Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, United States, on May 16, 1861, to Levi Horton Mudgett and Theodate Page Price, both of whom were descended from the first English immigrants in the area. Mudgett was his parents’ third-born child; he had an older sister Ellen, an older brother Arthur, a younger brother Henry and a younger sister Mary. Holmes’s father was from a farming family, and at times he worked as a farmer, trader and house painter; his parents were devout Methodists. Later attempts to fit Holmes into the patterns seen in modern serial killers have described him torturing animals and suffering from abuse at the hands of a violent father, but contemporary and eyewitness accounts of his childhood do not provide proof of either.
At the age of 16, Holmes graduated from high school and took teaching jobs in Gilmanton and later in nearby Alton. On July 4, 1878, he married Clara Lovering in Alton; their son, Robert Lovering Mudgett, was born on February 3, 1880, in Loudon, New Hampshire. As an adult, Robert became a certified public accountant, and served as city manager of Orlando, Florida.
Holmes enrolled in the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont at age 18, but was dissatisfied with the school and left after only one year. In 1882, he entered the University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery and graduated in June 1884 after passing his examinations. While enrolled, he worked in the anatomy lab under Professor Herdman, then the chief anatomy instructor. Holmes had previously apprenticed in New Hampshire under Dr. Nahum Wight, a noted advocate of human dissection. Years later, when Holmes was suspected of murder and claimed to be nothing but an insurance fraudster, he admitted to using cadavers to defraud life insurance companies several times in college.
This was the beginning of his madness..
Housemates described Holmes as treating Clara violently, and in 1884, before his graduation, she moved back to New Hampshire and later wrote that she knew little of him afterwards. After he moved to Mooers Forks, New York, a rumor spread that Holmes had been seen with a little boy who later disappeared. Holmes claimed the boy went back to his home in Massachusetts. No investigation took place and Holmes quickly left town. He later traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and eventually got a job as a keeper at Norristown State Hospital, but quit after a few days. Subsequently, he took a position at a drugstore in Philadelphia, but while he was working there, a boy died after taking medicine that was purchased at the store. Holmes denied any involvement in the child’s death and immediately left the city. Right before moving to Chicago, he changed his name to Henry Howard Holmes to avoid the possibility of being exposed by victims of his previous scams. In his confession following his arrest, Holmes claimed that he had killed his former medical school classmate, Dr. Robert Leacock, in 1886 for insurance money; Dr. Leacock, however, died in Watford, Ontario in Canada on October 5, 1889. In late 1886, while still married to Clara, Holmes married Myrta Belknap (b. October 1862 in Pennsylvania) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He filed for divorce from Clara a few weeks after marrying Myrta, alleging infidelity on her part, but the claims could not be proven and the suit went nowhere. Surviving paperwork indicated that she probably was never even informed of the suit. In any case, the divorce was never finalized; it was dismissed June 4, 1891, on the grounds of “want of prosecution”. Holmes had a daughter with Myrta, Lucy Theodate Holmes, who was born on July 4, 1889, in Englewood, Chicago, Illinois; as an adult, Lucy became a public schoolteacher. Holmes lived with Myrta and Lucy in Wilmette, Illinois, and spent most of his time in Chicago tending to business. Holmes married Georgiana Yoke on January 17, 1894, in Denver, Colorado, while still married to both Clara and Myrta. I guess you could say he was quiet the ladies man..
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