Who would have thought that America’s first serial killer would become part of the MCU canon? Incredible, in his leap in time, Loki season 2 lands during the legendary Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, which was a hunting ground for HH Holmes. Mobius (Owen Wilson), Gal Friday of the titular anti-hero (Tom Hiddleston), even mentions the name of the infamous murderer and exclaims, “The White City! Edison! HH Holmes! Yes! Hot air balloons!”
Now Victor Timely’s storyline in episode 3 doesn’t just tie in with this strange thing Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania End of credit scene, but it also taps into the Thomas Edison vibe with its breathtaking scientific performances. But if you’re wondering what Holmes was up to while Loki and Mobius were running around in his timeline, we’ve got you covered.
In 1893, more than 20 million people came to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition, or Chicago World’s Fair, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the so-called “New World.” Opening day, October 9, 1893, set a record for the largest attendance at the outdoor event with 751,026 people. The original was also one of the attractions at the fair Ferris wheellife-size reproductions of Columbus’ three shipsand that premiere of products such as Cream of Wheat and Juicy Fruit Gum. But amidst the celebration and wonder of the fair, there was another first, in the form of one of America’s first known serial killers, HH Holmes.
Who was HH Holmes?
Herman Webster Mudgett was born in New Hampshire in 1861 and changed his name to Henry Howard Holmes in honor of Sherlock Holmesaccording to Erik Larson The Devil in the White City. According to Larson’s research, which included only primary sources he interviewed, Holmes was afraid of skeletons as a child but may have been forced by bullies to stand in front of one and touch it. After graduating from high school, Holmes married Clara Lovering, with whom he had a son in 1880. Holmes studied medicine at the University of Michigan, graduated in 1884 and moved to Chicago, leaving Clara and his son behind.
By this time, Holmes had already begun committing crimes in the form of grave robbing to sell the bodies to medical schools, as well as insurance fraud. In 1886 he married Myrta Belknap in Minneapolis, whom he had met on an earlier trip to the area; He married a third wife, Georgiana Yoke, in 1894 without ever divorcing Clara or Myrta. Back in Chicago, Holmes purchased a pharmacy and began construction on the empty lot across the street. He constructed a building that would later be given the infamous name “Murder Castle.”
What was the Murder Castle?
Photo credit: Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images
Holmes’ pharmacy was located at 63rd and Wallace Streets in Chicago’s Jackson Park neighborhood – which also happened to be the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. During the construction of the new building, Holmes hired and fired many contractors evaded creditors, even packing items in hidden rooms when pawns arrived. The structure consisted of shops on the first floor and small apartments on the floors above. The fair attracted workers to Chicago, including young women who were lured to Holmes by newspaper advertisements promising jobs and housing. According to Holmes residents, once they entered the building, many of these women never came out.
A 1937 Chicago Tribune The article described Holmes’ “Lock“, as it became known in the neighborhood as “a crooked house, a reflection of the builder’s distorted mind.” Dark and sinister deeds occurred in this house tribunethat Holmes maintained a crematorium and butcher’s table and that police found bloodied clothing and personal items belonging to people believed to be Holmes’ victims.
Who were HH Holmes’ victims?
Holmes committed fraud in the form of insurance fraud by traveling around the United States with his partner. Benjamin Pitezel after the end of the World’s Fair. One of their scams involved Pitezel faking his own death so that his wife could collect on a $10,000 policy, which was ultimately split between Holmes and Pitezel’s attorney, Jeptha Howe. Instead of implementing the planHolmes decided to kill Pitezel and three of his five children, two of whom, Alice and Nellie, were found in a basement in Toronto; a third, Howard, was never found.
Holmes was arrested in Boston on November 17, 1894, after being followed there from Philadelphia when one of his life insurance ploys failed. This arrest led authorities to question the disappearances of people (particularly women) associated with Holmes, including Emeline Cigrand, Minnie and Nannie WilliamsAnd Julia Conner, who worked in his pharmacy, and her daughter Pearl. The 1937 tribune One article reported that Minnie’s watch chain and Nannie’s garter were found in the basement of the so-called Murder Castle.
Holmes was convicted of the murder of Benjamin Pitezel in 1895. After a failed appeal, he was hanged in Philadelphia on May 7, 1896. Ironically, Holmes was so worried about his grave being robbed that he asked to be buried under concrete, a request that was granted. Holmes made two written confessionsone to New York Journal and one to Philadelphia Investigators; in both he confessed 27 people killedalthough there were some discrepancies between the two denominations.
Was HH Holmes really a serial killer?
After his arrest in 1894, Hearst newspapers paid Holmes $7,500 ($216,000 today) for his confession, much of which is believed to be false. While in prison awaiting execution, Holmes wrote one memoirsin which he once claimed to be “But an ordinary man, even below average in physical strength and mental abilities,” and to be somewhere else possessed by Satan.
It is difficult to fully determine how many people Holmes actually killed, between his own obviously false statements and the sensationalism he gained in the press. In 2018, the History Channel documentary was released American Ripper followed Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’ great-great-grandchildren, as he investigated the possibility that Holmes was responsible for the crimes of Jack the Ripper. They even went that far Exhume Holmes’ grave To dispel the thought that he fled to South America and another man was executed for his crimes. (The body in the grave actually belongs to H.H. Holmes.)
The Tabloid journalism of the 1890s is largely responsible for the legend that Holmes became. At one point he claimed to have murdered 200 people, but in the end it was him officially associated with nine.
As for the murder castle: “[i]“It wasn’t a pleasant place anyway,” says Adam Selzer, Chicago historian and author from HH Holmes: The True Story of the White City Devil. “There were a number of people who disappeared from the building.” Harold Schechter, author of Tainted: The definitive true story of HH Holmes, whose grotesque crimes shocked turn-of-the-century Chicago, believes that allegations that the castle at 63rd and Wallace was a torture palace were not only exaggerated, but also completely constructed.
While it is undeniable that Holmes was both a murderer and a fraud, it is also true that there is still much unknown about the extent of his crimes and the depth of the media’s role in perpetuating the myth surrounding him.
With additional reporting from Kristy Puchko.