Words of a Monster

Analyzing the Writings of H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer


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About the Book

Decades before the coining of the term “serial killer,” H.H. Holmes murdered dozens of people in his now-infamous Chicago “Murder Castle.” In his own autobiography, Holmes struggled to define himself in the language of the late nineteenth century. As the “first”—or, as he labeled himself, “The Greatest Criminal of the Age”—he had no one to compare himself to, and no ready-made biographical structure to follow. Holmes was thus nearly able to invent himself from scratch. This book uses Holmes’ writings and confessions to inspect how the Arch Fiend represented himself. Although the legitimacy of Holmes’ personal accounts have been called into question, his biography mirrors the narrative structure of the true crime genre that emerged decades after his death.

About the Author(s)

Rebecca Frost is an independent scholar and freelancer. She lives in L’Anse, Michigan.

Bibliographic Details

Rebecca Frost
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 283
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7704-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3740-2
Imprint: Exposit

Table of Contents

Introduction: Establishing “America’s First Serial Killer” 1

Part I: Introducing H.H. Holmes 9
One. Separating the Man from the Myth 11
Two. The Start of a Legend 31

Part II: Holmes’ Own Story 49
Three. Troubled Youth 53
Four. Of Wives and Mistresses 67
Five. Holmes, Pitezel and Hatch—Facets of Manhood 78
Six. Holmes the Storyteller 95
Seven. Protestations of Innocence 110

Part III: Moyamensing Prison Diary Appendix 127
Eight. “My Wife” 130
Nine. Life Behind Bars 143
Ten. Hatch, Miss Williams and the Children 157
Eleven. Evidence and Motive 173

Part IV: Holmes Confesses 27 Murders 191
Twelve. The Transformation from Innocent to Confessor 196
Thirteen. Details Revealed and Concealed 205
Fourteen. Those Hurt the Most 225

Conclusion: A Man of Mystery 241
Chapter Notes 267
Bibliography 271
Index 273