Leonardo DiCaprio is cast in one hell of a role, teaming up yet again with director Martin Scorsese for a new biopic based on the Erik Larson's book "The Devil in the White City," about serial killer H.H. Holmes.
Referred to as America's first serial killer, the film will explore Holmes' murderous spree as he preyed on women who attended the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Making it their sixth collaboration together, Scorsese will direct, DiCaprio will play the deranged killer and Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) will serve as screenwriter.
After five studios bid big for the onscreen adaption of Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, Paramount came out the winner. The film will be produced by DiCaprio's Appain Way.
While the role of one of America's prolific serial killers may finally give DiCaprio his Oscar, many may not actually know who exactly H.H. Holmes was.
Here's the terrifying history of the serial killer that took Chicago by storm.
Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, or simply H.H. Holmes, was one of the first documented serial killers. While many refer to him as America's first, this isn't actually true — especially since the first reported murders in the U.S. go back as far as the 1700s.
"He was America's first celebrity serial killer," criminologist and author of "Why We Love Serial Killers" Scott Bonn, Ph.D. told Tech Times. "He was the first to really receive major notoriety. He revived the same kind of notoriety that Jack the Ripper did over in London, and a lot of that was due to the proliferation of tabloid newspapers of the time which really promoted these individuals."
While some conspiracy theorists believe that Jack the Ripper and Holmes were one in the same — a theory Bonn disagrees with — they were contemporaries of one another since Jack the Ripper committed his murders in 1888, and Holmes in 1893.
Holmes built a hotel near the Chicago World's Fair that served as a death trap set up for unsuspecting tourists.
"He created his own house of horrors, his own torture chamber in a hotel that was known as the 'Castle,' built for tourists who would check in and would never leave," Bonn said.
Inside his three-story house of horrors were secret passageways, hidden doors, elaborate systems that dispensed poisonous gas, soundproof rooms where he would asphyxiate female hotel guests and lovers and house incinerators for burning the bodies. He would drop the bodies in the basement, where he would dismember them or throw them into pits of acid. It's also rumored that he would take some of the skeletons to sell to medical schools for research, since he was in fact a doctor.
After moving around the U.S. and Canada for some time, Holmes was eventually arrested for a small crime, where authorities would then discover his plan for life insurance fraud. After digging deeper into his alleged crimes, police ultimately uncovered his torture chambers at the Castle.
He confessed to 27 murders, although some believe he could have killed up to 200 people.
Because he was known to rob his victims, in addition to the murders linked to his life insurance scam, Holmes is referred to as a comfort-gain killer because part of his motivation was financial gain.
"In terms of profiling, he would be what is known as an organized serial killer. He went to great lengths to hide what he was doing, he was clearly very intelligent, he was highly meticulous, and he disposed of the bodies very efficiently," Bonn said. "He was a complete psychopath."
Holmes was put on trial in October 1895 for murder, was found guilty and was hanged on May 7, 1896 at the Philadelphia County Prison. The former caretaker of the Murder Castle would go on to commit suicide after telling relatives he was being haunted. The house of horrors mysteriously burst into flames after two men were seen running from the scene in 1895.
Talk about having chills down your spine.
With its big screen adaptation, this story will continue to haunt a new generation. Of course, we are pleased that Scorsese and DiCaprio will be the ones to deliver it to us. However, why do we love serial killers in film, anyway? Bonn said it's because they are larger than life.
"When we are kids, we are engrossed by monster movies like Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula, and for adults, serial killers provide that same kind of ghoulish fascination and adrenaline rush. I compare them to great white sharks because they are exotic, rare and deadly — and that's the way serial killers are."