My toastmaster speech about 5 Things to Know About a Psychopath – the Devil in Human Form or H. H. Holmes
The original script is here: I had to cut short some of the contents to meet the 5~7-minute limit of a typical Toastmaster length.
Top 5 things to know about a psychopath – the devil in human form
Be forewarned that my talk today could be rated ‘PG-13’ and ‘R’ for vivid description of crimes. One of my favorite things to watch on TV shows are in crime, detective, thriller genres like Law and Order, Criminal Intent, Law and Order Special Victim Unit, and other reality crime shows like Snapped. If you know of any good detective, crime TV shows or movies, please let me know. The more gruesome the better.
1. Introduction of topic, Holmes, purpose of the talk
The topic of my speech today is “The five things to know about a psychopath – the devil in human form.” The devil I’m referring to here is a physician named, Henry Howard Holmes. He was the most notorious and America’s first serial killer around the end of 19th century, between year 1888 and 1896. Most of the materials come from this book I hold in my hand – “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. The devil here refers to Holmes, who you’ll soon know why he’s called a devil, and the White City refers to the beautiful World Columbus Expo in 1893. In my talk today, I will be focusing on this character, H. H. Holms. I will give a brief biography of Holmes then dive into the key takeaways from how to keep you and your family safe from someone like him.
Once again, I’m NOT here to glorify him or his actions but to learn from his actions and avoid being a victim to someone like him.
2. Brief biography of Holmes
Holmes was born in 1861 in New Hampshire as Herman Webster Mudgett to descendants of early English settlers. Father was a violent alcoholic. He was the 3rd of their 4 children. He excelled in academics, graduated in 1884 from University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery after two years at age of 21. While enrolled in school, he would steal cadavers, disfigured the bodies attempting to commit life insurance fraud. You can get away with a lot of things because of No DNA yet in those days. But the insurance companies were pretty good, better than police detectives.
At this time, he already married his first wife, Clara and had one daughter of 4 years old. Luckily for them, their marriage fell apart and Holmes moved to New York working odd jobs, then moved to Philadelphia after a boy died; he denied any involvement. Another boy died after taking medicine from the drugstore where he worked.
To avoid the previous scam victims catching on to him, he changed his name to Henry Holmes before he moved to Chicago in 1886. While still married to Clara, he married Myrta and had a daughter in a different town, freeing him to tend his “business” in Chicago.
In Chicago, he got a job in a drug store and “bought” the store from the widower of the owner after Mr. Holten died. The widower disappeared, presumably killed by Holmes.
He then purchased an empty lot across the drugstore and built his three-story, block-wide hotel. It was so huge that it was called “The Castle” – later was called the “Murder Castle.” There were many rooms with some doors opened to brick walls, or can be opened from outside only. He event built a special life-size kiln like crematorium in the basement. There were special rooms where he did his evil deeds: a soundproof, air-tight room where he gassed his victims, and solid brick room with a trapdoor from the top where victims died of hunger or thirst and another secret hanging chamber.
His victims include his mistresses, employees or ex-employees, hotel guests. Keep in mind that in 1893, Chicago hosted the largest World Expo Exhibit where more than 26-million visitors attended the 200+ beautiful architectural master pieces including the first Ferris Wheel that is 24-story high. The chaos of city during the expo contribute to his playground as police was too busy to care about missing-person cases.
His fall came when he conveniently killed his helper, Benjamin Pitezel, for real after conning him into playing the life insurance scam. Pitezel kind of deserve it as he helped Holmes get rid of bodies by articulating the body, meaning stripping the skin and flesh off, then sell the remaining skeleton to doctors.
Then he proceeded to take his three children on a long trip, murdering one after another along the trip all the way to Toronto.
He was arrested in 1894, tipped off by a former cellmate whom Holmes neglected to pay off after an insurance scam. He was convicted of murdering his helper, Pitezel.
Overall, only 9 murders were confirmed but the number of victims has been estimated between 20 and 100. Holmes confessed to 27 murder before his death, some of them turned out alive.
3. Top 5 things to recognize a psychopath
The disclaimer here is that not all psychopaths are criminals or murders and not all criminals or murders are psychopaths. But psychopaths, in my opinion, is the most insidious kind because they’re easily among us, ready to strike.
1. Superficially charming: Possessed with a pair of blue eyes, charming, and seductive demeanor, he charmed many young girls into going home with him. Most of his drugstore customers were women and only ask for help.
2. Lying pathologically: Holmes lied about his names: it was Herman Mudgett, Henry Howard, Henry Gordon, Alexander Bond but mostly Henry Howard Holmes. He lied about his ancestry claiming belonged to a royal family in Europe. He lied about the where about of disappearing wife or girlfriends like marrying others to a foreign country. He lied about his wealth. At the end he lied about who he killed; I think he lost count himself.
3. Conning and manipulative: he keeps hiring and firing construction workers in building his castle and a human-size kiln, where he lured, murdered and cremate dozens of faire visitors. He tricked several people into taking out life insurance with him as the beneficiary.
4. Lack of remorse or guilt: he never showed any remorse for what he has done. He wrote a memoir while in jail to plead his innocence and make money off his notoriety.
5. Inflated sense of self worthy: he claimed to be the devil. He once declared “I was born with the devil in me. I was born with the evil standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.”
4. The end of a killer
Holmes was convicted of 4 counts of murder in the first degrees, executed by hanging in 1896 at age of 34. He remained calm and charming until his moment of death.
Good news! The story of the “Devil in the White City” is being filmed and will be coming to a theater near you soon. The person who plays Holmes will be none other than the Best Actor of the last year’s Oscar – Leonardo DiCaprio, the same actor in, Titanic, Catch If You Can, Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant. It’s going to be good one. Can’t wait!
I hope you come away from my speech with better understanding of these five character traits of a psychopath to help you and your family safe from them. And if you happen to have these traits, I probably don’t want to know.