Dr. Crippen and the basement at 30 Hilldrop Crescent

I first became aware of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen’s existence around 1988, when I found Dr. Crippen’s Library: An Invention by Emlyn Williams in a small bookstore on Market Square Mall uptown.

I already knew about Emlyn Williams because he had given one man performances in 1976 at the University of Tennessee here in Knoxville.  He gave performances as Charles Dickens and as Dylan Thomas Growing Up.

Emlyn Williams was an actor and a playwright.  He was the one who wrote the play Night Must Fall. It was first performed in 1935.  In the play the main character carried a  hat box around with him that had the head of a woman that he had murdered in it.  Emlyn Williams was strongly affected by hearing people in his family talk about the Crippen Murder Trial which had taken place from October 18-22 of 1910.  Emlyn Williams himself was born on November 26, 1905.  He was almost 5 years old when Dr. Crippen was being tried for murder.

After reading Emlyn Williams’ novel about Dr. Crippen, I decided to find actual historical accounts about him.  One article that I found on the Internet was originally published in 2007.  The 2007 version is the one that I printed out.  But it can be found online now at the following location. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~crippen/Dr_H_H_Crippen.htm

The webpage above was hosted by Rootsweb.com.  On the last page it says to “send comments, enquiries, etc. to john@crippen.org.uk.”

This webpage has the following interesting black and white photos or photocopies on it: photo of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen as a young man, a copy of the telegram that was sent by the captain of the ship Montrose to say that he had Dr. Crippen and Ethel Le Neve on board his ship, a photo of Crippen and Ethel Le Neve in court (with Ethel Le Neve heavily hatted and veiled to cover her boy’s length shortened hair), a photo of 30 Hilldrop Crescent in London – where the murder allegedly took place, a not very clear photo of the basement of 30 Hilldrop Crescent, 2 large photos (one each of Cora Crippen and Ethel Le Neve), and a police poster from Stockholm, Sweden with Crippen’s and Le Neve’s photos on it.

Some documents list the building as being at 30 Hilldrop Crescent.  Other documents list it as being at 29 Hilldrop Crescent.

Also, around 1988 or so, I contacted the Interlibrary Loan office of the uptown library and requested this book.  See below for details.

THE TRIAL OF HAWLEY HARVEY CRIPPEN. Notable Trials Series. [Hardcover]

Filson (Editor). (Hawley Harvey Crippen) YOUNG (Author)

It turns out now that Amazon has hardcover editions of this book.  I might eventually buy a copy of it!!!

The Trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen also has several good photographs in it.  There are also copies of statements that Dr. Crippen made that were published in the newspapers.

Possibly in a future post I will investigate alternate theories about what happened to Cora Crippen. My personal feeling is that Dr. Crippen accidentally poisoned her with hyosine and then dissected her.  Since she was so hungry for publicity in connection with her “singing” and “acting” (in quotes because she was not good at either of those things), I do not think she would have missed the chance to let people know she was alive – if she had left Crippen.  She would have thrived on all the attention from photographers and newspaper reporters!!

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Mostly about H. H. Holmes and his Murder Castle

Here are several of the famous murders and/or murder cases that I hope to discuss in this blog. I have read several books about each of these people: H. H. Holmes, Hawley Harvey Crippen, the Black Dahlia (murder case), Gary Gilmore, Ted Bundy, and the Clutter Family Murders (specifically from the book and the movie In Cold Blood.  Truman Capote wrote the novel of In Cold Blood.) I may think of other murderers to include later.  But these are the ones that come to my mind first.

I first developed an interest in H. H. Holmes when I found a used copy of Tales of the Uncanny that had selections in it chosen by the Editors of Reader’s Digest.  One of the stories in this volume was Dr. Holmes’ Murder Castle by Robert Bloch. It also had four highly colored and creepy-looking illustrations as well as a two-page illustration at the very beginning (before the story started).

As a lead-in to the story, it also mentioned that Robert Bloch wrote the novel American Gothic first and that led him to eventually write Dr. Holme’s Murder Castle.

Stuck inside my Reader’s Digest copy of the aforementioned story, I also have a copy of an article entitled H. H. Holmes: Dr. Death, America’s First Serial Killer.  This article was written by Connie Fillipelli.  It is in 3 pages.  It is under The Crime Library website.  It was such a good article that I printed it out.  Ms. Fillipelli’s article is still probably available on the Internet.

Here is the website link for Ms. Fillipelli’s article. http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial6/holmes/2.htm

In addition to this, I also have here a copy of the following article. See below.

Crime, Criminals, Law Enforcement and Records (Part IV) by Ward J. Childs.  It was from the Newsletter of the Philadelphia City Archives, Number 47, (October 1982).  It also had this title on it – from the Philadelphia Information Locator Service.

This is the website link for this article. http://apps.phila.gov/phils/Docs/otherinfo/newslet/crime5.htm

A year or so ago, when I was visiting relatives in Washington, D.C., I went to the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress and requested H. H. Holme’s biography.  It was from the 1890’s and had a long inscription in handwriting in it that looked as if H. H. Holmes might have written it himself.  He did authorize the biography and took interest in reading it in prison while waiting for his execution.

I still have the documents that I used in order to search for this book at the Library of Congress.  In one of my next posts I will verify who it was who wrote the inscription in the book that I viewed.  Also, I want to say that it was a book in a very brittle and crumbly condition.  When I turned the pages I had to be careful not to cause part of the page to fall off!

There are some interesting quotes from the article by Ward Childs.  One quote is this.  In the Police Register it “describes him as white, 34 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches in height and 148 pounds in weight with a medium build, slate blue eyes, dark complexion, scars on the first joint left thumb, above first joint left index, below second joint right index; a small pimple in front of left ear on cheek, a small mole on right cheek, small scars on forehead and scar on top of the head.” (from Crime, Criminals, Law Enforcement and Records (Part IV) by Ward J. Childs – internet article) (http://apps.phila.gov/phils/Docs/otherinfo/newslet/crime5.htm)

I myself am 5 ft. 7 inches tall.  So, just in regard to height, H.H. Holmes would not have scared me.  On the other hand, Charlie Manson was a very short man and look what mesmerizing qualities he had! Apparently, H. H. Holmes had so much charisma that women did not pay attention to all of his various pimples, scars, etc.!

There apparently are copies (in microfilm or paper copies?) of actual articles about the discovery of Holmes’ treatment of the Pietzel children and details about the interior of the Murder Castle.  Authors of books have access to this material.  But maybe I could request paper copies of these articles to be sent to me even if I cannot travel to view the actual microfilm or original copies.

I have read Allan W. Eckert’s novel of The Scarlet Mansion several times (checking it out of the library).  This novel is also devoted to H. H. Holmes’ diabolical career.  He goes a bit more into the sexual side of Holmes response after he murders people.  Maybe Holmes felt like that.  Or it could just be the author’s personal opinion that Holmes reacted that way – without really having a basis in fact.

One more book that I have that has the H. H. Holmes story in it is Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City.  Larson combines the story of the creation of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (in Chicago, Illinois) – with all of the beautiful white buildings in the exposition – with the description of H. H. Holmes activities at the same time – only a short distance away from the Exposition fairgrounds.

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