Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

H. H. Holmes: Master of Illusion


After his conviction, and as his attorneys prepared an appeal for a new trial (which failed), Holmes took up the pen again to make a confession, largely inspired by the promise of a $10,000 payment from the Hearst newspaper syndicate. He published it in The Philadelphia Inquirer. It was his third full-blown tale to date about his activities with the Pitezel incident.

Aiming now to become the most notorious killer in the world, he claimed to have killed more than 100 people. Apparently having second thoughts, he reduced that number to 27, including Pitezel and his children. He insisted that he could not help what he'd done.

"I was born with the Evil One as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world," he lamented. The reading of his death warrant had been carried out and he faced execution by hanging on May 7. "It now seems a fitting time, if ever," he wrote, "to make known the details of the 27 murders, of which it would be useless to longer say I am not guilty." He admitted that there was overwhelming proof for his complicity in these deaths, and said that he would address only those cases that had been investigated and hoped that people would not therefore suppose from his silence on others that he must be guilty. It seemed to him sufficient that Detective Geyer had gone over his life with a fine-tooth comb, so to speak, and there was really no place to hide.

Holmes claimed that he wanted to make the confession at this point for several reasons, and he chose the Philadelphia Inquirer as his medium for making his revelations public. He assured his readers that he was not seeking attention and that the entire enterprise was distasteful to him. As he admitted to the murders, he said he was "thus branding myself as the most detestable criminal of modern times." Indeed, he was.

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