H.H. Holmes - The Torture Doctor
Holmes, properly known as Herman Webster Mudgett, killed twenty-seven people at his house in Chicago. Like Ted Bundy he was a handsome man and a favourite with the ladies.
Holmes first married in 1878 while still a student, and in 1886 contracted a bigamous marriage with Myrta Belknap. He took to fraud as a means of livelihood, and in 1888 worked in Chicago as a drugstore chemist. The female boss disappeared in 1890, leaving Holmes in command of a business which thrived on sales of patent medicine.
Holmes shared a flat above the store with a Jeweller called Icilius Conner and his his wife Julia who acted as Holmes's secretary. Holmes purchased a large vacant plot accross the road from the drugstore to build a hotel. The Gothic-style hotel resembled a castle and had 100 rooms. The hotel, aptly named 'Holmes's Castle' was designed by Benjamin F. Pitzel, and completed in 1891. Many people stayed at Holmes's castle and many disappeared, including Conners' wife and her daughter.
An insurance fraud by Holmes which resulted in the death of Pitzel took police to Holmes's hotel, but Holmes had fled. He was captured in Philadelphia and charged with embezzlement and later with murder.
The police searched Holmes's castle and discovered a death house. Some of the rooms had chutes which led to the basement below, used as a victim cargo route. The basement contained vats of acid, airtight rooms with gas inlets, windowless torture rooms containing trays of surgical instruments. Also found were several female skeletons.
At Holmess trial in 1895, in which Holmes acted as his own defence, a mechanic told of how he had worked for Holmes stripping flesh from bodies which he thought had come from the city mortuary. Holmes was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution Holmes confessed to twenty-seven killings. He was hanged at Philadelphias Moyamensing prison on 7 May 1896.