One advantage to being cooped up in our homes for the past year has been the ability to dive deep into the true-crime unsolved mysteries of the world. Some of those mysteries live inside the heads of deranged serial killers, some never caught, others left to die before divulging their grisly tales. H.H. Holmes buried many of his secrets in the ashes of his “Murder Castle.” However, many think H.H. Holmes could also be Jack the Ripper.
Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous serial killers and mysteries of all time. He slaughtered prostitutes in the streets of Whitechapel, London from 1888 to 1889. However, his brutal butcherings suddenly ceased, and a new Chicago-based serial killer, H.H. Holmes, was discovered after the height of Chicago's World’s Fair in 1893. So, is H.H. Holmes actually Jack the Ripper?
The biggest indicator that H.H. Holmes is Jack the Ripper is their medical knowledge.
Jack the Ripper was known for murdering prostitutes on the streets of London, not unlike a later copycat serial killer, the Yorkshire Ripper. However, violence towards sex workers was not uncommon in the late 1800s, even though prostitution was legal at the time. The one thing that made Jack the Ripper’s murders stand out above all others was the way he did it.
In the dead of night, Jack the Ripper would first strangle his victims so that they couldn’t scream out. He would then mutilate their bodies with such prowess that investigators believe he had a high level of medical knowledge. In at least three victims, he even removed their organs.
H.H. Holmes, on the other hand, is considered America’s first serial killer. The subject of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, he was tried and hanged for 27 murders, although it is believed that he murdered over 200 people.
Early on in his career, Holmes charmed his way into owning a pharmacy, and it is believed he attended medical school. It’s also believed that he, like Jack the Ripper, used some medical methods to mutilate and dispose of his victims’ bodies. He actually often donated human skeletons to medical schools, who failed to find it strange he had so many human remains just laying around. The 1890s were a scary time.
Travel documentation and witness accounts also lend themselves to the theory that Jack the Ripper and Holmes are the same.
The biggest issue with Holmes and the Ripper being the same psychopathic man is that one was in Chicago and the other in London at a time when international travel was not as easy as it is now. Back then, the way to travel between the U.K. and the U.S. was by boat, which could take about a month. However, with the Ripper killings ending in early 1889, and the first Holmes killing at the end of 1889, the timeline is completely possible.
Not only that, but it is recorded that a passenger by the name of H. Holmes traveled from the U.K. to the U.S. in that time period. Holmes is a pretty popular last name, and H.H. Holmes’ legal name was actually Herman Webster Mudgett, but it is possible.
In addition, based on accounts and descriptions of Jack the Ripper, multiple sketch artists were able to come up with a drawing of Jack the Ripper, which looked eerily similar to H.H. Holmes. However, another account describes Jack the Ripper as having “brown eyes and brown hair,” which could really be anything.
Finally, even though Jack the Ripper was in London, it is possible he was American. A famous letter published by the media called the “Dear Boss” letter is believed to have been sent by Jack the Ripper himself. When examined by linguists, they believed that whoever wrote the letter was American. While that may be the case, there’s no way to confirm the letter was actually sent by Jack the Ripper.
The main reason experts deny that H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper are the same person is that they had different motives.
While Jack the Ripper typically went after poor women who were sex workers, H.H. Holmes was typically after money. He was adept at moving accounts and signing life insurances over to his many aliases. He’d try to find people disconnected to family, or else murder entire families and siblings to take inheritances.
While many experts believe these differ too much, someone who murdered as many people as Holmes did probably enjoyed killing just as much as Jack the Ripper did, if not more. Not only that, but Jack the Ripper’s final murder was different from his previous ones, in that it seemed much more premeditated, so it’s possible he evolved into H.H. Holmes.
Jack the Ripper was never caught.
Another reason people try to find the tie between Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes is that Jack the Ripper was never caught. However, the evidence linking the two murderers together is largely circumstantial, and many think it’s actually impossible the two men are the same person.
In 2019, a report published DNA evidence claiming that Jack the Ripper was 23-year-old Aaron Kominski, a Polish barber. He was actually a suspect during the murders due to a witness identifying him. However, the witness refused to testify, and Kominski evaded guilt and capture. He later died of gangrene in an institution in 1919.
Although the DNA evidence points to Aaron Kominski as Jack the Ripper, there’s no confirmation that the scarf with the tested seminal fluid actually belonged to the Ripper’s victim. It seems like the mystery of Jack the Ripper will always have lore that supersedes the truth.