Have you been watching the fascinating show on the History Channel where they are trying to determine if the notorious American serial killer, H. H. Holmes is also Jack the Ripper? We’ve been glued to the series and so far they are making a pretty good case for why he could be. H. H. Holmes (real name Herman Mudgett) was America’s first serial killer, operating in the 19th century. It is unknown how many murders he actually committed but it is thought to be in the hundreds. His most notorious act was building a hotel which later became known as the Murder Castle right before the opening of the Columbia World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. Located on the south side of Chicago, it had a gas chamber, a room for dissections, trap doors for tossing corpses down to the basement where a furnace was located for burning the evidence.
What the program has highlighted is that it can be proven that Holmes left the United States for London right before the savage killings of 5 women in London’s White Chapel area. These murders were attributed to a killer called Jack the Ripper who was never identified. It is interesting that the killings in London stopped right after it is believed that Holmes returned to the United States. So will they be able to prove that Homes and Jack the Ripper are one and the same person?
It was his crime in Philadelphia that actually led to his downfall and conviction. He and his partner in crime, Benjamin Prietzel, set up offices on Callowhill Street for the purposes of committing fraud by buying life insurance on Prietzel and then faking Prietzel’s death with a substitue body. Unfortunately for Prietzel, Holmes murdered him instead. Holmes was eventually extradited from Boston and stood trial in Philadelphia in 1895. He was convicted of this murder and hanged in Philadelphia in 1896.
One final footnote: it was announced in May of 2017 that the great grandchildren of Holmes requested that his body be exhumed and tested for DNA. Since Holmes’ death rumors have circulated that he substituted another man for himself and escaped hanging. The great grandchildren want to clear up the rumor once and for all.
If you find this type of history interesting this is only one of many interesting facts you will learn about on tours offered by Grim Philly Tours. Featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover” on the Travel Channel-, Grim Philly Tours has amassed a cult following with educational but gritty information. The tours were developed by a university professor and offer well researched as well as interesting information with such diverse topics ranging from serial killers, deviant sexcapades, mass burials and executions to topics including vampires, pirates, and ghosts. Not your grandmother’s Philadelphia tours, these will take you beyond Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross’ house, to little known sites such as whipping posts, gallows, and the red light district. They also offer a halloween tour which I suggest you combine with a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphis, and a ghostly hay ride at the Bates Motel near Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast..
Grim Philly Tours offers over a dozen different tours throughout the year. For more information click here.