Notorious People

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 Manson Murders – S01E01

image For the first episode in this series, History goes all in with the story of Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders. They believe there are still connections between the murder sites and paranormal activity. History goes to three "hot spots" that were pivotal in the tragic events and are supposedly charged with energy.

The first location is the house of David Oman on Cielo Drive. He claims to have seen a full bodied apparition in his house. The odd thing is, this isn’t the house were the first set of murders took place. Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring lives a couple hundred feet down the road. The first question is, what relevance does this house have to the events? Unfortunately, there doesn’t really seem to be an explanation for that. David simply feels that Jay is visiting him. He had paranormal investigators come in who claim to hear a voice say "Jay Sebring" and the words, "I had big plans". That to me seems a little too thin to draw such a strong conclusion. And again, why this house? Why not where the events actually took place?

The second location is the Spahn Ranch where Manson began to build his family using drugs, rituals and orgies. He began to develop and instill his god complex. This is where he launches his plan to seek vengeance against those who wrong him because he didn’t get a record contract. Investigators claim to have visions of the Manson family congregating and planning murders. They feel a lot of angry energy still lingering.

Who may be the spirit out there? Some conjecture it’s Shorty Shay, a man Manson thought had called the police to raid the ranch. Shorty was supposedly taken out, killed and buried. His body was found several years later buried in shallow grave.

The activity continues at another location called Barker Ranch where Manson made his "final stand". Susan Atkins, one of the "family members" claimed that a lot of bodies are buried out in the desert. These could be young men and woman who didn’t accept Manson as their leader and when they tried to leave where silenced. Barker Ranch is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, out in Death Valley. No one would be allow to leave or be disobedient and since there was no transportation they could use, it would be easy to make them disappear. There are no names for those who might have been killed out there, but a cadaver dog has come across the scent of what could be four distinct graves.

There are also claims by Michael Channel that the odd outlines in the photographs that a friend took while they were camping out there is of a man turning to look at him in the face. Since these photos were taken at night and not with a very good camera by the look it, how can he say it’s nothing more than a bad photo? It’s the exact image of his body, just skewed. A lot of people would call this "fringe" lighting.

Since the land is now owned by the Park Service, they are less than enthusiastic to start digging up the area. Susan was quite chatty about the deaths and said the bodies were buried deep. She gave no number, but if it was that "easy" to find 4, who knows how many might be out there.

While this is a compelling story and certainly a sensational one, there seems to be a lot of holes in their theories. The first location really doesn’t have anything to do with the murders and is simply located close by. If that were the case, wouldn’t every house along the path experience the same thing? I’m not quite sure I buy into the proximity of it all.

And as for the other locations, while there was a body discovered at Spahn Ranch, and that is indeed a tragedy, it doesn’t seem like quite enough to support the claims of seeing the Manson family plotting the murders. Perhaps with all the drugs, anger and violence, something has been imprinted out there, but it doesn’t seem to stem from the source their putting forward.

Are there bodies at Barker Ranch? If Manson was involved, that’s certainly possible. And there could be a lot of energy out there. But then again, it could just be the ramblings of a weak willed and addle minded cult follower.

Some interesting evidence is brought up, but I’m not sure we’re getting closer to the truth.

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Haunted History Season 1, Ep. 3 "Murder Castle"

image A new series from the History Channel just popped onto my radar and one episode in particular grabbed my attention. The name "Murder Castle" should strike a chord with plenty of people. While this isn’t the first episode in the series, I felt compelled to jump ahead and see what new information they had to offer. Holmes is a uniquely fascinating, bizarre and terrifying creation. As you read of his ill deeds and lengths he would go it seems like the whole thing is made up. This is stuff or horror movies. Sadly, it’s real. Perhaps through time embellishments have been made, but there is no doubt that Holmes specifically built the Murder Castle within walking distance of the World’s Fair so he could find victims, perform experiments, carve up their bodies, sell the skeletons, steal money and property and then incinerate the bodies.

This episode expands on "H.H. Holmes – America’s First Serial Killer" which is where I first learned of these events. Since the original feature was made in 2004 a couple of new events have come to light, specifically we have Jeff Mudgett, the Great, Great, Grandson of H.H. Holmes who offers more insight into Holmes and goes so far as to say that Holmes is more than likely Jack the Ripper. Much of this can be found in his book, "Bloodstains", which I have read and find fascinating. But there is a slight problem. Much of what Jeff writes is hard to discern as fact versus hypothesis. You get the sense he’s revealing the truth, but in reality it may just be his opinion. So what does Murder Castle have to offer?

Jeff Mudgett and author Adam Selzer offer their understand of Holmes and the events he perpetuated on Chicago. Holmes started off his career as a doctor and made a fortune digging up bodies and selling the skeletons to medical schools. He would make hundreds of thousands of dollars in this endeavor. But money wasn’t enough. He enjoyed the kill and took that vast wealth to build the Murder Castle in Chicago. It is indeed a real place and when police investigator found it, it really did have hidden rooms, body chutes, an incinerator, acid baths, gas tubes for asphyxiating guests, peep holes so he could watch his guests, rooms that locked from the outside and holes in the floor that dropped people to their death. It was designed from the ground up as a way for Holmes to trap victims, kill them and make money off their death. And while the Castle was destroyed, a Post Office has been built on the site and the basement is largely intact.

New to this episode is the idea that Holmes is Jack the Ripper. Holmes bought the land for the Murder Castle in the summer of 1888, but construction didn’t begin until Spring of 1889. And during this time Holmes is unaccounted for in Chicago. There is evidence to suggest he took a boat abroad. There is also evidence of an American doctor selling skeletons to the University of London Medical School. As we all know, this was his old tried and true method of making money.

Mudgett puts forth the theory that based on the murders, medical training would be needed. Holmes had this training and would be quite adept at performing these procedures in the conditions of London. Holmes had the training, the temperament and perhaps even the timing to be Jack the Ripper. And since the Ripper was never caught, does this coincide with Holmes whisking back to Chicago before being caught?

We also get some more evidence about the Pietzel and some of his other victims. Could there be links to those victims and some paranormal activity that new homeowners are experiencing? Are the Holmes victims trying to be heard? Some Post Office workers speak about their experiences down in the basement of the building.

While most of the information has been presented in different books and documentaries, it’s interesting to see and hear it all in one place. Mudgett offers his interpretation of the events and Selzer offers his insight based on research and investigation.

Did Holmes fake his death? Did he commit the murders under the guise of suicide and what became known as the Holmes Curse? Were there far more victims that we realize? And most of all, can Holmes be linked to the events of Jack the Ripper?

This new documentary is available on Amazon as an Instant Video purchase. I only wish it were longer, there is simply too much story to tell in the 44 minutes that are allotted.

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Hannibal Revealed

*** Spoiler Alert *** Turn back if you aren’t caught up on Hannibal ***

I had hoped it would take longer to reveal Hannibal for who he was. I hoped they would drop little hints all through the season and then drop the bomb for the final episode cliffhanger. But they went all in and ripped off the mask early. The clues have been coming in pretty fast, but now there is no doubt – Hannibal is racking up a hefty body count and using his friends to dispose of the bodies. This last episode was riddled with images of Hannibal selecting recipes tailor made for each victim. Then his freezer was fully stocked for a banquet.

So where does this leave us? Obviously the secret remains intact as far as the rest of the team goes, but how will this affect how we see Hannibal? Before, we looked for the subtle clues like gestures or key words that would let us know what kind of person he really was. Now that the cat is out of the bag is it going to be as intriguing to watch him and how he interacts with other people?

We all know that Dexter, with his Dark Passenger is a serial killer yet we watch as he tries to stay out of trouble and keep his world together. We look to see if Dexter can live up to his code and keep his human side. Over the seasons it’s been a struggle for him to be human. Now he’s a father and his sister has come face to face with who he is and what he does. We want to see how that affect their relationship and if she can handle the truth of it all.

We all know that Hannibal is on the decline. He’s already passed himself off as perfectly normal if somewhat aloof. Will the show chronicle his descent? Will we watch him unravel and spiral out of control? Or will they tow the line like Dexter and chronicle his deeds and show him one step ahead of the law? Dexter comes across as sympathetic, even likable because of his code and how he only kills people who have escaped the law. Hannibal kills without cause or reason. Justice isn’t part of his code. His actions seems random and indiscriminate. Can he still be likable? Knowing the meals that Hannibal is serving to his guests, can we feel anything but disturbed? Or is there a twist to all this and his life simply parallels the "Chesapeake Ripper"? Are we jumping to conclusions and the "break" that set him off still to come?

We’ve hit the halfway point with a bang that’s for sure. I’m anxiously waiting to see where we go from here. I’ve become a fan of this show, I hope reveal hasn’t torpedoed it.

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