A Book of Remarkable Criminals HTML version
effected in Chicago in the November of 1893. Mr. Howe proposed to come to
Philadelphia with some members of the Pitezel family to identify the remains.
Referring to their Chicago branch, the insurance company found that the only
person who would seem to have known Pitezel when in that city, was a certain H.
H. Holmes, living at Wilmette, Illinois. They got into communication with Mr.
Holmes, and forwarded to him a cutting from a newspaper, which stated
erroneously that the death of B. F. Perry had taken place in Chicago.
On September 18 they received a letter from Mr. Holmes, in which he offered
what assistance he could toward the identification of B. F. Perry as B. F. Pitezel.
He gave the name of a dentist in Chicago who would be able to recognise teeth
which he had made for Pitezel, and himself furnished a description of the man,
especially of a malformation of the knee and a warty growth on the back of the
neck by which he could be further identified. Mr. Holmes offered, if his expenses
were paid, to come to Chicago to view the body. Two days later he wrote again
saying that he had seen by other papers that Perry's death had taken place in
Philadelphia and not in Chicago, and that as he had to be in Baltimore in a day or
two, he would run over to Philadelphia and visit the office of the Fidelity Life
On September 20 the assiduous Mr. Holmes called at the office of the
Association in Philadelphia, inquired anxiously about the nature and cause of
Perry's death, gave again a description of him and, on learning that Mr. Howe,
the attorney from St. Louis, was about to come to Philadelphia to represent the
widow, Mrs. Pitezel, and complete the identification, said that he would return to
give the company any further help he could in the matter. The following day Mr.
Jephtha D. Howe, attorney of St. Louis, arrived in Philadelphia, accompanied by
Alice Pitezel, a daughter of the deceased. Howe explained that Pitezel had taken
the name of Perry owing to financial difficulties. The company said that they
accepted the fact that Perry and Pitezel were one and the same man, but were
not convinced that the body was Pitezel's body. The visit of Holmes was
mentioned. Howe said that he did not know Mr. Holmes, but would be willing to
meet him. At this moment Holmes arrived at the office. He was introduced to
Howe as a stranger, and recognised as a friend by Alice Pitezel, a shy, awkward
girl of fourteen or fifteen years of age. It was then arranged that all the parties
should meet again next day to identify, if possible, the body, which had been
disinterred for that purpose.
The unpleasant duty of identifying the rapidly decomposing remains was greatly
curtailed by the readiness of Mr. Holmes. When the party met on the 22nd at the
Potter's Field, where the body had been disinterred and laid out, the doctor
present was unable to find the distinctive marks which would show Perry and
Pitezel to have been the same man. Holmes at once stepped into the breach,
took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, put on the rubber gloves, and taking a
surgeon's knife from his pocket, cut off the wart at the back of the neck, showed
the injury to the leg, and revealed also a bruised thumb-nail which had been