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We could talk about the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and how it celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World, but instead let's talk about murder!
In 1885, a gentleman by the name of Herman Webster Mudgett moved to Chicago under the alias Dr. Henry H. Holmes and took up work in a pharmacy. A masterful swindler and charismatic con artist, Holmes quickly found the money to purchase the lot next door to the pharmacy. There he commissioned the construction of a three story labyrinthine building complete with shops on the first floor and his private quarters and small apartments above.
From the outside, Holmes' new building was quite unassuming to passersby, however inside lurked something much more sinister.
Secret passages, booby traps, sound proof rooms, disorienting hallways and trap doors were just some of what awaited unfortunate guests in Holmes' macabre edifice dubbed "Murder Castle."
In the basement, vats of acid, pits of quicklime and a crematorium were installed to aid Holmes in disposing of his victims.
During the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, more than 150,000 people passed through the grounds each day during its six month run. Holmes used the occasion to open up his home as a hotel for Fair visitors and those who came seeking jobs. Unfortunately, most of his "guests" did not survive their visit.
No one knows for sure how many people Holmes killed during the Fair, however some accounts put the number around 200.
He left Chicago shortly after the World's Fair to continue his devious schemes before being apprehended in November of 1894. Less than a year later, Holmes' Murder Castle was gutted by fire and was eventually raised in 1938.
Today, the dark shadow of America's first serial killer still looms over the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.
This commemorative medal was presented to Fair attendees as part of the United States Treasury Department's Mint Exhibit.
While the coin itself, though collectible, isn't overly exciting, just knowing the original owner was spared a torturous demise by the hands of the notorious H. H. Holmes is enough to give our spine a little tingle.
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