H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper are two of the most notorious serial killers in history. While Holmes was convicted of his crimes and sentenced to death, the identity of Jack the Ripper remains a mystery.
But Holmes's great-great-grandson, Jeff Mudgett, has a theory. He believes that H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper are the same person, and that one brilliant man was committing gruesome killings on two continents over the same period of time.
Could this be true? Read through this list to consider the evidence.
A Composite Photo Of Jack The Ripper Looks Eerily Similar To H.H. Holmes
In 2006, Scotland Yard and the BBC created a composite photo of Jack the Ripper using eyewitness accounts from 1888. The resulting photo on the left looks very much like H.H. Holmes, pictured on the right.
Jeff Mudgett took the two photos to retired investigators, who agreed that Holmes bore a striking resemblance to the suspected Jack the Ripper. In fact, both investigators said this was the closest match to a composite photo that they had ever seen. (You might think the distinctive mustache alone is a dead giveaway, but elaborate facial hair was very popular with men in the 1800s.)
While the resemblance is hard to deny, the photo evidence doesn't quite line up with the theory that Mudgett presents in his book Bloodstains. He argues that Holmes sent an assistant to commit the Ripper murders, so Holmes would not have been present for any eyewitnesses to identify.
Handwriting Analysis Links The Two Killers
The "Dear Boss" letter was believed to have been written by Jack the Ripper. It was received by the Central News Agency of London on September 27, 1888, and forwarded to Scotland Yard on September 29. In the letter, the killer described his plan to cut the ears off his next victim. On September 30, the body of Catherine Eddowes was found with one earlobe severed. While it was never proven that the Ripper wrote the "Dear Boss" letter, the mention of cutting a victim's ear was a chilling reference. The letter was not published in the papers until after Eddowe's body was found, meaning this could have been a real connection to the killer.
A handwriting analysis expert recommended by the British Library compared the "Dear Boss" letter to a known handwriting sample from H.H. Holmes. The expert concluded that it was written by the same hand.
Just to be safe, Jeff Mudgett sent the samples for computer analysis to confirm the expert's findings. The computer results showed there was a 97.95% chance that H.H. Holmes wrote the "Dear Boss" letter.
Holmes Had A London Connection
Jack the Ripper's hunting ground was the Whitechapel neighborhood of London. H.H. Holmes also had a connection to Whitechapel. His friend from the University of Michigan, Edmund Buckley, came from a wealthy Whitechapel family. Buckley and Holmes were partners-in-crime; they ran insurance scams and often sold corpses to medical facilities, not an uncommon way to make money in the 1800s.
According to census records, Holmes had a residence in Whitechapel. After he tried to sell a corpse to a local hospital, a formal complaint was filed against him. These records place him in the Whitechapel area around the time of the Ripper murders. Was he doing more than just his usual corpse-peddling?
There's No Record Of Holmes In Chicago During The Winter Of 1888
There are five victims, known as the Canonical Five, who are widely believed to have been killed by Jack the Ripper. Their murders span from August 31 to November 9, 1888.
We know that H.H. Holmes purchased the land to build his Chicago Murder Castle in July 1888. It may seem unlikely that Holmes would travel to London immediately afterwards, but construction on his "castle" didn't begin until the spring of 1889. In fact, there is no record of him being in Chicago at all that winter. Perhaps Holmes took a winter holiday in London to get an early start on his killing spree?
Holmes Had The Medical Knowledge To Perpetrate The Ripper's Crimes
After the murder of Annie Chapman, the Divisional Police Surgeon believed that the Ripper killed her in order to remove her womb. This would have taken skill, so police suggested that the killer was someone with knowledge of anatomy.
Holmes definitely had the medical knowledge. He would experiment on animals at the age of eleven, torturing them to the brink of death and then bringing them back to life several times. He also spent his youth as the assistant to the local doctor, learning everything about the human body in life and death. This doctor wrote the recommendation letter for Holmes when he applied to the University of Michigan, where he became a medical student.
- Photo: R. Taylor (R. & E. Taylor (Firm))The Illustrated London News / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Holmes May Have Orchestrated The Ripper Murders To Create A Diversion
Jeff Mudgett believes that H.H. Holmes orchestrated the Jack the Ripper murders to hide his real plan: to kill rich women and use their organs to make himself a youth serum. Mudgett says Holmes's diary entries, which have not been published, detail how Holmes trained an assistant to carry out the Ripper murders. By causing a sensation to distract the public with Jack the Ripper, Holmes was free to target upper-class women, whom he presumed had healthier organs to use in his serum.