Category: Serial Killing
Location: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Date: 1888 - 1894
Crime: One of the most bizarre Serial killers of all time, Mudgett had a special 'murder house' constructed in time for the Chicago Worlds Fair. No builder ever worked on the property long enough to piece together the purpose of the macabre residence that was being built. Police believe as many as 250 young women were tortured, raped and killed in the hotel.
Biography: Also known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, he was born in May 1861 in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. As a child, he was often bullied by both neighborhood toughs and his own father who was known to be strict disciplinarian. He went to medical school at the University of Michigan and while there, devised a scheme whereby he would steal corpses and collect insurance money on policies that he took out on them. After graduating, he moved to Chicago and began practicing pharmacy. In 1886, construction began on his three-story building, which he planned to use as a hotel for the World's Fair in 1893. The ground floor of the block-long edifice contained storefronts and his own relocated pharmacy. The upper floors were a maze of odd hallways, windowless rooms, doors that opened to brick walls and stairways that led to nowhere. The basement of the facility contained a huge acid pit and two large furnaces for body disposal. Mudgett would select his female victims, and torture them in a variety of ways in any one of the rooms in the upper floors of the building. He had constructed soundproof rooms fitted with gas-lines for asphyxiation, others were locked in an air-tight vault where they suffocated, others were tortured to the point of death. Some of the bodies were stripped of their flesh and sold to medical schools, other bodies were sold to institutions for organ study. After the World's Fair, he abandoned his hotel and fled to Texas where he murdered two sisters who were heiresses to a major railroad. He then moved about the United States and Canada where he continued to claim victims. Throughout 1894, Mudgett continued to work various insurance scams and was eventually tracked by authorities and arrested in Boston, on November 17, 1894. Once in custody, police investigating his case were led to the hotel in Chicago where they discovered the most gruesome evidence of his prior crimes. He was sentenced to death and hanged on May 7, 1896.