Posts

Inside the grave of serial killer H.H. Holmes

Exhumation Ends 120 Year Mystery of H.H. Holmes’ Death

American Ripper ends over a century of rumors that H.H. Holmes escaped his death sentence.

The last episode of American Ripper aired Tuesday on the History channel, finally bringing closure to a mystery that has endured since H.H. Holmes was hanged in 1896. The series, co-hosted by Holmes’ great-great-grandson Jeff Mudgett, focused on the search for clues to support Mudgett’s theory that his ancestor was Jack the Ripper. While it’s an interesting idea (and who doesn’t want to discover conclusive proof of the Ripper’s identity?) I was just tuning in to see the remains of H.H. Holmes exhumed from his concrete grave.

According to records, Holmes was hanged at Philadelphia’s Moyamensing Prison, transported to Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, and buried beneath a layer of concrete. Holmes purchased two burial plots with the money he made by selling his confession to Hearst newspapers. Per his request, he was buried in an unmarked grave at the center of those two plots, at a greater depth than normal.

But soon after, rumors began to circulate that Holmes, the consummate con artist, had managed to swindle his way out of the noose. This was seemingly supported by the mysterious deaths of several people who had been involved in his trial.

The skull of serial killer H.H. Holmes
A mugshot of Holmes beside his skull

Mudgett and Holmes’ other living descendants were granted permission by the court to exhume Holmes back in April with the assistance of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania. During the dig, they first uncovered an empty pine box. Digging further, however, they came to a slab of concrete with bones beneath.

In the conclusion of American Ripper, it was revealed that forensic analysis of the remains showed a “conclusive link” to Jeff Mudgett. This discovery ends over one hundred years of speculation, proving even Holmes couldn’t cheat death.

Mudgett plans to continue investigating the connections between Holmes and Jack the Ripper, and is hoping History will green-light a second season of American Ripper.

Remains of H.H. Holmes returned to the grave
Remains of H.H. Holmes returned to the grave. Image via Bloodstains

Holmes was re-interred in his original grave on Wednesday morning.

Exhuming serial killer H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes Skeleton Found in Concrete with Brain Intact

What was found inside the grave of H.H. Holmes? Researcher Jeff Mudgett reveals the details of the exhumation.

Back in May news broke that the body of H.H. Holmes would be exhumed for a DNA test. Jeff Mudgett, the great-great-grandson of America’s first serial killer, is hoping to determine whether the rumors that Holmes escaped the gallows in 1896 are true or not. He believes Holmes may have been Jack the Ripper, which is the basis of the History channel series American Ripper, and is hoping to find supporting evidence.

So what exactly did they find when they dug Holmes out of his unmarked grave in Philadelphia’s Holy Cross Cemetery?

The dig, lead by archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania, first uncovered an empty pine box, Mudgett told NBC. Then, a few feet deeper, they hit concrete.

Holmes feared that grave robbers would steal his body after burial, so he requested to be entombed in cement. The teamed cracked open the concrete sarcophagus and found a man’s skeleton inside.

“Chills went up and down my spine,” Mudgett said. “To see that skeleton and that skull with the brain still inside, which is a phenomenon that scientists still have not explained…scared the heck out of me.”

Anthropologists are still testing the remains at UPenn. If there is any substantial clues to be gleaned from the bones, it will likely be featured in a future episode of American Ripper.

Update: DNA proves Holmes didn’t escape the gallows