H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper- Could they be the same person?


Could the infamous “America’s First Serial Killer”, H.H. Holmes, also have been London based serial killer, Jack the Ripper?

Henry Howard Holmes, whose real name was Herman Webster Mudget, was a conman and serial killer who operated his own so-called “Murder Castle”, a hotel, at the Chicago World’s Faire in 1893. Holmes used said hotel to lure in unsuspecting attendees of the Faire. He then, through a system of secret passageways, trap doors, gas chambers and soundproof torture rooms killed most of his confessed 27 victims. Although not all victims met their unfortunate ends at the castle, his real estimated victim count is closer to 200.

Before we can truly dive into the similarities between the famous reigns of terror, we need to learn about who Holmes really was. Holmes was born in 1861 as Herman Webster Mudget. He eventually became H.H. Holmes, taking the surname from the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Not much is known about his childhood, until he married his first wife Clara at age 17. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled in medical school.

Holmes’ college years are really when his obsession for the macabre started to take form. However disturbing his methods may have been, Holmes was using this obsession to live a life of conning people out of their money. He robbed graves and morgues to sell the cadavers to medical schools, as well as attempting to create several life insurance scams.

Eventually Holmes abandoned his wife and son and moved to Chicago. This is where he purchased a small pharmacy. The real building that comes into play for this story is across the street from the pharmacy, where construction on his new three-story hotel begins. The finished building opened in May 1893, just before the Chicago World’s Faire.

Although his methods of killing his victims at the hotel, most being women, varied by the almost never-ending methods of torture his castle was equipped with, one thing was certain: Holmes was stripping these bodies of their skin and organs and once again, selling the skeletons to medical schools. This is where the theories of Holmes and Jack the Ripper come into play.

Holmes may have acquired his fame through his killings of his hotel, but this is not where his spree first started. It is believed that his first victims were the wife of an employee at his pharmacy, with whom he was having an affair, as well as her daughter. Julia Conner and her daughter Pearl were last seen alive just before Christmas 1891, less than two years before his Murder Castle crimes. It was around this time that Holmes paid an unknown man to remove the skin of a tall, deceased woman. Julia was known as an unusually tall woman, standing at about six feet tall.

About two years prior to the disappearances of Holmes’ alleged first victims, across the pond in the small Whitechapel district of London, another figure was wreaking havoc on the community.

The Whitechapel district of London in 1888 was an impoverished community, overrun with antisemitism. In 1881, an increasing number of Jewish immigrants from areas such as Poland and Germany, arrived in the East End of London after fleeing from economic hardships and prosecution. Although at first the immigrants were met with mostly sympathy, as the decade continued on, this started to drastically change. The unemployment percentages of Whitechapel were at an all time high. Because of the poor working conditions of the time, the majority of these immigrants worked in early-day sweatshops, working upwards of 20 hours a day with very little pay, even most of them sleeping on the same floor of which they worked. Because of this, the local community believed the Jewish immigrants were to blame for the housing shortage and economic hardships that followed the unemployment crisis.

In the early hours on August 31st, 1888, Charles Cross was making his way to his place of work, when he found a woman lying on her back, with her skirt lifted over her head. Once her skirt had been pulled back down, the nightmare began. Authorities discovered that the woman’s throat had been slashed, as well as several stab wounds covering her torso. However, her body was still warm. Authorities determined she could not have been dead for more than half an hour. Eventually, the woman was identified as Mary Ann Nichols, 43.

Due to the ongoing financial issues that pitted the locals of Whitechapel against its’ Jewish immigrants, the locals were all too happy and quick to blame the newcomers. They held strong to their belief that no English man could have done such a thing. But, could it have been an American?

It would be just eight days later that a second victim was found. Annie Chapman, 47, was found in the same way as Mary before her, but this time, the sinister ways of the unknown killer had grown. Once again found on her back with her skirt lifted and her throat deeply slashed, the most bizarre of the mutilations was her abdomen being entirely laid open. The intestines were severed and had been placed on her shoulder. The uterus and its appendages, as well as two thirds of the bladder, had been removed, but were nowhere to be found. The careful removal of organs, along with the clean, smooth cuts along the body, led investigators to believe that whoever was committing these heinous crimes must have an extensive medical background and knowledge.

This unknown figure terrorizing the Whitechapel residents would go on to kill at least three other women, with at least three of his known five victims missing organs. He taunted police during his spree, even sending the kidney of a victim to them along with a letter where he coined his infamous alias by signing, “Jack the Ripper.” Suddenly, the murders stopped in November 1888, a short time for five victims since late August, and the case was never solved.

The similarities between killers H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper, although never proven, could be a substantial argument for those who believe the two could have been the same person.

Jeff Mudgett, the great-great grandson of H.H. Holmes, inherited Holmes’ notebooks from his grandfather. It’s here that he reads Holmes’ entries of being in London at the height of the Ripper murders. He had a handwriting analyst confirm these notebooks as being Holmes’, and later the same analyst compared Holmes’ handwriting with that of the letters sent to police from Jack the Ripper, and found them to be a match of about 98%. Of course anyone can look at these two cases and see a large difference in M.O., as a large motive behind Holmes’ murders seemed to be financial, while The Ripper’s seem to be crimes of passion and rage. However, could the Whitechapel murders have been a prerequisite to Holmes’s Murder Castle?

We’ve established that it is strongly believed The Ripper had extensive medical knowledge, and we know Holmes was a graduate of medical school. Holmes’ was a schemer and meticulously planned out his crimes, and although less private and to a lesser extent, it is believed The Ripper’s attacks were not a random or spur of the moment attacks.

In America, Holmes’ was known to leave behind a paper trail, not covering his tracks of move-to-move. However, suddenly his trail disappears for a time in July 1888, and does not return until the new year of 1889. A very short time after The Ripper’s final known victim, a ship’s log revealed the name of an “H. Holmes” departing for America from England.

Another connection linking the two cases comes from a friend and partner in crime of Holmes, who lived in Whitechapel at the time. Edmund Buckley often ran insurance scams and sold corpses to medical schools alongside Holmes. A census at the time also shows that Holmes owned a home in Whitechapel, and a formal complaint came from a nearby hospital after Holmes tried to sell a corpse to them. These records come from the same time The Ripper murders were taking place. There have long been theories about Jack the Ripper committing his murders with an accomplice. Could Holmes and Buckley have worked together?

Lastly, the resemblance between Holmes and the description of Jack the Ripper is uncanny. Granted, an elaborate mustache was common for men in the 19th century, however the height comparisons as well as Holmes’ other prominent features such as his dark eyes and dark, thick eyebrows are a match for the description given of The Ripper.

In conclusion, we may never know if the two cases were truly done by the same perpetrator, however, the evidence is undeniable for those who believe it could be true.


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