H.H. Holmes is one of America's most notorious serial killers—and he may have been the nation's most prolific. Holmes admitted to 27 murders, 9 of which were confirmed. Yet he was suspected of committing up to 200 murders in his lifetime. He lived and killed in Chicago between 1893 and 1894, and he did the majority of his murdering in his own hotel, which he designed specifically for death.
It’s downright disturbing, if you ask me. So let this serve as a warning for the easily creeped out. If you’re interested in dark and ghoulish history (like me!), then come along for five chilling details about H.H. Holmes’ Chicago murder castle.
5. Holmes was the only one who knew all of the nooks and crannies.
He changed contractors and workers almost constantly. Though he blamed incompetence, this also ensured that no one save for Holmes understood the hotel's labyrinthine layout or questioned what purpose it served.
The hotel was finished in 1893, just in time for the World’s Fair in Chicago. It was known locally as “The Castle.”
4. The Castle made him a significant amount of money.
The majority of his victims were single women, some of whom were employees at the hotel. Holmes had a tendency of asking these women to take out life insurance policies, naming him as the receiver. He received the life insurance payout for at least one woman, and possibly more, after murdering her and disposing of the body.
3. If he didn’t get you one way, he had a half a dozen other tricks up his sleeve.
Some rooms doubled as gas chambers with ironclad walls. Others were outfitted with trap doors, sliding panels, and according to some reports, blow torches that burned victims to death. Holmes’ hotel of nightmares also contained a “hanging chamber,” as well as air-tight rooms wherein he would poison guests with chloroform.
2. Every inch of the place was designed to hide his true purpose.
Holmes rigged his doors with alarms, so guests couldn’t move about without his knowledge. He also installed chutes down to the basement—theoretically for laundry, but really so he could dispose of corpses at his leisure.
No need to haul dead weight down multiple flights of stairs if you don’t have to, I suppose.
1. The basement was well-equipped, too.
It was basically a mortuary on speed, featuring huge furnaces, pits of quicklime and corrosive acid, tools for cutting up bodies, and a stretching rack, to boot.
He sold organs and skeletons to acquaintances in the medical profession. It's unclear whether these clients knew the ways in which Holmes acquired his bodies, or if they chose not to ask questions.
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