Old West Catacombs

Serial Killer H H Holmes Execution

Capital, Mitchell, Dakota, May 15, 1896 – Serial killer H H Holmes, convicted on circumstantial evidence of the murder of Benjamin F. Pitzel, was hanged in Philadelphia Thursday. The execution took place at the Moyamensing County jail.   The drop fell at 10:12 o’clock.  It was not until a half-hour later that he was pronounced dead. His neck was broken by the fall. 

The marvelous nerve of the man never deserted him to the end.  Even on the, scaffold he was probably the coolest person in the solemn assemblage.  In a few well-chosen words he proclaimed his innocence of any murder, including that for which he was convicted and hanged.  He declared that the only wrong-doing in the taking of human life for which he could, be held responsible consisted in the death of two women who had died as the result of criminal operations at his hands.  He did not name these victims. 

serial killer h h holmes

Holmes spent the greater part of his last night on earth writing letters.  At midnight he went to bed and slept soundly until 6 o’clock in the morning.  It took two calls to awaken him.  Promptly arising he received a visit from his spiritual advisers, Fathers Daly and Macpeak, of the Church of the Annunciation.  They administered the last sacrament and did not leave him until nearly 9 o’clock.  During their absence he ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, dry toast and coffee. 

serial killer h.h. holmesAt 10:02 o’clock the Sheriff called together the official jury, and after each man had answered to his name and subscribed to the certificate the solemn march to the gallows was begun.  As the gathering stood in intense silence before the gallows Holmes, accompanied by the two priests mounted the fatal scaffold.  A moment of prayer elapsed and then Holmes stepped to the front of the scaffold and, resting his hands on the rail before him, made his statement of innocence.  It was received in absolute silence.  Two minutes later he had finished his valedictory.  Then at a silent signal from the priests he bent to his knees, his eyes fixed on the crucifix clasped in his hands.  Until 10:12 the prayer continued.  Immediately afterward he arose, shook hands with the priests and his lawyers and in a firm voice bade them good-by. 

serial killer h h holmesWithout an instant delay his hands were bound behind him and the black cap adjusted. Sheriff Clement placed the noose about his neck and after an instant of terrible stillness the crack of the bolt rang out like a pistol shot and the man had fallen to his doom. 

Consciousness left him instantly, said the doctors, although his heart continued a feeble beat for fifteen or twenty minutes.  After an examination had been made by several physicians Holmes was pronounced dead and the swinging corpse was cut down.