Quotes From H.H. Holmes' Memoir Provide Insight Into The 'American Ripper'
American serial killer H.H. Holmes with his Chicago "murder castle" did enough heinous acts during his lifetime to gain notoriety for decades, but an ancestor of his is out to prove that he could have been even more murderous. The eight-part History show American Ripper will investigate if Holmes and Jack the Ripper were the same person. This Holmes-Jack the Ripper theory is controversial — and, as The New York Times notes, probably won't be proven in American Ripper — but something that's known for a fact is that Holmes wrote a memoir while he was alive. While it should be stated that not many actual facts exist in his account, Holmes' prison memoir, Holmes' Own Story, gives some fascinating insight into one of the most notorious minds of American history.
The most notable quote by Holmes — who was born Herman Webster Mudgett — is, "I was born with the devil in me." But what he wrote in his prison-penned memoir is not as well-known since he used Holmes' Own Story to deny his involvement in any murders. As writer JD Crighton notes in the introduction of her published version of Holmes' Own Story, the memoir was his attempt to prove his innocence in the death of his business associate Benjamin Pitezel, which was the murder for which he was sent to prison. After his conviction, Holmes wrote a confession that was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on April 12, 1897 — nearly a year after he was hung to death, according to philly.com. In his confession, he said he killed 27 people, so it's understandable that this is remembered more than Holmes' Own Story.
The Library of Congress has Holmes' Own Story available as a pdf for anyone to view. But if you'd like just a glimpse of his twisted mind before embarking on American Ripper, here are some of the most interesting quotes from Holmes' long-winded — but pretty engrossing — denial.
Although Holmes doesn't blame his parents for any of his actions, the fact that he claims his father used to beat him with a rod is surely something to note for people interested in psychoanalysis.
His Time Working At An Asylum
For someone who murdered so many, it's incredible that Holmes claims to be haunted by the patients of a psychiatric hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania, that he worked at.
His Sister-In-Law's Death
He writes that his wife Minnie Williams, who he says suffered from mental illness, had killed her own sister Nannie over jealously over Holmes. He details how he disposed of his sister-in-law's body and then ended things with Minnie. Biography notes that both sisters are assumed to have been killed by Holmes.
The Sight Of A Dead Body
In his memoir, Holmes spends a considerable amount of time explaining how he found a dead man who looked like him to fake his own death for insurance money purposes.
Transporting A Dead Body
Holmes had to move the insurance fraud body on a train and this passage highlights how nonchalant he was when it came to transporting a corpse — probably not the greatest passage to include if you're trying to prove your innocence.
Spending Time In Jail
Even serial killers can make time for the works of Victor Hugo.
The Death Of Benjamin Pitezel
Although, as Rolling Stone reported, Holmes was hung to death in 1896 for the murder of Pitezel, Holmes' memoir states that Pitezel killed himself and that his business associate's face was burnt due to the chloroform that he used in his suicide. After Holmes discovered the body, he claims to have only burnt the body to cover the chloroform burns since he didn't want his friend's death to be ruled as a suicide for insurance purposes .... riiiiight.
The Deaths Of Alice & Nellie Pitezel
Along with Pitezel, Adam Selzer — author of H.H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil — notes how it is pretty much accepted as fact that Holmes killed three of Pitezel's children. Two of those children were Pitezel's daughters Alice and Nellie. Holmes claims to have not done this in his memoir with an elaborate story (although it's not quite as elaborate as the story he told about covering up their father's "suicide") by saying he placed the two children on a train and never saw them again.
Reading About Alice & Nellie's Bodies Being Found
In this passage, Holmes uses some strong (and sickening, considering he most likely killed the two young girls) language to present himself as innocent in the deaths of Alice and Nellie, even going back and referencing the death of his wife Minnie's sister.
An employee of Holmes' in Chicago, Biography states that Emeline Cigrand is an assumed victim of his, but he denied this assumption in his memoir. Cigrand was just part of a long list of other potential victims of his that he included in the memoir in which he denied all the claims.
Along with saying no motive existed for killing all these people, Holmes explains how he is a simple man who would not have been capable of these murders. This is in stark contrast to his later confession, in which some of the people he included in the list of victims weren't even really dead, as Biography notes.
While Holmes is best known for his murders in Chicago, it was the murders he wrote about in his memoir in such (inaccurate) detail that were his undoing. And though the public will never know the full truth of all the horrors that Holmes did, you can watch his great-great-grandson Jeff Mudgett try to pin even more murders on his ancestor in American Ripper.