct experiments on them, torture still living victims and dissect the bodies.  At times, Holmes would clean the skeletons and sell them to medical institutions. 

It was confirmed that Holmes killed nine people, but he wrote a confessional in which he admitted to 27 murders.  Holmes' great great grandson, Jeff Mudgett, has written the book Blood Stains detailing the life of H. H. Holmes and he claims that the number of murders could be upwards of a thousand.  Considering the proximity to the World's Fair and the secrets of the Murder Castle, I could believe that number.  Jeff Mudgett also hypothesizes that his infamous grandfather committed the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper.  Holmes was in London at the same time as the murders and as a doctor had the skills needed for the delicate organ removals the Ripper is credited with.  His return to America would explain why the evil deeds of Jack the Ripper came to such an abrupt end.

H. H. Holmes was eventually arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.  He was hung in 1896 at the age of 34.  As one can see, his grave needed to be concealed and protected by concrete to evade grave robbers and others with macabre plans.  And really, who would pay for a marker for one so evil?  The sad epilogue to this narrative are those left without graves and without peace: Holmes' victims.  Many were placed in pits of lime, while others were dissected down to skeletons and sold off so they were never identified or buried.  He cremated other victims as well.  Cremation was facilitated via a glass factory he had near the Murder Castle.  No glass was ever sold by the factory, but the fires burned hot enough to eliminate all human traces.   So sometimes, where the history of the dead lies, is unknown.  But that history is no less significant.  To that end, Jeff Mudgett has hopes for placing a memorial plaque near the site of the Murder Castle, the location of a post office today, to memorialize the victims.


  1. Wow :( Never had heard of this monster.

    1. He was a great man not a monster think before you say something

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. And Daniel, you're clearly a psychopath.

    4. He was indeed a monster. He himself admitted he was a fiend.If there is a hell, may he burn in it forever. Better yet what would be really great would be if you had to live the last minutes of victims you murdered-forever.

  2. I second that wow. I'd heard of H. H. Holmes, but didn't know his real name -- or that he'd been buried anywhere. They should have skeletonized him and sold his bones. Truly evil.

  3. I can't understand why they would bury this evil man anywhere, let alone in a cemetery with the name "Holy" anything. His remains should have been fed to wild dogs and the excrement flushed into the sewer.