Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

From Pharmacist to Butcher

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

In a follow up to a previous blog about a limited amount of pharmacist references on television to my surprise I found one just the other day. It came whilst watching the crime drama Whitechapel, admittedly it was not exactly what I had expected to find on sitting down to watch the show. For those who haven't seen Whitechapel its main focus is how murders taking place today can be solved by using crimes of the past. And whilst the Whitechapel series itself is fiction the historical references they use are fact. The episode I watched referred to a Pharmacist known as Henry Howard Holmes, whose real name is in fact Herman Webster Mudgett.
 
Holmes was an American born in 1861 who initially studied medicine at the University of Michigan before moving to Chicago, Illinois. It was here that he started work at a local Pharmacy before he amassed enough money from his insurance-cadaver swindle to buy out the owner. This money making scheme worked by him stealing bodies, disfiguring their identifiable features, then claiming they were someone entirely different and cashing in on the life insurance policies he had taken out under that alias. That sentence seems a bit convuluted however its the easiest way I can think of to get across his method, regardless it seemed to be his first major step on a slippery slope into deeper crimes. After buying the Pharmacy with his tainted money the previous owner threatened to sue him as he still owed her money from the sale. However soon after this threat was made she mysteriously disappeared never to be heard from again.

Despite all the above Holmes managed to delve further into depravity meaning this was just the beginning. As he had begun to prosper financially he was able to build an elaborate three storey house which contained a labyrinth of tunnels and windowless rooms. He was then able to turn this house into a hotel and when the World fair came around it provided him with the steady stream of victims that he so desired. Once luring his victims inside he was able to trap, torture and eventually gas them before transferring their bodies to his basement, where he would mercilessly experiment before burning the remains in a kiln or using an array of chemicals to dispose of the evidence.
 
On Holmes' arrest he confessed to 27 murders however some sources have penned the final number of victims well over 200. He was finally caught after welching on a deal with two men named Benjamin Pitezel and Marion Hedgepeth. Hedgepeth tipped off the authorities to Holmes' whereabouts just before he went on a final rampage and killed Pitezel and half of his family. After being convicted of these murders he was unsurprisingly given the death penalty. He then tried to appeal this ruling before surely enough failing and being sent to the hangman's noose. It does make you wonder how he went from choosing a career in which he is supposed to be helping people to live longer to actually taking their lives completely. I know this tale may not seem relevant to the Pharmaceutical Journal however I felt the need to share my discovery however tenuous the link between the two may be.

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

From: Tomorrow's pharmacist blog

Students and preregistration trainees voice their opinions here

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.