Myths About H.H. Holmes You Need To Stop Believing

The idea of serial killers is relatively new, even though serial killers have been around long before the term came about.

One of the first known serial killers was H. H. Holmes, or as Smithsonian Magazine calls him, “the devil in the White City.” He conducted his crimes in what became known as the murder hotel or murder castle, where he lured his victims.

Holmes, much like Jack the Ripper, had a medical background. Biography said he went to medical school and probably used this knowledge in his crimes.

Along with an apparent need to kill people, Holmes was also a con man. History noted he was involved in several fraud schemes. This included insurance fraud, where he was accused of killing a business partner and his three children.

So much of Holmes’ story has been sensationalized to the point that even the number of his victims became exaggerated. At one point, the media said Holmes was responsible for 200 murders. In reality, he’s credited with 27 deaths. People most likely kept embellishing the number of Holmes’ victims until word of mouth became what people thought was true.

Holmes liked to boast and make up stuff about himself. He reportedly said he was born with the devil in him, and he couldn’t help that he became a murderer. However, according to Mysterious Chicago, Holmes never actually said this. A paper called the Philadelphia North American wanted to scoop the Philadelphia Inquirer and possibly made up those comments.

It wasn't a hotel

It was reported all the murders occurred at the World’s Fair Hotel in Chicago. The hotel, or murder castle, reportedly had dozens of secret passages, trapdoors, and rumors of a torture chamber. The newspapers said the idea was to trap his victims in the building before snuffing out their lives.

History explained that H.H. Holmes’ building was not exactly a hotel. He rented out the first floor to shops, and the second story did have tenants, but not as hotel guests. They rented out rooms and apartments.

Holmes began adding a third floor to the building in 1892 and did want to start a hotel. But he never opened the hotel part of the structure. History noted that Holmes wanted to swindle insurers and investors. Holmes may have also committed arson to prevent creditors from repossessing the property, per All That’s Interesting. The World’s Fair Hotel also didn’t operate throughout the 1893 World’s Fair, either.

It also wasn’t true that Holmes had torture chambers built in the basement of the castle. Mysterious Chicago said it simply would’ve been impossible. The basement did not have soundproofing at all, which means any nefarious acts would’ve attracted attention right away. Police did find an unused quicklime pit and some tanks of gas, which could have been for disposing bodies. However, later reports revealed witnesses frequently saw several trunks removed from the castle.

After Holmes was arrested, it was rumored the hotel burned down, but it only affected the third and second floors.

Just rumors

H.H. Holmes likely started his life of crime as a medical student. He supposedly stole corpses for money and maybe even experimented on them, wrote Biography. This was true when he was a student, but he’s not the only one. As Mysterious Chicago pointed out, many medical students considered body snatching a rite of passage.

Holmes also built a reputation for selling the bodies of the people he killed. At least that’s what people believed. A man approached Chicago police during their investigation claiming Holmes had sold bodies for use in colleges; however, there was barely any evidence to support the claim.

There’s also no truth that the Chicago police had no idea Holmes was operating in the city. Police did not know he was murdering people, but they knew of his reputation as a con man. As a result, Chicago police constantly raided his properties in hopes of catching him committing fraud.

And then there’s the title “America’s first serial killer.” That’s not exactly true. Technically, another serial killer operated in Chicago before Holmes came to the city. The Chicago Tribune reported Thomas Neil Cream, a man people suspect was also Jack the Ripper, had been in Chicago and may have committed some murders in the 1880s.

While the public continues to be fascinated by H.H. Holmes, these are some myths you can forget about.

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