Scattered throughout the American landscape are crime scenes that live in infamy. Each of these notorious locations have their own unique homicidal story.
Here are three such stories.
Holmes Murder Castle
It was 1893, and Chicago was hosting the World’s Fair. Over 27 million visitors poured into the Windy City to take part in the massive event. With so many visitors descending upon the city, there was an obvious need for lodging. And that’s what the murderer H.H. Holmes was counting on.
Born in New Hampshire as Herman Webster Mudgett, Holmes changed his name after abandoning his family and moving to Chicago. Upon arriving in Chicago, he began working for a small pharmacy in the Jackson Park neighborhood – the same area where the World’s Fair would eventually take place.
Utilizing his con artist skills, Holmes manipulated his employers into giving him money, so that he could purchase a vacant lot and build an apartment building. His idea was to provide housing for visitors looking for temporary work at the World’s Fair.
Holmes’ building was a labyrinth of deception. Inside, he filled the edifice with secret passages, soundproof rooms, and a dizzying maze of stairwells and hallways.
Holmes lured visitors into his building, and then would trap them in one of his rooms. Each apartment was outfitted with trapdoors that disguised chutes, which would drop victims into the building’s subterranean level. Holmes’ basement was filled with acid vats and a crematorium, which was used to dispose of his victims’ bodies.
Eventually, the police were alerted to Holmes and his murderous ways. So, he fled Chicago and wound up in Boston. There, he was arrested for killing a man and his two children. At that point, Holmes claimed that he killed more than 200 people at his Murder Castle.
At trial, Holmes toned down his claims, and confessed to murdering 27 people, including his Boston victims. He was eventually hanged for his crimes.
A few years after Holmes’ execution, his Murder Castle was gutted by fire. But, the building itself remained until 1938, at which time it was torn down. Currently, the location houses a post office.
Amityville Horror Home
In the quaint Long Island town of Amityville sits a house whose infamous past has spawned a plethora of horror films and books. Originally the scene of a mass murder, the home purportedly became a haven for demonic paranormal activity.
It all started on November 13, 1974 when 23-year old Ronald J. DeFeo, Jr. executed his entire family while they were asleep. DeFeo was arrested shortly after the killings and is now serving multiple life sentences for the murder of his parents and four siblings.
Only thirteen months after the killings, the home was sold – at a significant discount – to the Lutz Family. But, they only lasted 28 days in the home.
Because they supposedly encountered frightening paranormal occurrences, including levitation, strange odors, voices, moving objects and most shockingly – bodily possession. After living in the house for less than a month, the Lutz’s vacated and told their story to the world.
To prove the veracity of their encounter, the family took lie detector tests and passed. Less than three years later, Hollywood produced its first “Amityville Horror” movie.
Since the killings, the house has been owned by four separate owners. And, even though the 5-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom estate is a beautiful residence, it never gets sold for its asking price due to obvious reasons. One of the owners made the smart move of changing the home’s street address.
In February 2017, the home was purchased once again for well-below the asking price. It makes you wonder – who would be brave (or crazy) enough to live in the Amityville Horror House?
Branch Davidian Compound
In central Texas, there is a town that witnessed a great American tragedy. The town is Waco. And, the calamity was a deadly showdown between federal agents and Branch Davidians – a controversial religious group.
In 1992, local Texas law enforcement alerted the ATF to potential federal firearms violations at the Branch Davidian Compound. The suspicion began when a UPS driver reported to police that he had been delivering large amounts of ammo, grenade hulls, gun parts, military gear and chemicals to the compound.
The ATF investigation led to the conclusion that the group’s fanatical leader – David Koresh – was building an arsenal for an eventual apocalyptic battle, as foretold by God.
On February 28, 1993, federal agents arrived at the compound with the aim of arresting Koresh. What ensued was a gun battle that did not lead to an arrest, but rather, resulted in 10 deaths – four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians.
Because of the failed and deadly operation, the feds became ensnared in a tense 51-day stand-off with the cult. Koresh and his followers refused to surrender, despite being surrounded by armored vehicles, tanks and over 600 federal law enforcement agents.
After an almost two-month showdown, the confrontation finally ended. But, as one can imagine, it concluded in tragedy. On April 19, 1993, a fire engulfed the compound and killed 75 people, including Koresh. Although there has been speculation as to the origin of the blaze, a seven-year DOJ investigation determined that members of the sect started the fire.
When the fire subsided and investigators examined the crime scene, it was discovered that many of the deceased members had gunshot wounds to the face, head and chest. Koresh was found with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. The FBI asserts that no federal agent fired a single bullet during the standoff and no FBI gun was discharged after the initial siege – 51 days prior.
Today, there are no signs of the former compound other than a hole, which was once a pool that was converted into a bunker during the standoff.
Any other infamous American crime scenes that stand out in your mind?
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It seems like Murder Castle was an inspiration for American Horror Story Season 5
I agree. I think there was a movie based on it quite a while ago, but I don’t know the title. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
No problem 🙂 it was a great article to read!
Holmes castle was such a freaky place. At the same time, I found it fascinating how he designed the building around his goal of murdering without detection.
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So creepy that’s for sure. It showed murder ingenuity… Lots of interesting ideas for mystery writers. Hope all is well with you Sue 🙂
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