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America's First Serial Killer - H.H. Holmes

A cache by DpThought0 Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 11/18/2013
3 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: micro (micro)

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Geocache Description:

A grisly bit of history with a local connection. This is the site of the unmarked grave of H.H. Holmes, considered to be America's first serial killer. This is a two part multi-cache. The coordinates take you to the site where you must gather a little information to get the coordinates to the second stage - a nearby LPC off cemetery grounds.

3.0 / 1.5 due to the condition of the headstones, having to do a little math, and some uneven ground in the cemetery itself.

H.H. Holmes

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Short history lesson below. Information about the cache is in the "About the Cache" section toward the bottom of the page.

Herman Mudgett, a.k.a Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, was the American contemporary of London's Jack the Ripper. He committed a number of murders in the late nineteenth century in several parts of the U.S. and Canada. During the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago he ran a hotel of his design, known later as the "murder castle". Full of twisting hallways, rooms were designed with gas outlets to asphyxiate occupants and hidden chutes that were used to drop bodies to the basement. There, bodies were dissected in order to obtain skeletons for sale to medical schools, with the other remains disposed of in lime pits, acid vats, and furnaces. Additionally, Holmes would imprison people in a bank vault on the site, where they would starve to death.

Local Connection

Holmes was involved in a number of swindles and had a few brushes with the law. After leaving Chicago he traveled for a while, ultimately ending up in Philadelphia with his "business" partner Benjamin Pitezel. The two of them set up a bogus patent office at 1316 Callowhill St, which is currently a parking lot (see Point of Interest waypoint below). They planned an insurance scam where Pitezel would fake his death and Holmes would claim the insurance money. Instead of faking Pitezel's death and substituting a cadaver, Holmes simply killed him and claimed the money. He then left Philadelphia after persuading Pitezel's wife to allow three of the five Pitezel children to stay in his custody (he ultimately killed all three while on his travels).

Suspicions where raised with Pitezel's murder, and the Philadelphia police started an investigation and began to track Holmes, finding evidence of grisly murders along the way. The Pinkertons got involved, and Holmes was arrested in Boston in 1894 and brought back to Philadelphia for trial. In the two years between his capture and execution he was imprisoned at Moyamensing Prison (demolished in 1968 - Point of Interest below is near the one remaining wall along Reed St.)

As the case against Holmes developed he received a great deal of media attention and ended up being paid $7500 by Hearst Newspapers for his confession. He confessed to 27 murders, though the official estimate goes as high as 200 simply because many people who visited Chicago during the World's Fair were known to have stayed in the hotel and many people disappeared.

Holmes was found guilty and hanged on May 7, 1896 at Moyamensing Prison. Entombed in a casket filled with concrete, Holmes was buried ten feet deep in an unmarked double plot in Section 15 of Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon. The popular book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson (movie rights to the book were bought by Leonardo DiCaprio) identifies the spot as being ten feet in front of four graves of children who died in 1896. Marble lambs are on two of the graves, and the starting coordinates for the cache are on the presumed burial spot.

About the Cache

This should be a fairly easy cache to find, taking 15 minutes, tops. The main cemetery entrances are on MacDade Blvd. Cemetery hours are 9 AM to 4 PM seven days a week.You can park at the waypoint on the road in the cemetery within 50 feet of Stage 1.

Please be respectful of the graves and general area while searching for the clues.

Stage 1 - Posted Coordinates - The coordinates are on the actual unmarked grave of H.H. Holmes. Directly in front of you are the four graves from 1896, two of which have lambs on them (though one is in bad shape). In order to get the coordinates to Stage 2, you need to examine some of the other nearby gravestones to get the required numbers. This all takes place within approximately 50-60 feet of GZ. There should be no need to wander far from the posted coordinates.

Detailed directions to each clue are in the hint, so don't look at it if you don't want major spoilers!

Clue A - T.J.C. Civil War - 18XX 18YY - Subtract XX from YY to get A

Clue B - Killoe County Longford Ireland. Two dates in May (NOT the years, just the dates). Subtract the smaller number from the larger number to get B

Clue C - "Well Done Thou Good and Faithful Servant" - The two digits after "Feb." equal C

Coordinates for Stage 2 - N 39° 55.(648+A) W 075° (14+B).(755+C)

Stage 2 is off cemetery grounds in a nearby parking lot. You will need to drive there. It's a quick and easy magnetic keyholder LPC. Use an appropriate amount of stealth when making the grab as there is a lot of foot traffic nearby.

Further Reading

There are tons of articles online about H.H. Holmes, as well as several popular books. A little Googling goes a long way, but some links for a little more info are below:

Congratulations to Buchhalter's and Forbez for the FTF!

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Bevrag lbhefrys ol fgnaqvat ba TM jvgu gur cnexvat pbbeqvangrf ng lbhe onpx. U.U. Ubyzrf vf ybat qrnq naq V'z fher ur qbrfa'g zvaq lbh hfvat uvf tenir sbe fbzr pnpuvat.

Pyhr N - Fgnaqvat ng TM jvgu gur cnexvat pbbeqf ng lbhe onpx, znexre vf va gur fnzr ebj nf gur haznexrq tenir, n srj fcnprf gb gur yrsg. ABG ohevrq qrrcyl va gur tebhaq, pbzcnerq gb arvtuobevat znexref. Znexre vf irel pyrne naq ernqnoyr.

Pyhr O - Fgnaqvat ng TM jvgu gur cnexvat pbbeqf ng lbhe onpx, ybbx sbe n juvgr urnqfgbar bar ebj cnfg gur ynzof, whfg gb gur yrsg. Onpx fvqr unf gur vafpevcgvba. Guvf znexre vf gur zbfg jbea bs gur guerr. Vavgvnyf ner E.S. naq W.S.

Pyhr P - Fgnaqvat ng TM jvgu gur cnexvat pbbeqf ng lbhe onpx, urnqfgbar vf whfg gb gur evtug bs gur ynzof, bar ebj va sebag bs lbh. Onpx fvqr bs urnqfgbar unf gur vafpevcgvba. Urnqfgbar vf va tbbq funcr. Vavgvnyf ner F.U.

Npghny uvqr vf n zntargvp xrlubyqre uvqqra va n yvtug cbfg fxveg qbja n arneol ebnq. Lbh jvyy arrq gb qevir sebz TM gb gur svany pbbeqvangrf. Ab bgure pyhr arrqrq, ernyyl, nf ybat nf lbh unir qbar gur zngu.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)

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