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Was H.H. Holmes "Jack the Ripper"?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial killers (photo courtesy of the Associate Press).

In the Fall of 1888, the fog was thick, the feelings were tense, and the streets of London were filling with the blood of unsuspecting women.

In the span of three months, London’s most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, had killed five women, dubbed the “Canonical Five,” and possibly many more that couldn’t be proven.

On the other side of the pond, in Chicago, a young man arrived in 1886, ready to be a successful businessman. He built a massive building, complete with storefronts and hotel rooms, but with a dark twist—a crematorium in the basement, secret poisonous gas lines in rooms, and shoots that led directly to the basement.

That man was named H.H. Holmes (born Herman Mudgett), and the large industrial building, completed a few years later, would be dubbed by newspapers at the time as the “Murder Castle” because of the 9 confirmed murders of females that came into his company.

Two serial killers with similar patterns, in two different locations, killing around the same time. Coincidence or were they one in the same? The answer is simple. H.H. Holmes was Jack the Ripper.

Same Crimes, Same Time

H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper were not only preying on innocent women in the same time period (late 1880’s-early 1890’s), they were murdering people in a very similar way.

When it comes to forensic science and catching a serial killer, often-times the serial killer will murder in the same way throughout their sprees. Both the Ripper and Holmes would asphyxiate their victims and later dissect and mutilate them.

At the time, reports said that the Ripper would expertly remove organs, an indicator that the perpetrator had expert medical knowledge. Holmes had gone to medical school before coming to Chicago and would later sell his victims' bones to medical schools for quick cash.

Holmes Paper Trail

Holmes was a very methodical businessman, keeping detailed notes on financial transactions and legal documents. Missing in his documents is the period between July 1888 and early 1889.

At the time, journeys across the Atlantic were taken by boat, which took several weeks. The Ripper murders happened from August 1888-November 1888 and suddenly stopped. Could Holmes have traveled in July 1888, stayed in London on a killing spree for three months, and reappeared in Chicago in early 1889? The timeline and the hole in his meticulous notes make this oddly suspicious, lining up almost perfectly when travel times are considered.

Holmes' Grandson

Further evidence came by the way of H.H. Holmes' great-great grandson, Jeff Mudgett, who wrote a memoir about his infamous family member, according to

“Jeff Mudgett wrote a memoir in 2011, Bloodstains, that connects Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes. Mudgett says that some time ago, he inherited a pair of diaries from his grandfather. Apparently, the diaries had come from Mudgett’s great-great-grandfather, Herman Webster Mudgett, alias, H.H. Holmes. Handwriting analysts confirmed that these diaries were written by Holmes. According to at least one of the diaries, he wrote that he was in London at the height of the Ripper killings. However, he was not alone. An acquaintance was apparently along for training sessions.

As one theory goes, this “apprentice” was tasked with finding random prostitutes and murdering them with excessive brutality. Nobody knows exactly why, but a theory is proposed later.”

Serial Killing is Rare

While there was a huge surge of serial killers during the 1970s-1980s, over the past 200-plus years, serial killing and serial killers have been few and far between.

From the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, serial killing represented less than 1 percent of all homicides in the U.S.

(Credit: Data from Radford University/Florida Gulf Coast University study).

Being so rare, it’s highly probable that Holmes was the only, or one of the only serial killers, with the motive and the means to travel across the Atlantic and continue his work in a different country.


While it would be impossible to definitively prove that Holmes was also the Ripper, there is some very unmistakable proof pointing towards him being both killers.

One of the most compelling is that serial killers rarely kill a few victims and then suddenly stop, which is what happened with the Ripper. Serial killers usually only stop after they’re put behind bars. Or, in this case, when Holmes returned to America.

We may never know the identity of the Ripper, and we can theorize so many different angles that lead nowhere. But, if you look at all the facts, look at Holmes in the right context, you’ll see the real killer come to light.

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