Whitechapel Series 1

History is repeating itself as bodies start turning up, murdered in the same style as Jack the Ripper. The local police force is baffled and can’t bring themselves to accept a copycat murder. But they have more problems as they clash with their new Detective Inspector who doesn’t think they look, act or even smell real policemen. How can they solve crimes when they lack discipline and hygiene?

So begins Whitechapel, where Detective Inspector Chandler is put in charge of a group of men who don’t want him around. His obsessive compulsive habits go against their disorder and chaos. But they’re forced to work together as they race to find clues or even a suspect.

Whitechapel is quite interesting in that it focuses on the police force and how they deal with trying to solve the crime. What do they do when they have no evidence? How do they move forward when everyone is saying Jack the Ripper is back?

Going outside the lines they consult a Ripperologist who enlightens them on the crime urges them to take the mythology seriously. What follows is a group of men who can’t work together chasing after a killer they can’t identify.

And it works very well. Everyone comes across as a suspect. So many people seem to have an ulterior motive. Even when it looks like they’re on top of the murders and have the location picked out, it still happens right under their noses. Who’s the mole in the force? Is Jack the Ripper wandering among them?

Even though it’s only three episodes it’s a very well written and well executed story that will make jump up to play the next one in the series. I watched these through Amazon and found it to be very enjoyable. As with most BBC productions, the grim nature of the content is implied and they don’t dwell on the gore at least not visually. They consult the Ripper lore and go into details about the murders, but you want see the streets or the screen running with blood.

The original murders are detailed and the original crime scene photos are put up on the board so they can compare with modern day events. Even the alternate theories are explained and tested. There is plenty of history with modern day drama.

If you have an Amazon Prime account you can watch the series for free or you can pay a mere $2.99 to watch all three episodes. That’s about the cost of a bottle soda these days isn’t it?

Each episode is around 45 minutes and will keep you guessing until the end, because after all, Jack the Ripper was never caught was he….?

Whitechapel – Series 1

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The Murder Hotel of H. H. Holmes

In 1995 a New Jersey collector buys a set of 100 year old wax cylinders, one of the first mediums used for recording sound. What he discovers is a voice admitted to the murder and torture of multiple people. His investigation reveals this is the story of H. H. Holmes the infamous and perhaps first serial killer in the United States. A man who dug up graves and sold body parts for money and ultimately built his Murder Castle in Chicago. What we have in this investigation is a slight different take on the Holmes story with some new and interesting interviews.

The story starts with Holmes becoming a medical student. He used the money and influence from his first wife to get into medical school, then left her shortly thereafter. His daily routine was to dissect and catalog bodies. It’s not hard to imagine he no longer saw a value in human beings. They were simply a commodity. It was also during this time he was introduced into the racket of getting corpses and selling the skeletons to the medical school. He learned this from the school janitor who had access to all parts of the college and was easily influenced. From here Holmes made a very tidy profit of digging up graves and selling the parts.

From the selling of bodies he moved to insurance fraud. He came up with the idea to fake his own death and collect the insurance with a friend. His brilliant planned turned to frustration as he couldn’t find the right body. Strangely, the event turned him to thoughts of suicide and he was sent to an asylum. While locked away he revises his plan and comes up with something new. He gets his friend to take out an insurance policy and Holmes kills him for real to collect $20,000. This is the money he uses to head to Chicago.

Holmes is able to buy property and establish himself. He starts off with the chemist shop then has grand ideas of building his hotel. From the day the first bricks are laid this will be a house of murder. The chutes, trap doors and dead end hallways weren’t added later, the castle was built from the ground up with those in mind. Holmes knew what he was doing and knew he was going to murder a lot of people.

Holmes performs a series of swindles and profits huge amounts of money from them. Between the chemist shop, the previous insurance fraud and the money from selling skeletons, he’s a very wealthy man. But it’s not enough and Holmes keeps pushing forward to earn yet more money and swindle even more people. It seems to me he took this as a game. He enjoyed taking advantage of people. It was a thrill and a sport to use his charms and power of persuasion to get what he wanted.

Unlike popular belief, Holmes enjoyed the company of women and seemed to relish in the idea of seducing them. He had many lovers, had multiple children and was even married multiple times. Whether or not his sexual gratification came from brining harm to these woman isn’t quite known, but he had multiple affairs and even set up a ladies employment agency so he could find new female talent. But not all the women gave in to his charms. He was rejected a few times and one of those women, Emilline Segrand ended up getting gassed in his vault. It’s believed her footprint is seared onto the door of the vault.

Holmes also killed Minnie William, an heiress from Texas with $50,000 worth of land in Texas. He carried on relationships with Minnie and her sister. Both women ended up dead, but Holmes didn’t get a stake of that Texas land.

As the Columbian Exposition or World’s Fair gets underway, Holmes is ready with his hotel. He’s able to get dozens of guests onto the grounds and because of the secret passage ways and chutes is able to kill without anyone noticing. Holmes goes so far that he has a surplus of bodies laying around. The bodies are even crated up and waiting to be shipped out when the police come to discuss his many outstanding debts around town.

It’s unclear how long Holmes could have gotten away with work, but it was his insurance fraud of Benjamin Pietzel (Pitezel) that caused his downfall. Holmes set up yet another insurance scam to substitute a body for Ben and they would split the money. Holmes simply went ahead and killed Ben to collect the money. From there he tries to keep Pietzel’s wife placated by telling her Ben is in hiding and works to take her to him. This is the cross country flight from justice that leads to many of the Pietzel children being killed.

What is interesting, and something we haven’t seen before is the great-grandchildren of Benjamin Pietzel. They have followed the trail of Holmes in order to bring closure into their lives. Like Jeff Mudgett who is trying to make sense of his family tree, the Pietzel’s are trying to understand the events that lead up to the murder. And it was by sheer accident, coincidence or perhaps good fortune that their grandfather was spared. He was the baby of the family and while his brother’s and sister’s met with a terrible end, he was left alone. It’s sort of easy to forget that Pietzel was ultimately victim in all this too. He met a horrible end by being tied up, doused with benzene and set on fire. He was burned alive.

When Holmes was caught it was because of insurance fraud, not murder and investigators knew nothing of the Murder Castle, Ben Pietzel or the children he was whisking around the country. He was even held in conjunction with horse theft in Texas, but nothing ever came out about murder. All of that came to light much later and the letters the children wrote, which Homes kept, allowed Geyer to ultimately track them down and charge him with a single murder.

It seems more and more evidence is coming to light about Holmes. But as it does, it seems the story gets more cloudy. Holmes was a murderer, but how many people did he actually kill? Was it just Ben Pietzel and Emiline Segrand or did he really use the Castle as a murder factory? Is the body count closer to 200 or perhaps even higher? And what of his multiple confessions? Did he exaggerate to make a name for himself in history? Did he want to burn bright for decades to come rather than just fading away? And is there a link between Holmes and Jack the Ripper? The handwriting samples supplied by Mudgett suggest there is. It’s also stated that Holmes was out of Chicago during the time of the murders? Was he in London? Does that explain why the killer wasn’t caught?

This story just keeps getting deeper and deeper. And I think more people are on the trail of discovery. The remnants of Holmes still linger and we can still track them. The site of his Castle still exists. His diary has been uncovered. The grandchildren of his victims are speaking out. I wonder where this story will take us from here?

Oh, and by the way, I don’t believe for a moment that the voice on the cylinder is actually the voice of Holmes. The chances of that are slim to none. Rather, I’m sure that’s a voice actor reading the confession Holmes was paid to write.

H.H. Holmes – Serial Killer – Murder Hotel
3D View of the Murder Castle
H.H. Holmes on Wikipedia

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Haunted History – The Torso Murders – S01E06

Haunted History brings to light a story I was previously unfamiliar with. During the 1930s, America was gripped with the Great Depression. The country as sent into economic collapse and scores of peoples lost their jobs and their homes. Shanty towns popped up where the homeless and the jobless tried to ride out the economic storm. It was in one of these shanty towns in Cleveland that a series of murders known as The Torso Murders took place. The bodies of unrelated victims were emasculated, decapitated, drained of blood and dumped for the police to find. The area was sent into a panic as year after year bodies showed up but no suspect was ever charged with the crimes.

The murders started in 1935 near the B&O Roundhouse in Cleveland. The first body was found by some boys playing baseball. A search of the area yielded another body buried in a very shallow grave. The police were meant to find it. The style of murders coincide with another body that washed up on the shore of the lake a year before. Right off the bad the police have three murders and not a single clue to work with.

After the stunning victory over Al Capone in Chicago, Eliot Ness is brought in to help clean up the police department and solve the series of murders. He immediately clashes with the lead detective Peter Merylo as the two have completely different suspects in mind. Ness feels a doctor, Francis Sweeney is behind the murders, while Merylo believes it’s a railway man doing the crimes. A man of the rail could commit the murders, hop a train and be states away before the body is discovered. He could then drift back into town and commit another series of murders.

The bodies began to stack up and the pressure mounts as both the Great Lakes Exposition and the Republican National Convention are coming to town. In an odd twist, they actually use the Exposition to display castings of the victims faces to try and help identify them. Hundreds of thousands of people walk past real life molds of decapitated victims, but they still remain unknown victims.

In 1938 there are 11 victims and still no suspects. Ness is convinced that Sweeney is the murderer and questions him for weeks at a nearby hotel. Sweeney had an office near the dump sites, he was known to drink to much and become abusive and he was committed to an asylum multiple times. For the questioning they bring in Leonard Keeler, the inventor of the modern day polygraph machine. Keeler says Sweeney is the man, but there is no evidence to link him to the crimes. Days later bodies turn up in the rubble and trash right outside Ness’ police office. In a fit of rage, Ness rounds up all the inhabitants of the shanty takes, takes them away and burns the entire housing development to the ground. The citizens are outraged and through this event Ness has effectively destroyed his career. However, the murders stop.

Merylo isn’t convinced of the doctor’s involvement and in May of 1940, 3 more bodies are found in derelict railway cars. Now Merylo is convinced he was right all along and goes undercover as a hobo to try and ferret out the truth. The police arrest Frank Dolezal who ends up being murdered in his cell. The whole event was staged to look like a suicide. And right after the police get letters from the alleged murder saying he’s moved on to California.

Ironically in 1947 Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) is found death in a similar fashion as the Torso Murders. Did the killer indeed move from Cleveland to California as the letter stated? Either way, no one was ever caught and charged with the murders. It still remains unsolved.

Because of the nature of the crimes there are many claims of the paranormal around the areas where the murders took place. Near the B&O Roadhouse investigators have gotten the recording of "I don’t know" when asked if they knew the murderer. They also hear lots of banging and scratching in the rail cars and feel a presence. In some of the exterior buildings, heavy barrels have been pushed away, forcing the doors to slam shut during investigations. Hearing noises doesn’t seem all that uncommon around old railway cars and a single EVP saying "I don’t know" doesn’t really convince me of a supernatural hotspot. Further, a barrel moving clearly can’t be the work of a prankster or someone trying to scare the hell out of someone.

Additional paranormal investigations take place at a location called Jackass Hill, the location the first body was found. Many people feel a sense of sadness in this area and claim to hear voices.

Another spot of activity is the Great Lakes Brewing Company, where the dark shadow of a female is said to walk around. This could be Flo Polillo, one of the victims. She may be at the Brewing Company because it was a hangout for Eliot Ness. Once liquor was legalized again, he was known to indulge in Scotch. It’s theorized that she keeps going there to ask for his help.

Many investigators see shadows, hear voices and feel a presence in these locations. Is this activity linked with the Torso Murders? Are these the unknown victims trying to reveal messages about their killer? Are they even related to these murders? Nothing conclusive or substantial stands out so we aren’t sure who, if anyone, is actually making contact. What we do know is that multiple people lost their lives in a very brutal manner. Their killer was never caught and may have moved on to other areas to commit the same crimes. These victims may be reaching out, but so far, I don’t think we’ve got the message.


The Cleveland Torso Murders
The Black Dahlia Murder

Haunted History – The Torso Murders

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Haunted History – A Deadly Possession – S01E05

This is honestly one of the strangest and most unusual stories I’ve heard about. The year is 1938 and the place is Poland. On the eve of World War 2, a small group of women hold a séance that opens a portal unleashing pure evil into the world. What follows is a series of unspeakable events, up to and including the holocaust.

The story begins with Kevin, owner of an antiques shop who bought some curious items at an Estate Sale. After bringing them back to the shop his assistant is terrified of an unknown and unseen force in the basement. Glass is shattered, machinery is thrown around the office. She quits her job, moves to Seattle and never speaks to Kevin again.

Shortly thereafter Kevin gives one of the items from the estate sale, a wine box, to his mother as a birthday gift. Within minutes she is struck down with a stroke. While at the hospital she scrawls "Hate box" on a sheet of paper. Has this old and rather non-descript wine box somehow given her a stroke? Is it laced with toxic chemicals?

Kevin goes on vacation with members of his family. While sitting and talking one night, they all explain they’ve had the same horrible dream – a hag that turns grotesque and feelings of death. They quickly learn they’ve all had the wine box in their possession at some point.

Kevin tries to get rid of the box and in this modern age feels eBay is the way to go. Why he feels this is appropriate is a bit of a mystery to me. He’s been plagued with bad luck and feels the box is the source of the problems and thus decides to pass the bad mojo onto someone else? Not cool. Although had I known about the sale I would have snagged it up.

Yosef buys the box, knowing the checkered history. He scoffs at the possibilities, but is soon trying to get rid of the box himself. It’s brought him nothing but back luck and nightmares. Soon it’s in the possession of Jason who also falls victim to health problems, nightmares, shadow figures and putrid smells. This box is far more powerful than the cursed Brady idol.

We come to learn the box may be a "Dibbuk Box" a vessel used to hold evil spirits. So how did this all come about and what does that original séance have to do with anything?

Working together, Kevin ends up going back to the estate where he bought the box from to try and get some answers. Turns out the woman who answers the door is an old schoolmate of his and she explains that her grandmother was the owner of the box. She relates a story of her grandmother and her cousin practicing séances in Poland right before the war. The poverty was rampant, there was a lot of death and the tide of anti-Semitic feelings were on the rise. Without making it sound trite, the séance was a way to pass the time. And perhaps gave hope of life after death.

During one of their sessions, the pair believe they locked on to an evil entity and it pushed it’s way into our world. They tried to perform a ceremony to trap the spirit. The night was Nov 10, 1938 – Kristallnacht – Night of Broken Glass.

This is the night synagogues were destroyed and Jewish men were rounded up and arrested. Another example of Eugenics was in full swing and the Jewish people were the target. The women believe their failed ceremony influenced the Holocaust. They brought evil into the world during a séance.

Another ceremony is tried and this time they believe they’ve trapped the spirit – in the wine box that Kevin bought from the estate sale. Now Jason is in the possession of the box of evil and needs to figure out what to do with it.

Jason calls in a Medium who gets strong feelings of pain and death from the box. She also feels it’s from outside the US. She also admits she feels and evil presence from it. Now what can Jason do? Ironically, he speaks with a Jewish rabbi and builds and Ark for the box. He makes a box of acacia wood and is lined with 24k gold. The wine box is placed inside and he hides it away where only he knows where it is. In essence he has made his own little Ark of the Covenant.

As I said, this story is truly bizarre and would make most likely send John Zaffis into a tizzy. A little salt in a glass container wouldn’t stop this rascal. Can this box really contain the energy of some sort of demon? Did a séance bring forth an evil that actually set the wheels in motion for the Holocaust? What of the pains and strange coincidences that happened right after Kevin brought the box into his shop and gave it to his mom? Is the box just covered with a strange varnish or built from a wood that causes a reaction in people? Is it chemically toxic rather than spiritually charged? And what would have happened if Kevin or Jason would have just burned the box? Would that release the energy and start another series of horrible events?

It’s widely believed that an object can hold both positive and negative energy. Clearly a battery is a solid object that holds chemical energy. Can something like a wooden wine box used in a séance ceremony contain evil? It’s really hard to imagine, but is it possible?

There is a lot of coincidence surrounding that wine box. And those who mess with it all seem to have similar experiences. I can’t really say a homemade Ouija board is responsible for those atrocities, but what if…..?

Haunted History – A Deadly Possession


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