Herman Mudgett

Topics: Serial killer, H. H. Holmes, Gilmanton, New Hampshire Pages: 6 (2376 words) Published: February 13, 2013
The Torture Doctor

AJS 192 #35612
Sallie Terman
Spring 2012

Problem Statement
H. H. Holmes was dubbed the first male serial killer in the United States; however, his profile did not entirely fit the characteristics of a male serial killer. Should H. H. Holmes be considered a “Black Widow”?

Imagine a killer who enjoyed torturing his victims with a variety of methods, but got paid for it. Meet Dr. H. H. Holmes or also known as “The Torture Doctor”. He was a serial killer who hit Chicago in the late nineteenth century. He killed with the intention of receiving money, mostly in the form of insurance claims. Criminologists have characterized this as a trait mostly belonging to female serial killers. It is “Black Widows” who kill relatives for the insurance money. Therefore Holmes should be classified as having similar characteristics to a “Black Widow” or that of a female serial killer. Findings

Herman Webster Mudgett born May 16, 1861 to Levi and Theodate Mudgett in Gilmanton, New Hampshire had a privileged life. His family was wealthy and he was a bight child. (5) His household was run with a strict Methodist structure and his father was a violent alcoholic. He was bullied in school and in one instance forced to face a real skeleton which is believed to be the start of his fascination with corpses. (2) He became curious with Anatomy after that. Mudgett expressed a huge interest in medicine and was enrolled in the University of Michigan in 1882. He excelled in Chemistry and Anatomy and they seemed to be a natural talent for him. He was extremely eager to work on the cadavers. (2) He graduated in 1884. “This was a unique feature for a serial killer because most serial killers do not finish school.” (2) It is not because they are not intelligent enough; it is because they lack the motivation. This is where Mudgett was different; he had the persistence and motivation to finish school. It was easier because it was something he did enjoy and it was a gateway for his early crimes. Mudgett would steal corpses from the medical school after making false insurance claims on a person, naming himself the beneficiary. He would distort the bodies making it look like an accident and then identify the body as the person he took the claim out on. (1) This is most likely the reason he stayed in school; he was making a profit. This is where he started using his alias Henry Howard Holmes or H. H. Holmes and Herman Mudgett would eventually cease to exist.(2) His crime spree and fascination with corpses would continue well after medical school. After a string of insurance fraud and traveling the country Holmes made it to Chicago. He began working at a drug store owned by an ill Dr. Holton in the neighborhood of Englewood. Holton died not long after and Holmes convinced Mrs. Holton to sign over the pharmacy to him and then she mysteriously disappeared. (5) While owning the drug store he continued to scam people sometimes selling false drugs and avoiding paying back his credit. (2) Holmes did enjoy making money and tricking people, but he wanted more. Holmes bought an estate on 63rd street and Wallace right across the street from the pharmacy that would later be called the “Murder Castle.” The construction of the building was very curious. Holmes was the architect and always kept a change of workers so he was the only one who ever knew the full structure of the building. (2) It was three stories with the ground floor belonging to commercial buildings including his relocated drug store. The top two were designated for his murderous fantasies. It had a labyrinth structure and consisted of false doors, windowless rooms, chutes, and trap doors. (5) The Castle “was equipped with secret passages, trapdoors, soundproof rooms, doors that could be locked from the outside, gas jets to asphyxiate victims, and a kiln to cremate the bodies.” (3) The basement is what held even worse horrors. There was a furnace big enough to hold a...
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