The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

A Dollhouse View of H.H. Holmes' Infamous Murder Castle

By Mae Rice in News on Jan 28, 2016 7:46PM

H. H. Holmes, best known as the antihero of Erik Larson's Devil In The White City, has the dubious distinction of being one of Chicago's earliest serial killers—and he couldn’t have done it without his murder castle. Murder Castle? It’s a proper noun, possibly.

Holmes designed the place himself, and had it built in Englewood, where it took up an entire city block. It was finished in 1892; in 1893, he advertised the structure as a hotel during the World’s Fair.

This rendering from Imgur shows a dollhouse view of the creepy, intricate building:

Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1861 - May 7, 1896), better known under the name of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or more commonly just H. H. Holmes, was one of the first documented serial killers in the modern sense of the term. In Chicago, at the time of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Holmes opened a hotel which he had designed and built for himself specifically with murder in mind, and which was the location of many of his murders. While he confessed to 27 murders, of which nine were confirmed, his actual body count could be up to 200. He brought an unknown number of his victims to his World's Fair Hotel, located about 3 miles (4.8 km) west of the fair, which was held in Jackson Park. Besides being a serial killer, H. H. Holmes was also a successful con artist and a bigamist.

It was a weird hotel, with stairways that led nowhere, locked doors, mysterious vaults, and a very dungeon-y basement. Still, the hotel framing helped him lure in his many victims. (Holmes confessed to 27 murders, according to Imgur, or 28, according to our research, though that was likely the tip of the iceberg.)

In the rendering above, it looks a bit like a Richard Scarry book, and then, upon closer examination, like a Richard Scarry book gone wrong. The hole in the floor of the basement, covered by a board, is an especially sinister touch. That’s not for storing snacks!

(It’s for storing corpses, probably. The entire basement and second floor were reserved for murdering.)

Read our deep dive into the history of the Murder Castle here.