Tonight, the History Channel will premiere their new eight-part docuseries, American Ripper, in which a descendant of H.H. Holmes tries to prove that his ancestor is infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Here’s what we know about Mudgett:
1. He Wrote a Book Outlining His Theory
In 2011, Mudgett wrote a book titled Bloodstains.
Barnes & Noble’s synopsis for the book reads, “Bloodstains is the startling tale of one man’s search for the truth after inheriting the personal diaries belonging to his great-great-grandfather who he discovers was America’s first and most notorious serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett. Better known by his alias H.H. Holmes, Mudgett was the mass murderer who struck terror into the nation by being the proprietor of the infamous Murder Castle and stalking the streets of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair.”
Mudgett cites learning of his great-great-grandfather’s identity as an event that changed his life.
Speaking about the process of writing his book, he explains that when he started writing, he did not believe (or in his words, “know”) that Holmes was Jack the Ripper. “I knew that he traveled to Europe– I knew he spent time in Berlin.. Paris… London… I knew I could prove his travels…” He then read the autopsies of Jack the Ripper’s victims and began to form the theory that his great-great-grandfather could, in fact, be Jack the Ripper.
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2. He Discusses His Theory in a Ted Talk
In 2015, Mudgett gave a talk at a local TEDx event. Speaking to Blog Talk Radio, Mudgett explains that the Ted Talk company asked him to conduct a grand jury– before the audience– holding Holmes responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders in London. He therefore discussed the evidence that he believes proves H.H. Holmes is Jack the Ripper.
Many people reject Mudgett’s theory and argue the chronologies of Jack and Holmes do not line up. One of those men is Adam Selzer, who wrote the book H.H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil. Selzer claims that he has documents that prove Holmes was in Chicago when the Ripper murders were being carried out. According to the Chicago Tribune, those documents include a voter registration form and a record of his meeting with an attorney.
Speaking to the outlet recently, Selzer went as far as saying, “I could put together a better case that Holmes was innocent than that he was Jack the Ripper. I don’t think he was innocent.”
3. He Studied Nautical Industrial Technology
Mudgett received his Bachelors of Science in Nautical Industrial Technology in 1979, earning a Master in the US Merchant Marine and being honorably discharged a Commander from the United States Naval Reserve. In 1986, he earned his JD from the University of San Diego. He practiced admiralty, petroleum, and criminal law before the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and California Supreme Court before becoming the President of Links Marine in LA and San Francisco.
4. His Grandfather Kept Quiet About Being Related to H.H. Holmes for Nearly 60 Years
In an interview with Blog Talk Radio in 2015, Mudgett discusses how he first learned about his great-grandfather’s identity.
“I was at dinner with my grandparents and my family. My grandmother was fascinated with genealogy– she believed that we were related to Gen. Robert E. Lee… At that dinner, my grandfather admitted the family secret that he’d kept even from her for 60 years– that his grandfather had been the most evil man that ever lived– H.H. Holmes.”
Mudgett goes on to explain that his grandfather then stormed out of the room and said that he wouldn’t allow that name to be brought up again in his house.
5. He Is a Former Lawyer
At age 40, when Mudgett learned about his ancestry, he was a practicing attorney.