The Story

The Story swirl

Learn about the true story of H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.


H.H. Holmes

Born Herman Webster Mudgette, in New Hampshire around 1861, H.H. Holmes is infamous for one reason: murder. The gruesome acts committed by this human devil have earned him a lasting place in history as America’s first serial killer.


Educated in medicine, H.H. Holmes used his medical connections to secure chemicals, cadavers and devices he used to torture his victims. A contemporary of Jack the Ripper, Holmes utilized the newly built American railroad system to travel the country, luring, kidnapping and torturing numerous victims. The actual number of victims is unknown but estimated to be much as 200 people; he admitted guilt in 27 deaths. A notorious womanizer, many of Holmes victims were women intrigued by his appearance and charm. They found only a cruel ending to their pursuit of love.



Holme’s Infamous Murder Castle

When not traveling, Holmes’ interest in the study of manners of death lead to many experiments, watching many of his victims suffer as they experienced dissection, starvation, asphyxiation, suffocation, burns from fire and chemicals, hanging and other horrors. Located in Chicago, Holmes’ most infamous lair, nicknamed ‘The Castle’ (whose true purpose was a mystery even to those involved in its construction) gave H.H. Holmes a vast labyrinth to trap and terrify. It greeted guests with a hotel lobby and shops, behind that unassuming front were varying rooms of terror, complete with chutes for dead bodies to be disposed of in the basement furnace. Holmes booked attendees of the 1883 World’s Fair in Chicago as guests at his ‘Murder Castle,’ some of their stays never ended. As a murderer, he was not exclusive to female admirers; he killed children & men as well. His partner in crime, Benjamin Pitezel, served Holmes schemes for sometime before he and three of his children lost their lives.

Unfortunately for H.H. Holmes, the missings’ loved ones began to search and law enforcement came calling. To escape capture, H.H. Holmes fled his hotel castle in Chicago to take up residence in Irvington, Indiana. Of course, he took no vacation from murder. Holmes continued to dispatch victims even as authorities pursued him. In Irvington, under one of his many aliases, Holmes committed more murders and the remains of two children were found when law enforcement traced Holmes to his new killing grounds. The true number of Hoosiers who disappeared as a result of encountering America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes, is yet unknown.

Interested in experiencing the history and horror? Learn more about the experience of Hotel Holmes, Irvington’s haunted house themed after America’s first serial killer.