These illustrations–the 3-D cutaway view and the floor plans–allow one to get a visualization of the Murder Castle H.H. Holmes named “The World’s Fair Hotel,” including the layout of the maze of secret rooms and compartments which proved to be the final sights for untold dozens.
Few of us from the late 20th and 21st Centuries–even in Chicago where the events took place–know much, if anything, of the evil of Herman Mudgett, a/k/a H.H. Holmes, a swindler who progressed in criminality to become one of the worst, if not THE worst, serial killer in American history. All at a time when the term “serial killer” had not yet been coined by law enforcement or the press.
The number of victims killed by Mudgett/Holmes will never be known. He admitted to 27, but it is expected that number may be well past 200, mostly young women. It was very easy in 1893 to disappear in America, especially in the growing cities. That was both good and bad. If you wanted to start a new life, you could. But, if you “vanished,” as it were, because of some nefarious act, there was little chance your fate would ever be known by authorities or family and friends.
Public awareness has been recently raised by Erik Larson’s best-seller “The Devil in the White City.” It’s a good read, particularly if you find true crime reads interesting, or crime–fact or fiction–in general. While Mr. Larson takes some literary license for the sake of his story-telling style of writing, he offers one of the first, and best, accurate concise telling’s of this evil man and his heinous acts.
Mudgett’s/Holmes’ brutal rampage seems somehow even worse because it occurred during what was, in many ways, our nation’s Coming Out Party to the World.
Held in Jackson Park, Chicago, the 1893 World’s Fair, known as the 1893 Columbian Exhibition (Columbian referring to ‘Columbia,’ the popular female personification of the United States at the time, before ‘Lady Liberty’ overtook her) placed the United States on the world scene. For the first time, we were truly considered a nation with a culture and a nationality that could stand eye to eye with the world powers (none republics): the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria-Hungry, Italy, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the fledgling Japanese Empire, etc.
The great Chicago architect David Burnham led the effort to build what would be nicknamed ‘The White City.’ A collection of bright white neo-classical buildings invoking the steadfastness of the Republic, built on stunning landscaped grounds created by Frederick Olmstead (designer of NY’s Central Park), and featuring the latest of American ingenuity (including the first Ferris Wheel, a treat called Cracker Jack’s, and dazzling electric light illumination of the entire park from Westinghouse/Tesla’s AC system.) As well as the latest from the rest of the world, who had come to the American Midwest to showcase it.
One building still stands-The Palace of Arts is now the Museum of Science & Industry, one of the coolest museums in the country! IMHO…