GLENN: There is a remarkable story in American history that most people have never heard of. It's America's first real serial killer. His name was H.H. Holmes. We did an episode on this, oh, probably about a year or so ago on H.H. Holmes and the blood that he left behind around the time of the Chicago world's fair. Well, there's been a History Channel show, a series that has been going on called The American Ripper. And it was written by the great-grandson of the serial killer H.H. Holmes. He has a theory that our first serial killer was also Jack the Ripper. And last night, in the series finale, they actually exhumed the body of H.H. Holmes. And he's here to tell us what exactly was found and how that's turning out. And we begin there, right now.
GLENN: Jeff Mudgett is with us. The great-grandson of H.H. Holmes and the author of the book bloodstains. Bloodstainsthebook.com.
Welcome to the program, Jeff, good to have you.
JEFF: Thank you very much. It's an honor, Glenn.
GLENN: So, Jeff, I've been waiting to talk to you for -- I'm fascinated and horrified by your great grandfather.
At what point in your life did you find out you were related to him?
JEFF: You know, before I answer your question, I wanted to make one comment about your -- your story, your narration about Holmes that I spent the weekend going over. I actually think you captured who Holmes was better than has ever been done before, and I wanted to say bravo.
GLENN: Wow. Thank you.
JEFF: Yeah, and I'm totally, totally from the heart.
I found out when I was 40 years old, my grandfather told the family the horrible secret that he had kept to himself, including my grandmother, about our horrible ancestor.
GLENN: Did that screw with you at all? Were you like, holy cow?
JEFF: I was a successful California lawyer, trial lawyer at the time. I gave that all up. My life was turned upside down. I saved my marriage barely. But I had to find out what was true and what was legend. And, as you know, doing work on Holmes, the more you dig into this story about this evil genius, the more strange it gets.
GLENN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, he is -- it is -- it's so strangely tied to the -- one of the greatest, brightest spots of the -- of the 1800s, the Chicago Expedition. That right down the street, we're seeing these incredible feats of what America is accomplishing. Just a few blocks down, here's this incredible serial killer who built this hotel of horrors.
Can you -- do you want to go into that just a little bit so people understand, who don't know who your great grandfather was?
JEFF: Yeah, yeah. He was, as you so accurately stated, he was America's first, quote, unquote, serial killer and first psychopathic -- they invented those terms for him, he was so horrible.
JEFF: And he invented a -- a building they now call the murder castle, or factory of death. Which, as you noted, from the Ferris wheel, you could see the top of the hotel from the world's fair. And he put up lonely ladies that had come from all over the country to visit this spectacle of the world's fair. And what I try to explain to people, explaining what it must have been like -- I consider him like a lion over the Savannah in Africa, watching the herds of gazelle.
And I think that's the mistake people make, Glenn. They -- they try to consider him, you know, one of the normal serial killers, where you read over and over about. This was a different man. This was different.
GLENN: No. He was -- he was -- I mean, I hate to use this word for him, but he was brilliant. He -- he did stalk his prey. He knew exactly what he was doing.
And so cold and calculated. And the way he built this murder castle, he was -- he would turn people away. Women would come in. And they had -- two women or three women or whatever, a guy would come in, and he would say, "We're all full."
But if you were a woman by yourself, you definitely got a room. And can you describe a little bit about the murder castle and the way he set traps up and viewing stations and -- you know, what was going on there.
JEFF: Yeah. If someone would like to go accurately into the actual architecture of the building, my friend John Borowski wrote a book that I think best describes it.
But you would have a building where someone would walk in the lobby as a normal hotel and be giving a room if the doctor considered her his next victim. They would place her in a room where there were gas vents that he could either render her unconscious or asphyxiate her.
And then his assistants -- and he would send her down a chute to the basement, where he would proceed to work on them in fashions that I -- that I try to explain as our real American Frankenstein.
And people, as you know, Glenn, they deny that thing was possible in America. Well, it was. It was.
GLENN: What do you mean, our American Frankenstein?
JEFF: He would invent methods of surgery on these victims. He would conduct experiments on torture. He actually had a rack where he strapped a young lady to it, tried to impregnate her, so that he could see if he could evolve a taller race of human beings. That's what we're dealing with.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh.
So can I go back to the first question? Jeff, when you have somebody like that in your gene pool, did you go through periods where you're like, am -- is there any of that in me?
JEFF: Yeah. And I knew I was different, Glenn. I never had -- I never thought of murdering anyone.
But I knew that, you know, I had a temper. I had angers. I had visions that weren't wholesome. I tended to write those off as just normal reactions of an American male. But then when my grandfather told me the secret and I started researching, you know, the hundreds of books written about Holmes, those -- those tendencies I had, I could see -- they had a basis, there was an origin to them.
Now -- now, I dealt with them in choices. He obviously made different choices. And that's what I tried to capture in my book, Bloodstains.
GLENN: So the guys who were -- the people that were helping him in the murder castle, tell me about them.
JEFF: Right. Well, and that's one of the most interesting parts of the whole story that hasn't been captured. He had assistants, law-abiding citizens who he turned into felons, co-murderers, that actually carried on some of his actions, even after he was dead.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh.
JEFF: And I think that's -- that's one of the things I admired about your synopsis of Holmes, how we need to dig a little deeper into the story.
I -- I think, Glenn, if we studied Holmes more precisely, we might be able to prevent this from happening in the future.
GLENN: Why? Why do you say that?
JEFF: I don't think we understand his mentality. We tend to write it off as a psychosis. Or he's a psychopath. Those terms that we use that mean very little in my opinion.
GLENN: That, again, literally were invented for him.
JEFF: Yeah. Yeah. Because they couldn't describe him.
And this -- this mind of his -- why we want to believe he was sick, quote, unquote, I think it's more towards the evil side of the equation. And that as he said himself, he was born with the devil in him.
GLENN: So he, if I remember, because it's been a while since I did that episode, but if I remember right, he had piercing blue eyes and was quite the charmer.
JEFF: Oh, he had hundreds of mistresses. As you said, three or four wives.
He could seduce almost any woman he laid his eyes on. And these women, while -- besides being seduced, often became parts of his cons around Chicago. And I -- I've often thought of digging a little deeper into the story and writing about the women that fell in love with Holmes. And one of the New York Times' articles at the trial, as the jury came back, rendered him guilty, and the judge determined he was to be put to death, the -- the reporter mentioned that four or five of these women stood up in the jury audience and actually had crocodile tears rolling down their cheeks as he was led off, even when they knew what he was, Glenn.
GLENN: So there's -- there's -- one more thing, before we leave and go into a different chapter, his death -- you just had his body exhumed. And it's fascinating when we get into that.
But also, you have a theory that he is the literal Jack the Ripper over in London. We'll get into that. But let me make one more stop.
He owned several buildings in Chicago. And one of them was a concrete factory. And it never sold any concrete. Why do you think he owned that?
JEFF: I know exactly why he owned that. He used it to dispose of bodies. He would put a body into a block of concrete and dump it into the Chicago river. And as you correctly stated, he never sold any concrete, despite owning a factory which made concrete.
GLENN: How many people do you think doing your research -- because they've never been able to put a number to it. How many in your research do you think he was actually responsible for killing?
JEFF: You know, that's -- that's a question that will go on forever. You have historians say eight, nine, 13. He admitted to 27, although some of those were bound to be still alive after.
I think -- and when you get into his memoirs, Glenn, he lied about everything he said.
JEFF: And that's the hard part to take to accuracy and fact. But in my opinion, he killed over 200 -- 200 people.
GLENN: And how many -- how many people were tortured, and how long did some of those last?
JEFF: I have no idea.
GLENN: Okay. So you start your journey, and it takes you to some pretty amazing places. Places like my great grandfather may not have actually been hung. That may not be his body in the crypt underneath the ground. We'll get to you exhuming the body and what you found, because it's pretty stunning here in a second. But it also took you across the ocean to London. And you found some pretty solid evidence. Nothing rock solid, but some pretty solid circumstantial evidence that Jack the Ripper, who people believed at the time may have been an American, was actually your great grandfather. And we'll talk about it here in a second, when we come back.
GLENN: We are having a -- just a fascinating conversation with Jeff Mudgett. He is the great-grandson of H.H. Holmes, America's first serial killer, who if you do not know who H.H. Holmes is, I'm running the -- the His Story episode that we did over a year ago on H.H. Holmes tonight on TheBlaze, 7:00 p.m. It is bone-chilling, but fascinating.
You've never heard an American story like this one. You can find the book Bloodstains. Bloodstainsthebook.com.
There was an eight-episode title -- show called the American Ripper. And this goes to the great-grandson's theory that maybe my great grandfather was Jack the Ripper.
What made you think of this first, Jeff?
JEFF: Yeah. And, you know, to set it straight right off, Glenn. It's not a maybe to me. He was Jack the Ripper. This is what I used to do for a living. And while I can't conclusively prove it, I don't think there's any doubt that probably cause --
GLENN: If you Google right now and you Google H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper, I mean, they could be brothers at least. I mean, they look an awful lot alike.
JEFF: You know, and that's -- exactly, and that was a composite done by the BBC and Scotland Yard who came up with an identical resemblance, and then we also did it on the show.
So I can only -- when I was writing my book, I was contacted by a gentleman named Mark Potts from Pennsylvania, who has been studying Holmes and the Ripper his whole life.
And he gave me some information. I had the initial response that everyone has, Glenn, when a new suspect as to the identity of Jack the Ripper is raised: We all doubt it.
But I started looking into the evidence with an open mind. And lo and behold, I now have zero doubt. I even gave a TED talk about Holmes being Jack the Ripper.
GLENN: Oh, I have to watch that.
JEFF: And we put the audience to a vote. I swore them in as my jury, and we came out with 77 percent guilty.
GLENN: So give me the high-level case here, that he's Jack the Ripper.
JEFF: All right. Here we go.
We've got a 5-foot 7-inch 150-pound, 25 to 35-year-old American doctor with expert anatomical knowledge and surgical skills, whose appearance bears a remarkable resemblance to the composite drawings generated from live eyewitness testimonies.
Our suspect is a proven killer, whose MO matches subsequent JTR-like killings in Chicago and New York. He was a remarkable writer with an intricate knowledge of how major media worked, and his handwriting is a likely match to the Dear Boss and Saucy Jack postcard, which in the opinions of expert English linguists, were written by an American trying to sound English.
I -- that is enough -- if Holmes were alive today, Glenn, we could go down and get a warrant for his arrest to have him stand trial for the murders of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride.
GLENN: Do we have any evidence that he was there in England, that he had ever traveled abroad to England? Do we have anything?
JEFF: Yeah, during the show, my co-host, Amaryllis Fox, who was ex-CIA trained, she went down and researched the passenger list and found two or three with -- one with the Holmes' name, which was an alias, which is hard to establish as direct evidence. And then two other aliases that he likely used on the trip back.
We also have a letter from Holmes to his lawyer, stating that he was irritated with London because he could not find his favorite New York newspaper every day.
GLENN: And that letter was referring to the same time when Jack the Ripper was there?
JEFF: No, it's a different time. But we had already established that Holmes had made two or three trips to London in all likelihood.
Glenn, as you know, when you're dealing with Jack the Ripper and 130-year-old crimes, if you and I went back in a time machine, H.G. Wells time machine, and we filmed Holmes murdering one of the victims. We got blood. We had DNA. We brought -- we brought fingerprints back, the Ripperologist would still doubt my theories. And that's something that's hard to get around when you deal with Jack the Ripper.
Also, I think the show had a number of revelations, including the fact that we've now proven that the Dear Boss and Saucy Jack postcard were not hoaxes, as history has stated for over a century.
GLENN: What's an English lancet? And what role did that play in your work?
JEFF: I'm not an expert on surgical tools. I know -- are those dealt with bloodletting of a victim?
GLENN: I'm not sure. It's one of the artifacts that you found during the -- you know, the American Ripper, that linked Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes. It was called a lancet. So I don't know.
JEFF: Yeah, the tools you're talking about were found when we went to Indianapolis, the site where Holmes murdered one of his partner's young children. A horrible death. We found -- we had some people come up with a box of Holmes' artifacts. And inside those -- inside that box of these artifacts was a lancet from London which was a surgical tool.
GLENN: Okay. Okay. When we come back, they just dug his body up. And what they found inside the concrete crypt, next.
GLENN: Jeff Mudgett is with us, the great-grandson of H.H. Holmes. He has written a book called Bloodstains. You can find it at Bloodstains the book. His great, great grandfather was America's first serial killer. He was the guy they literally coined the term psychopath for. They didn't know how to describe him. People couldn't get his arms around him. Because he was so evil, beyond anything that really we have -- you know, I haven't thought of this, Jeff, but I know you have. Can you compare him to anyone in American history? I mean, I wouldn't even put him in with Jeffrey Dahmer, he's much more Nazi kind of Mengele kind of guy.
JEFF: Yeah. He gets into the -- into the leaders of history that we consider evil, the Hitlers and those. The only difference is, I don't know if they murdered with their own hands. They made orders for those to do it.
GLENN: Yes. Yes.
JEFF: Herman enjoyed murdering himself.
GLENN: When he was a teenager in New York, kids started to disappear. They thought later that he had murdered his best friend by pushing -- I think, if I remember right, pushing him out of a window, and then posed his body and watched him die. And that's what started this whole thing.
JEFF: Yeah. We tried to go back and research his childhood, you know, in New Hampshire. And, quite frankly, we were unable to dig up any direct evidence in order to make a -- you know, a statement regarding when he had first started murdering. Although, the legend from the time, as you state, many people associated with Herman went missing.
GLENN: Yeah. So he first went and he started marrying people. And, you know, they would disappear. He would murder their children. He went to Chicago. He built this house of horrors during the world's fair. And that's really kind of where it became untangled.
You, in your book, Bloodstains, you say that here's the -- not conclusive evidence, but some pretty good circumstantial evidence that he was Jack the Ripper. He comes back from London. He's -- was that before he had started building anything in Chicago, around the same time? Can you line that up for me?
JEFF: Yeah, that was before. And the interesting part about that, Glenn, is Scotland Yard followed him back across the Atlantic and actually researched Ripper-style murders in New York and were interested in similar-style killings in Chicago. But I believe didn't have the budget to continue their investigation.
So what we did on the show was to hire a Chicago detective who tracked down all the murders at the time. And as you stated in your narration, hundreds went missing during that time.
JEFF: And lo and behold, as soon as Herman was back in Chicago, Ripper-style killings went through the roof. And then when he was arrested finally, they stopped.
GLENN: And it -- what's -- if you missed -- if you don't know who this guy is, tonight, on TheBlaze at 7:00 p.m., we're rerunning an episode of His Story. It's the story of America's first serial killer. And it is mind-boggling. And you don't want to miss it. I don't recommend you watch it with your children. Maybe your teenagers. But your children -- your little children will be freaked out of their mind. Because it is -- it's an amazing story.
So he's in Chicago. While he's in Chicago, he is actually looking for other places. He actually has a tie to Fort Worth, you know, where our studios are. We're in Dallas/Fort Worth.
He was going to build a second hotel down here, but they -- the Texans kind of caught on to him, right?
JEFF: Yeah, Herman. You're right, he was going to build a second -- a bigger murder castle. Except that Herman's cons were finally catching up with him.
JEFF: His assistants were starting to get jealous of the money that he had that he wasn't sharing with them. They were also beginning to grow scared of the fact that if you crossed Herman, you ended up missing.
JEFF: And, you know, that can only go on so long, even with assistants that you consider very loyal. So it caught up with Herman, and he was arrested for, quote, unquote, stealing a horse in Texas.
GLENN: So it was actually insurance investigators that eventually nailed him on the murders, right? They were following -- I can't remember exactly. You have to forgive me. It's been a year since I've gone through the story again. But wasn't it an insurance guy who was like, wait a minute. This scam is repeating itself and -- and they seem to be tied to him. Is that right? Is that how he got caught finally?
JEFF: That's absolutely correct. He was the master of insurance fraud. He started out, Glenn, by using skeletons. They would call them resurrectionists. He would dig them up. He would change their facial structure so that they couldn't be identified. And then he would turn them into an insurance company and collect the often as much as 10,000-dollar check.
And he grew tired of the digging up graves in the middle of the night. And he turned to murder more often.
GLENN: So he's arrested.
He goes to prison in Philadelphia. What was his prison time like? Was he -- was he popular? Was he like Jeffrey Dahmer, who eventually was shivved? Was he remorseful? What happened to him in prison?
JEFF: Oh, wonderful question. During the show, we actually interviewed the superintendent of one of the historical prisons in Philadelphia now. And she shocked us by explaining how Holmes ran the show. When he was in prison, he had his jail cell. The doors were open. He had reporters seeing him every day. He had a desk with his clothes hung up on the wall. Much like Al Capone did when he was in prison.
GLENN: So you believe -- if I'm not mistaken, you believe that he was not -- he never paid for his crimes. That he pulled a body double at the end. And it was not him hanging by the neck. There was no -- he was wearing a hood. But I think that's the way they all were hung at the time. Maybe I'm wrong on that. He said that he didn't want an autopsy on his body. That was honored.
And he was buried weirdly. And it was honored as well. Can you take me through what you think actually happened to him?
JEFF: I think you've explained it accurately. I -- and there aren't many that join me in this theory. But I believe he escaped execution and another was buried in his place. And I was hoping with American Ripper, in the final episode last night, that we would be able to answer that question definitively. And, quite frankly, I'm still -- I'm still questioning what we found and how that matches up with the evidence I have that it wasn't Holmes.
GLENN: Okay. So show me -- tell me what you found. You dig him up. He's your great grandfather. You dig him up. You want to have DNA testing.
He was buried in this sarcophagus. This giant, heavy, concrete sarcophagus, which he said, I want to be buried specifically between two plots in the Holy Cross Cemetery, in a concrete encasing. He wanted that because he didn't want anybody to dig up his body and do to him what he had done to others. That's the story. Is that true? And what did you find when you opened -- when you opened the sarcophagus?
JEFF: All right. We had some archeologists and anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania doing the dig, all scientific. The judge that allowed my request for the exhumation demanded that it be done not as a media circus, but in the interest of history.
So we opened it up. We took his remains to the university, where these archeologists set them all out for us.
And, quite frankly, my first impression of the skeleton, Glenn, was that this wasn't Holmes. This was a strange-looking human being on the table, when all of the reporters had written story after story about what an elegant, handsome man Holmes was, that could seduce the ladies at his trial even.
GLENN: Yeah, but -- I mean, I would imagine he didn't look beautiful after being dead for over 100 years. How do you mean it didn't look right? I mean, what were you noticing?
JEFF: Yeah, the -- well, last night, you could -- the archeologist discussed that the skeleton is too short to be Holmes. And that the bone structure represented this muscular mass, which wasn't Holmes at all.
So they went with dental records, Glenn. Which matched those of the physical given to, quote, unquote, Holmes before the execution by the prison physician. And what I tried to raise over and over again was, that wasn't Holmes who was examined by the physician. And those -- those dental records don't match for a reason. It wasn't him.
As a matter of fact, the physician in his Juma (phonetic) report states, wait a minute. Wait a minute. When he walks into the cell -- his quote is, this isn't the guy in the papers, in the pictures, this isn't him. That's what the physician said, Glenn.
So I tell you what, the mystery hasn't been solved yet.
GLENN: Wow. Have you done a DNA test? Could you not -- I mean, you should be able to see if your DNA is his DNA.
JEFF: The DNA test was done. It was sent to a laboratory in London. They're one of three in the world that can do ancient DNA like we needed.
In my opinion, it's inconclusive. History believes it was conclusive. That's why they ended the show last night as they did.
So I'm going to try to convince them into continuing the series maybe with a two-hour special so that I can sit down with someone like you or maybe Bill O'Reilly. But we need to talk through the evidence piece by piece and see if we can answer it.
GLENN: Well, I'm fascinated by his story. I'd love to help you in any way, even if it is just matching you up with Bill O'Reilly. Because I am fascinated by this story.
The skull still contained brains. Is that unusual for a body this old?
JEFF: One of the scariest moments of my entire life, Glenn. And they didn't show it last night for reasons I tried to get them to explain this morning. At the university, I took the skull in my hand, much like Hamlet, the scene from Hamlet, looked into the eyes. And as I rolled the skull in my hand, it flopped in my hand.
JEFF: And I was lucky not to drop it, to break the skull, to tell you the truth. I grabbed the scientist by the collar and pulled her over and said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait. What's flopping in my hand?" She goes, "There's nothing flopping in your hand."
And I said, "Yes, there is. Here, you try." And it flopped in her hand. She looked inside, his brain was still intact, Glenn, after 120 years.
GLENN: Any idea why?
JEFF: I asked her. She had no idea why.
GLENN: This is bizarre.
JEFF: The Holmes' mystery continues.
PAT: Weird. Wow.
GLENN: You ever feel -- is this a blessing or a curse, for you?
JEFF: You know, I used to think it was a curse, Glenn. But now that I get the opportunity to go on great shows like yours and explain to the world that, if we do this right, we can prevent serial killings in the future, I think it's a blessing.
GLENN: Well, that would be a noble, noble goal and a great thing that would come out of this horror. But I agree with you, he was not -- he was -- he was more than sick. And there was something -- you know, he said he was born with evil in him. I believe that to be true. But there's also something else going on inside of him. And if we can figure out anything that would help others, it would make this sad story and horror story -- American horror story -- at least have a happier ending.
The name of the book is Bloodstains. It's Bloodstainsthebook.com.
You were going to say?
JEFF: You know, think about that brain preserved at the University of Pennsylvania, and 50 years from now, science expanding to the level where we can look into that to see what he actually was.
GLENN: Are they preserving his brain?
GLENN: Jeff, I would love to meet you sometime. Because you are just fascinating. I'm not sure I would want to have dinner with you. But you are truly a fascinating guy.
Jeff Mudgett, the great-grandson of H.H. Holmes. Thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.
JEFF: Hey, it's been an honor. And like I say, your narration of the Holmes story is the best I've ever heard.
GLENN: Can I just ask you -- and I don't mean this to pile on compliments. I'm confused. What is it that you thought was different or that we captured that was different?
JEFF: Well, I'll explain it like this, I've read everything that's ever been written about Holmes, Glenn, and the way you described it captured the evilness of this man. It's not another Jeffrey Dahmer. It's not that. It was something more than that. And I think you captured it.
GLENN: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it, Jeff. Jeff Mudgett. Bloodstains. In the book -- or, Bloodstainsthebook.com is where you can find more information. And tonight, the episode he was just referencing is going to be rebroadcast at 7:00 p.m., only at TheBlaze.com.