Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, was one of the first modern serial killers in the American history. The young man was very smart and rich, but he was still engaged in fraud, deception, and murder. How he designed and built the exceptional building that later was called the Castel of Killing? And what was so special about the architectural decisions of this house?
Holmes was born in 1861. At the age of 16, he was already a teacher. In 1882, he was studying at the School of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Michigan and graduated with the best scores in just a couple of years. After the studies, he worked in the anatomy laboratory and later in various hospitals. In 1886, he settled in Chicago and began working in a pharmacy, which he soon bought.
In 1887, Holmes bought a plot of land where he wanted to build a multifunctional building. On the first floor there were to be commercial premises including a new pharmacy, on the second-floor apartments were planned. Later, Holmes also took care of the construction of the third floor, intending to turn the building into a hotel, but this building did not become one.
The first victim was Holmes lover and resident of his house Julia Smythe. She and her daughter Pearl disappeared in December of 1891. A year later, another woman Emeline Cigrande who worked in the house disappeared also. Later, Edna Van Tassel disappeared. And lots of other women!
Police inspected the building in 1894. They found many fake walls, hidden doors, secret corridors. Even the real corridors of the building were like a maze because some of its branches led to nowhere. There were shafts leading directly to the basement in various places. The basement was equipped with several surgical tables, a crematorium, and acid tanks. The building even had a gas chamber and completely isolated rooms.
Holmes was killing people and threw their bodies into those shafts. They were later dissected in the basement and their organs were sold on the black market. No one can exactly say how many people Holmes killed. He claimed that he is responsible for the deaths of 27 persons but only one murder was proved. Police attributed more than 200 deaths and disappearances to Holmes. His confession was worth little because even a few of the people he claimed killed were actually alive.
Only the murder of Benjamin Pitzel was proved. Holmes kept changing his confessions, so the court could not take them seriously. The witnesses also were telling different things that could not be taken as the truth. However, the court made a decision, the murder was claimed as guilty, and Holmes was hanged in 1896. The “Castle of Killing” was badly damaged by a deliberate fire caused in 1895, but it was rebuilt. The building caused many troubles to the government and neighboring people, as a result, it was finally demolished in 1938.