Cary Callison

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H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer Review


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The title of "America's first serial killer" is a dubious distinction (and a tricky one to prove), but for the morbidly curious, H.H. Holmes lays out in detail exactly what America's first well-known serial killer was up to and how he carried out his slayings. Exactly why he did it will have to remain a mystery, though we're free to assume it's plain old psychosis.

This hour-long documentary has its most compelling moments at the start, discussing Holmes's life in 1880s Chicago and the "castle" he built in time for millions of visitors to arrive in the city for the World's Fair. Holmes was a doctor and an architect, and his three-story house featured dozens of rooms which he would rent out to boarders. Then there were the other rooms which served as dungeons, laboratories, and abattoirs. The house included mazes, trap doors, and soundproofed walls, all designed to make it easy for Holmes to butcher his victims and dispose of their bodies. (Researchers would later have trouble indentifying whether some of the bones found in the castle were even human in origin.)

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