Serial killer

5 Horrifying Facts About Serial Killer H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle

This is H. H. Holmes:

He is largely accepted to be the first American serial killer, admitting to 27 murders but suspected of committing up to 200 in his lifetime. He lived (and killed) in Chicago around 1893, and he did the majority of his murdering in a hotel he designed and built specifically for that purpose.

Creepy, right?

It’s downright disturbing, if you ask me, so let this serve as your warning if you plan to keep reading. If you’re into that sort of history (like me!), then come along for 5 of the most terrifying things about H.H. Holmes’ Chicago murder castle.

He changed contractors and workers almost constantly. Though he blamed incompetence, he also ensured that no one would know the breadth of the warren of passages the hotel hid or start to wonder what purpose they could possibly serve.

The hotel…

The Modern Movement to Exonerate a Notorious Medieval Serial Killer

An illustration of Gilles de Rais disposing of a woman's corpse.
An illustration of Gilles de Rais disposing of a woman’s corpse.

If the name Gilles de Rais rings a bell, you probably know him as the man responsible for the deaths of 150 boys in 15th-century France, degenerate deeds that led to his apotheosis as an early serial killer and the inspiration for the legend of Bluebeard.

Those with an interest in true crime might be aware of another detail: Rais was a war hero, appointed Marshal of France at age 25, who served alongside Joan of Arc—it’s because of her death, the story goes, that he went mad and turned to heresy, alchemy, and murder.

Brought to trial after dozens of children went missing in the Nantes countryside, Gilles de Rais was accused of, in the words of biographer Georges Bataille, “the abominable and execrable sin of sodomy, in various fashions and with unheard-of perversions that cannot presently be expounded upon by reason of their horror, but that will be disclosed in Latin at the appropriate time and place.” Rais confessed and was summarily executed on the October 16, 1440.

It’s a captivating tale, informing a wealth of books and websites dedicated to a “throat-slitter of women and children, judged for his crimes and burned in Nantes.” (This from Eugène Bossard, another biographer.)

A depiction of Bluebeard's grisly end, in Walter Crane's <em&gtThe Sleeping Beauty Picture Book</em>, 1915.
A depiction of Bluebeard’s grisly end, in Walter Crane’s The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, 1915. Public Domain

In 1992, the Breton tourist board commissioned a Gilles de Rais biography from French author Gilbert Proteau. The area around Rais’ castles was a travel destination for those wishing to see the crime scenes of a confessed serial murderer, and the board thought a book would bring in more tourists. Instead, Gilles de Rais ou la Gueule de Loup made the case that Rais was innocent—Prouteau also called for a retrial. A Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeals in France, was conducted and Rais was fully exonerated later that year.

This exoneration isn’t a secret: many of Rais’ countrymen know him as the victim of Church conspiracy, falsely accused on account of his great wealth and political connections to Joan of Arc, who herself was tried for heresy and executed 10 years prior. Yet while attempts to clear Rais’ name go back to 1443, the majority of his biographers make little mention of this or of the suspicious circumstances around his trial. Those who have considered the possibility of Rais’ innocence are few and far between—and almost all of them wrote only in French. Add in the pre-Internet Court of Cassation and you’ve got a wealth of information that has remained inaccessible to an English audience. Like a 15th-century Steven Avery, Rais has been waiting for his very own season of Making a Murderer. Now, 600 years after his execution, he may finally be getting it.

Gilles de Rais, painted in 1835.
Gilles de Rais, painted in 1835.

Margot K. Juby, a writer living in Cottingham, England, calls herself “Gilles de Rais’ representative on Earth” and is determined to clear his name worldwide. Since 2010, Juby has maintained the website Gilles de Rais Was Innocent, posting links to original documents in English and French and explaining how each myth, from the 150 dead boys to the associations with Bluebeard, began to pass for fact. This year, on the 25th anniversary of the 1992 retrial and Gilles de Rais’ acquittal, she will self-publish what she calls…

The Creepy Artwork of Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy

I’ve seen many photos of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s paintings throughout the years, but it wasn’t until January of this year that I saw one in person for the first time.

I was in a record store in Savannah, Georgia a few months ago, and underneath a glass case by the register, I saw a small painting. The style looked familiar.

Now, just in case you aren’t a total weirdo like I am, you should be aware that there is a whole industry out there dedicated to art by criminals and serial killers. This “murderabilia” market is definitely controversial, and there are websites that sell these original pieces of art for hefty prices.

The painting I saw at the record store in Savannah was a painting by John Wayne Gacy. Not only was it a Gacy original, it was a painting of another serial killer, the infamous Ed Gein. I asked the guy behind the counter if it was for sale and he immediately said “no.”

Many notorious criminals take up art after they get to prison: Charles Manson, Henry Lee Lucas, and Danny Rolling to name a few. But Gacy is…

Did World’s Fair Serial Killer H.H. Holmes Really Cheat Death in 1896? We May Be About to Find Out.

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In 1893, America hit a big milestone º she discovered her first serial killer.

It was the year of Chicago’s World’s Fair, and H.H. Holmes had big plans for the property he had converted into a macabre, deadly hotel. By the time he was caught, it contained secret passageways, gas chambers, ovens, and a host of other nightmares that greeted the women unlucky enough to book a room.

Once caught, Holmes confessed to over two dozen murders and was sentenced to death by hanging in 1896.

Which should be the end of the story (unless you believe in ghosts)…but it’s not.

Serial Killer to be Exhumed

H. H. Holmes was a serial killer in Chicago who was publicly hanged in 1896. You can read the story of his crimes in a previous article. Holmes, despite (or maybe because of) years of dismembering his victims, was deathly afraid of grave robbers, and requested that his casket be filled with concrete. And so it was. However, rumor has it that Holmes was not the man hanged that day.

Following the hanging, rumors spread far and wide that Holmes – a master con man and manipulator – had paid off prison guards to hang a cadaver or some unsuspecting fellow inmate in his place and…

Scotland’s Worst: Peter Manuel, “The Beast of Birkenshaw”

Peter Manuel’s ghastly murder spree lasted exactly one day short of two years. His first attack occurred on January 2, 1956, and his final assault took place on January 1, 1958. In those 729 days, the man know as the “Beast of Birkenshaw” committed acts of violence that still haunt the people of Scotland, even now. Like many serial killers, the true number of victims Peter Manuel claimed is unknown, but he is positively credited with 8 murders.

Manuel was born in New York City to Scottish immigrant parents in 1927. The family stayed in the U.S. for a while before they decided to return to their native Scotland when Peter was 5 years 0ld. The family settled in Birkenshaw. Manuel embarked on a life of crime from an early age, and he was well-known to police as a petty thief before he was even a teenager.

At the age of 16, Manuel began committing sexual assaults. He eventually attacked over a dozen women and was sent away to prison for 9 years for his crimes. After his stint behind bars, Manuel returned to Birkenshaw, but crime was never far from his mind. On January 2, 1956, Manuel committed his first murder. That day he stalked, attacked, raped, and murdered 17-year-old Anne Kneilands on a golf course. Manuel was questioned by police in the Kneilands murder, but his father provided him with an alibi, so he was crossed off the list of suspects. His father’s unfortunate lie kept Manuel on the street, where he went on to commit several more heinous acts.

In September 1956, Manuel committed a triple murder, taking the lives of Marion Watt, her sister Margaret Brown, and her 17-year-old daughter,…