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I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing — I was born with the 'Evil One' standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.
~ H.H. Holmes

H. H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett; May 16, 1861 – May 7, 1896), was the first recorded American serial killer, at least in the sense we now associate the word - he was active in 1893 and confessed to over 27 murders, though his true body count may of been considerably larger.

H. H. Holmes is especially infamous for designing a "castle" which was overrun with many rooms designed to torture and kill his unwitting victims, the design of this structure was as ingenious as it was evil and Holmes was said to have hired numerous workers in the building of it so that only he would know the full layout of the terrible maze.

Holmes was hanged on May 7th, 1896 and was granted his final request to be buried in concrete to prevent people digging up and dissecting his corpse, as he had done to many of his victims.

Biography

Holmes was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, son of Levi Horton Mudgett and his wife, formerly Theodate Page Price. His early criminal career was based on fraud and forgery, including a cure for alcoholism, real estate scams, and a machine that purported to make natural gas from water. Holmes earned a doctor's degree from the University of Michigan.

On 8 July 1878, he married Clara A. Lovering of Alton, New Hampshire. On 28 January 1887, he (bigamously) married Myrta Z. Belknap in Minneapolis, Minnesota; they had a daughter named Lucy. He filed a petition for divorce from his first wife after marrying his second, but it never became final. He married his third wife, Georgiana Yoke, on 9 January 1894. He was also the lover of Julia Smythe, the wife of Ned Connor, one of his trusted associates. She later become one of his victims.

He managed to secure a Chicago pharmacy by defrauding the pharmacist, and built a block-long, three-story building on the lot across the street. He called this building "The Castle," and opened it as a hotel for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The bottom floor of the Castle contained shops, the top his personal office, and the middle floor a maze of over one hundred windowless rooms. Over a period of three years, Holmes selected female victims from among his hotel's guests, and tortured them in soundproof and escapeproof chambers fitted with gas lines that permitted Mudgett to asphyxiate the women at any time. Holmes had repeatedly changed builders, to ensure that no one truly understood the design of the house he had created who might report it to the police. Once dead, the victims' bodies went by chute to the basement, where they were either sold to medical schools or cremated and placed in lime pits for destruction.

Following the World's Fair, Holmes left Chicago and apparently murdered people as he traveled around the country. He was arrested in 1895 when he was discovered with the body of a former business associate, Benjamin Pitezel, and three of his children.

The same year, Holmes's "castle" in Chicago burnt down on August 19, revealing the carnage therein to the police and firemen. His habit of taking out insurance policies on some of his victims before killing them may have eventually exposed him regardless. The number of Holmes' victims has typically been estimated between 20 to 100, and even as high as 200. These victims were primarily women, but included some men and children.

Holmes was put on trial for murder, and confessed to 27 murders (in Chicago, Indianapolis and Toronto) and six attempted murders. He was hanged on May 7, 1896, in Philadelphia. It was reported that when the executioner had finished all the preliminaries of the hanging, he asked, "Ready, Dr. Holmes?", to which Holmes said, "Yes. Don't bungle." The executioner did "bungle," however, because Holmes' neck did not snap immediately; he instead died slowly and painfully of strangulation over the course of about 15 minutes.

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