Thursday, March 31, 2016

Arthur Conan Doyle Versus the Evil Holmes

The twelve months beginning in December 1893 were unkind to people named Holmes.

In the December 15, 1893 issue of The Strand, Sherlock Holmes met his death at Reichenbach Falls at the hands of the evil Dr. Moriarty. Author Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle claimed self-defense, saying that writing Holmes stories was killing him.

On October 7th of 1894, the man who inspired Conan Doyle to use the name "Holmes," Oliver Wendell Holmes, poet, author, professor, and dean of Harvard Medical School, died. Arthur Conan Doyle would later say of him, "Never have I so known and loved a man whom I had never seen."

On November 17, 1894, Dr. Henry H. Holmes was arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, ending his murderous reign.

Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, left, and Dr. Henry H. Holmes, right.

Arthur Conan Doyle Versus the Evil Dr. Holmes: The Mystery Tour.

The Author: On September 23rd, Arthur Conan Doyle left England aboard the steamship Elbe, setting off to begin a lecture tour of twelve states, Washington, DC and Ontario, Canada.

The Killer: In early September, Dr. Henry H. Holmes killed his assistant Benjamin Pitezel. On September 27th, Holmes pocketed the life insurance money. As part of his plan to kill the rest of the family, Holmes collected three of the Pitezel children, Alice fourteen years old, Nellie, eleven, and Howard, eight, and began hopping from city to city in eight states and Ontario, Canada. 

The exploits of Dr. Holmes were at this time unknown to the world at large, the concordance between their journeys is coincidental.

Although Dr. Holmes had the jump on the author, they would wind up in the same city at the end of Holmes' career.

Cincinnati, Ohio. September 28th - 29th. Dr. Holmes and the Pitezel children arrive from St. Louis. Alice Pitezel wrote to her mother, calling Cincinnati a dirty town. Holmes never mailed her letters.
Indianapolis, Indiana. September 30th - October 10th. Dr. Holmes takes the Pitezel children to Indianapolis for an extended stay. Perhaps he is hesitant to kill them, perhaps he is trying to lure the mother there to kill them all.

New York City, New York. October 2nd - 7th. Dr. Conan Doyle arrives in Manhattan and settles in, meeting with the prominent citizens of the metropolis. The author would later state in an interview, "I'm sorry to say I was disappointed in the general aspect of New York City."

Hudson Valley and the Ticonderoga, New York. October 7th through 9th. Dr. Conan Doyle visits the wilderness and gets in some hunting.

New York City, New York. October 10th. Dr. Conan Doyle delivers a lecture.

Irvington, Indiana. outside Indianapolis, October 10th. Dr. Holmes kills eight-year-old Howard Pitezel. Alice, unaware of her brother's fate, writes home, saying, "Howard is not with us now."

Chicago, Illinois. October 12th. Dr. Conan Doyle delivers a lecture in the city most associated with Holmes and his murders. The author would later describe Chicago as ". . .that city like a half-grown boy, always outgrowing his clothes . . ."

Detroit, Michigan. October 12th - 17th. Dr. Holmes arrives in Detroit with the two Pitezel children. He tries to lure Mrs. Pitezel to a house to kill her but is unsuccessful.

Indianapolis, Indiana. October 15th. Dr. Conan Doyle gives a lecture, missing Holmes by five days. In a later interview, the author would describe Indianapolis as his second favorite city in the United States, after Philadelphia.

Cincinnati, Ohio. October 16th. Dr. Conan Doyle gives a lecture.

Chicago, Illinois. October 18th. Dr. Conan Doyle returns for a day's stay.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada. October 18th through the 25th. Holmes and the two remaining Pitezel children in his charge stay for a week. 

Toledo, Ohio. October 19th. Dr. Conan Doyle gives a lecture.

Detroit, Michigan. October 20th. Dr. Conan Doyle arrives in Detroit, missing Holmes' stay by two days.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. October 25th. Dr. Conan Doyle delivers a lecture.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada. October 25th. Holmes kills Alice and Nellie .

Prescott, Ontario, Canada. October 26th. Holmes travels with one of his three wives to this town which borders New York.

Chicago, Illinois. October 26th. Dr. Conan Doyle returns for another lecture.

Ogdensburg, New York. October 27th. Holmes crosses over the St. Lawrence River to New York.

Brooklyn, New York.
October 29th. Dr. Conan Doyle returns east for another lecture. At this time, Brooklyn is a separate entity from New York City and the fourth largest city in the United States.

Northampton, Massachusetts. October 30th. Dr. Conan Doyle delivers a lecture.

Burlington, Vermont. October 31st. On Halloween, Dr. Holmes takes up residence in the city where he first attended medical school. Now both Holmes and Conan Doyle are in New England.

Boston, Massachusetts. October 31st. Dr. Conan Doyle lays a wreath at the grave of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Worcester, Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, Norwich, Connecticut. November 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Dr. Conan Doyle delivers lectures in mid-sized towns.

Burlington, Vermont. November 5th. Holmes borrows money from his third wife and departs for home in New Hampshire to meet with his first wife.

Washington, DC and Baltimore. November 5th and 6th. Dr. Conan Doyle bounces between these two cities delivering lectures and sightseeing.

Gilmanton, New Hampshire. November 5th to November 16th. Holmes visits his family bringing them money. He does not know that insurance detectives have followed him here.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. November 8th and 10th and 15th. Dr. Conan Doyle visited Philadelphia three times. He would describe it as "the finest city in America." In a few days, Dr. Holmes would be in prison there.

New York City, New York. November 12th, 13th, and 16th. Over the course of the week, Dr. Conan Doyle would lecture in Manhattan, Yonkers, New Rochelle and New Jersey.

Boston, Massachusetts. November 17th. Holmes is arrested. Considering all of his crimes, it is remarkable that he is charged on an outstanding warrant for swindling on a cattle deal.

Boston, Massachusetts. November 19th. Holmes makes his first confession but says Benjamin Pitezel is alive and that a recently exhumed body was set in his place to get the life insurance.

Boston, Massachusetts. November 19th-20th. Dr. Conan Doyle visits Boston for the final time on this tour. He shares newspaper space with the newly captured, Dr. Henry H. Holmes, whose crimes are just beginning to be revealed.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. November 20th. Holmes and Mrs. Pitezel are taken to Philadelphia on the charges of insurance fraud. Holmes would spend the rest of his life in Philadelphia ending in his execution.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. December 6th. Mrs. Pitezel confesses to her part in the insurance scam and implicates Dr. Holmes. She believes her husband is alive. Mrs. Pitezel would be set free when it is discovered that Holmes had murdered four of her family.

The remainder of Dr. Conan Doyle's tour would take him to mid-size and small cities in New York, Vermont, New Jersey, and to Toronto, Canada and Niagara Falls. Years later Conan Doyle would comment that Sherlock Holmes should have been killed at Niagara Falls, not Reichenbach.

New York City. December 8th. Dr. Conan Doyle heads off to England aboard the steamship Etruria. Perhaps as a reference to Dr. Henry Holmes, in "The Case of the Retired Colourman," Conan Doyle had a murderer who locked his victims in a vault and gassed them. 


The Holmes-Pitezel case; a history of the greatest crime of the century and of the search for the missing Pitezel children by Frank P. Geyer, Publishers Union, Philadelphia, 1896.

Welcome to America, Mr. Sherlock Holmes: Victorian America Meets Arthur Conan Doyle by Christopher Redmond, Simon & Pierre Publishers, 1987.

Additional quotes from newspapers of the time.

Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my thriller, A Predator's Game.

A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook editions through Amazon and other online retailers.

A Predator's Game, now available, Rook's Page Publishing.


Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, features Nikola Tesla as detective.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Twenty-Seven Murders of Henry H Holmes, Part Four

The Twentieth and Twenty-First Victims.

This is the final chapter in my critical evaluation of Holmes and his victims.

    "The Williams sisters come next. .... I first met Miss Minnie R. Williams in New York in 1888, where she knew me as Edward Hatch .... Early in 1893 I was again introduced to her as H. H. Holmes in the office of Campbell & Dowd. of Chicago, to whom she had applied for them to secure her a position as a stenographer. Soon after entering my employ I induced her to give me $2500 in money and to transfer to me by deed $50,000 worth of Southern real estate and a little later to live with me as my wife .... I also learned that she had as sister Nannie in Texas who was an heir to some property and induced Miss Minnie Williams to have her [sister] come to Chicago upon a visit. Upon her arrival I met her at the depot and took her to the Castle .... It was an easy matter to force her to assign to me all she possessed. After that she was immediately killed in order that no one in or about the Castle should know of her having been there save the man who burned her clothing. It was the foot-print of Nannie Williams, as later demonstrated by that most astute lawyer and detective, Mr. Copps, of Fort Worth, that was found upon the painted surface of the vault door made during her violent struggles before her death. [snip] I took Minnie] eight miles east of Momence [Illinois] upon a freight line that is little used, and ended her life with poison and buried her body in the basement of the houseb."

    Holmes had a high turnover rate among secretaries. He killed them. Having known Minnie Williams for years, in March, 1893 he acquired her services as a stenographer. She was an orphaned child raised by a rich uncle in Fort Worth, Texas. Her younger sister, Anna "Nannie" Williams grew up in Mississippi and became a school teacher in Texas.

    Holmes wooed and quickly married Minnie Williams in a private ceremony with just the two newlyweds and the preacher — who may not have been a preacher. The marriage was never registered29; the ceremony was probably intended to induce Minnie to sign over her properties. With another wife living closeby, Holmes moved Minnie into a house away from the Castle.

    Perhaps concerned about all of the letters Minnie wrote to her sister, Holmes asked Minnie to invite Nannie to come visit. In contrast to Holmes's confession, when Nannie arrived, he treated the two sisters to a tour of the Columbian Exposition. Holmes is believed to have killed Nannie in his vault on or about July 5th, 1893.

    What happened to Minnie is uncertain. Holmes confessed to killing her and burying her in the small town of Momence south of Chicago. There are several indications that she lived for several more months, presumably unaware of the fate of her sister.

     In his explanation for Nannie's disappearance in Holmes' Own Story, he offered up his most brazen act of chutzpah. He claimed Nannie became enamored by the irresistible Holmes and Minnie killed her in a fit of jealousy. Afterwards Minnie suffered a series of nervous breakdowns and institutionalizations. Holmes claimed she later took the Pitezel children [victims twenty-five through twenty-seven] and headed off for London to start a massage establishment with Edward Hatch.

Summary: Victims Twenty and Twenty-One
Minnie and Nannie Williams
Secretary and her sister
Motive: Money.
Method: Locked in vault and suffocated. Poisoned.
Site: Holmes Castle. Possibly Monence, Illinois.
Time: approximately July 5th, 1893 and unspecified time, early 1894.
Confirmation of murder: Generally accepted as being among those Holmes killed.

Minnie and Nannie Williams
Minnie and Nannie (Annie) Williams
Hopkinsville Kentuckian, August 27, 1895

Victim Twenty-Two.
    "A man who came to Chicago to attend the Chicago Exposition, but whose name I cannot recall, was my next victim. ... I determined to use this man in my various business dealings, and did so for a time, until I found he had not the ability I had at first thoughthe possessed, and I therefore decided to kill him. This was done, but as I had not had any dealings with the "stiff" dealer for some time previous to this murder, I decided to bury the body in the basement of the house that I formerly owned near the corner of Seventy-fourth and Honore streets, in Chicago, where, by digging deeply in the sandy soil, the body will be foundb."

    The Chicago Exposition, more properly "The World's Columbian Exposition," closed on October 30, 1893, giving an anchoring point for the timeline of this story. Although Holmes provided some additional details on how to find the man's name, no such victim was ever identified and his body was not unearthed.

 Summary: Victim Twenty-Two
Castle guest.
Motive: Did not have money.
Method: Unspecified.
Site: Holmes Castle.
Time: During the Chicago Exposition. May to October, 1893.
Confirmation of murder: none.

Victim Twenty-Three.

    "After Miss Williams' death I found among her papers an insurance policy made in her favor by her brother, Baldwin Williams, of Leadville, Col. I therefore went to that city early in 1894, and, having found him; took his life by shooting him, it being believed I had done so in self-defense. A little later, when the assignment of the policy to which I had forged Miss Williams' name was presented to John M. Maxwell, of Leadville, the administrator of the Williams estate, it was honored and the money paidb."

    In Holmes' Own Story, he ascribes the death of the Williams brother to a train accident taking place before Minnie came to work for him. Holmes quotes Minnie as telling him, "At about that time my brother, whom I had never seen much of, was killed, or rather died, as the result of a railroad accident at Leadville, Colorado...a"

    A Baldwin H. Williams of Leadville, Colorado died in early 1893.

    "Estate of Baldwin H. Williams, Deceased. The undersigned, having been appointed administrator of the estate of Baldwin H. Williams, late of the county of Lake and the state of Colorado, deceased, hereby gives notice that he will appear before the county court of Lake County at the court house in Leadville, at the January term, on the third Monday in February next being the 20th day of February, A.D. 1893, at which time all persons having claims against said estate are notified and requested to attend for the purpose of having the same adjusted. All person indebted to said estate are requested to make immediate payment to the undersigned,
Dated this 17th day of January, A.D., 1893, John M. Max[?]e[?]l, Administrator30."
    In the newspaper notice, no cause of death is given. This death took place before Holmes hired Minnie Williams supporting Holmes non-confessional version of the story. Holmes did have the detail of estate administrator correct.

    What can be made of this? Holmes had known Minnie Williams for years including when she lived in Boston and Denver. Immediately before she moved to Chicago, she lived in Denver. Perhaps the death of her brother gave her the impetus to move on. Perhaps Holmes visited her there and helped settle her brother's estate. Or perhaps he remembered details of this from what he had later told her.

Summary: Victim Twenty-Three
Baldwin H. Williams
Motive: Money.
Method: Shooting.
Site: Leadville, Colorado.
Time: 1894? 1893?
Confirmation of murder: None. A man by this name did die a year earlier than mentioned.

Leaving Chicago.

    On January 4, 1894 in Denver, Colorado, Holmes married Georgiana Yoke31. She remained in rapturous ignorance of his three other wives and his myriad schemes. She would defend him and when necessary, bail him out. Together they headed to Fort Worth, Texas where Holmes attempted to collect on the estate of Minnie Williams. Once there, intent on starting a franchise, Holmes initiated the construction of a new murder castle. He found a new accomplice, John C. Allen, alias "Mascot." They tried their hands at a horse swindle which ended in St. Louis where Holmes was jailed. While incarcerated he concocted a plan to kill off an old associate for the insurance money.

Victims Twenty-Four through Twenty-Seven: The Pitezel family.

Benjamin Frelan Pitezel
Benjamin Frelan Pitezel

    "Benjamin F. Pitezel comes next. .... It will be understood that from the first hour of our acquaintance, even before I knew he had a family who would later afford me additional victims for the gratification of my blood-thirstiness, I intended to kill him...b"

    Holmes was convicted and executed for just one murder: that of Benjamin Frelan Pitezel. Holmes insured Pitezel for $10,000 and set him up in a storefront in Philadelphia where he offered to buy inventions. Holmes told Pitezel he would fake a disfiguring accident, provide a substitute corpse and they would split the proceeds from the insurance fraud. On September 2, 1894, Holmes got his long-time friend drunk. Once he had passed out on the floor...

    "Only one difficulty presented itself. It was necessary, for me to kill him in such a manner that no struggle or movement of his body should occur, otherwise his clothing being in any way displaced it would have been impossible to again put them in a normal condition. I overcame this difficulty by first binding him hand and foot and having done — I proceeded to burn him alive by saturating his clothing and his face with benzene and igniting it with a matchb."

    In Holmes' Own Story, he maintained that Pitezel's death was suicide. The suicide note, which, naturally Holmes had to destroy, asked him to stage the death as part of a crime scene. "He wished me to so arrange his body in one of two ways that it would appear that his death had been either accidental or that he had been attacked by burglars and killed, giving the details of how I was to carry our either course: First, that his family should not at present know of his death; second, that the children should never know he had committed suicide...a"

    If nothing else, Holmes' Own Story was inventive for its range of explanations behind the disappearance of so many: one staged his death for insurance, one ran off to get married, they killed each other, suicide, accidents, they were still alive (sometimes true)...

    With his associate dead, Holmes headed back west to undertake the steps involved in collecting the insurance. Benjamin's wife, Carrie Pitezel, knew of the scheme and believed the corpse to be a substitute. The five Pitezel children believed their father dead. Holmes couldn't bring Carrie to Philadelphia to identify the body — she would see who it really was. So, instead, Holmes instead brought fifteen-year-old Alice to identify her father's body. On September 20th, she wrote to her mother.

"Just arrived Philadelphia this morning ... I am going to the Morgue after awhile ... Have you gotten 4 letters from me besides this?32

Holmes intercepted and never mailed any of her letters, stashing them in a tin box. 

    On September 27th, Holmes received the insurance money. He told Carrie that, with her husband still alive, they were to take separate paths and later meet up with him. With Holmes having long been a family friend, a virtual uncle to the children, he convinced Carrie to let him transport three of her children.

Howard Pitezel Nellie Pitezel Alice Pitezel
Howard, Nellie and Alice Pitezel

Howard, Nellie and Alice Pitezel.

    Holmes saved his greatest act of sadism for his last three victims. Their murders seemed without motive, a cruelty beyond fathoming. It left no doubt Holmes could not be romanticized as an anti-hero or be pitied as some pathetic creature.

    With the insurance money in hand, Holmes began to hopscotch between cities with three of the Pitezel children in tow. He ordered them to stay in the hotels, indoors. They were cold. Alice wrote, begging, "Tell Mama that I have to have a coat33."

    Eight-year-old Howard Pitezel became the first to die.

    "I called at the Irvington [Indiana] drug store and purchased the drugs I needed to kill the boy ... I called him into the house and insisted that he go to bed at once first giving him the fatal dose of medicine. As soon as he had ceased to breathe I cut his body into pieces that would pass through the door of the stove and by the combined use of gas and corncobs proceeded to burn it with as little feeling as 'though it had been some inanimate objectb."

    Unaware of her brother's fate or what awaited the rest of them, Alice wrote home, saying, "Howard is not with us now34."

    In Holmes' Own Story, he tried to pass off the child's disappearance on the mysterious Edward Hatch, a name he invoked sixty-six times. "I met Hatch and Howard later upon the street. This was the last time I ever saw the boy Howard...a"

    The detectives were not impressed. Holmes complained, "They at once branded my statements concerning Hatch as untrue, and said that he was a mythical person, asking me to name any one who had ever seen him...a"

    Now with only Nellie and Alice Pitezel in his charge, Holmes continued to move from town to town. In Detroit with the two girls stashed in a hotel, he met up Carrie Pitezel and her other two children. He planted explosives to kill them but was unsuccessfulb.

    He transported the children to Toronto where, on October 25th, he enticed the Pitezel girls to climb inside a trunk where he locked them in. "[After] 8:00 P.M. I again returned to the house where the children were imprisoned, and ended their lives by connecting the gas with the trunk, then came the opening of the trunk and the viewing of their little blackened and distorted faces, then the digging of their shallow graves in the basement of the house, the ruthless stripping off of their clothing and the burial without a particle of covering save the cold earth, which I heaped upon them with fiendish delightb."

    In Holmes' Own Story, he claimed the Pitezel girls went off with the still-living Minnie Williams and the never-seen Edward Hatch, headed to London where they would use the insurance money to open a massage parlor him...a."

    Why kill the Pitezel children? Perhaps the telling clue comes in the fact he tried to kill Carrie Pitezel and the remainder of the family. With Benjamin Pitezel's death being real, he feared Carrie would soon realize he had arranged the murder. She and the children were witnesses.

Letter, Alice Pitezel to her grandparents Second page
Letter of Alice Pitezel to her grandparents, October 14, 1894

Summary: Victim Twenty-Four
Benjamin Frelan Pitezel Long-time associate Motive: Money. Method: Burned alive. Site: 1316 Callowhill Street in Philadelphia. Time: September 2nd, 1894 Confirmation of murder: well-documented.

Summary: Victims Twenty-Five through Twenty-Seven  
Howard, Alice and Nellie Pitezel Friends of the family  
Motive: Witnesses?  
Method: Howard, poisoned. Alice and Nellie locked in a trunk and gassed.  
Site: Howard, Irvington, outside Indianapolis, Indiana. Alice and Nellie in Toronto.  
Time: Howard, October 5, 1894; Alice and Nellie: October 25, 1894.  
Confirmation of murder: well-documented.

End of the Line.

     In order to secure the Pitezel insurance money, Holmes needed a crooked lawyer. To find a crooked lawyer, he asked the notorious train-robber, Marion Hedgepeth. Hedgepeth turned in Holmes, telling the authorities and the insurance company about the swindle.

    On November 17, 1894, Holmes was arrested in Boston. While on a train being transported to custody, he tried to bribe his way free.

    "I'm a hypnotizer. If you let me hypnotize you so that we can escape, I'll give you $500."

    "Hypnotism," [responded Detective Crawford], "always spoils my appetite35."

    While insurance scams were common enough, Holmes, with his multiple wives, proved to be a particularly salacious scandal. His story made national headlines. Holmes tried to account for his polygamy. "He explained that when he left New Hampshire he went west and while traveling there he had his skull fractured and was robbed of his gold watch and considerable money in a railroad accident. In the hospital he was given the name of H.H. Holmes and went out never knowing he had any other. During the year [sic] of his mental trouble he married a western woman and by her had one child36."

    Holmes was imprisoned, charged with insurance fraud. Even within a week, newspapers began speculating he was responsible for at least six murders: the Williams sisters and the Pitezels.

Holmes vs. Holmes.

    On June 3, 1895 Holmes pled guilty to insurance fraud and received a mild sentence. With his national notoriety, the Chicago police began searching the Castle, uncovering blood and bones. Frank Geyer, a Philadelphia detective, embarked on a hunt to track down the location of the three missing Pitezel children, fearing they had been abandoned somewhere. His methodical investigation was broadcast day by day across American newspapers. Geyer became known as the American Sherlock Holmes. On July 15th, he discovered the bodies of the Pitezel girls. On August 27th, he discovered Howard Pitezel.

    Although generally acknowledged as having killed a dozen more, perhaps scores of victims37, in late October 1895, Holmes was tried only for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. For part of the proceedings he acted as his own lawyer. He lost.

    On May 9th, 1896, while walking to the gallows in the courtyard of Moyamensing Prison, Holmes made one last confession, again rewriting his story.

    "Gentlemen, I have very few words to say. In fact, I would make no remarks at this time were it not that by not speaking I should acquiesce in my execution. I only wish to say that the extent of my wrong-doing in the taking of human life consists of contriving the killing of two women that have died at my hands as a result of criminal operations. I wish to also state, so that there can be no chance of misunderstanding my words hereafter, that I am not guilty of taking the life of any of the three Pitezel children, or the man for whose death I was convicted, and for whose death I am now to be hanged. That is all I have to say38."

    The phrase "criminal operations" has been interpreted as abortions, although, in his confession to the murder of Anna Betz, "operation" could also have meant "criminal venture."

    At 10:13 a.m., H.H. Holmes was hung. He took fifteen minutes to die.

Frank Geyer, detective
Frank Geyer, Philadelphia detective.
The more bad-ass mustache always wins.

Holmes' grave

    Shortly before his execution, Dr. Holmes had converted to Catholicism. In this age, many sins, even divorce, could exclude a Catholic from a church burial. Oddly, he was buried on consecrated ground in the Holy Cross Cemetery, south of Philadelphia. (Holmes never divorced.) Fr. Henry McPake presided over the service. To ensure no one would dig up his grave, he had his coffin filled with cement and set beneath a one ton block of cement. "The remains of Holmes were pronounced safe from grave robbers for all time39." His grave is unmarked. 

    Seventeen months after Holmes' death, the thirty year-old Father McPake died under mysterious circumstances40.

References, Notes and Citations
a. Holmes' Own Story in which the Alleged Multi Murderer and Arch Conspirator Tells of The Twenty-Two Tragic Deaths and Disappearances In which He is Said to be Implicated. Philadelphia. Burk & McFetridge Co. 1895.
b. Holmes Confesses 27 Murders. The Most Awful Story of Modern Times Told by the Fiend in Human Shape. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, April 12, 1896. Copyright 1896 by WR Hearst and James Elverson, Jr.


30. Administrator's Notices. Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle. February 6, 1893, Page 4.

31. Holmes married Georgiana Yoke using the name Henry Mansfield Howard. Using a variety of names was one means Holmes employed to keep his wives from learning about one another. From Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer. Schechter, H. Copyright 1994. New York: Pocket Books. Page 77.

32. Letter, Alice Pitezel, dated September 20, 1894 as presented in The Holmes-Pitezel Case. A History of the Greatest Crime of the Century and of the Search for the Missing Pitezel Children by Detective Frank P. Geyer of the Bureau of Police, Department of Public Safety, of the City of Philadelphia. A True Detective Story. Publishers' Union copyright 1896, p. 353.

33. Letter, Alice Pitezel, dated October 14, 1894, ibid, pages 264-5.

34. Ibid.

35. Part of His Life. The Now Famous Mudgett Tells of His Crimes. Evansville Courier, November 21, 1894.

36. Mudgett's Early Life. Wilkes-Barre Times, November 21, 1894.

37. With his murderous bent, an abundance of opportunity and his complete unreliability in recounting his story the question of the true number of Holmes' victims remains open. Holmes combined a variety of methods popular among serial killers: he was a "Bluebeard," a poisoner, and killed for profit. The newspaper accounts named many more missing who were not mentioned in Holmes' confession.

38. Holmes Cool to the End. Under the Noose He Says He Only Killed Two Women. New York Times, May 8, 1896.

39. Holmes in a Ton of Cement; The Murderer's Body Buried. New York Times, May 9, 1896. 

40. MacPake in the above New York Times article, McPake most everywhere else. Large Rewards Freely Offered Strenuous Efforts to Solve the Mystery of Father Mcpake's Death. Philadelphia Inquirer Friday, November 12, 1897.

A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook editions through Amazon and other online retailers.

A Predator's Game, now available, Rook's Page Publishing.

Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my thriller, A Predator's Game.

Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, will be available from Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016. It features Nikola Tesla as detective.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Twenty Seven Murders of Henry H. Holmes, Part Three

Part Three of Four. Continuing in my effort to compare Holmes's confessions of whom he murdered with the facts and newspaper reports of the time.

The Twelfth Victim.

    "The victim was a very beautiful young woman named Rosine Van Jassand, [other newspapers referred to the victim in this section as Anna Van Tassaud. The description matches a missing person named Emily Van Tassel] whom I induced to come into my fruit and confectionery store, and, once within my power, I compelled her to live with me there for a time, threatening her with death if she appeared before any of my customers. A little later I killed her by administering ferro-cyanide of potassium. The location of this store was such that it would have been hazardous to have sent out a large box containing a body, and I therefore buried her remains in the store basement...b"

    Sixteen-year-old Emily Van Tassel worked at Wilde's at 1151 Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, near Holmes's Glass Bending Factory. According to her mother she met with Holmes on four occasions, the first being a family outing for ice cream. She disappeared on June 1, 1892. Frank Wilde was alleged to be an alias of Holmes or else Benjamin Pitezel.

    On April 17, 1896, after Holmes's confession, a portion of the basement of the store was excavated. No human bones were found.

    Perhaps one reason Holmes maintains his legendary status is that he is responsible for at least one of each sort of crime that stirs up the imagination: Killing the young woman in the confectionary shop, the maid, the bride-to-be, the waif, the trusting associate, the innocent child . . .

Summary: Victim Twelve

Emily Van Tassel
Employee at a candy shop.
Motive: Unspecified.
Method: Poisoned.
Site: At the confectionary store.
Time: Approximately June 1, 1892
Confirmation of murder: Strongly suspected.
Emily Van Tassel

 The Thirteenth Victim.

    "Robert Latimer, a man who had for some years been in my employ as janitor, was my next victim. Several years previous, before I had ever taken human life, he had known of certain insurance work I had engaged in, and when, in after years, he sought to extort money from me, his own death and the sale of his body was the recompense meted out to him. I confined him within the Secret Room and slowly staved him to death. Of this room and its secret gas supply and muffled windows and doors, sufficient has already been printed. Finally, needing its use for another purpose and because his pleadings had become almost unbearable, I ended his life. The partial excavation in the walls of this room found by the police was caused by Latimer's endeavoring to escape by tearing away the solid brick and mortar with his unaided fingersb."

    Robert Latimer was among those victims claimed to still be alive25. The Chicago Daily Inter Ocean contended the authorities had encountered someone else by that name, a Robert Latimer who worked as a flagman at a nearby railroad crossing26. In Holmes' Own Story, he included Latimer among those still living.

Summary: Victim Thirteen

Robert Latimer Janitor at Castle.  
Motive: Revenge for Attempted Blackmail.  
Method: Starvation. Gas?  
Site: At the Holmes Castle in the Secret Room.  
Time: Unspecified. Confirmation of murder: Unconfirmed

The Fourteenth Victim.

    "The fourteenth case is that of Miss Anna Betts, and was caused by my purposely substituting a poisonous drug in a prescription that had been sent to my drug store to be compounded, believing that it was known that I was a physician, I should be called in to witness her death, as she lived very near the store. This was not the case, however, as the regular physician was in attendance at the time. The prescription, still on file at the Castle Drug Store, should be considered by the authorities if they still are inclined to attribute this death to causes that reflect upon Miss Betts' moral characterb."

    On February 8th, 1892, twenty-four-year-old Virginia Anna Betts died suddenly in her home, one block from the Holmes Castle. Her death certificate is presented in Adam Selzer's Three Confessions of HH Holmes26. Cause of death is listed as apoplexy with the complication of heart disease which had lasted for four days. The only hint of a motive given by Holmes is wanting to see her die.

    In Holmes' Own Story he says he was accused of killing Betts to cancel a debt owed to an unnamed Chicago businessman. Holmes denied this saying the debt had already been settleda.

    This story is reminiscent of the unspecified victim in Philadelphia poisoned before Holmes moved to Chicago. If Holmes did regularly poison select individuals through his pharmacy, his death toll could be greater than previously realized.

Summary: Victim Fourteen

Anna Betts
Client at the pharmacy.
Motive: To see her die? To cancel a debt?
Method: Poisoning.
Site: At her home near The Castle.
Time: February 8, 1892
Confirmation of murder: Probable.

Prodigy in Crime
Headline, Rock Island Argus,
List of His Murders Lengthens
July 28, 1895

The Fifteenth Victim.

    "The death of Miss Gertrude Conner, of Muscatine, Iowa, though not the next in order of occurrence, is so similar to the last that a description of one suffices for both, save in this case Miss Conner left Chicago immediately, but did not die until she had reached her home at Muscatineb."

    Twenty-two-year-old Gertrude Conner was the sister-in-law of victim Julia Conner. Her brother Ned introduced her to Holmes who employed her as a secretary. Ned claimed Holmes was making passes at her which she didn't appreciate. Ned also accused Holmes of "ruining her" and said that she died just 48 hours after returning home.

    In a letter to the editor of Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, Gertrude's father, Chandler R. Conner, wrote from Muscatine, Iowa. He asked several errors in their newspaper's story to be corrected. Gertie Conner worked for Holmes for only three weeks. She was escorted home by her brother. She did not die soon after returning, but, rather seven weeks later. He finishes, "You also state that her brother discovered that Holmes had ruined her and gave medicine which caused her death. It can be proved that no man ruined her and that her death was caused by neuralgia of the heart and not by any medicine27."

    Interestingly, Holmes links this case with the previous one, both being poisonings, both deaths in the victims' homes. Is it possible that Holmes compounded a pill or drew up a potion which she did not take until much later? A lot of young ladies died around Holmes before their times.

Summary: Victim Fifteen

Eva Gertrud Conner
Associate, relative of victim.
Motive: Jealousy?
Method: Poisoning.
Site: At her home near The Castle.
Time: July 18, 1892
Confirmation of murder: Timing makes it unlikely but possible.

Survivors, Myths and Anonymous Folk

    The next four alleged victims included two who outlived Holmes, along with two with insufficient information to prove or disprove their murders.

The Sixteenth Victim.

    "The sixteenth murder is that of Miss Kate Gorky [Note: the description refers to Kate Durkee], of Omaha, a young woman owning much valuable real estate in Chicago, where I acted as her agent. ... I caused Miss Kate Gorky to believe that a favorable opportunity had come for her to convert her holdings into cash, and, having accomplished this for her, she came to Chicago and I paid her the money, taking a receipt in full for same, and thus protected myself in the event of an inquiry at a later date. I asked her to look about my offices and finally to look within the vault, and, having once passed that fatal door, she never came forth alive. She did not die at once, however, and her anger when first she realized that she was deprived of her liberty, then her offer of the entire forty thousand dollar in exchange for same and finally her prayers are something terrible to rememberb."

    Kate Durkee of Omaha engaged in a number of business dealings with Holmes. After learning that she was counted among Holmes victims, she declared, "I was never killed by Holmes or anyone else28."

     In this case Holmes' Own Story was correct. "Miss Kate Dunkee [sic] [is] acknowledged by the Philadelphia authorities to be alivea."

Summary: Victim Sixteen

Kate Durkee
Business associate
Motive: Money.
Method: Locked in the vault. Suffocation.
Site: Holmes Castle.
Time: unspecified
Confirmation of murder: Victim still living.

The Seventeenth Victim.

    "The next death was that of a man named Warner, the originator of the Warner Glass Bending Company, and here again a very large sum or money was realized, which prior to his death had been deposited in two Chicago banks, nearly all of which I secured by means of two checks, made out and properly signed by him for a small sum each. To these I later added the word thousand. ... It will be remembered that the remains of a large kiln made of fire brick was found in the Castle basement. It had been built under Mr. Warner's supervision for the purpose of exhibiting his patents. It was so arranged that in less than a minute after turning on a jet of crude oil atomized with steam the entire kiln would be filled with a colorless flame, so intensely hot iron would be melted therein. It was into this kiln that I induced Mr. Warner to go with me, under pretense of wishing certain minute explanations of the process, and then stepping outside, as he believed to get some tools. I closed the door and turned on both the oil and steam to their full extent. In a short time not even the bones of my victim remainedb."

    The story, so reminiscent of Poe, alas, was not true. While Warner did start the Warner Glass Bending Company which some suspected Holmes used as a crematorium, Warner was still alive at the time of confession. He had become a traveling novelty salesman.

Summary: Victim Seventeen

L. Warner
Business associate
Motive: Money.
Method: Burned alive in the basement kiln.
Site: Holmes Castle.
Time: unspecified
Confirmation of murder: Victim still living.

The Eighteenth Victim.

   "In 1891 I associated myself in business with a young Englishman ... it became necessary to at once raise a large sum and this was done by my partner enticing to Chicago a wealthy banker named Rodgers from a North Wisconsin town in such a manner that he could have left no intelligence with whom his business was to be. To cause him to go to the Castle and within the secret room under the pretense that our patents were there was easily brought about, more so than to force him to sign checks and drafts for seventy thousand dollars, which we had prepared. At first he refused to do so, stating that his liberty that we offered him in exchange would be useless to him without his money, that he was too old to again hope to make another fortune; finally by alternately starving him and nauseating him with the gas he was made to sign the securities. ... I would only consent to this [the killing] upon the condition that he [the Englishman] should administer the chloroform, and leave me to dispose or the body as my part or the workb."

    In this account Holmes introduces yet another accomplice, an unnamed Englishman who did the actual killing. The Englishman was never sought primarily because this story was not believed. No evidence supported it and there were no disappearances of wealthy men from North Wisconsin towns.

    Holmes seemed to have had a stammering problem in regards to the name, "Rodgers." Along with victim eighteen, victim number five, the West Virginia man, went by the single name of Rodgers. In Holmes' Own Story when he needed to prove [twenty-fourth victim] Benjamin Pitezel was suicidal, Holmes noted: "...he had made an effort to take his life at the hotel of Henry Rodgers, at Perkinsville, Alaa."

    When Holmes tried to prove the two Pitezel daughters [victims twenty six and twenty seven] were still alive during a crucial time period, he stated, "Mr. Rodgers has several times stated that this occurred quite early before working hoursa."

Mr. Rogers
Mr. Rogers - not a victim

Summary Victim Eighteen.

Business associate
Motive: Money.
Method: By chloroform.
Site: Holmes Castle.
Time: unspecified
Confirmation of murder: unconfirmed and highly suspect.

The Nineteenth Victim.

    "The nineteenth case is that of a woman, whose name has passed from my memory, who came to the Castle restaurant to board. A tenant of mine at the time immediately became very much infatuated with the woman, who he learned was a widow and wealthy. This tenant was married, and his wife occasionally came to the restaurant when this boarder was there, which did not tend to decrease a family with disruption. Finally he came to me for advice, and I was very willing to have him in my power in order that I could later use him in my work if need be. I suggested that he live with the woman in the Castle for a time, and later, if his life became unpleasant to him, we would kill her and divide her wealth. Soon, he suggested it was time to take his companion's life. This was done by my administering chloroform while he controlled her violent struggles. It was the body of this woman within the long coffin-shaped box that was taken from the Castle late in 1893, of which the police were notifiedb."

    Not enough information is given to confirm or deny these events. The incident regarding the coffin-shaped box had not been otherwise noted.

Summary: Victim Nineteen

Anonymous female
Motive: To gain control over accomplice.
Method: By chloroform.
Site: Holmes Castle.
Time: late 1893.
Confirmation of murder: insufficient information to confirm or refute.

The End Game.

    The remaining eight alleged victims consist of three from the Williams family, one anonymous, and four from the Pitezel family. After the murder of his next two victims, Holmes was on the road, marrying again, in and out of jail, and always scheming to get more money.

Continued in Part Four, The Last Chapter.

References, Notes and Citations

a. Holmes' Own Story in which the Alleged Multi Murderer and Arch Conspirator Tells of The Twenty-Two Tragic Deaths and Disappearances In which He is Said to be Implicated. Philadelphia. Burk & McFetridge Co. 1895.

b. Holmes Confesses 27 Murders. The Most Awful Story of Modern Times Told by the Fiend in Human Shape. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, April 12, 1896. Copyright 1896 by WR Hearst and James Elverson, Jr.

25. Holmes List of Victims. Rock Island Argus, April 14, 1896.

26. Among Illinois papers, the Chicago Daily Inter Ocean printed the confession. While rival newspapers assailed the credibility of the confession, the Daily Inter Ocean defended it. The April 15, 1896 headline read: Envious Rivals Attack Holmes Confession. [We] Cannot Find a Flaw.

27. Miss Gertie Conner's Death. Neuralgia of the Heart Was the Cause of Her Demise. Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, July 22, 1895.

28. Alive and Kicking. Miss Kate Durkee Nails One of Holmes' Lies. The Wichita Daily Eagle, April 15, 1896, Page 2. Originally alleged to be a victim, by the time of Holmes confession, Kate Durkee's murder had long since been refuted. The Chicago Daily Inter Ocean would have been aware of this and in this section, they ran Holmes' confession naming only Kate --- of Omaha. The next day, their paper defended the confession saying it never claimed Kate Durkee was dead.

Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my  thriller, A Predator's Game, Rook's Page Publishing.

A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook editions through Amazon and other online retailers.

A Predator's Game, now available, Rook's Page Publishing.

Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, will be available from Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016. It features Nikola Tesla as detective.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Twenty Seven Murders of Henry H. Holmes, Part Two

On The Road and a Mysterious Death and Disappearance

    In May 1886, Holmes headed to Philadelphia. He first found employment at the newly opened "State Lunatic Hospital at Norristown," still in operation today. How bad does a place have to be to spook even Holmes? "This was my first experience with insane persons, and so terrible was it that for years afterwards, even now sometimes, I see their faces in my sleepa."
    His job there was limited to a few days. He then found employment at a pharmacy on Columbia Street in Philadelphia. This didn't last long either. From Holmes' Own Story: "About July 1st, one afternoon, a child entered the store and exclaimed, 'I want a doctor! The medicine we got here this morning has killed my brother (or sister).' I could remember of no sale that morning corresponding to the one she hastily described, but I made sure that a physician was at once sent to the house, and having done this I hastily wrote a note to my employer, stating the nature of the trouble, and left the city immediately for Chicago, and it was not until nine years later that I knew the result of the casea."
    The nine years later would have been July, 1895, a time when many accusations about Holmes' past came to the fore. Here, we have the news that this incident rattled Holmes enough to get him to abandon his job on a moment's notice and rush off to Chicago. This is suggestive of guilt.
    In July, 1886, Holmes began working at Dr. E.S. Holton's drugstore at Wallace and Sixty-third in Englewood, IL, just outside the Chicago city limits. The story as presented in the papers of the time is that Dr. Holton was suffering from prostate cancer and would soon die. Holmes arranged to purchase the drugstore and then failed to pay to Mrs. Holton who, in turn, brought a lawsuit. She disappeared, with Holmes claiming she'd moved to California10.

    This story did not appear in Holmes' April 1896 confession. In a minor coup in investigation, Adam Selzer of Mysterious Chicago found that Dr. E.S. Holton did not die of prostate cancer. Dr. Elizabeth S. Holton was Mrs. Holton and she lived into the twentieth century.

    Regardless of the end of Dr. Holton, Holmes, now the owner of the pharmacy, settled in to the Chicago area which would be his home for the better part of eight years. On January 28, 1897, he married Myrta Belknap of Minneapolis, Minnesota11.

Jekyll and Hyde?
    In January of 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson published his famous novella about the good Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil alter-ego Edward Hyde. Herman Webster Mudgett first used the name Henry Howard Holmes when he applied for a pharmacy license in July, 188612. Did Dr. Mudgett derive the name Henry from the novel? Later, when Dr. Holmes needed a mysterious person to blame for some of his crimes, he invented "Edward Hatch."

    "Howard Pitezel [victim twenty-five] chose to go with Hatch...a" In his death row confession, Holmes admitted he was Hatch. "I first met [victim twenty-one] Miss Minnie R. Williams in New York in 1888, where she knew me as Edward Hatch...b"

(Whether there existed a confederate of Holmes, literally named Hatch, or else going by another name would make for a lengthy post all its own.)
    As for his surname, Dr. Henry H. Holmes and Sherlock Holmes came into existence about the same time. Sherlock Holmes first appeared in A Study in Scarlet, completed in May of 1886, although not published until November of 1887 and therefore too late for Mudgett to borrow this name.

    It's quite possible Mudgett and Conan Doyle chose the name from the same source. By the 1880s, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, author and professor of medicine was one of the most famous people in America and had a world-wide reputation. Oliver Wendell Holmes briefly taught anatomy and physiology at the medical school at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, a fact of which Mudgett would have been acutely aware.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes has been cited as the origin for the surname of Sherlock Holmes. "...the most likely source is Oliver Wendell Holmes, the American essayist, novelist, poet, physician and professor of anatomy, of whom Conan Doyle wrote in Through the Magic Door, 'Never have I so known and loved a man whom I had never seen13.'"

    In 1886, the year of the creation of Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Wendell Holmes traveled to Scotland to receive an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh. Arthur Conan Doyle received his medical degree from the institution a year earlier.

Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde 
 The Second Victim.

    Holmes declared, "My second victim was Dr. Russell, a tenant in the Chicago building recently renamed "The Castle." During a controversy concerning the non-payment of rent due me, I struck him to the floor with a heavy chair when he, with one cry for help, ending in a groan of anguish, ceased to breatheb." Holmes stated he then sold the body to be used as a laboratory skeleton.
    Supposedly taking place in "The Castle," this murder represents a jump of four years inasmuch as the building wasn't completed until mid-1890.
    In regards to this victim, I will again cite the author, Adam Selzer. He has written several treatises regarding the killer, including one examining the confessions14. Selzer presents various spellings from the contemporary papers, which refer to the victim as Dr. Thomas Russel, Russell, or Russler. The last of these names represented a tenant with an office in the Holmes' castle who according to 1895 news reports had disappeared in 1892. Selzer states he is inclined to believe that Holmes made a false confession and was referring to a Dr. Thomas Russell, in charge of a hospital in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1896, therefore not a victim.
    The commonality of the name helps to lend a murkiness to this matter. In a personal communication from his grandson, Dr. Thomas Russell of Grand Rapids, Minnesota did live in Chicago before moving north. He found the city too "rough.15"
    Further confusion arose when various contemporary news accounts claimed that Doctor Russell was either still living in or else could not be found in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Summary: Second Victim.
Dr. Russell
Motive: Non-payment of rent.
Method: Struck with chair.
Site: The Murder Castle.
Time: 1890?
Confirmation of murder: unconfirmed, unlikely.
The Murder Castle
The Murder Castle as presented in The Holmes-Pitezel Case, Frank Geyer, 1896

The Third and Fourth Victims
    "The victim was Mrs. Julia L. Conner. A reference to almost any newspaper of August, 1895, will give the minute details of the horrors of this case...b" Holmes goes on to say that the fourth death, the poisoning of the young child, Pearl Conner was carried out with the help of accomplices, an unspecified man and woman.

    In Holmes' Own Story, he explains away their disappearances, saying Julia was worried about losing her daughter to her husband and fled. "...she had given her destination as Iowa, she was going elsewhere to avoid the chance of her daughter being taken from her, giving the Iowa destination to mislead her husbanda." Holmes claimed he kept correspondences from her after her disappearance, proving she was alive.

    The story of Julia Conner and her four-year-old daughter Pearl is well-documented. In the version proffered in the book, Depraved16, Ned Conner, husband of Julia, worked for Holmes. The Conners lived in the Holmes castle. Julia was alleged to be Holmes lover. Ned filed for divorce and left town. Julia became pregnant. Holmes offered to marry her but only if she agreed to an abortion. At his behest, she took out life insurance. On Christmas Eve, after chloroforming Pearl, Holmes performed the procedure on Julia, ensuring she did not survive.

    Is this abortion story real? Holmes was not the source of the story and who else would tell of it? In another part of his confession, Holmes counted an unborn child among his murder victims, but not in this case. In his final confession on the gallows, Holmes admitted to only killing two women during "criminal operations" which some have interpreted as abortions.

    Ned Conner and the relatives of Julia Conner strongly believed Holmes was responsible for his wife and daughter's murder, well before Holmes achieved notoriety.

    Years later, when the police searched the castle, they encountered what they believed to be the bones of Julia and Pearl. The alleged accomplices were never identified.

Third and fourth victims: Julia Conner and daughter Pearl Conner
Residents in the castle. Alleged lover.
Motive: To collect insurance.
Method: Butchering, poisoning.
Site: The Murder Castle.
Confirmation of murder: well-established.

The Fifth Victim
    "The fifth murder, that of Rodgers, of West Morgantown, Va. (sic), occurred in 1888, at which time I was boarding there for a few weeksb."

    This murder appears to be an example where Holmes is merely confirming allegations in a news story. "Learning that the man had some money I induced him to go upon a fishing trip with me and, being successful in allaying his suspicions, I finally ended his life by a sudden blow upon the head with an oar. The body was found about a month thereafter, but I was not suspected until after my trial here, and even then by a fortunate circumstance succeeded in having the report publicly denied, but did not succeed in changing the opinion of fifty or more persons living in the town who had recognized my picture in the daily papersb."

    With his nationwide notoriety, it appears that a number of people in Morgantown, West Virginia claimed Holmes had been there. Regardless of how this part of his confession came to be, the story was refuted.

    As cited in The Three Confessions of HH Holmes, a week after the April confession, a story appeared in the Wheeling Register. "No man by that name was ever murdered here, and no murder of a man ever occurred in this place that the murderer was not convicted. W. Rogers was the name used by a newspaper correspondent from here for an old tanner who disappeared and was found in the river. He was supposed to have been murdered, and people here thought Holmes' picture looked like a man who was here at the time. It was established later that the man is still living and was not Holmes... Holmes simply lied17."

Fifth Victim: "Rodgers"
Motive: Money.
Method: Clubbed over the head
Site: Morgantown, WV.
Year: 1888
Confirmation of murder: Refuted.

The Sixth Victim.
    "The sixth case is that of Charles Cole, a Southern speculator. After considerable correspondence this man came to Chicago, and I enticed him into the Castle, where, while I was engaging him in conversation, a confederate stuck him a most vicious blow upon the head with a piece of gas pipe. ... This is the first instance in which I knew this confederate had committed murder, though in several other instances he was fully as guilty as myself, and, if possible, more heartless and bloodthirsty, and I have no doubt is still engaged in the same nefarious work, and if so is probably aided by a Chicago business manb."

    Here, again, Holmes says an unnamed associate performed the murder. This being the first murder by this person, it would not be the same as the man and woman who supposedly helped kill Pearl Conner. Among the associates of Holmes, the one who received the most attention from the police was the Castle janitor, Patrick Quinlan. In August of 1895, the police kept him and his wife sequestered, interrogating them for three weeks18. They later sued the police for unlawful imprisonment, but lost19.

    On July 29, 1895 the story of the disappearance of Cole ran in various papers. In The Chicago Tribune, he was referred to as Wilfred Cole while in other papers his name was "Milford C. Cole." The C could stand for Charles. A typical account can be found in the Los Angeles Herald.

    "Sheriff McRae of Fort Worth, Texas, who was in this city [Little Rock, Arkansas] last week, had a long talk with [Holmes associate John C.] Allen, and during the conversation the disappearance of Milford Cole, a wealthy Baltimore man, was mentioned. Cole came here a year ago last spring as the representative of a Baltimore lumber syndicate. He at once became prominent in lumber circles, buying a sawmill near Beebe, north of here on the Iron Mountain road, and contracting for the purchase of 25,000 acres of timber lands in Southeastern Arkansas. In July, 1894, he spent two weeks at Fort Worth, becoming well acquainted with Holmes, who tried to interest him in some business enterprises. These facts Cole mentioned to friends on his return to Little Rock. About three weeks afterwards he was summoned to Chicago by a telegram from Holmes and has not been seen or heard from since. Both Allen and Sheriff McRae recall Cole's association with Holmes at Fort Worth last year and Cole's subsequent disappearance20."

    In Holmes Own Story, under a section entitled "Other Disappearances," he says, "Charles Cole is also known to be alivea."

The Sixth Victim: Milford "Charles" Cole
"Southern speculator invited to Chicago"
Motive: Money.
Method: Unnamed accomplice hit Cole over the head with a pipe.
Site: Chicago Castle.
Year: 1894
Confirmation of murder: Unconfirmed

The Seventh Victim.
    "A domestic named Lizzie, was the seventh victim. She for a time worked in the Castle restaurant and I soon learned that Quinlan was paying her too close attention and fearing lest it should progress so far that it would necessitate his leaving my employ I thought it wise to end the life of the girl. This I did by calling her in the vault of which so much has since been printed, she being the first victim that died therein. Before her death I compelled her to write letters to her relations and to Quinlan, stating that she had left Chicago for a Western State and should not returnb."

    Again, in Holmes' Own Story, he claims she is living. "The same charge concerning a domestic named Lizzie is untrue, although I have no means of verifying it save that it has been proven that she was alive and in Chicago some months after I left that city, early in 1894a."

    In one news report, the police were said to be seeking a Mrs. Perr, a former housekeeper of Holmes in 189221. It was suggested she had gone missing.

    After the confession, several newspapers noted errors in who Holmes had supposedly killed. The Rockford Republic declared: "Five Victims Alive. Confession is Alleged to Be Untrue." One of his victims "has been seen those who know her well in the vicinity of the "castle," since Holmes declares that he suffocated her in a vault of his unique building.22" Although cryptic, this could refer to Lizzie, or Sarah Cook or Haracamp (below).

The Seventh Victim: Lizzie
A domestic
Motive: Worried his janitor was too interested in her.
Method: First victim of the suffocation vault.
Site: Chicago Castle.
Year: unspecified
Confirmation of murder: Unconfirmed.

Victims Eight, Nine and Ten.

    "The eighth, ninth and tenth cases are Mrs. Sarah Cook, her unborn child, and Miss Mary Haracamp, of Hamilton, Canadab."

    Here, Holmes counts an unborn child among his numbered victims.

    Holmes explains that Sarah Cook and her husband were tenants in the Castle. Sarah's niece, Mary Haracamp came to work as Holmes' stenographer. "...Mrs. Cook and her niece had access to all rooms by means of a master key and one evening while I was busily engaged preparing my last victim for shipment, the door suddenly opened and they stood before meb." Holmes hurried the two into the vault. Holmes had them write letters stating they were running away in exchange for their freedom. He then suffocated them.

    In Holmes' Own Story, he listed together several persons who he was accused of killing. "Robert Latimer, a former janitor [victim thirteen], a Mr. Brummager, one in my employ as a stenographer, also Miss Mary Horacamp [sic], from Hamilton, Canada, are alive, as shown by letters recently received from friends or relatives of eacha."

    While Holmes appears to be responding to accusations, I could not locate the name Haracamp does not appear in any of the contemporary news articles. The names Haracamp and Horacamp do not seem to exist outside of the Holmes' confession. On April 16th, 1896, just after the confession was printed, The Omaha Daily Bee  ran a brief item stating  "In the list of Holmes victims appears the name Mrs. Haverkamp of Hamilton, Ontario. No person of that name was ever known there."

Summary: Victims Eight, Nine and Ten
Mrs. Sarah Cook, her unborn child, Mrs. Haracamp (Horacamp)
Tenant and niece.
Motive: Eliminate witnesses
Method: Suffocated in the vault.
Site: Chicago.
Time: Unknown
Confirmation of murder: unconfirmed.

 Drawing of Victims as presented in the Hopkinsville Kentuckian
 Victims of Holmes as presented in the Hopkinsville
Kentuckian, August 27, 1895, page 3. Included are

Julia Conner (third victim),
Emeline Cigrand
(eleventh victim), Emily Van Tassel (twelfth victim)
and the Williams sisters (Victims twenty-one and twenty-two). 

The Eleventh Victim.
     "Soon after this Miss Emeline Cigrand, of Dwight, Ill, was sent to me by a Chicago typewriter firm to fill the vacancy of stenographerb."

    The disappearance and death of Emeline Cigrand became part of the canonical Holmes lore perhaps eclipsed only by the death of the Pitezels. Cigrand worked as the secretary to the head of a national chain of sobriety clinics, called the Keeley, or Gold cure. Holmes's handyman, Benjamin F. Pitezel went to their Dwight, Illinois clinic for treatment and returned, not sober, but with a glowing report of their secretary's great beauty. In May, 1892 Holmes lured her away for a 50% increase in salary. Among his many schemes Holmes ran his own alcoholism cure clinic out of the Castle, called the Silver Ash Institution23.

    One version has it that Cigrand and Holmes became engaged to be married. Since she knew of one of Holmes's current wives, Holmes insisted that she keep his name a secret, only referring to him as Robert Phelps, until he could arrange a divorce. In December they sent out wedding announcements. On December 7th, her hometown paper ran the announcement. "Miss Cigrand Weds Robert E. Phelps. The bride, after completing her education, was employed as a stenographer in the County Recorder's office. From there she went to Dwight, and from there to Chicago, where she met her fate24." Fate took on a different meaning than the societal reporter intended.

    Once Holmes locked her in the vault he promised to release her if she would send out wedding announcements. She complied and he later used these to show she was still alive and had merely run off with her new husband. He left her in the vault until she died of suffocation.

    In contrast to his confession, according to Holmes' Own Story, "She worked faithfully in my interests until November, 1892, when, much against my wishes, she left my employ to be married...a" A year later, he claimed, she returned to Chicago wanting her old job back. Unhappy with her husband, she was considering joining the convent. Holmes said she was seen by many around town.

    The police encountered what they believed to the bones and hair of Emeline Cigrand. According to an eyewitness, the day after she disappeared Holmes and his janitor Quinlan were seen hauling a large trunk out of the Castle.

Summary: Victim Eleven
Emeline Cigrand
Motive: Eliminate witness?
Method: Suffocated in the vault.
Site: The Castle.
Time: December, 1892
Confirmation of murder: Confirmed.
 Dancing with a skeleton
Dancing with a Skeleton from the University Palladium, University of Michigan,

 Intermission: Attempted Murders.
    Holmes follows up the death of his eleventh victim with a list of his attempted murders. Along with the well-documented attempted murders of three more Pitezel family members, he describes, "... an unsuccessful attempt to commit a triple murder for the $90 that my agent for disposing of "stiffs" would have given me for the bodies of the intended victims, who were three young women working in my restaurant upon Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago. That these women lived to tell of their experience to the police last summer is due to my foolishly trying to chloroform all of them at one and the same time. By their combined strength they overpowered me and ran screaming into the street, clad only in their night robes. I was arrested next day, but was not prosecutedb."

    Famously, an intended victim of Jeffrey Dahmer escaped and made it to the police, only to be returned to his killer who then completed the killing. In this instance, Holmes claims to have three women escape his grasp and go to the police. Despite the titillating aspects of this story, no evidence supports it occurring.

Continued in Part Three

References, Citations and Notes.

a. Holmes' Own Story in which the Alleged Multi Murderer and Arch Conspirator Tells of The Twenty-Two Tragic Deaths and Disappearances In which He is Said to be Implicated. Philadelphia. Burk & McFetridge Co. 1895.

b. Holmes Confesses 27 Murders. The Most Awful Story of Modern Times Told by the Fiend in Human Shape. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, April 12, 1896. Copyright 1896 by WR Hearst and James Elverson, Jr.

10. As recounted in Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer. Harold Schechter. Copyright 1994. New York: Pocket Books. Page 12.

11. Myrta Belknap remained loyal to her husband up to the time of execution, claiming she couldn't believe he committed the crimes. Interestingly, Holmes was born in Belknap County, New Hampshire.

12. The Devil in the White City. Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. Erik Larson Copyright 2003. Vintage Books, Random House. Page 44.

13. The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Martin Booth. copyright 1997, Thomas Dunne Books.

14. The Three Confessions of HH Holmes. Adam Selzer. September 2012.

15. The genealogy site includes these bits of information:
Dr. Thomas Russell, b 25Feb1861 Alton, Peel Co ON, CA. d 15Oct1953 Grand Rapids, MN.

In a personal communication, Dr. Russell's grandson, also a doctor, said his grandfather "did live in Chicago before going to Minnesota. He said Chicago was to [sic] rough."

16. Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer. Harold Schechter. Copyright 1994. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 41-46.

17. The Three Confessions of HH Holmes. Adam Selzer. September 2012.

18. Cole's Disappearance. A Lumberman Who Was Summoned to Chicago by Holmes. Los Angeles Herald, July 29, 1895. I believe Milford Cole existed. John C. Allen gave many specific details about him while seeking a pardon in exchange for testimony: a poor strategy if such a person could easily be proven to not exist. Of course, Cole may have still been alive, Allen did not claim to witness his death in person.

19. Pat Quinlan Sues for Damage. Daily Illinois State Journal. September 17, 1895.

20. Mrs. Quinlan Loses the Suit. Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, April 21, 1897.

21. Daily Illinois State Journal, Springfield, Illinois. July 28, 1895.

22. Five Victims Alive. Confession is Alleged to Be Untrue. Rockford Republic, April 13, 1896.

23. Soup Bones Dug Up, Daily Illinois State Journal, Springfield, Illinois July 28, 1895.

24. As quoted in: Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer. Harold Schechter. Copyright 1994. New York: Pocket Books. Page 54. Although it is keeping in character with Holmes to invent names for an upcoming marriage, another version of the story is that Holmes killed both Cigrand and her fiance.


A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook editions through Amazon and other online retailers.

A Predator's Game, now available, Rook's Page Publishing.

Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my thriller, A Predator's Game.

Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, will be available from Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016. It features Nikola Tesla as detective.

His recent mystery, Never Kill A Friend, is available from Ransom Note Press. His epic poem, Two Mistakes, won second place in the 2015 Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Poetry Competition. He can be contacted at