Herman Webster Mudgett (aka H. H. Holmes) was born in New Hampshire in May 1860. He is often dubbed America’s worst serial killer. The final total of Mudgett’s killings will never be known. Before he was executed, he detailed 27 killings but as many as two hundred corpses were found at his “Castle” in Chicago.
Hermann Mudgett studied medicine at Ann Arbor and for a short time practiced as a doctor in New York. He had a brief misunderstanding with police about the possession of corpses so he fled to Chicago where he earned employment with a drug company. The lady who owned the company disappeared mysteriously shortly thereafter and Mr. Mudgett repaid her memory by taking over the business.
By 1891, Mudgett was now calling himself H. H. Holmes. He decided to give up the drug business and so moved into the new hotel that he had built on the corner of Chicago’s 63rd street. The story is like this: He hired and fired his builders at such a rapid rate that none ever knew the exact layout of the building – which was how the elaborate series of torture chambers remained a secret for so long.
The hotel was visited by hundred of guests, especially during the Chicago World’s Fair, and many of them never checked out. Holmes would lure attractive young women to his rooms where he would drug them and dispatch them to the basement via a specially constructed chute. Sometimes the sequence varied, but usually the victim would then find themselves in one of the air-tight gas chambers, choking to death as Holmes watched.
After the girls were dead, Dr. Mudgett transported them to another room where he performed dissections and experimental surgeries. Any unwanted remains were disposed of in one of the many acid baths, furnaces and quicklime pits.
Mudgett may have never been caught if it were not for a careless act of insurance fraud he committed in Texas. Thanks to a crooked lawyer he was soon free, but a persistent detective named Geyer pursued his quarry through Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. When the corpses of Mudgett’s partner, Benjamin Pitezel and his children, were discovered Mudgett was taken into custody.
On 30 November, 1895, Herman Mudgett was sentenced to death for the murder of his partner, Benjamin Pitezel. Meanwhile, police had explored his torture castle in Chicago and had uncovered it gruesome secrets. Before his death, Mudgett began a rambling memoir in which he detailed 27 of his murders before he was executed on 27 May 1896.
At the foot of the gallows, Mudgett retracted his previous confessions and declared that he had only done so to give the newspapers a good story.