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H.H. Holmes and the Murder Castle: Topics in Chronicling America

H.H. Holmes was one of America's first serial killers. He lured victims into his hotel, the “Murder Castle”. This guide provides access to materials related to the “H.H. Holmes” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Photograph of Holmes' "Murder Castle." July 4, 1914. The Ogden Standard (Ogden City, UT), Image 19. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

America’s first prolific serial killer designed a castle of crime with only murder and malice in mind. A man of many alias and few scruples, H.H. Holmes horrified the nation. Inspired by the riches of insurance fraud, Holmes murdered men, women, and children across the country. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


November 1894 H.H. Holmes arrested in Boston accused of attempting to defraud Fidelity Mutual Insurance.
November 20, 1894 Carrie Pietzel, confesses to attempting to defraud Fidelity Mutual Insurance by faking her husband’s death with the help of H.H. Holmes. She fears that Holmes has killed her husband.
July 15, 1895 The bodies of Etta, Alice and Hettie Pietzel are found buried in a basement in Toronto.
July 27, 1895 A lawyer for the Williams’ family alleges that Holmes killed Horace Williams in May or June of 1893 before killing his sisters Nina and Minnie.
July 28, 1895 Police discover two graves in the basement of Holmes’ "castle.”
July 30, 1895 Police release the name of Emily Van Tassel, another supposed victim of Holmes.
August 2, 1895 Patrick Quinlan who constructed much of “Holmes’ Crime Castle” turns state’s evidence, as does his wife who also worked for Holmes.
October 28, 1895 Holmes murder trial begins in Philadelphia, PA. Holmes refuses court appointed lawyer and defends himself.
November 2, 1895 Holmes is convicted of the murder of Benjamin F. Pietzel.
May 7, 1896 H.H. Holmes is executed.
March 1914 Patrick Quinlan commits suicide.