The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

Start Free Trial

What was the “castle of Englewood” and what were some of its interesting contents?

The "castle of Englewood" was Holmes's building at 63rd street and Wallace in Chicago, and some of its interesting contents included a room-sized vault with a gas line connected to it, windowless rooms with airtight doors, and hidden basement rooms. These basement rooms contained an acid vat, a kiln, a dissecting table, surgical instruments, bloody overalls, and human body parts. Detectives also found full human skeletons there. Holmes gassed his victims upstairs, then brought their corpses to the basement.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Holmes's building at 63rd street and Wallace was called by neighbors the "castle" of Englewood. It was a large, strange, dismal building with a basement, a sub-basement, a kiln, a room-sized vault lined in iron, a gas line that connected to the vault for no apparent reason except to pump in gas, and halls that veered off at odd angles. In the cellars, investigators found pits filled with ashes and quicklime, a substance that quickly dissolves human corpses.

Holmes had a pharmacy business on the ground floor and rented space to other businesses and residents. The third floor contained hotel rooms, while the second floor had 35 unique, strange rooms. Some of these rooms were windowless and fitted with air-tight doors.

When investigators entered the basement, they found a hidden chamber with piles of quicklime, an acid vat with human ribs and a skull inside, and a dissection table. They also found other bones: ribs from a child, vertebrae, a foot bone, a shoulder blade, and a hip socket. They found clothing, bloodstained overalls, surgical equipment, and vats of quicklime and ash. In yet another hidden room in the basement, they found human skeletons including one from a little girl.

Holmes would quickly burn the building down. However, it was clear that he often gassed his victims in the upstairs rooms or the vault and then brought the corpses to the basement rooms.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team