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Friday, May 7, 2010

Dead guys in Derbies

After numerous early morning meetings (thanks for eating all the donuts AV guys) we here at the DGIS studios decided that it would be fun to infuse new blood into the operation and have a guest blogger. We know that there are rumors circulating that this is simply a way to get out of work because we're all hung over from our annual seis de mayo party but thats only half true. So without any further ado please welcome our friend from Nobody Move John DuMond. John is a top notch true-crime researcher and his work is always a joy to read.


On this day in 1896, Dr. Herman Mudgett (aka Dr. H.H. Holmes) was well hung. No, that's not quite right. Hung well? No. He was really hung? No, still wrong. How about hung by the neck until dead? Yeah, that'll do.

Mudgett, a pioneer in the field of serial killing (committing the crimes, not solving them), was one of this country's first identified serial killers. The total number of his victims remains unknown to this day. He confessed to twenty-seven, but estimates have been as high as two hundred.

Mudgett got his start mutilating corpses he stole from his alma mater's medical school laboratory. He later progressed to live victims, eventually opening a hotel in Chicago during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition that he turned into a house of horrors. The hotel, later dubbed the "Murder Castle" by the press, contained secret rooms where Mudgett would torture and kill his victims. Many of Mudgett's victims were his employees, who, as a condition of employment, took out life insurance policies naming Mudgett as beneficiary. Apparently the good doctor believed in mixing business with pleasure.

After the World's Fair ended, Mudgett left Chicago for greener pastures--or at least pastures where he wouldn't be hounded by creditors. He traveled the U.S. and Canada, perpetrating various scams and murdering when he got the chance. He was eventually arrested in Boston after a former accomplice in one of his scams ratted him out. It seems the accomplice was unhappy about not being paid his share of the loot.

Mudgett was transported to Philadelphia, where he was a suspect in the murder of Benjamin Pitezel, who was an accomplice in one of his scams.

While Mudgett was in custody in the City of Brotherly Love, police in Chicago took an interest in the Hotel that Mudgett had opened there. A custodian informed them that he had never been allowed to clean certain areas of the hotel. A search of the forbidden rooms turned up evidence of Mudgett's murderous hobby.

Mudgett was tried and convicted for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. He eventually confessed to 27 murders and a half dozen attempted murders. He was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on May 7, 1896. The execution took over 15 minutes, as Mudgett's neck didn't snap when he dropped through the trap door. Per his request, he was buried in concrete so his body could not be exhumed and dissected.

Even though Mudgett was more prolific than Jack the Ripper, he never achieved Jack's level of notoriety. I guess he could have used a good publicist.

Further reading:
Herman Mudgett article at Crime Library
Herman Mudgett article at Wikipedia
Philadelphia Weekly article


Charlieopera said...

John/Patrick (to borrow a phrase), "You magnificent bastard(s)", I gotta read your books!

I add another fun blog to my list of "must reads" ... thanks brothers.

Pat Downey said...

Hey Charlie,
Thank you for stopping by. Come on in and pull up a dead guy. Glad the joint is to your liking.

John D. said...

Thanks, Charlie. I'm glad you like it. Pat's blog is one of my daily reads. It's chock full of criminal goodness.

Thanks for the opportunity to post here.

Julie said...

"Mudgett got his start mutilating corpses he stole from his alma mater's medical school laboratory."

Actually I think he stole corpses from graveyards to sell to his alma mater's medical school laboratory. But I'm two years and some odd months late to the party, so don't mind me. Cheers!

Pat Downey said...

Well, to be honest, we were expecting you a little earlier. Glad you showed up just the same though.