The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

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H. H. Holmes Character Analysis

The blue-eyed, charismatic, and sociopathic doctor who commits multiple murders at the end of the 19th century, Holmes is born with the surname Mudgett, and regularly uses other aliases, such as Henry Gordon, H.S. Campbell, Alexander Bond, and Alex E. Cook. Holmes is a remorseless murderer who enjoys the power he exerts over young, timid women who travel to Chicago, and feels an almost sexual thrill when he kills. Women find his dashing demeanor, slightly risqué behavior, and blue eyes extremely attractive, an attraction that Holmes is highly aware of and uses to his advantage. Holmes benefits greatly from the 1893 World’s Fair, advertising his hotel building as a cheap place for tourists to stay, and taking advantage of the anonymity of the rapidly-growing Chicago, as well as the incompetence of its police force.

H. H. Holmes Quotes in The Devil in the White City

The The Devil in the White City quotes below are all either spoken by H. H. Holmes or refer to H. H. Holmes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Devil in the White City published in 2004.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

He had dark hair and striking blue eyes, once likened to the eyes of a Mesmerist. “The eyes are very big and wide open,” a physician named John L. Capen later observed. “They are blue. Great murderers, like great men in other walks of activity, have blue eyes.”

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes
Related Symbols: Blue Eyes
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Holmes's appearance isn't what one usually associates with murderers: he's calm, innocent, and friendly-looking. As the quote makes clear, Holmes's blue eyes and innocent appearance made him "great" at what he did—namely, murdering innocent people.

The quotation further suggests that Holmes was able to murder so may innocent people because his appearance deceived his victims into viewing him as a friend. Holmes was able to establish trust between himself and his patrons at the hotel. In this way, he managed to gain access to people's money, family, and property; and when he'd succeeded in doing so, he would murder again and move on to a new prospect.

The quote about Holmes's blue eyes also brings up a connection implicitly made by the novel itself—the similarities between Holmes and the men designing the World's Fair. "Greatness" here has nothing to do with morality, and everything to do with skill, intelligence, and success. Thus Holmes and Burnham are both "great men" in this sense, even if one is a serial killer and one a family man and famous architect.

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Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

There were rules about courtship. Although no one set them down on paper, every young woman knew them and knew instantly when they were being broken. Holmes broke them all … it frightened [Myrta], but she found quickly that she liked the heat and the risk.

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes, Myrta Belknap
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Holmes is a seductive man, and as the passage explains, he's seductive because he knows the unwritten rules of courtship in America, and then proceeds to break them. One of the basic rules of courtship between men and women is "no touching." Holmes breaks this rule constantly—but the women he flirts with seem to enjoy it.

One of the reasons that Holmes is such a fascinating figure is that he feels strangely modern to readers. While the other characters in the novel are overly trusting and formal in their behavior (i.e., they're basically 19th century people), Holmes is a 21st century man—at once more immediately understandable to modern readers, and also frighteningly impossible to understand. Holmes's violation of courtship rules is a great example of why he seems modern to us—while everyone else in the novel is caught up in old-fashioned rules, Holmes breaks the rules with ease. Holmes's behavior in the quote further ties him to Chicago itself: like Chicago, Holmes is hot, risky, and dangerous—and yet also completely alluring.

Part 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

Though sexual liaisons were common, society tolerated them only as long as their details remained secret. Packinghouse princes ran off with parlormaids and bank presidents seduced typewriters; when necessary, their attorneys arranged quiet solo voyages to Europe to the surgical suites of discreet but capable doctors. A public pregnancy without marriage meant disgrace and destitution. Holmes possessed Julia now as fully as if she were an antebellum slave, and he reveled in his possession.

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes, Julia Conner
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

In the 19th century, having a baby outside of marriage was a truly shocking thing: it would ruin a woman's reputation for life. Women who'd had affairs that didn't end in marriage couldn't find employment, get married to someone else, etc. As the quotation explains, H. H. Holmes has struck up an affair with a young woman named Julia, and gotten her pregnant. Holmes knows full well that he now has complete control over Julia's actions, since he could ruin her life at any time by telling people about the affair or the pregnancy.

The quotation explains a lot about Holmes's psychology. Although Holmes seems to genuinely enjoy killing people, he gets the most pleasure from the sense of power he wields over women: he savors Julia's hopelessness and her desperation. Even more generally, though, the passage criticizes 19th century gender norms. It's important to remember that Holmes's reputation wouldn't be ruined if he were to disclose news of his affair; only Julia's. The gender biases of the era kept women dependent on men's discretion, not the other way around. One could even say that sexism is the real "villain" of this passage (and of the entire book) because it created vast numbers of desperate young victims for Holmes.

Part 3, Chapter 2 Quotes

As best anyone could tell, the owner also was a forgiving soul. [Holmes] did not seem at all concerned when now and then a guest checked out without advance notice, leaving her bills unpaid. That he often smelled vaguely of chemicals — that in fact the building as a whole often had a medicinal odor — bothered no one. He was, after all, a physician, and his building had a pharmacy on the ground floor.

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Larson writes about Holmes ironically: he shows Holmes as he seemed to his unsuspecting guests, who had no idea that a serial killer was renting out rooms. From the reader's perspective, it's pretty obvious that Holmes is a devious man: his chemical smell, his willingness to rent to young women, and his guests who mysteriously disappear are all suspicious signs.

In general, the passage conveys how bizarre and unprecedented Holmes's murders were in 1893. Murder is always tragic, but in the 21st century there's at least some precedent for serial killers in the U.S.A. In 1893, Holmes was (or at least seemed to be) one of a kind: so bloodthirsty that his victims literally couldn't conceive of the crimes he committed.

Part 3, Chapter 14 Quotes

The panic came, as it always did. Holmes imagined Anna crumpled in a corner. If he chose, he could rush to the door, throw it open, hold her in his arms, and weep with her at the tragedy just barely averted. He could do it at the last minute, in the last few seconds. He could do that.

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes, Anna Williams
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Holmes listens calmly as his latest victim, Anna, suffocates to death. He's locked her in a vacuum-sealed vault downstairs, and can hear her panicking.

Part of what makes the passage so striking (and frightening) is that it shows Anna's death from Holmes's point of view—we're told exactly what Holmes is thinking as Anna dies. Based on this and other similar passages, it's clear that Holmes enjoys murder in part because he enjoys the control he exerts over his victims, and particularly his female victims. There's something unmistakably sexual about Holmes's pleasure here; he seems to enjoy dominating Anna, savoring his own power.

The passages that are narrated from Holmes's perspective (like this one) are the most novelistic in Larson's book. Although he's writing about real historical events, he's often put in a position where he needs to imagine the psychology of real people. Thus, he gives Holmes psychological depth that makes him both more of a literary character and more of believable historical character. 

Part 4, Chapter 1 Quotes

Why had Holmes gone to the trouble and expense of moving the children from city to city, hotel to hotel, if only to kill them? Why had he bought each of them a crystal pen and taken them to the zoo in Cincinnati …?

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes, Alice Pitezal, Nellie Pitezal, Detective Frank Geyer
Page Number: 348
Explanation and Analysis:

Detective Frank Geyer here wonders to himself why Holmes—now known to be a murderer and kidnapper—has treated his murder victims so well. Holmes has abducted children and spent months with them prior to killing them: indeed, he's been a charming and loving father figure to them, buying them toys and taking them on trips. It makes no logical sense that Holmes would treat children so well and then kill them—but of course, as we're well aware by now, Holmes isn't always a rational person.

It's important to note that the passage is phrased as a rhetorical question. Even if Geyer doesn't know the answer to his own question, we the readers do: Holmes's most recognizable trait is his desire for power and control. It's not enough for Holmes to murder his victims; he wants to dominate them completely, and make them love him before he kills them. Only when Holmes has achieved total control does he commit murder. The children whose deaths Geyer is trying to explain are only the latest in a long string of tragic examples of Holmes's sadism.

Part 4, Chapter 6 Quotes

The thing editors could not understand was how Holmes had been able to escape serious investigations by the Chicago police. The Chicago Inter Ocean said, “It is humiliating to think that had it not been for the exertions of the insurance companies which Holmes swindled, or attempted to swindle, he might yet be at large, preying upon society, so well did he cover up the traces of his crime.”

Related Characters: H. H. Holmes
Page Number: 370
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Chicago authorities point out something that's been apparent to readers for a long time now: it's bizarre and horrifying that Holmes was able to get away with mass murder for so many years. It's also humiliating that a simple technicality in an insurance claim was what led to his undoing, rather than the ingenuity of law enforcement.

The quotation reinforces what Larson has already had ample time to show: that Holmes benefited from a new, large-scale city (Chicago), in which the size of the migrant population and the physical complexities of the city's neighborhoods made police officers incompetent and overworked. In the quote, the Chicago Inter Ocean authorities try to cover their tracks somewhat, admitting that the police didn't do their job, but also insisting that Holmes did a fantastic job of "covering up" his own crimes. By modern standards, Holmes did not do a particularly stellar job of hiding his crimes from the public—rather, the American public was unaccustomed to serial killers, and so in spite of ample evidence that Holmes was a murderer, it was easier for civilians to think that he was an eccentric or an overworked doctor than it was for them to imagine that he killed dozens of people.

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H. H. Holmes Character Timeline in The Devil in the White City

The timeline below shows where the character H. H. Holmes appears in The Devil in the White City. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 3: The Necessary Supply
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In August, 1886, a man who goes by the name H. H. Holmes arrives in Englewood, a suburb of Chicago. He is young, handsome, and well dressed, and... (full context)
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Holmes goes to 63rd and Wallace, where he meets an elderly woman, Mrs. Holton, who owns... (full context)
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Holmes is impressed with Chicago, even though almost nothing impresses him. His first impressions of the... (full context)
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As a small child, Holmes claims, a group of older boys forced him to look at a skeleton in a... (full context)
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Growing up in Gilmanton, Holmes went by the name Herman Mudgett. He was often beaten by his father, a strict... (full context)
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Holmes later claims that as a child, he saw a photographer remove his own leg, and... (full context)
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Holmes married a young woman named Clara, who adored him, though she was simultaneously aroused and... (full context)
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Holmes went to medical school in Michigan, where he was a mediocre student, and later took... (full context)
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Holmes and his friend from medical school developed a complex scheme for collecting life insurance. The... (full context)
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Holmes next went to Philadelphia, where he worked in a pharmacy. He left immediately after a... (full context)
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At the time when Holmes arrives in Chicago, the city is changing rapidly. As large buildings continue to be built... (full context)
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Holmes buys Mrs. Holton’s store, using his affectionate manner to convince her. Holton continues to live... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5: Don’t Be Afraid
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By 1886, Holmes runs a highly successful business at his pharmacy in Englewood. He begins to court a... (full context)
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Myrta is impressed with the energy of Chicago, and at first she adores Holmes for his gentle manner and ambition to succeed. But she quickly becomes jealous of his... (full context)
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In 1888, Holmes buys land across the street from his pharmacy under a false name. He begins designing... (full context)
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Holmes hires workers to build, deliberately overworking them and encouraging them to leave early on. In... (full context)
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...commits his first murders, brutally stabbing prostitutes. These events fascinate everyone in Chicago, but especially Holmes. (full context)
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...Englewood into its city limits, and a new police precinct opens in the area, near Holmes’s building. Holmes sells his old drugstore and promptly opens a new one across the street,... (full context)
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Holmes buys chloroform, at first insisting that he is using it for scientific experiments, then denying... (full context)
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Holmes hears about the upcoming World’s Fair in Jackson Park, and plans to exploit it for... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7: A Hotel for the Fair
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Holmes plans to turn his new building into a cheap hotel for World’s Fair visitors. When... (full context)
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Holmes modifies his building for his new plans, hiring workers for short periods so that none... (full context)
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Myrta’s great uncle, Jonathan Belknap, who has money, visits her in Illinois. Holmes begins to visit Myrta more frequently, charming the family. Belknap doesn’t trust Holmes, but finds... (full context)
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In Chicago, Belknap is disgusted by the smells of the city, but Holmes seems not to mind them. Holmes shows him around his new hotel, which he finds... (full context)
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Holmes tries to buy a kiln for the basement of his hotel. He claims to be... (full context)
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Holmes spends more and more time away from Myrta and his daughter, though he sends them... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9: Vanishing Point
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...his wife, Julia, and their daughter, Pearl. He begins working at a jewelry counter in Holmes’s building in Englewood. As he settles in his new life, a new elevated train line,... (full context)
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Holmes hires Julia and Ned’s sister, Gertrude, for his pharmacy. Ned notices that Holmes seems overly... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10: Alone
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...factors, threaten to make the Fair a failure. Meanwhile, Prendergast falls deeper into madness, and Holmes continues his mysterious plans. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: Cuckoldry
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Holmes’s building earns the nickname “The Castle.” Ned’s sister, Gertrude, comes to Ned one day and... (full context)
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...their daughter, Pearl, becomes increasingly moody. Ned hears rumors of an affair between Julia and Holmes, but doesn’t believe them. Holmes asks Ned if he will buy the pharmacy from him.... (full context)
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Ned and Julia continue to fight. Holmes is sympathetic, and comments that Julia is a beautiful woman. He asks Ned to buy... (full context)
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...that the pharmacy, which he now owns, is deep in debt from the time when Holmes owned it. Holmes tells him that debts are typical, and says that the sale of... (full context)
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Holmes, who has promised Julia that he would marry her when Ned left, loses interest in... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4: Remains of the Day
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Julia tells Holmes that she is pregnant, and that they must marry. Holmes pretends to be overjoyed, though... (full context)
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Holmes brings Julia to his basement, where he uses chloroform to murder her. Before dying, Julia... (full context)
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Holmes summons his associate, Charles Chappell, and shows him the corpse of an unusually tall woman.... (full context)
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...the Doyles, moves into Julia’s old room, where they see her possessions still laid out. Holmes explains that Julia’s sister has fallen ill, and that she and her daughter have left... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: The Angel from Dwight
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Holmes sends his associate, Benjamin Pitezal, to receive the famous Keeley cure for alcoholism, a highly... (full context)
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Ned Conner returns to Holmes’s store to ask about the mortgage. He meets Cigrand, and warns her to be careful... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10: Chappell Redux
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Emeline Cigrand visits her friends, the Lawrences, who also live in Holmes’s building. The building looks sad and gloomy to her, where before it had seemed inviting.... (full context)
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Cigrand stops visiting the Lawrences, and they ask Holmes her whereabouts. Holmes replies that she has gone to be married in secret, and produces... (full context)
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Mrs. Lawrence presses Holmes for more information about Cigrand, but he divulges almost none. Lawrence begins to suspect that... (full context)
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...they known that Robert E. Phelps was an alias that Benjamin Pitezal used, and that Holmes has sent Charles Chappell a trunk with another human body in it, and asked him... (full context)
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...find a footprint, clearly belonging to a woman, on the door of the vault in Holmes’s building. They guess that Holmes locked a woman in the vault and poured acid on... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12: Acquiring Minnie
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Holmes establishes a cure of alcoholism in imitation of the Keeley’s cure, and prepares to receive... (full context)
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In March 1893, Holmes is looking for a new secretary preferably a young, vulnerable woman. Holmes is excellent at... (full context)
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...several of their uncles. One such uncle leaves her a valuable estate when he dies. Holmes meets Minnie while traveling in Boston under the name Henry Gordon. At a dinner party... (full context)
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Minnie is heartbroken when Holmes stops visiting her. She wants to marry him, but refuses to leave school and move... (full context)
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After a few weeks, Holmes proposes marriage to Minnie, which she accepts. She writes to her sister, Anna, who is... (full context)
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Holmes receives a letter from Emeline Cigrand’s father, asking for her whereabouts. Holmes responds immediately, saying... (full context)
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Holmes convinces Minnie to transfer the deed to her land in Texas to a man he... (full context)
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Holmes founds a company called Campbell-Yates: a fictional business whose only purpose is to vouch for... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14: The Invitation
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Holmes senses that Anna, Minnie’s sister, is suspicious of him. He tells Minnie to invite Anna... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15: Final Preparations
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As Chicago prepares for the Opening Ceremony, Holmes prepares for guests at his World’s Fair Hotel. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2: The World’s Fair Hotel
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Holmes continues to house visitors to the World’s Fair, though not as many as he’d expected.... (full context)
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Minnie becomes an “inconvenience” to Holmes; she becomes jealous of his attention to the other women in the building. Holmes buys... (full context)
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The guests in Holmes’s building love Holmes for being warm and inviting — his manner is a little “dangerous,”... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5: Modus Operandi
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People begin to disappear from Holmes’s building more and more rapidly: waitresses, stenographers, and even a male physician. Strange odors float... (full context)
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Holmes is different from Jack the Ripper: his murders aren’t bloody. Still, he likes to be... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7: Nannie
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...sister, Anna, who goes by the nickname “Nannie,” comes to Chicago to visit Minnie and Holmes. When she meets Holmes, she notes that he isn’t as handsome as Minnie says, but... (full context)
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Anna, Minnie, and Holmes go to see the World’s Fair: massive buildings, fast-moving trains, and electric lights. The Electricity... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 12: Independence Day
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Holmes, Minnie, and Anna attend the July 4th festivities at Jackson Park. In the midst of... (full context)
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Holmes makes Anna and Minnie an incredible offer, which Anna reports in a letter to her... (full context)
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Anna is extremely excited by Holmes’s offer. Later on, a lawyer, William Capp, says that Anna had no inheritance, meaning that... (full context)
Holmes has told Anna that he will take her, without Minnie, to his hotel. Anna thinks... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 14: Claustrophobia
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Holmes takes Anna to his hotel when he knows that most guests will be at the... (full context)
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Holmes hears Anna banging on the door, and does nothing. He thinks that he could open... (full context)
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Holmes travels back to his apartment and tells Minnie that Anna is waiting for them in... (full context)
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Two days later, the Oker family receives a letter from Holmes telling them that he no longer needs an apartment. Surprised, the Okers look in the... (full context)
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Holmes employs a man named Cephas Humphrey who lives in Englewood, and asks him to remove... (full context)
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Holmes gives Pitezal’s wife dresses, shoes, and hats that belonged to Minnie, but he says they... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 16: Love
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Holmes, who now has money and land (inherited from Minnie), courts a young, intelligent woman named... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 20: Departures
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Holmes decides to leave Chicago. He sets fire to his hotel, and files an insurance claim... (full context)
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Holmes can’t pretend to be Campbell himself, since Cowie knows his face. He decides not to... (full context)
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Cowie’s investigation into Holmes’s hotel encourages Holmes’s creditors to unite to demand their money back. They hire an attorney,... (full context)
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Chamberlin invites Holmes to his office, where Holmes is ambushed by his various creditors. Holmes is surprised, but... (full context)
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Holmes leaves Chicago with his fiancée, Georgiana, and Benjamin Pitezal for Fort Worth, Texas, where he... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 22: The Black City
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...World’s Fair and never returned to their homes. Larson ends Part 3 by noting that Holmes would never have been caught had it not been for one persistent detective. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1: Property of H.H. Holmes
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...detectives, contemplates his current assignment, a man named Mudgett who goes by the alias H.H. Holmes. Holmes has been put in custody, arrested seven months ago for insurance fraud. (full context)
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Holmes, who used to live in Chicago, had traveled to Forth Worth, St. Louis, and Philadelphia,... (full context)
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Geyer interviews Holmes in his jail cell. Holmes insists that he last saw Pitezal’s three children with Minnie... (full context)
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Holmes claims that he found a cadaver that looked like Pitezal, set it on fire, and... (full context)
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Alice wrote letters to her mother, saying that she disliked Holmes and didn’t find his manner charming. Geyer knows that this letter never reached Alice’s mother.... (full context)
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...to the Atlantic House hotel and finds records of an “Alex E. Cook,” one of Holmes’s aliases, written in Holmes’s handwriting. This leads Geyer to the realty office of J.C. Thomas,... (full context)
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Geyer, now assisted by Detective David Richards, traces Holmes to a hotel called Circle Park, where he finds records of a Mrs. Georgia Howard,... (full context)
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...their family, but also fed well and taken to the zoo. Geyer can’t understand why Holmes would kill three children for no rational reason, especially since he fed them well and... (full context)
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Geyer begins to understand that Holmes is not a rational human being. Geyer travels to different hotels, always asking for information... (full context)
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Geyer realizes that Holmes moves his travel companions for his own amusement, enjoying their confusion and sadness. Geyer is... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2: Moyamensing Prison
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Holmes sits in his cell, thinking smugly that no one has been ale to produce evidence... (full context)
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In prison, Holmes begins to write a memoir. He composes this work in a pastoral style, emphasizing the... (full context)
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Holmes writes a letter to Mrs. Carrie Pitezal, which he knows will be read by the... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3: The Tenant
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In July 1895, Geyer goes to Toronto and confirms that Holmes has traveled there with three separate parties. No one can remember seeing Holmes. But he... (full context)
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...his fame, and annoyed that he has yet to find the children. He understands that Holmes moved the children for his own amusement, more than any financial reward. (full context)
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...dig a hole for burying potatoes. Geyer goes to the cellar in the building where Holmes seemed to have stayed, and begins to dig. Three feet below the ground, he finds... (full context)
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The coroner guesses that Holmes locked the three girls in a large trunk and gassed them. Geyer is amazed that... (full context)
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...Mrs. Pitezal continues to think that Howard is alive, possibly checked into an institution, as Holmes had suggested. Geyer is unsure whether Howard is alive or dead. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4: A Lively Corpse
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...the front pages of various newspapers. The Assistant District Attorney, Thomas W. Barlow, orders that Holmes not be shown the papers, so that Barlow can surprise him with the news and... (full context)
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In his memoirs, Holmes claims that he was shocked by the news of the children’s deaths. He realized that... (full context)
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Holmes sends his memoirs to a journalist, John King, and gives him instructions to publish them... (full context)
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Holmes, who knows that he’s suspected of murdering Minnie Williams, writes a letter in which he... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5: All the Weary Days
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Geyer continues to search for Howard, sure that Holmes killed him in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, the police search Holmes’s building in Englewood, and begin to... (full context)
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In Holmes’s hotel, the police find airtight rooms and gas nozzles that seemingly serve no purpose. They... (full context)
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Geyer travels to Chicago to determine if one of the skeletons in Holmes’s basement might have belonged to Howard Pitezal. In Chicago, Geyer finds the city terrified by... (full context)
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Geyer learns that the skeleton in Holmes’s basement belonged to a girl named Pearl Conner, a name that Geyer doesn’t recognize. Geyer... (full context)
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...Howard’s death. One day, he meets with a man named Mr. Brown, who remembers giving Holmes the keys to a house he was renting. Brown leads Geyer to a man named... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6: Malice Aforethought
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On September 12, 1895, a grand jury in Philadelphia indicts Holmes for the murder of Benjamin Pitezal. Juries in Indianapolis and Toronto indict Holmes for murdering... (full context)
Epilogue, Chapter 3: Holmes
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In the fall of 1895, Holmes is tried in Philadelphia for the murder of Benjamin Pitezal. Prosecutors aren’t permitted to bring... (full context)
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Holmes writes a new memoir in which he admits to killing 27 people, including Alice and... (full context)
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Holmes refuses to allow an autopsy to be performed on his body, and orders that he... (full context)
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In the years after the execution, the people connected to Holmes’s capture experience strange accidents. Geyer becomes very ill, the warden of Moyamensing prison kills himself,... (full context)
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...discovered, and in one of them, the police find a phrase from a book about Holmes: “He could feel that he was a god in disguise.” (full context)