Descendant of first serial killer visits DeKalb to talk terror

By Katie Finlon

Imagine that you are sitting at a family dinner and you discover your great-great grandfather was a serial killer.

That was the case for Jeff Mudgett, the great-great grandson of Herman Webster Mudgett – also known as H.H. Holmes – and author of Bloodstains: Worst Serial Killer.

Spook Show Entertainment hosted its monthly movie and mixed media night Sunday night from 5 p.m. to midnight at the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway. The event was the end of “H.H. Holmes Killer Weekend” and featured a showing of H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer and Mudgett as a guest speaker.

Mudgett was 40 years old when he discovered he was related to Holmes. Since then, he has continued to research his infamously monstrous relative, resulting in the creation of his book.

“It became a quest for knowledge and it became an obsession,” Mudgett said.

H.H. Holmes was the first to be called a serial killer. He is famously known for luring young women into his house, Chicago’s “Murder Castle,” and murdering them.

The Murder Castle was a hotel that Holmes designed during The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was located at a railroad junction that led trains to the fair.

In the hotel were instruments of disposal.

“Some young women never left the hotel,” Mudgett said. “In the basement was a factory of death.”

Holmes allegedly changed his name from Mudgett to Holmes because of his fascination with Sherlock Holmes, Mudgett said.

Holmes was a practicing doctor of medicine from the University of Michigan. Some medical schools across the country have been getting rid of 100-year-old skeletons, fearing that Holmes may have been the seller of the remains.

There are allegations of Holmes and Jack the Ripper being the same person.

Mudgett found some circumstantial evidence that might link the two, including handwriting analysis between documents written by the two murderers. The investigation is continuing.

John Borowski, director and creator of the documentary H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer, created the film as a docudrama because there are only a couple documented photos of Holmes. He decided to make some parts as a silent film to reflect Holmes’ time period.

Borowski said Holmes is regarded as an evil genius for the crimes he committed, including manipulating three women at once and almost wiping out an entire family for a life insurance policy.

“I think there will always be a universal fascination with H.H. Holmes,” Borowski said. “On one hand, you want to admire the things he did and got away with, and on the other hand they were so heinous… and you realize he is an evil person.”

Warner Brothers is making a movie based on the story of H.H. Holmes. It is supposed to be their biggest budget in thirty years and Leonardo DiCaprio will star as Holmes, Mudgett said.

Borowski is worried that the movie will fictionalize some of the story, despite its extraordinary truth.

“But you don’t need to,” said Borowski. “It’s so fascinating. You don’t need to create anything new.”

After being told that Holmes’ story is too good to be fiction, Mudgett said, “It’s better than fiction.”

An interview with Jeff Mudgett concerning his book can be found at

The award-winning H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer is available at It is also available on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and iTunes.

Bloodstains: Worst Serial Killer is available at and on Amazon.