Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Supernatural Surrounded Serial Killer

I recently finished reading Erik Larson's The Devil In the White City, a riveting look at two very different men who left indelible marks upon 1893 Chicago: architect Daniel Burnham, inarguable mastermind behind the World's Fair, and H. H. Holmes, pseudonym for America's own Jack the Ripper, Herman Webster Mudgett. While the former desired to elevate the teeming masses of the Windy City with revelations of beauty and majesty, the latter preyed upon the naivete of those very same wide-eyed innocents, newly arrived from the farm to the big city for the first time.

While Holmes' evil was grounded purely in the realms of the terrestrial psychotic, his story occasionally hints at something almost supernatural. When investigators tore apart Holmes' large complex of retail spaces, hotel rooms, and drugstore, they discovered a letter addressed to the pharmacist under his employ. In this letter, Holmes asked the man a simple yet macabre question: "Do you ever see anything of the ghost of the Williams sisters, and do they trouble you much now?" Holmes had killed the two women in his basement of terror where he inflicted such horrors as asphyxiation, immolation, and dismemberment.

But it is interesting to note Holmes' phrasing. "Do they trouble you much now?" This almost implies that the pharmacist had mentioned previously being troubled by the presence of the sisters' "ghost".

While in custody, Holmes bragged to detectives that he was the Devil incarnate, a creepy thought if you factor in the tragedies that befell those who sent him to his death. The detective that brought him to justice fell seriously ill, the warden at Holmes' prison committed suicide, the foreman of the jury who convicted him died in a freak electrical accident, one victim's father died in a boiler accident, and the priest who administered last rites was found dead in the yard of his own church by causes unknown. But the creepiest of came perhaps when the District Attorney's office burned to the ground leaving nothing intact save for a photograph of H. H. Holmes.

Did the devil truly prey upon unsuspecting tourists entranced by futuristic displays of electric light bulbs, giant "Ferris" wheels, and some of the largest buildings then constructed? Was there a dark malevolence afoot in the White City, as the Fair was then known?
If you're one of those paranormal enthusiasts who like checking out cemeteries, perhaps you can find some activity surrounding Holmes' final resting place in Philadelphia's Holy Cross Cemetery. However, no grave marker denotes the site, which is located at section 15, range 10, lot 41 at the center of graves 3 and 4, just off Lazarus Avenue. Perhaps there was no one who cared to purchase a headstone. Or perhaps some evils are best forgotten lest they somehow arise once more. It should be interesting to note that his body lay encased in a cement filled coffin beneath 10 feet of cement. Ostensibly this was at Holmes' request; he didn't want curious scientific minds slicing him up in search of any physical evidence of evil.


The Stout said...

Absolutely fascinating...I'm checking the library for this book right now.

Miss you bro!!

Word Woman said...

Incredible. I am fascinated by the letter about the ghosts...