Dr. Henry Howard Homes, born Herman Webster Mudgett (1861 – 1896) carried out the most gruesome murders in recorded American history. He committed most of these crimes within the walls of his custom Murder Castle in Chicago, Illinois.
Setting the scene- Holmes’ spree took place in the time of the World Fair in Chicago. Over 27 million people came to see the fair, but many never made it back (especially women checking into the World’s Fair Hotel). Chicago had basically been scrubbed clean for the fair, and went from being “The Black City” to “The White City”. Business was booming.
He was raised in New Hampshire by devout Methodist parents and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1884. Soon after passing his exams, he moved to Chicago and changed his name. He was married to Clara Lovering, but uh… married another woman named Myrta Belknap (while Clara was still alive). He married yet another woman, Georgiana Yoke, while still married to both Clara and Myrta. His charisma and good looks are well documented- but come ON.
Then he began building his castle which later became known as The Murder Castle. To anyone passing by it looked like a decent hotel, but it was years later that the horrifying and deranged custom details of the building were discovered – Soundproof rooms set with gas lines (to asphyxiate victims), a huge soundproof bank vault (for imprisonment), secret chutes (for dumping bodies in the basement), secret doorways, trap doors, acid and lyme pits (for disposal) and “experiment” rooms. He would torture his victims and then eventually dissect and de-skin them- selling their skeletons and organs to medical schools. He also claimed any and all insurance money.
He was eventually caught, convicted, and executed. But only after killing his accomplice, Benjamin Pietzel, and his 3 young children.
There are 27 confirmed murders, but it is estimated that it could be closer to 200. Most of his victims were women that had either checked into the hotel or worked there.
He was hanged on May 7, 1896 in Philadelphia. His last meal was boiled eggs, toast and coffee. As he approached the noose- he changed his story, claiming he only killed 2 people (after confessing to 30). It was not an immediate death as his neck did not snap. Before the execution, he requested that there be no autopsy, that he be buried in a coffin filled with cement, and that his grave also be filled with cement. Because of these bizarre requests, some speculate that he somehow faked his execution. Some have even suggested that there is a possibility Dr. Holmes was also Jack the Ripper.
After his death, thousands of curious Chicago citizens lined up to see the crime scene, so a former police officer set up the building for “Holmes House of Horror” tours. However, the building mysteriously burnt to the ground before the “exhibit” could open.
There’s a great bio mini movie here: http://www.biography.com/people/hh-holmes-307622#synopsis
Documentary/Additional info here: http://www.hhholmesthefilm.com
And, there’s a great book on the case called The Devil in White City. Supposedly, Leonardo di Caprio is producing and starring in the movie based on this book. You can purchase here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Devil-White-City-Madness/dp/0375725601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415125208&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Devil+in+White+City