Chilling tour inside serial killer H.H. Holmes` `Murder Castle`

Chilling tour inside serial killer H.H. Holmes` `Murder Castle`

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It's been 120 years since H.H. Holmes terrorized the South Side Englewood neighborhood and became what's generally considered America's first serial killer.

Even after all that time, there are some new theories about Holmes' so-called "Murder Castle" and whether he may also be responsible for some of the Jack the Ripper killings.

Many people had never heard of H.H. Holmes until the publication 10 years ago of the best-selling book "Devil in the White City" which recounts Holmes' murder spree set against the backdrop of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

It was long believed there was nothing left of the Englewood "Murder Castle" where Holmes supposedly killed as many as 200 visitors to the fair, but now a retired U.S. postal employee believes he may have found evidence of one of the most infamous crime scenes in U.S. history.

If anyone knows about this building's secret, it's Rory Hood. For 25 years, he was the maintenance man at the Englewood post office--a massive concrete building from the 1930's at 63rd and Wallace. It wasn't until a few years ago that hood learned from curious visitors about what used to be on this site.

"I was just amazed and shocked to find out that this is the first serial killer of the United States here at my place of employment," Hood says.

Herman Webster Mudgett, better known under the alias "H.H. Holmes," came to Chicago in the 1880's and built a three-story hotel near the site of today's post office to cash in on visitors to the nearby Columbian Exposition. But, Chicago historian Adam Selzer says it was unlike any hotel ever built.

"The second floor was rigged up with all sorts of secret passages, hidden chambers, hidden rooms," Selzer says. "There was a vault he was fond of showing off as being soundproof."

Holmes was later accused of killing dozens of visitors and employees, mostly women. He took out insurance policies on his victims, and then asphyxiated them in gas chambers, dumping their bodies down chutes into the basement where their skeletons would be stripped of flesh and sold to hospitals and medical colleges.

That brings us back to the post office basement and this mysterious tunnel.

Rory Hood took us on a tour of a long, winding tunnel that zigzags underneath the post office and into an area once occupied by the "Murder Castle."

"It's really spooky sometimes down here," Hood says about the passageway.

"I can't get none of the employees to come down. 'Come on, I'll take you for a tour,'" he adds. "Nobody wants to come in here."

While it's clear much of the tunnel was built in the 1930's, there is a stretch lined by a crumbling brick wall.

"Part of this wall is remnants, I believe, from the old building," Hood explains. "Might have been part of the "Murder Castle."

"The bricks that partially line the wall just seem to be completely out of place and they look about right for being 1890's Chicago-style bricks," says Selzer. "There's some evidence of fire damage on them which is just what I'd like to see if I were looking for something from the murder castle."

We may never unlock the secrets of these tunnels, but could Holmes be the connection to another famous mystery?

"We've solved Jack the Ripper," says Hood. "We haven't proven it yet."

Jeff Mudgett, the great great grandson of H.H. Holmes, recently wrote a book about his infamous ancestor and his startling theory that Holmes was responsible for at least some of serial killer Jack the Ripper's London murders in 1888.

Mudgett says Holmes seems to have disappeared from Chicago at the time of the ripper murders. He says a comparison of handwriting between the two men shows a 98 percent similarity and that a recent Scotland yard drawing of the ripper based on eyewitness accounts bears an uncanny resemblance to Holmes.

"I showed it to professionals in the FBI. That's what they do. They run computer schematics with photographs to try to ID serial killers," Mudgett says. "They said that was the closest they'd ever seen in their career."

Mudgett says he is in discussions with a Hollywood studio to turn his book and theory into a movie.

A film version of "The Devil in the White City" has been in the works for some time, with Leonardo Dicaprio starring as H.H. Holmes, but that production has been beset by problems, and may or may not ever get made.

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