Inside The Most Disturbing Dungeons And Torture Chambers That Serial Killers Used To Torment Their Victims

Published October 23, 2022
Updated March 12, 2024

The Murder Hotel Of H. H. Holmes

Serial Killer Dungeons

Public DomainThe World’s Fair Hotel belonging to Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, whose real name was Herman Webster Mudgett.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was a massive celebratory commemoration of the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to “The New World.” It was one of the era’s most attended cultural events, bringing floods of new visitors to Chicago who, naturally, needed a place to stay.

Enter Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, a drugstore worker who presented himself as fashionable and intelligent, with a seemingly irresistible charisma given that he was married to three unknowing women simultaneously.

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Just a few years prior to the World’s Fair, Holmes had purchased an empty lot across from the drugstore where he was employed. There, he constructed a large, three-story building comprising more than 100 rooms and spanning an entire city block, according to Chicagoist.

Holmes supposedly built the large building to be used for apartments and shops, so when the World’s Fair brought waves of people to Chicago, Holmes welcomed them with open arms to stay in his World’s Fair Hotel.

But behind Holmes’ charismatic, generous mask lurked a monster the likes of which the American people had never seen before. And they were walking right into his trap.

H.H. Holmes

Public DomainEven before he moved to Chicago, Holmes was entangled in several scandals, including the disappearance of a young boy.

Holmes never stuck with one architect or group of builders for long throughout the building’s construction in order to hide his true agenda: creating a series of deadly traps and corridors that would allow him to fulfill his sick desires.

Hallways reportedly led to dead-ends, walls had hinges, and false partitions were set up. Beneath the floorboards were discreet airless chambers. The walls were lined with iron plates to suffocate any sound.

One room allegedly served as a gas chamber, in which Holmes would lock guests he’d invited into the building. He would then dump their bodies down a chute that led to the cellar, which itself housed an operating table, a crematorium, medical tools, a torture device, and acids meant to dissolve bodies.

Holmes’ surgical skills allegedly enabled him to harvest his victims’ organs and sell them to medical institutions or on the black market.

Holmes' Confession In The Journal

Public DomainA newspaper clipping from The Journal featuring Holmes’ full confession and illustrations of various components of his murder hotel.

For two years, Holmes successfully brought in new victims, and the technology of the day made it near impossible for police to keep track of whether or not his guests ever actually left the hotel.

In the end, it was Holmes’ own hubris that brought him down when he was arrested for theft and poorly-planned financial schemes in November 1894.

He was officially convicted of just one murder, but he bragged about committing at least 27. The true number of Holmes’ victims has never been discovered, though, and could range anywhere from nine to nearly 200.

“I was born with the devil in me,” Holmes once said. “I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.”

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.