Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

H. H. Holmes: Master of Illusion


He arrived there on July 24. As before, he proceeded to gain the assistance of real estate agents from around the city to learn the details of short-term rentals from the previous October. By this time, Geyer's trek had become of supreme interest to the nation and the newspapers heralded his arrival. He was considered a real-life Sherlock Holmes, and people wanted to follow his every step the way they read a suspenseful piece of fiction. This was both a curse and a boon. He received many leads, which he followed, but most of them just wasted his time. "Days came and passed," he wrote, "but I continued to be as much in the dark as ever." Geyer feared that "the bold and clever criminal" might have bested him on this one. It seemed increasingly more likely that little Howard might never be found.

Back in Philadelphia, Holmes avidly kept track of Geyer's journey. At first, he felt empowered, believing that Geyer could never find the children. But with the discovery of the girls' remains, things looked grim. He had to think up a tale to exonerate himself and place the blame on others. Even as he did so, investigators were analyzing the children's letters, and they sent ideas to Geyer. Some things had been overlooked or misunderstood and with renewed care, Geyer discovered that the children had been in Indianapolis four days longer than he'd figured. He narrowed the frame of time that was unaccounted for to only two days and then returned to Chicago to check on a child's skeleton recently found. It was not Howard. Nor would Holmes, when asked, yield a word of assistance. The "king of fabricators" threw blame on another man as the likely perpetrator.

Geyer traveled to several more places but instinct told him to settle in Indianapolis and keep searching there. Despite the lack of success, Geyer continued to believe that he would make a breakthrough in this town. "No less than nine hundred supposed clues were run out," he later wrote. But he needed a new strategy.

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