One of our trickiest tasks over here at Weird Chicago is tracking down the buildings in Chicago that were owned or leased by H.H. Holmes. We’ve located a handful of them (our findings are in our book), including several on the North side, clear on the other end of town from the infamous murder castle. But tracing the guy is difficult, as he was VERY adept at covering his tracks, and operated under more aliases than we’ll likely ever know.
Currently, we’ve been investigating a fellow named E.A. Trask who may, just MAY, have been Holmes’ realtor, the guy through which he leased some of the buildings. Like Holmes, Trask was a well known swindler in Chicago (Holmes was famous around town as a swindler before the World’s Fair even started). His big claim to fame was selling lots of land on the shores of Lake Michigan near the Calumet River (buyers wouldn’t find out until they saw the land for themselves that the plots were underwater), then was sentenced to 18 years on jewelry swindles. He died in prison in Joliet in 1896 (about a month after Holmes was executed).
So, what’s the connection to Holmes? Well, several newspapers in 1895-96 reported that Holmes and Trask had worked together; one witness, in fact, stated that Holmes was a nightly visitor at Trask’s office (where the 1200 block of W. Washington is today) in 1890-1891. It wouldn’t have been very far from the A.B.C copier office Holmes kept at the time. Could they have been working out real estate deals?
It’s within the realm of possibility, but it’s more likely that the connections are nonsense. Newspapers of the day LOVED to play “connect the dots,” making it look as though every criminal knew every other criminal in town. Most of the time, this was based entirey on hearsay. But who knows? We’ll keep you posted!
COMING NEXT WEEK – a series on the girls thought to be Resurrection Mary, including census records, pictures, and NEW evidence never before talked about!