buried. Holmes’s attorneys turned down an offer of $5,000 for his body and refused to send his brain to Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute, where scientists had hoped to analyze it.
So many people who’d rented rooms from Holmes during the fair had actually gone missing that estimates of his victims reached around two hundred; though the toll is unsubstantiated, it is sometimes cited even to this day. We might not know the number of his victims, but we do know that Holmes was among the cleverest serial killers of all time, and our inability to fully document his crimes attests to how well he exploited chaotic times and the lack of record keeping to cover his tracks. In light of this, Detective Geyer’s painstaking detection is quite brilliant, and his work inspired many like-minded sleuths well into the next century.
While Geyer relied on logic and persistence, our next story links another fortuitous discovery in science with the investigation of a brutal serial killer who targeted children two at a time.
Boswell, Charles, and Lewis Thomas. The Girls in the Nightmare House. Hold Medal, 1955.
Boucher, Anthony. The Quality of Murder. New York: E. E. Dutton, 1962.
Franke, David. The Torture Doctor. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1975.
Geyer, Frank. The Holmes-Pitezel Case: A History of the Greatest Crime of the Century. Salem, MA: Publisher’s Union, 1896.
Holmes, H. H. Holmes’ Own Story. Burk and McFetridge, 1895. _. Confession. Philadelphia Inquirer, April 12, 1896.
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. New York: Crown, 2003.
Schechter, Harold. Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America’s First Serial Killer. New York: Pocket, 1994.
The H. H. Holmes Case, a film by John Borowski. Waterfront Productions, 2003.
Secrets in Blood
It was early afternoon on September 9, 1898, in Lechtingen, Germany, near Osnabrück. Jadwiga Heidemann was awaiting her seven-year-old daughter’s return from school. When Hannelore failed to arrive as expected, Jadwiga went to a neighbor, Irmgard Langmeier, whose daughter, Else, was a year older. The two girls often played together. But Irmgard had not seen Else either, so together they contacted the school. To their horror, neither girl had been seen that day. They alerted friends and family, and enlisted as many people as they could to search the surrounding woods. They were at it the rest of the day, without result. None of the girls’ friends had seen them.
Then, as dusk settled in, one searcher came across what looked like the dismembered limbs of a child scattered on the ground. From clothing and personal effects on the ground nearby, Jadwiga identified the remains of her daughter. She was shocked and grief-stricken. Irmgard held out hope, since her daughter was not there in the immediate area. However, the girl had not yet returned home, so the searchers continued. An hour later, when it was nearly too dark to search any longer, they found her in an equally brutalized condition, hidden deeper in the woods within some bushes. Despite the evidence of a person committing these crimes who was aware of the need to hide them, the villagers considered other explanations, such as a roving beast. It would not be the first time that wolves had killed children, but it was early fall, not winter, when wolves were most hungry, and it was difficult to imagine them venturing this close to civilization. Even so, for the moment, it seemed the most likely explanation.
The German biologist
Paul Uhlenhuth, who was first
successful in distinguishing
animal from human blood. His
analysis of the evidence against
the “werewolf” Ludwig Tessnow
played an essential role in the
Over several centuries, wolves have been the scapegoats for crimes that defy belief that a human could have committed them. Victims might be bitten all over, torn limb from limb, drained of blood, or disemboweled. Since these offenses seemed