Herman Webster Mudgett is regarded by many as America’s first serial killer, and for good reason.
The New Hampshire native is best known as H.H. Holmes, which is a derivative of his adopted alias, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.
Before his arrest and subsequent execution in 1896, H.H. Holmes was the proprietor of a three-storey hotel building in downtown Chicago known as the World’s Fair Hotel. Where guests check in but never check out.
The Murder Castle
Nicknamed the Murder Castle by law enforcement agents, the building contained 100 rooms, dead staircases, rooms without windows and a host of bizarre features. Though the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that over 200 people lost their lives inside H.H. Holmes murder castle.
The murder castle has been the inspiration behind several novels and even TV series, the latest being the fifth season of the American Horror Story (which starred Lady Gaga), in which the hotel-themed plot revolved around the murder castle and its insane proprietor.
The man, who would later admit to murdering 28 people, built the murder castle a few years after arriving in Chicago in August 1886. Upon his arrival, H.H. Holmes got a part-time job at a drug store owned by a Dr. E.S. Holton, a man who was dying of cancer.
After the death of the good doctor, Holmes offered to acquire the drugstore from Dr. Holton’s wife, an offer that she accepted, on condition that she would continue living in the building. It soon became apparent to Mrs. Holton that Holmes was not going to honour his side of the sale agreement, so she sued Holmes. After filing the law suit, Mrs. Holton was never seen again. Those who enquired into her whereabouts were informed that she had relocated to California to be close to family.
With the Holtons out of the picture, H. H. Holmes acquired a bigger lot right across the street. On this lot, Holmes wished to build a hotel that would become the hallmark of his murderous life. Being the insane genius that he was, Holmes hired different contractors to construct different sections of the building. This meant that no one apart from Holmes knew the layout of the building.
The opening of the hotel could not have been more perfect for Holmes, as it coincided with the 1893 World’s Fair. It is probably for this reason that Holmes named his hotel the World’s Fair Hotel. The drug store, which he now owned occupied the ground floor while the 100 windowless rooms and his personal office occupied the top floors. The rest of the building was designed for commercial use to belie the building’s true purpose. The three storey hotel building contained 60 hotel rooms.