The Murder Castle of H.H. Holmes #2

From our historical files, here’s a political cartoon from the Chicago Daily Inter Ocean the week that they were first excavating the basement of Holmes’ “Murder Castle:”

Other than the Hawaiian annexation part (which I suppose we can now safely say wasn’t the end of the world), a good chunk of this shows that people in the 1890s argued about a lot of the same stuff we do today! You come across the now-archaic spellings “grewsome” and “clew” a lot in this research.

Check out our Murder Castle ebook – featuring maps, diagrams and first-hand accounts that haven’t been printed since the 1890s, including a long-lost interview with Holmes himself. Now expanded to full length!


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Strangers With Candy

Lately, every bit of research I do leads me to some candy store or another. Here are some spooky candy shops (mostly long gone, of course) of Chicago:

1. Frank Wilde’s Fruit and Candy Store – Milwaukee Ave. Though different addresses were given for this place, I’m reasonably confident I’ve figured out where it was – it was certainly on Milwaukee, between Ashland and Damen. In the 1890s, a teenaged girl named Emily Van Tassel worked here. Exactly who Franke Wilde was is not known for sure, but it’s believed that he did not exist, as such, and was just an alias for the true owner of the store: the murderous H.H. Holmes. She is listed as one of Holmes’ victims, and was thought to be buried in the basement of the store. I’m pretty confident that the building no longer stands.

2. Sorenson’s Candy Store – Elizabeth and Grand. Only a handful of blocks from Frank Wilde’s, this is the candy store we’ve mentioned many times lately that was owned – and burned for insurance money – by Belle Sorenson, wife of the owner, Max Sorenson. Under the name Belle Gunness, Gunness became one of the most prolific murderers in history. The exact name of the candy and stationery store has not been determined.

3. Terry’s Toffee – 1117 W. Grand. This current AWESOME shop happens to be in the site once occupied by Rose’s Sandwich Shop, where Richard Cain, an FBI/mafia double agent who is sometimes said to have been involved in the Kennedy assassination, was murdered in one of the mob’s most public hits in 1973. Joey “The Clown” Lombardo is thought to have been behind the hit. Right down the road from the Sorenson’s site – be careful buying candy in River West!

4. 63rd and Wallace – In the days when H.H. Holmes ran his “murder castle” in Englewood, one of the other businesses in the building was a candy store. The other day I saw an article that named the owner, but now I can’t find it again! I want to say the name was something like Mrs. Gloomis. I’ll post an update if I can find it. EDITED TO ADD: Found it! It was buried in the midst of our hundreds of files on holmes. The candy store owner was named Mrs. Barton.

5. 321 E. 43rd – here stood a candy store run by Nathan Higgins, who was accused of murder in 1965.

The Murder Castle of the Consummate Villain: Holmes!

This week’s research topic for me has been H.H. Holmes, one of Chicago’s most prolific serial killers. Getting to the bottom of this story is just about impossible; when you get right down to the old files, you find entire storylines and characters that never turn up in any of the books nowadays, and some stories that changed a lot after 1895. The fact that Holmes had countless aliases makes it even trickier to find his trail.

Take, for instance, the case of Emily Van Tassel, one of his supposed victims. Most things written since 1896 say that she was an employee (usually a secretary) of Holmes who worked for him at the murder castle. However, prior to 1896, every mention of her said that she worked at Frank Wilde’s fruit and candy store on the North side and disappeared after meeting Holmes three or four times. At the time, it was suspected that Frank Wilde may not have existed, but, in fact, that candy store was actually run by Holmes, but this is tough to confirm, especially in that the tribune gave two slightly different addresses for the place. I hope to have an update about this north side candy store – and the Van Tassel residence – very soon!

While digging through the archives, I finally found a good, legible copy of the Murder Castle map.

Sorry about the watermark, but a certain person has been ripping us off a lot lately.

update: for several more diagrams, drawings, and everything else you need to know about the castle, right down to the combination to the soundproof vault, check out our Murder Castle ebook, newly expanded for 2014:



Just 3.99 on Kindle!
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