During the time that this story took place serial killers and other mental illness were still pretty new in society. Sure, people had killed each other but never like what Holmes did. Holmes would meet all of these women and then they would just disapper. Now by todays standard that would feel weird and creepy. Anyone that questioned Holmes could do nothing. He had extremely believable stories about these women and he was just so charming that no one would suspect him of anything. Because the term serial killer was so new no one would every suspect him to be one. I personally blame the time period. I do not want to say the they were naive but in a way they almost were. I myself as I read could not belive that Holmes just keep getting away with things. He had such a web of lies with all the aliases and the charm and his great skill at telling stories. Since the time period this wa in and the fact that Holmes was so good at covering up after himself, I believe that is why it took so long for him to get caught. I do not believe anyone is to blame. In fact I give props to Geyer for sticking with the case one he had started. I could not believe that he went all over the place just to find those children. Holmes deserved what he got and he should have gotten it sooner but becuase of when Holmes went on this killing spree investigating and science were not up to par with what they needed to bust him.
I fully agree with you. I feel like if people were more informed about serial killers then they could have caught Holmes early on. But you are correct when you say that investigating and science weren't advanced enough to be catching big time criminals. Holmes was also one of the first ever documented serial killers, so it wasn't a well known thing that people did stuff like this.
I fully agree too. Not only was the sciences of the time not ready for a serial killer but the police network wasn’t either. Like how Geyer had to have a new partner in every town and the information didn’t really travel from location to location. Now that would never happen, they would stay in contact via cell phone or email. Also I agree with what you said about Holmes using his charm to get away with it. He totally uses the lack of advancements to his advantage.
I agree with all of you that Holmes was not caught due to the time period. I would like to add in by saying that our system of protection for the citizens are at fault. They had plenty of oppurtunities to catch Holmes that they never used. People died due to the idea of the time period that a mass murderer would never happen. The innocence of this time period is to blame.
H. H. Holmes was a man of many talents. Among those talents, he possessed great wit and charismatic charm. He was incredibly patient and highly intelligent. Originally arrested for horse theft, Dr. Holmes confessed to twenty seven murders. He was suspected of over two hundred. A man with even the slightest bit less talent would have been caught much sooner, despite the circumstances and conditions surrounding the deaths.Regardless of the fair and the commonness of disappearances, any man less than Holmes would have been captured sooner. Even when Holmes was finally caught, it was not originally under the charge of murder, though the police had begun to formulate theories surrounding the mysterious disappearances that seemed to encircle Holmes.Although technology and criminology have developed greatly through time, even in today's society Holmes could have easily killed dozens before being caught. Of course, now days he would have had to cross state lines in order to better avoid detection and take other basic precautions. However,he could very well have still killed numerous individuals before he was arrested.Time is not to blame for Holmes's ability to remain free. If there was something to blame for how long it took to arrested Holmes, then it was Holmes's strength and capability; nothing else.I would also like to add that what happened to Holmes was not justice. If that is what passes as justice, then society is just a bunch of Bible-thumping hippies. No offense.
I don't entirely agree with you. Yes, Holmes was brilliant and that played a serious role in him lasting so long. However I could not see Holmes lasting nearly as long if the police force of the 1920's was as well manned and equipped as they are today. Our advances in technology and communication, as well as the overall higher prevalence and awareness of serial killers in our society today, would have led to a much swifter capture if the time was different.
Sure, in today's society Holmes would have had to take extra precautions, but he would have been capable of doing so with ease. That's just who he was. Today's criminals are no different than Holmes, except that they aren't as drastic. Maybe this is just my problems with authority talking here, but there are any number of killers active at any time, and no improvements on technology will stop them. Even with today's fancy technology, people continue to kill each other. If Holmes had lived during our times, he would have adapted perfectly. Aside from a few adjustments and having to change his hunting grounds, Holmes would have still managed to kill many people.
During this time period cereal killing didn't really exist, yes people killed but no one could even imagine what Holmes was doing. This was the perfect time for Holmes, because no one thought it was possible to kill someone and get away with it, much less as many as he did. Personally I couldn't believe it, everything added up perfect but everyone was so nieve that they didn't want to believe it or investigate it. I don't believe anyone is to blame, who could of known Holmes was a psychopath truely? He was an average man whom everyone loved. I do however admire Geyer for his persistance in cracking down the case. Over all Holmes got what he deserved, and would have sooner if people didn't take what he was doing lightly.
I think you made a good point about how part of the reason Holmes got away was that no one could’ve imagined anyone capable of the things he was doing. People did seem to find Holmes charming, but a lot of people, like Ned Connor and Myrta Belknap’s uncle, still felt uneasy about him. Why do you think no one ever acted on those feelings? Do you think its harder for today’s psycopaths to get away with crimes like these? I like how you said that everything seemed to add up perfectly, yet no one tried to take down Holmes. People probably suspected what was going on in Holmes’s murder castle; Mrs. Lawrence was pretty sure that Holmes killed Emeline, but she didn’t say anything. It seems like there was a “bystander effect” happening in that people were suspicious, but didn’t want to get involved, sort of like what happens in big cities where, when you see a crime, you’re not supposed to tell anyone.
It took so long for Holmes to be caught because no one was really looking for him. At the time of the world’s fair hundreds went missing for whatever reason. Out of all the missing persons cases there was nothing too special about Holmes to suggest that he was a killer. Obviously to the reader of Devil in the White City we know more, but at the time the police force had no clue and even if they did there was not too much that they could prove. If it wasn’t for a random insurance agent then Holmes may have got away clean. I’m not sure if it’s just me but I feel that people during this time period were just less aware of what was happening around them. The disappearance of so many women was probably just viewed as a lack of communication. No one is truly at fault for what happened in Holmes “castle”. Holmes was a charming guy, although maybe a tad eccentric, but at the time no one was educated on the works of serial killers so there was no real need to question Holmes. Even if the disappearance of all these women was reported to the police there probably would not have been much done about it because there were hundreds of people missing. I would attribute much of Holmes success to the world’s fair. He used the fair to build his hotel and he used it to lure his victims in.
You raise a good point that Holmes didn't really attribute any characteristics that would raise red flags to those around him. Actually, he did just the opposite. He was kind and charismatic. Though I do disagree a bit with you about whether or not anyone was to blame. I agree that there was little need to question Holmes for the disappearances of the women, however the disappearances themselves should have been investigated. If it really was no ones fault for what happened, then the police would have been searching day and night for those missing. Yes, they may have had no reason to worry about Holmes, but that doesn't mean they didn't have to do their jobs.
I agree with you completely. I think you came up with some really good points. In saying "people during this time were just less aware..." really made a lot of sense. People just had no idea that a person would kill for the fun of killing, for a joy of murder. No one was on the lookout for someone who would be responsible for all the disappearances. You made some very good points as well when you pointed out how the fair was a big distraction to what was really going on in the depths of the city. The fair also did all the work of luring the victims to Holmes. You pointed out many inferences that I had not thought of.
Holmes was a very smart and clever man, even in today's standards. I think it took so long for Holmes to be caught because no one was looking for him. Everyone who met him thought he was a lovely, charming, and polite young man. They all greatly respected him and liked him. Holmes was also doing things that never had been done. He invented many different identities for himself, and found dozens of holes throughout the financial systems. People never suspected that he was taking advantage of them and scamming them out of thousands of dollars. And because for the longest time no one was investigating him for his financial crimes, there was no way anyone could stumble across the bodies hidden throughout his house. The charming gentleman who lured women into his castle and killed them was never suspected of this. All of the excuses he gave to why these women left were perfectly reasonable coming from Holmes. Once his financial fraud finally caught up with him then it was possible to connect the murders to him as he turned out to be a very shady person.It is not anyone persons fault, however many people played a significant part in him never being caught. It is a combination of the time period and people making stupid mistakes. Because people were so gullible and were too polite to accuse Holmes when they felt uncomfortable about him. The suspicious disappearances were never reported, and the near deaths were ignored as well. If even the families of the missing girls had even investigated a little deeper Holmes story would had unraveled very quickly. Because of peoples trusting nature Holmes went uncaught for a long time. It also rests greatly on the time period that he was not caught as no one knew what serial killers were. No one could fathom what Holmes was really up to in his dark mansion. If prior knowledge was known about serial killing and psychopaths then Holmes would have been caught much sooner.
I really like your point that no one was looking for Holmes. That's the exact reason he wasn't brought to justice for so long. He choose his killings carefully, at least at first, and he disposed of the evidence efficiently. He always picked someone that would have a logical reason to leave Chicago. How do you think that we as a society could learn from Holmes success? It seems as if he could have gone on for longer if he didn't get lazy at the end of the story. This story reminded me of a complex movie where the antagonist is fascinating due to his genius and slick ways.
Jared, you raise a great point that Holmes probably would have been caught much sooner had people known he was so shady. Holmes was treading unknown waters. Many people weren't aware of the possibility of a serial killer being present at all. Many did know of Jack the Ripper and his gruesome acts but it had been almost unheard of before that. You also brought up a great point with the charm that Holmes brings to the table. He could basically talk his way out of any situation. Just like you said, he would have had a much greater chance of getting caught had anybody actually interrogated him. You brought up some solid points in your response and I couldn't agree with you more.
I think one of the biggest reasons it took so long is stated in one of the very first chapters. "It was so very easy to disappear." Chicago was so big with so many people dying and going missing everyday. Every person he killed was separate from all the others and the police force at the time had no idea how to connect the dots from so many different areas, especially when Holmes used so many different identities. They simply had no experience with serial killers and didn't even think to look for connections. Holmes was also an incredibly intelligent and charming man (which I honestly find much more scary than a fierce and vicious looking killer). Holmes was so much more dangerous because of his ability to sooth peoples doubts. With just a few words and a smile he could reassure anyone. And even though he was so smart he didn't become over confident and make a mistake. He did everything perfectly. The technology and detective skills just hadn't advanced enough to find him, a man of many talents, any sooner.So, it really isn't anyone's fault but Holmes. Everything in history slowly rises and falls in different areas with technology in America usually on the rise. That time period just got stuck with a man that was too advanced for it to handle. In light of what they had, Geyer did an incredible job, tracking all the hotels and real estate companies relentlessly until he found the right place.
There are several reasons why it took so long for Holmes to finally be caught and brought to justice. Holmes was a very sharp and clever man for his time; for the most part he was careful with what he did and tried to keep his tracks clear like using a different name. Also like several people stated above, Nobody really thought to look for the missing people or suspected someone of being a serial killer. During this time, a cereal killer really wasn't a thought in someone's mind, it was really kind of a new thing so most didn't expect to run into a murderer. Also, for some odd reason people never really went to the authorities when someone would go missing in the building. If the debtors or insurance companies actually went after him he would have been caught I believe.For the most part it is the peoples fault. Holmes was a very sharp man but the insurance companies and debtors should have gone after him more. Just like the way he was caught in the end, all they had to do was go straight to the cops or get a lawyer. So really a lot of these death could have been prevented. It was just because of the lazy and brainless people that witnessed all these strange happenings. But on the other side, technology is not as good as it is now but with todays forensics and other stuff, most likely Holmes would have been caught after the first disappearance.
David, I agree that Holmes was a sharp and clever man and this prevented him from being caught at the proper time. However, do you really think the people with suspicions were really just "lazy and brainless" or do you think they had other reasons for not involving authorities? Do you think they were just afraid to say something? One of Holmes wives, I think Emeline Cigrand, seemed to catch on at the very end, and Holmes seemed to figure this out and dispose of her extremely quickly. Maybe more people did realize what Holmes was up to, and he killed them before anyone else could become suspicious. I also wonder if Holmes would have become such a psychopath if the timing was different. Do you think if Holmes was forced to become even more careful, he would slow down the rate of his murders? Your response is very accurate, it just raised a couple of questions in my mind!
from Paige A.
I think the length of Holmes's murderous rampage can be explained through the societal norms of the late nineteenth century. During the fair, nearly all of the victims were females, yet the final homicides that brought Holmes into the public spotlight were that of Benjamin Pietzel and his three kids. It is known from insight provided by Larson that during this era disappearances happened quite often. The volume of this crime meant that nobody really put too much thought or time into finding those who vanished. Basically, nobody cared. However, this changes with the circumstances of the case. In the book, public outcry emerged at the thought that Holmes might have taken the lives of three poor innocent children and his defenseless father. The nation reeled in shock at such a notion, and demanded investigation into and justice for Holmes. But what happened to those twenty-odd other victims? Where was the outcry for them that would've cut Holmes's rampage short and brought him to justice much sooner? The answer lies again with the victims. Holmes's murder castle victims were largely defenseless young women. Nobody in this time period really cared about these women and they were often relegated to lower positions in society. In essence, the misogyny prevalent through this time period allowed Holmes to commit so many murders while escaping public scrutiny that would've lead to his capture. There was also another factor. While society at the time detested women, they exalted “self-made” men such as Holmes. Holmes could be seen as the embodiment of the ideal American businessman, seemingly charming and good-natured – with an entire hotel of his own! Nobody within mainstream America would ever be suspicious of him, which allowed his crimes to continue much longer. It’s obvious one person can't be blamed for this. Nobody did such a thing as invent misogyny or acceptable social stature; it is something that is the culmination of thousands of years of history. In effect, it was American society that was at fault. Much more could have been done to stop Holmes. The police of Chicago could have cared more about disappearances. The American people could have obsessed less over the self-made man and worked to minimize misogyny. These changes simply didn't happen because of the prevailing conservative tides of the time. Perhaps if society had been worked harder to find and wring out their errors in social philosophy, they might have caught Holmes sooner.
I think the delay in Holmes being caught was the lack of profile identification of the time period. What I mean by that is that the government didn't have much of an idea of who was where and when they disappeared. This made it easy for Holmes to kill people without others wondering where the people went. Of course there were some people who thought that it was suspicious how all of the people Holmes knew left. However, there was so little evidence that they couldn't do much. If they contacted the police and were wrong they would look silly. And searching for evidence by themselves would be very difficult and probably not worth it. Since the government didn't have much record of people and their location it was easy to say they just moved to another city.It was also difficult to locate people of interest because communication throughout the time period was limited. Most times a criminal could move as fast as a message sent throughout the city. I don't think that it was anyone's fault that it took so long to catch him. The time period just didn't have the organization and control to keep track of missing people. There were also so many people in Chicago at that time that it was even more difficult.
Jon, I agree with the claim you make. You backed it up really well and with a lot of evidence. I liked how you gave the example of how hard it would be for someone to find evidence of Holmes or give evidence to the police. I agree that it would be very tedious to hunt down criminals during that time and during the fair would be even harder. However, you only mention that it took Holmes so long to be caught by lack of profile identification and amount of people during the time. Do you think any other factors contributed to Holmes' elusiveness? For example, do you think Holmes' charm or intelligence had anything to do with it? I agree that the technology at the time was not the best but could anyone be a serial killer, or would you still need careful planning, charm, and a bit of luck? Overall, I still agree that the lack of technology was indeed a huge factor but perhaps there were other large ones as well.
It took way longer than it should have for Holmes to be caught and brought to justice. The reason for this is because it was during the World Fair and Chicago was overcrowded with thousands of new people. When a few people went missing, it really wasn't that big of a deal because there were so many people and the police had lots of other things to worry about. The families of those he killed were worried, of course, but they did little more than send Holmes concerned letters. If these people would have gone straight to the police authorities I think Holmes would have been caught sooner because then maybe his castle would have been investigated earlier. However I mostly blame the insurance agents for the reason Holmes was not caught earlier. Almost every one of them was won over by Holmes' charm and left satisfied even when Holmes still didnt pay them anything. If they would have gone to the police right away, there would have been tons of insurance people complaining about the same man, and his crimes would have been discovered. Despite all of these weird disappearances and money scandals occurring, no one ever went to the authorities. Holmes had an effect on people that made them feel good about him, and that effect is what convinced people that Holmes wasn't guilty of anything.
I Completely agree with you with almost everything written. It was for the most part the peoples fault for not making an effort to find out what was wrong with their family members. The insurance agents especially were at fault because they did not pursue Holmes with full intent. But the lack of technology and knowledge of serial killers also may have been a factor on why he was not caught right away.
I believe that the reason for why it took so long for Holmes to be caught and brought to justice was because of a variety of factors. The first reason is because of Holmes’s personality. Holmes was an incredibly smart man; however, he used his brilliance in a bad way. Holmes was a careful murderer; he planned out all of his steps way ahead of time. Holmes was also a very charismatic and charming man. This allowed him to befriend and persuade almost anyone. Holmes’s intellect, charisma, and bad intentions combined into a malicious scenario. All three of those traits allowed Holmes to conduct his murders and other crimes in a way that would make it very hard to discover. Holmes’s intellect allowed him to plan out his actions and to make sure his actions were untraceable and undetectable. Meanwhile, his charisma allowed him to charm himself out of any trouble if he was ever caught. Holmes’s personality was one of the reasons why he wasn’t caught for so long. The last reason was because of the setting that Holmes committed his murders in. He committed his murders in Chicago, during the World’s Fair. Chicago, with all its bustling activity and crime, was the perfect place to commit these murders. As the book perfectly puts it, “It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very easy in the smoke and din to mask that something dark had taken root” (12). The police force may have been focused on the World’s Fair, making sure that no one tarnishes it. They may not have been able to connect each of the murders. Or, they may not have even found out about the murders at all. Either way, Holmes’s personality, combined with the specific setting in which the murders were committed in, were probably why Holmes had gone undiscovered for so long.
Holmes delay in being caught and brought to justice can be supported with several reasons. First, back in that day the law enforcement didn't have the kind of technology that we have today that helps us keep track of criminals. They may of had an idea of who killed someone, but didn't have a name to put to the face and before long they were gone. At the time there had not been very many cases of serial killing so this was a entirely knew subject. If people weren't very aware of what serial killing was, how can they accuse someone of it? Holmes made sure that his killing was kept on the down low. While creating his hotel he would only let someone work for so long before either fired them or killed them. By doing this he kept the secrets of his hotels to himself so that other could not catch on to what he or trace anything back to him. Holmes charmed his way through life and was way to good at lying. Whenever he killed, he had a story and sometimes letters to back it up and make it sound realistic. If you started questioning what was going on he could charm his way out or just eliminate you also before you could start running your mouth. At the time women were just starting to leave their homes and enter the world and Holmes used that to his advantage. After charming and killing them, he could give full out lies of where they went and no one would know because they barely knew them.Also, when he killed his victims he did it somewhere private and quietly and he didn't make much of a mess with it. But even if you were suspicious, you wouldn't usually say anything because you were either scared of him or didn't really understand. In today's world I would hope that Holmes would be caught much faster but with the era and his smooth ways, he was in the clear for killing.
Nice job outlining your response, I like that you listed several factors concerning the topic!
With the book taking place in the late 1800s and early 1900s, most people that lived during this era didn’t even think about serial killers. The thought of there being someone that would kill for fun just didn’t exist. The timing for Holmes killings was the perfect time for him due to the lack of knowledge of serial killers and because no one thought of someone killing as many people as he did. When the time came for the detectives and cops to get involved, most people couldn’t believe it. This was the first serial killer that people have ever witnessed. If I was living in that era, I know that I wouldn’t have known that the killing would have been happening. Even when some of the people were starting to suspect something, they still decided not to get anyone else involved. No one is at fault for this because no one knew that he was truly a psychopath. Those things don’t just pop right out of the blue. In the book, when he was with his victims, he came off as very charming and then all of a sudden they disappear. Kudos to Geyer who went after Holmes in multiple different cities trying to bring him to justice. If the time era would have been more modern, more people would have suspected him and he would have been brought to justice a lot sooner.
What I'm wondering is, why was the idea of serial killers such a foreign concept? Surely there had been psychopaths similar to Holmes throughout history, unless Holmes was a product of his own environment- the industrial era. I think that in a lot of ways Holmes's operation in Chicago was deeply enabled by the times, and less by Holmes's psychopathic nature. I would disagree that no one was at fault, because like you said, people started to become suspicious of Holmes, but they ignored this feeling. While police forces were knew, they did exist.
Holmes wasn’t caught for a lot of reasons. Not only was he really smart about charming his way out of sticky situations but he also used the lack of technology to his advantage. Holmes charmed everyone. Not only did he charm his victims into falling for his web of lies but he also charmed outsiders into believing that he was a trustworthy guy. Because people did start questioning him but they never really found anything or he would in a sense talk them down from the ledge. The fact that this time period wasn’t ready for a true serial killer also played into it. Before Holmes people rarely killed a lot of people. So police officers of the time had no idea how to deal with it. Also the FBI was in its infancy so there wasn’t a countrywide way to handle Holmes yet. Even if there had been the technologies couldn’t handle it. They were just too slow and disconnected to handle such a case during this time period.
I really like how you mention the lack of technology. Most of us all know that Holmes was a crazy smart and charming guy, but we never talked much about the other things that made it easy for him to get away with everything too much while we were in class. I also like how you mention that it was the time period. The only other previous serial killer was jack the ripper, and he wasn’t even from the states. It really makes sense when you say that the people had no idea how to handle it because they had never experienced it before. Mentioning the FBI being in its infancy was also good. There was really no way for anyone to catch this guy. I think it had to do with “disposing” of his helpers too, or disposing of people who would’ve/ could’ve gotten in the way. Like Pietzel. Or the numerous wives he killed after he married them. What would’ve happened if he kept a wife? I also think fear was a big motivator to why people didn’t report Holmes. I remember Nate warning one of Holmes’s new catches about him, but not reporting him. And the neighbors that suspected him of killing not reporting him. People were afraid. Good Post Kerstin! :]
It is sometimes hard in our day and age to realize how difficult it was to obtain information in a time period such as the nineteenth century. There were no computers, no comprehensive databases, no modern filing systems, not even a decent registry. Even with all our access to information, it is still quite possible for people to just up and vanish in places as busy as Chicago. So, back in the days of yesteryear, an event such as the Chicago Word's Fair was a prime location for missing persons. So much foot traffic went in and out of the Fair and the city each day, that a person not being heard of for a while was a forgone conclusion. Not only that, the lack of any coherent registry for peoples' locations was a huge hindrance to nay locating efforts. Nowadays, we can track card purchases, security camera footage, calls made, and all manner of other sources to find the potential location of people. Then, if a person was missing, the most advanced method to find them was a picture on a milk bottle. Even with the ease of getting lost and the difficulty in finding, Holmes covered his tracks very well, even by modern standards. He disposed of the bodies so no one would find them, dissolving them in quicklime or incinerating them, or even getting another clueless man to sell the skeletons. He had a network of aliases to cover his tracks for any purchases he might make, or letters he might send. He was nice, charming, and handsome, and what he couldn't get through guile or crocodile tears he could often get by wit. His late capture was not a result of any lapse of care on anyone's part; the environment that Holmes did his work in was a perfect storm. In fact, the way he was caught was by fraud, which, having to do with money rather than human life, was of much more interest to the powerful people.
You had a great response, Grant!! Your points about the lack of record-keeping technology really made sense. It made me realize that it must have been really easy to get “lost” in Chicago during that time. That probably explained why Holmes could kill so many people and get away with it. In the last few sentences of your post, you sorta talk about how Holmes was caught because of fraud. You allude to how money was more important than people back in that time. Well, that was really interesting! I really had never thought about it that way. I guess it sorta portrays the money-centered views that many of the industry people had during that time. Do you think people hold the same view today? And if so, to what extent? It makes me think about assassins or hitmen. They kill people for a price. I guess that sorta reflects the same idea of how people would prefer money over human life. Finally, I have one last question. If Holmes had never committed fraud or he had never been caught committing fraud, do you think that he would end up being exposed for his crimes? Or would he have still been able to keep killing many more people? Once again, it was a really good and eye-opening blog post Grant!
Holmes’ apprehension took as long as it did because of the rapid expansion across the board that took place during the time period. Rural areas were becoming larger and denser, population shot up, crime increased, and criminals increased. Society had been accustom to smaller, more familiar, even more honest times. When this sudden growth occurred, the police and law force were still operating under those older principles. This is why, when they were confronted with a case as extensive as Holmes’, they were unable to unify. (In fact, they mightn’t have seen the need.) As objective readers who are privy to the plot line, it is obvious that “mysterious” deaths and disappearances are linked directly to Holmes. This is because we group all the women he killed as “his victims”. Police at the time would have seen each woman as a separate case, a connection not being as evident. The lack of technology and strategy would also have impeded the investigation.This stated, no one is at fault for the occurrences, except perhaps Holmes. Yes, the police did take a while to catch onto his dealings (fraudulent, murderous, or otherwise). However, considering the time period, it is rather impressive the amount of information that was discovered at the end. Holmes could not have killed forever; some circumstance was bound to stop him. The question, therefore, was not if Holmes would be caught and stopped, but whether or not justice would be given. The end he met and the truth unveiled were pretty significant given all the other circumstances.
Mimi-I completely agree with your reasons for why Holmes wasn't apprehended sooner. Society changed so quickly during the Guided Era, way faster than old institutions such as the police force could adapt to. The idea of each victim being a separate case is right on, too. Holmes also killed in a way that didn't leave clues. There were no guns to obtain for evidence, no footprints in the forest to follow to the body. He was very good at what he did, and the police weren't used to cases like this, especially multiple cases at a time. I also agree about the impressive amount of information gathered about Holmes by the end of the case. Holmes wasn't exactly cooperative during his time in prison (this is obvious from his memoirs), so the amount of information Geyer an his associates were able to gather solely from other people and the pieces of the puzzle that Holmes had left is really immense.
The reason it took so long for Holmes to be finally caught were due to several factors. One was because of his personality and wit. Holmes at a certain charm and charisma about him that allowed him to do things without attracting any attention and get away with many things by sweet talking. For example, he lured many young women to his hotel and killed them almost unnoticed. Even when he was just about to be executed, the guard admitted it wasn’t easy to kill him. Holmes's personality affected almost everyone and it allowed him to commit his crimes much easier than someone who acted crazy on the outside. Another reason why it took Holmes so long to be caught was his intelligence. Holmes carefully plotted out his next move so he was always prepared in what to do. This allowed him to execute his plans perfectly so almost nothing could go wrong. He even managed to move three parties at once without them knowing what was happening. He almost got away with his crime and believed he had removed almost all evidence if it wasn’t for the letters of Prietzel’s children. Serial killers were almost unheard of during this time which also could have been a factor to Holmes’s elusiveness. No one would have expected someone to just start killing people for fun and Holmes used this to his advantage. The time period of Holmes’s killing was perfect for him. The Chicago Fair was bustling with people and killing a few people here and there would not spark much attention. Chicago was already a city filled with crime and the police had enough to deal with as it was. Finally, the lack of technology and communication also attributed to Holmes success. Back then, it was much easier to forge identifications and to go about unnoticed. There was no internet, TV, and cell phones so news spread much slower and was harder to come by. Holmes covered his evidence very well and combining this with the lack of technology and communication, it was practically impossible for Holmes to be discovered. Therefore, it was a combination of many factors including the time period that resulted in the long time it took for Holmes to be captured.
I really agree with all of your points, Jeffrey. I feel like you really covered a lot of the possible explanations that this question asked for, and you really backed up your response with stuff from the book. I do have a question regarding your response though. I was just wondering about your opinion on this: which factor do you believe played the biggest role in helping to keep Holmes go undiscovered for so long? Do you think that one of those factors stuck out and perhaps contributed to Holmes’s killings more so than any of the other factors? Also, I was intrigued by your point about how news spread slower and was harder to come by. Do you think that the public’s knowledge on events (such as Holmes’s killings) was distorted because of how slowly the news spread? Or do you think that the public was given more accurate information because news sources took longer to spread the news? Basically, I’m sort of just wondering if you think that the rate of the news reporting affected the bias and/or accuracy of the news being reported. But other than those questions, I agree completely with your response!
Jeff-I think you covered almost every possible point on why it was possible for Holmes to commit the crimes he did! Holmes's personality was indeed a big part of it because he was so charming. His personality perplexed people. But beyond that, it was all about the timing. You hit the nail on the head with the points that at the time serial killers were unheard of, as well as the fact that technology was undeveloped and police forces were not used to such crime. And of course the fact that Holmes's crimes occurred during a very busy time for the world, the world's fair. I have to agree that it was a combination of many factors that allowed Holmes to get away with as much as he did. To an extent though, I have to say a lot of it was just luck. While his wit and charm played a big role, if it weren't for the World's fair and the business of the city at the time, he wouldn't have been able to go unnoticed. In this way Holmes was lucky, to say the least.
No one is at fault for why Holmes wasn't caught. During that time, no one expected someone to be capable of everything that Holmes was. They probably didn't have many cases of mass murders and killers. And Holmes was a unique character. Not just anyone could pull off the things he did, it takes a certain kind of crazy and Holmes was just that kind. Holmes went outside of the norm where people wouldn't ever dream of accusing someone of murder. He used this to his advantage and therefore was able to get away with everything. The time period and people not expecting it wasn't the only reason Holmes got caught. Like I said it takes a crazily intelligent and maniacal type of person to do what Holmes did. You have to admit Holmes was good at what he did. It may have been killing people, but he was still skilled at it. He knew how to win people over and get them on his side. He got all these people to trust him and then when they completely adored him, he turned on them. When the people kept disappearing Holmes had to keep lying, digging himself in deeper and deeper holes. The lies kept piling up, it's a wonder he was able to keep all of them straight but he managed. And was also able to make his lies sound credible. You'd have to be a very good liar to make the people believe what you're saying and not be skeptical. Holmes succeeded at this for quite some time. All in all, the reason why Holmes wasn't caught for so long was a combination of Holmes' amazing talent at charming and tricking people, and also the fact that people were not expecting something like that could ever happen.
I agree with Brittany when she points out his personality. He was a lot smarter than an average person and had the skills to deceive and trick others. He obviously had a lot of natural wits and smarts and used them the wrong way. People back then didn't see this very often so they didn't know what they should be looking out for. He kept up with his lies so well and always had an answer so no one expected anything wrong from him.
I believe that Holmes wasn't caught so quickly because serial killing and the crimes that he committed weren't very known back in this time period. No one really knew much about mantal illness. Everything about what Holmes did was new. The way he moved around from place to place after he committed a crime was a clever way to clear his path. Society didn;t have all the knowledge and technology that we have today. It was harder for people to communicate from city to city and they didn't have the things they do today. Today everyone has to have an ID and social security number and better records than they do toay. No one ever suspected things like this and that's a lot of the reason Holmes got away with it for so long. I think that they even caught Holmes was a surprising thing especially during the time of the World's Fair.
I believe that it took so long for holmes to be brought to justice because he was one of the first serial killers to have existed. In a time when people hadn't experienced crimes to the degree of today they would have never thought one person could be so cruel as to lure women to his hotel and kill them. in chicago at this time people were just used to the "usual" murder of a person who had done another person wrong, but they would only kill that one person and they would have a reason for it. whereas holmes killed almost at random and had no reason other than that he enjoyed it. and so without this understanding of what people can really be capable of they trusted holmes because he had not given them a reason not to. in addition the police at this time were not as vigilante as they are today purely because they didn't anticipate this type of a killer or thought that one person was capable of so much murder. people during this time were very trustworthy. i feel like the only person at fault for all of this was holmes himself. if he hadn't been the way he was there wouldn't have been any murders in the first place. the people and police around him were just dealing and reacting to the situations in the best way possible. because they had been taught that they can trust other people until they did something that denies them that trust.