After more than a century of speculation, the question surrounding who was buried in H.H. Holmes’ grave has finally been answered.
In the season finale of the History Channel’s ‘American Ripper’ series, an investigation into whether H.H. Holmes, born Herman Webster Mudgett, was also Jack the Ripper, Holmes’ grandson Jeff Mudgett compares the DNA found in Holmes’ grave to his own.
What is undisputed is that Holmes operated a building at 63rd and Wallace. The so-called “murder castle” is said to have been equipped with gas chambers, hallways to nowhere, even a crematory.
When Holmes was finally arrested in Philadelphia, newspaper reports at the time indicated he may have pulled off one final swindle – escaping death by having someone else hanged and buried in his place.
Mudgett had to know for sure. He petitioned the courts to exhume the body in Holmes’ grave to match DNA samples of the remains to his own.
In late April, digging began at Philadelphia’s Holy Cross Cemetery.
“It actually brought tears to my eyes, and I was trying to figure out, ‘Why am I crying for this monster of a man?’” Mudgett said of finding the tomb for the first time.
Mudgett said archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania first found a fake pine box, which may have been used as a decoy. But a few feet deeper, they discovered a cement sarcophagus.
Lore has it that Holmes requested his body be encased in cement.
“Cracking open the 125- to 130-year-old cement, as you can imagine, is tough work,” Mudgett said.
Inside the coffin, Mudgett said they found a man’s skeleton.
“Chills went up and down my spine. To see that skeleton and that skull with the brain still inside, which is a phenomenon that scientists still have not explained… scared the heck out of me,” Mudgett said.