Monday, March 25, 2013

Devil Final #4

How was Holmes able to exert such power over his victims?  What weaknesses did he prey upon?  How was Holmes able to get away with so many murders without becoming suspect?  Why wasn't he caught earlier?  In what does his story "illustrate the end of the century" (370) as the Chicago Times-Herald wrote?

11 comments:

  1. Holmes was able to exert his power over basically anyone. As we know from background knowledge Holmes was one of the first documented serial killers, with the exception of Jack the Ripper. So I believe it’s a safe bet to say that the majority of the nation at this time was rather naive. Basically all Holmes had to do was ask for something and it was given to him. No one expected there to be a serial killer amongst them, even at the time of the world’s fair.
    Another reason that Holmes managed to do what he did is because woman were just starting to enter into the realm of what had been entirely male dominated. So woman were the most vulnerable of people at this time. The world’s fair attracted woman from around the world who were out in society alone for the first time. Holmes was very well aware of this and he used it to his advantage.
    The story of Holmes did “illustrate the end of the century” (p. 370) quite nicely because what he did happened to a lot of woman. As previously noted, women were just entering the world and leaving the home. They did not know what to do with themselves. So they simply just trusted anyone on the street. Holmes just used that to his advantage just like many other men did. Holmes just took it to the next level.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe the 'end of the century' was the end of the domestic oppression of women and the advent of the independent woman? The World's Fair really afforded women a slice of time to become more independent and travel to Chicago to experience a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. After that, maybe fathers weren't so frightened to send their daughters outside the home?

      Delete
  2. Holmes victims were for the most part young women. He preyed on their trust and how willingly they were to give it away. These girls were naïve not knowing what a big city was like or what different people were like. Holmes saw this and he took advantage of it. He drew them close to him with his charm and wit, and then he would eventually murder them. Ironically his charm and his wit is what stopped people and the police from believing that he could ever have done such terrible things. He was a real life demon, one of human blood. Just as the Chicago Times-Herald wrote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely agree with you that Holmes was able to lure these women in so well because of the fact that they were brand new to the big, crowded city and pretty much clueless about the dangers of society. Do you think Holmes would have been able to charm then into trusting him so easily if the World Fair hadn't been going on and these women were just Chicago residents?

      Delete
  3. Holmes’ captivating personality was absolutely terrifying. It seemed like a supernatural form of mind control, the way he hypnotized people and kept them under his spell. Holmes knew how to exert people’s sympathies and how to interact with individuals on a personal level, calling to the humanity inside of people while skillfully hiding his glaring absence. The characteristics of humanity preyed upon by Holmes were not all weaknesses. Many times Holmes took the best portions of what humanity inherently is and used it in a corrupt way. Sympathy was Holmes’ main tool, and he exploited it many times in his interactions with his victims. When creditors came to claim their debts, they became victims of Holmes’ fraud. In these meetings, Holmes feigned agreement with the creditors, and concocted some excuse about a problem he was having that they could sympathize with. Maybe they were in a similar situation, or were friends with someone who was having a similar hard time. In 1893, hard times weren’t difficult to come by, which should have rendered the creditors immune to Holmes’ fictional plight, but Holmes’ charm also extended in his physical appearance. He was a handsome man and he knew it. Using his appearance to his advantage worked especially well on his lady friends/victims. Though his appearance was a crucial first step to gaining his victims’ respect, his true power lay in the hopes and ambitions of the women themselves. Larson addressed these aspirations a little in the novel, saying the women were ready for excitement and adventure after living the majority of their lives in the captivity of their hometowns. It was terrible that the first friendly face they met in Chicago defined what they expected of their new life. Had Holmes’ women been more aware of the cultural climate of Chicago at the time, they would have realized he was overstepping the bounds of even the city’s most liberal areas. It also helped that most of his victims were all alone in the world, so that no one missed them when they disappeared.
    When one’s neighbor seems like a normal individual, one begins to question his odd quirks. However, Holmes had a cover story for everything. It seemed like he would have been a superb fiction writer, with all of the lies he was able to tell and keep straight in his mind. These cover stories were what enabled him to avoid suspicion for such an extended period of time. Holmes was also very methodical in his work, assuring that all loose ends were all tied up. Hiring and firing multiple people to build his murder castle was just one of Holmes’ methods of ensuring he was never caught. In fact, it was surprising that he was ever caught at all. With a severe lack of technology in 1893, discovering and following telling clues that led to Holmes’ arrest and eventual execution seemed like long and arduous work. There were no cell phone records to trace, or credit cards, and no hotel cameras to catch him in his travels. This absence allowed much crime to flourish, making Holmes’ deeds only a few of many in the era. Disappearances were common in the new life of Chicago and other metropolitan areas at the turn of the century. Holmes’ crimes “illustrate the end of the century” because they were representative of the many illegal activities that flourished with the excitement and anticipation of the World’s Fair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like how you point out how "Holmes took the best portions of what humanity inherently is and used it in a corrupt way." I think that statement is a really clever and succinct way of summarizing how Holmes exerted his power. The fact that Holmes didn't only play off of individual weaknesses is also something I really didn't think about, and your comment shed a lot of insight into that! I also agree that Holmes would definitely been an excellent fiction writer. Perhaps this could be proven by that "memoir" he fabricated near the end of the novel. It would probably be an interesting read and provide even more insight into Holmes's character.

      Delete
  4. Holmes had an incredible control over everyone he met. His charm and charisma instantly disarmed everyone. He made breaking the rules of courtship seem enticing. The power he had over women was less to do with his charm, and more to do with who he picked. He chose women who would go easily unnoticed. They were wide-eyed and naive, just off the train from some small-town USA. They had never seen anything close to the glory and size of Chicago.

    Holmes never would have been able to get away with all of the murders without the fair. He exploited the fair for his own sadistic needs. The mass amount of people in one area made it easy for the missing women to go unnoticed. The police didn't have the resources or numbers to look in to every missing person. Holmes was also friends with many members of the police force. He also had many different aliases and cover stories. Every new place he rented he created a new story and reason he was there. He also utilized the time period and his own creativity to build his castle. He was constantly firing workers and contractors so he would be the only one to understand the design. It kept cost down as well. The women were all from different families. They had now idea that there were other missing women connected with Holmes. Holmes marked the end of an era. People before were naive, it didn't occur to them that something like this could happen, as Holmes was the first American serial killer. Police work was stepped up to deal with situations like Holmes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was first exposed to Holmes and the way he functioned I thought of him as a brilliant mastermind. But then I realized, just like you elaborately proved, that his success had less to do with him and more to do with the characteristics of the period. The inability of the women to imagine such a glorious landscape emulates the larger folly of the entire populace during that time: not being able to imagine the horrifying act that is serial killing. But there are firsts for everything and the great thing to come out of this tragedy is something you mentioned: the police. Do you think that despite the improvements in police forces today, we are still oblivious to the evil people have the capacity to execute? Also, is it maybe just a semblance of a better police force mostly because most of us aren’t affected by mass murder?

      Delete
  5. Holmes’ personality was key to asserting power over his victims. Holmes knew of no such things as “personal boundaries”, but, this invasion of another's personal space seemed to come across as endearing rather than alarming to his victims. Holmes was a rather charming man as well as extremely charismatic. The attractive personality of Holmes drew his victims closer in, making them vulnerable to Holmes’ hidden agenda. Holmes specifically preyed upon women, young girls, for the most part. Holmes chose his victims well, which also contributed to his successful murderous rampage. Most women, during this time period, were delicate, frail, and naive to Holmes courting ways. Not to make a generalization or stereotype women in this era, but, they were pretty dumb. Dumb, as in ignorant. Actually, in general, the people in this era were ignorant to the sheer possibility of something as horrific as the Holmes murders occurring around them. The ignorance of the people assisted Holmes, but, Holmes strategic intelligence helped him as well. Holmes multiple aliases as well as his clever escapes from his financial responsibilities kept his name clear of any sort of suspicious activity, therefore maintaining the belief that he was an alright guy. Holmes wasn’t caught earlier for the same reasons he wasn’t found suspicious. Of course this charismatic, gem of a man couldn’t be killing all these people! And again, the strategic maintenance of keeping his name clean. Also, Holmes was very careful in the disposal of his bodies as well as removing any sort of evidence of a murder. He was also able to craft seemingly legitimate stories to cover up the disappearances of his victims. The Holmes legacy illustrates the end of the century through commonalities between the Holmes case and the 1800’s. Holmes at first sight was a ravishing individual with a vibrant personality and an intriguing mind. The 1800’s, specifically the time around the World’s Fair, had this same idea. The World’s Fair was an exciting time and a time of cultural flourishment. The City Beautiful Movement also was happening in this time period, which was a movement in order to transform major American cities into metropolises of impressive architecture and landscape. Though the surfaces of both these events seemed extraordinary and enticing, they both had a corrupt undertone. Holmes charisma masked the malevolence of his killings, and the cultural advancement of the time shrouded the crime filled cities. As a whole, the Holmes story was an illustration of the coexistence of good and evil which was an ever present aspect in the culmination of the 19th century.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Holmes exerted his power over his victims quite easily by taking control of the most essential parts of their lives right away. He directly oversaw their place of living and occupation. Being their boss and landlord, he automatically had control over them right away. Many of the women that stayed at his hotel were not familiar with Chicago, which led them to be very dependent upon any kind of help they could find. Then here is Holmes, with jobs and rooms to offer them. They trust him, being niave and needy. His charms did not serve to drive them away, either. Each time Holmes chose his new lover he strategically found women who were new to city life or Chicago, strengthening this dependence and taking advantage of the womens' inexperience. By varying his techniques and refraining from keeping "trophies" of his exploits, Holmes limited his paper trail. In addition, Holmes carefully planned his murders around convenient times. For example, he waited to kill Julia until she was planning on a trip back home. His victims always seemed to have an alibi. Holmes kept few people close to him, and anyone close to him typically became a victim of his psychosis. With the huge influx of people around the time of the World's Fair, missing persons were pretty commonplace and altogether, forgettable. When the fair ended, this protection from speculation was lost, which is why Holmes was soon surrounded by suspicion. Holmes's activities illustrated the ugly that was naturally apart of the beauty emerging at this time, and all times. City life at this time was incredibly dangerous in a multitude of ways, from crime to worker's casualties. However, it was also incredibly inspiring and progressing rapidly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely agree with you. Whether you would care to admit it or not, Holmes was in fact nothing short of a criminal genius. He had a whole strategy for playing through his twisted game. As you said he planned his murders perfectly due to the timing of his killings and the cover from speculation around the fair, and he always tried to make sure he had a way to weasel his way out of the light of suspicion.

      Delete