It has been proven over the years that while people are horrified by serial killers, they are just as fascinated by them as well. Scholars have spent numerous years of their lives trying to decipher what it was that made these individuals turn to the horrific crimes they committed. One of the most debated and discussed example of this type of serial killer was H.H. Holmes. Like the notorious Jack the Ripper, Holmes has been examined, fictionalized, and perhaps even romanticized. But in the end, he was a figure of pure evil. It is that concept that sets the stage for the horrific tale in Zenescope’s Grimm Tales of Terror Quarterly, H. H. Holmes.
The narrative begins three months earlier. A young lady upon arriving at the Gemini Hotel in Chicago dies under mysterious circumstances. After an investigation, the police have come to the conclusion that her unfortunate death was an accident. Which was good news for the owner of the Hotel. At least he thought. Now his Hotel could resume business as usual without a lengthy investigation muddying up the water.
Now we move forward to the present. The Gemini’s new head of security, former Detective Susan Murphy, has been reluctant to move forward with opening the room back up to occupants. Much to the chagrin of Walter Lewis, founder and owner of the Gemini. Lewis had been Co-Owner of the Hotel with his Brother J.J. but he recently was kidnapped and later found dead. Just one MORE reason that bad publicity was something to be avoided. This was not helped when another man showed up, Harold Myers, who claimed he was there at the request of the dead woman’s family. Not what Lewis wanted to hear.
A Room of Secrets
This became even more apparent when Myers revealed that the room in question had not only been bugged with a camera but the room’s phone had been disabled. They also found that gas was sent into the room through one of the electrical sockets. In addition, the rooms walls had been lined with a signal dampening material. In essence, the poor woman couldn’t get help, even if she tried. This appeared to be a setup from the start. Upon hearing Myers explanations, Murphy asked for the Hotel’s maintenance man Trevor to come to the room with his sledge hammer. He broke a hole into the wall to find out it was completely hollow behind the wall. After seeing this, Murphy had seen enough, drawing her revolver and telling Myers he was under arrest.
Myers looked incredulously at her, reminding her she was no longer a Detective. Be that as it may, Murphy found it impossible for Myers to know everything he seemed to without being involved somehow. Myers decided that his ruse had come to an end. He was not an investigator, nor did he work for the unfortunate young woman’s family. He was in fact, a historian from the Chicago University. Serial Killers were a fascination for him. And the facts in this case were very similar to one he had studied. Didn’t Murphy hate leaving a case unsolved? He was not wrong but she was still suspicious of Myers. She probably still should run him in. But her boss felt otherwise.
H.H. Holmes History Lesson
He didn’t want any more negative publicity. But he did want to know what was going on here. Hidden cameras, secret passageways? None of this information he would want released to the public. They should investigate further, but keep it internal for now. Murphy reluctantly agreed as they entered the hollowed out space behind the wall. And just as Myers had expected, a gas line was found having been apparently run into an electric socket. It had been loosened but not re-secured. Upon discovery these facts, Murphy asked Myers what was the case that resembled these events. He explained that the case in question was over 100 years old, and the perpetrator was H.H. Holmes.
Of course, not everyone had heard of H.H. Holmes and Murphy was among those who had not. Myers described him as the “American Jack the Ripper.” However, Holmes crimes were much more devious and sinister and more profitable. Myers revealed that Holmes had built a Hotel in the 1800’s for the World’s Fair. It became instead a “Murder Palace” where Holmes invited guests in only to kill some of them in all manners of insidious methods.
It is said that he used torture, electrocutions, vivisections, and even burning his victims alive. When asked how he was able to allude the police of that time, Myers explained that Holmes used secret tunnels under his Hotel to dispose of the bodies all over the city. He left no trail back to his Hotel of Death. But now, with the young woman’s death and the death of Lewis Brother, Myers expects that they might have an H.H. Holmes Copycat Killer.
A CopyCat Killer?
Needless to say, Lewis wanted none of that talk. That would be the last thing his Hotel needed and he resented his brother being brought into this absurd scenario. But as they stepped forward, Lewis accidentally stepped on a switch. The floor beneath them slanted down like a chute. One by one they slid down. Fortunately for most of the group, they were able to grab onto something to stop their slide. All except Mr. Lewis. He continued downward until he saw his destination. A huge oven like chamber that he was unable to stop from sliding into. The rest of the group heard the screams but had not seen what had actually happened. This was revealed as moments later, an opening on the other side of the discharged the burnt remains of Walter Lewis. Perhaps Myers was correct.
For Murphy, the first order of business would be to bring in the police. But Myers told her that he doubt she could. He suspects that the walls are lined with the same signal dampening material as the room. Besides, if this is indeed a copycat killer, the spaces could be boobytrapped with all forms of devices and secret panels. To prove his point, he presses his cane into a crevice and a secret panel reveals itself. Murphy immediately asked how he knew of its existence. He proclaimed that Holmes had numerous switches hidden in crevices in his Hotel. A fastidious copy cat would no doubt do the same. The hidden room lead into a form of operating room. A room that reminds Myers of another Holmes tale.
A Christmas Tale
Back on Christmas Eve, 1891. Holmes had married a young lady and she became pregnant with their second child. It was their plan that Holmes, who had a medical degree amongst his various skills, would help her to abort the child. But that was not Holmes intention. The local hospitals paid very well for human skeletons. Very well. So he cut into his wife, laughing hysterically as she screamed for him to spare their first daughter Pearl. No one knew what had happened to Pearl. While Murphy contemplated this horrific tale, she examined the gurney and the blood on it was still sticky. She wondered if the killer was doing his work here, and disposing of the bodies in the same manner Holmes did. Using the secret passages to scatter the remains. However, when she turned to Myers to ask this question, he was gone. A trap door opened where he once had stood.
Myers had fallen through the trap door into a glass booth, filled with water. It brought to mind the type of conveyance the great Harry Houdini used in his act. He would be straight jacketed and submerged in a tank, only to miraculously escape in the nick of time. It was a great trick. And it didn’t escape Holmes notice. In fact, it proved to be a blueprint for one of Holmes diabolical traps. He had submerged a young lady into a tank like the one Houdini used, but he had done the magician one worse. The water in the tank had acid inside. There would be no escape for this unfortunate victim. But how about Myers?
Well fortunately for Myers, Murphy reacted quickly. Upon discovering the trap door, she had grabbed Trevor’s sledge hammer and raced down to the room. There, upon realizing the situation, she broke the chamber, allowing the water to flood out and save Myers. After assuring he was ok, she asked him for any other information he knew about Holmes. Perhaps it might give them some clue of what to expect. Myers was only so happy to oblige.
Insurance Fraud and One Murder too Many
Because while Holmes was happiest while killing people, he also needed money to finance his evil. This he accumulated by getting loans from banks with no intentions of repaying. By having his intended victims sign life insurance policy’s unwittingly making him the sole benefactor. It was that kind of transaction that eventually became his undoing. He brought on a partner named Benjamin Pitezel who agreed to help him in his evil plans. Part of their plot had them faking Pitezel’s death and splitting the death benefit. Except that Pitezel didn’t realize that Holmes was no one’s partner and his death would not be fake. Nor would the money Holmes would get for his demise. It was Pitezel’s death that once again put Holmes on the Police’s radar. It took a great deal of time, but he was eventually arrested for the crime and convicted.
During Professor Myers dissertation, Murphy noticed something hanging just outside Trevor’s work belt: a necklace. One that belonged to the poor unfortunate victim in the hotel room. She asked Trevor what he was doing with the necklace. He swore he had never seen the jewelry before. But Murphy was now suspicious, which seemed as easy as breathing to her. Trevor also claimed to know nothing about the secret rooms, but as the maintenance man, he should know the hotel better than anyone. She drew her gun on Trevor, who naturally panicked, picking up a scalpel from the table. All he wanted to do was get away. But, as he stumbled back, he fell against a trap door in the wall and vanished. So was it an accident or did he know where it was and used it to make his escape?
Well as far as Murphy was concerned, she had found her copycat. But because they had no idea where Trevor went or if he was watching them, she decide it best to keep moving. As they came from one dead end to another, Murphy stumbled across one of the secret entrances. As she attempted to go through, Myers tackled her to ground just as a swinging saw blade came across where she WOULD have been standing. A close shave indeed. The room was another apparent torture chamber. A torture chamber that apparently had no other means of escape. At least, until Myers walked to the sink and turned one of the handles. A secret door opened on the floor with a spiral staircase. No where to go but down.
To Be Continued…
As they reached the bottom of the stairs, they found a control room. The room where obviously Trevor had been monitoring everything. Murphy rushed to the control panel before Myers could stop her. An immense electric shock rendered her unconscious. But as Myers went to check on his investigative partner, the room began to fill with a gas that slowly rendered him unconscious as well. However, just before the lights went out, he saw someone…and it wasn’t Trevor. As for what happens after this, I believe I have gone as far as I dare or should. Too far perhaps. Some things are best discovered on your own. But rest assured, the remainder of the journey has twists and turns and decisions to be made. Such is the way of Zenescope’s Grimm Tales of Terror Quarterly: H.H. Holmes.
Based on a story by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini and Writer Jay Sandlin, this might be Sandlin’s most intense, mind twisting story yet. All it took was to base it on a real life character. Mix in some supernatural elements, some downright horrific events, and you get a narrative that’s pretty disturbing…and addictive. Plus when you add in his natural inclination to lead you toward one path and then pull the rug out from under your feet, it works. In a gruesome, sinister, Marquis D’Sade way…but it definitely works. Of course by the time you get to the end, you’ll also realize that Sandlin did leave some bread crumbs to follow, if you’re smart enough to notice. I wasn’t, until I started to write this section. I’ll leave it you Sherlock Holmsian types to figure it out. ( I know, that wasn’t a thing, but you know what I mean). You will also realize that while this is a work of fiction combined with a real life individual, it doesn’t change the general idea that H.H. Holmes was one sick dude (feel free to substitute the word you feel is appropriate).
Artwork and Color
For this particular story to work at its most effective and stomach twisting manner, the artists involved had to really bring it. With that in mind, the combined work of Rodrigo Xavier and Allan Otero along with color work by Maxflan Araujo and Vinicius Andrade displayed this narrative in all its gory detail. It was what this book required and they certainly delivered in no uncertain terms. Whether it be a water-logged body, incinerated corpse, or any number of ghastly images that remind the reader this isn’t your ordinary crime tale. But it is the kind of story that Zenescope’s Grimm Tales of Terror tells as well or better than anyone. And that pattern of success continues brilliantly with H.H. Holmes. If you like your books to put some scare into you, be sure to check out Zenescope’ Grimm Tales of Terror: H.H. Holmes. The book can be found where great comics are sold on April 7th.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.