Welcome, my name is Travis Kreashko, an amateur historian with hopes to entice your lust for the past. I am glad to see you’ve survived Halloween. I am new to the area and it being the season of ghouls, ghastly memories, and heinous tricks, I found it only natural to dig up a little dirt on my new neighborhood. Please, allow your spirit to stay in the haunting place Hallows’ Eve takes you and enjoy a small story from our neighborhood’s history.
As I introduced myself to this scenic neighborhood, I was confident that behind the strong character of these buildings lay an enthralling past, one in which we walk by, or over, every minute of our day. This week our story connects the famed Chicago serial killer, H.H. Holmes, to our Wicker Park neighborhood. H.H. Holmes, curiously ignored beyond a few well-written accounts of his life, remains Chicago’s most notorious serial killer. During the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893, Holmes was responsible from anywhere between 27 and 200 deaths. As the world feasted their eyes on the celebration of life that was the World’s Fair, Holmes stalked various neighborhoods of Chicagoland. The Englewood “Murder Castle” was Holmes homicidal headquarters that doubled as a hotel for the Fair’s guests. It was this hotel that Holmes incinerated and stored many of his victims. This ‘castle’ seems to have become as notorious as the killer himself.
However, as it turns out, Holmes left a trace on our own neighborhood. Thanks to wonderful Chicago historical websites, it became clear to me that Holmes spent a good amount of his time in our own Wicker Park.
Holmes owned a glass bending factory in Wicker Park, thanks to cleverly incompetent book-keeping on Holmes’ part, the exact location is unknown. This glass blowing factory was later to be exposed as a body dump for at least one of Holmes’ victims.[i] Furthermore, “Mysterious Chicago” blogger Adam Selzer, presents haunting evidence that Holmes may have owned another business in Wicker Park, under the alias of Frank Wilde.
Frank Wilde, agreed by historians to be a secondary personality created by Holmes, owned a business by the name of Frank Wilde’s Fruit and Candy Store. Selzer’s research shows that the candy shop was listed at 1151 Milwaukee Street, putting the current address at 1513 N. Milwaukee.[ii]
Selzer’s research is supported by Holmes’ own confession to the murder of a candy store employee, Emily Van Tassel in 1892. Holmes’ states: “…The location of this store was such that it would have been hazardous to have sent out a large box containing a body, and I therefore buried her remains in the store basement...”[iii]
Although Holmes’ confession was deliberately misleading, and at times seemingly erroneous, it is agreed upon in the historical community that Emily Van Tassel was indeed destroyed by one of Chicago’s most malicious monsters. Her blood still soaks the streets we today share with one another. As the world looked towards the Midwest for innovations, education and entertainment never before seen, Holmes stalked our neighborhood under the cover of darkness.
Our neighborhood, stacked with dense, story-telling facades from another time, still shares its history with us each day. I hope we indulge in our history as we together thrive in the contemporary beauty of Wicker Park.
“A Predatory Mind,” last modified 2013, http://www.apredatorymind.com/The_Twenty_Seven_Murders_of_HH_Holmes_part_3.html.
Adam Selzer, March 14, 2008, http://www.mysteriouschicagoblog.com/2008/03/hh-holmes-in-wicker-park-1.html.
“Holmes Confesses 27 Murders. The Most Awful Story of Modern Times Told by the Fiend in Human Shape. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, April 12, 1896. Copyright 1896 by WR Hearst and James Elverson, Jr.” A Predatory Mind, accessed November 3, 2014. http://www.apredatorymind.com/The_Twenty_Seven_Murders_of_HH_Holmes_part_3.html.