America's first serial killer built a murder castle in Chicago


Originally published at:


Not sure if it gets mentioned in the audio but Devil in the White City is an excellent book that covers HH Holmes and the Chicago World’s Fair.


A fascinating tale for certain, but NOT the first serial killer in the US. Felipe Espinosa killed twelve people in the 1860’s, additionally there was Samuel Greene in the 1820’s, and the Harpe brothers were America’s first known serial killers (in the late 1700’s). H. H. Holmes is fascinating, and I’ll surely give this a listen, but the misleading headline is just annoying.


Yes! An excellent book. I recommend browsing the Man on Five website while reading. Lots of pictures from the fair…


He’s a really interesting guy, but wasn’t our first serial killer. We’ve had so many crazy killers. The Glanton Gang murdered the hell out of Indians and Mexicans, for instance. John Wesley Hardin killed people of all persuasions. Any number of bushwhackers during the Civil War probably outpaced Holmes. That mountain man whose name I can’t think of that killed and ate Crow Indians.

Delphine LaLaurie in particular is a nasty piece of work, torturing and murdering enslaved people in New Orleans.

An unsurprising aspect of American serial killers in the 18th and 19th centuries is that they only gained notoriety for killing white people, like Holmes did. King Fisher is a self-reporting example of this phenomenon, claiming to have killed X number of men, “not including Mexicans.”


first read about this guy when I was a kid devouring my godmother’s Straight Dope column compilation books in the mid 80s, article first published 1979:


Murder Castle is the name of my new death metal band.


It is mentioned in the production notes.

I picked up the book after moving up to Chicagoland and was entertained. Interesting times


Holmes literally built futility closets.


There is an excellent best-seller book about this titled “Devil in the White City” by Eric Larson. The film rights to the book were recently bought by Leonardo DiCaprio, who will star in it. Martin Scorsese will direct.


Holmes set a new standard for monstrous depravity, but let’s not forget the Bloody Benders:


hey, he was certainly a dirt-bag, but a murderer?


When they make the movie cast Jake Gyllenhaal


Straight Dope helped make me the person I am today…


That would make for some really dark viewing on a remodeling show.




There’s also the Servant Girl Annihilator (term coined by O. Henry) in Austin which predated Jack the Ripper. I’ll have to investigate those earlier one you mentioned. Any links?

ETA, they never did catch the SGA


My wife, knowing how much I enjoy Erik Larson’s books, got me a personalized, signed copy for Christmas. It is a very good book.



Lore did an excellent episode about this as well near its start.