HH Holmes, Herman Mudgett

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Analyze the case to identify specific psychological characteristics and patterns that might be inferred about Herman Mudgett
Document your findings in a 1,750- to 2,100-word paper that includes the following elements:
Behavioral variables, including a review of signature and modus operandi
Repetitive patterns evident in criminal acts
Possible issues in development and life experience that may be identified as possible causes for prevalent criminality and psychopathology
Format paper consistent with APA guidelines, using and citing at least SIX (6) peer reviewed non-classroom literature references.
Many citations need to be made throughout the paper. References should be fairly current. I have included 3 that MUST be used in the paper.
MUSIC REVIEWS
Judith Carman ||
Judith Carman
ABBREVIATION KEY: Diff = difficulty
level; V = voice; P = piano; E = easy;
mE = moderately easy; M = medium;
mD = moderately difficult; D = difficult;
DD = very difficult; Tess = tessitura;
LL = very low; L = low; mL = moderately
low; M = medium; mH = moderately
high; H = high; HH = very high; CR =
covers range; CS = covers staff; X = no
clear key center.
THE SONGS OF LIBBY
LARSEN,PART 2
THE PECULIAR CASE OF DR. H. H.
HOLMES {Ubby Larsen, based on the
words of H. H. Holmes and Robert
Corbitt). Baritone and Prepared Piano.
Libby Larsen Publishing, 2010. Tonal/
bitonal; G2-G4; Tess: mH; regular and irregular
changing meters; varied tempos;
V/M-D, P/M-D; 43 pages
(18 minutes).
I. “I State My Case.” Tonal; BI-J-EÍ;
Tess: mH; 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/8, J =
40-78, Not too fast. Savor the
words. Highly ambiguous; V/
mD-D, P/mD; 6 pages.
Journal ofSinging, September/October 2013
Volume 70, No. 1, pp. 117-123
Copyright ©2013
National Association of Teachers ofSinging
II. “As a Young Man.” Tonal; F*2-D4;
Tess: mH; 4/4, 3/4,8/4, “N”/4, ^ =
100-108, calm, cool, clinical; V/
mD-D, P/mD-D; 10 pages.
III. “I Build My Business.” E” major;
Bt2-G4; Tess: mH; 2/4, “N”/4, J =
126, Brightly; V/M-mD, P/M-mD;
9 pages.
IV. “Thirteen Ladies and Three Who
Got Away {Grand Waltz Macabre).”
Tonal, minor with dissonance; C3-
G4; Tess: mH-H; “N”/4, 6/8, 2/4,
3/4, freely, grandly—freely, recitative;
V/D, P/D, 15 pages.
V. “Evidence.” Minor tonality with
dissonance; G2-E4; Tess: CR; 4/4,
3/4, 5/4, 6/4, J = 40+, Subito J =
76-80; V/mD, P/M; 3 pages.
“A room, unused since I used to
reside there. In it a stove that still bears
the traces of fire… a woman’s shoe—
an ink bottle—a handful of pearl dress
buttons … bones.” The opening lines
from “I State My Case” are a chilling
beginning to this masterful but incredibly
macabre song cycle about one
Dr. H. H. Holmes. Strictly speaking,
the cycle is not “about” Holmes but
is a first person narrative of his life
and activities, a dark and menacing
monodrama of murder.
Born Herman Webster Mudgett in
Gilmanton, New Hampshire in 1861,
Dr. H. H. Holmes was America’s
first widely known serial killer. After
growing up in a more or less normal
family, Mudgett went to medical
school in Michigan where he began
making money through insurance
fraud (claiming that cadavers had died
accidental deaths) and by supplying
the medical school with cadavers,
some of which were probably his
own handiwork. After graduation he
discovered that “doctoring” was not
a very lucrative practice and eventually
migrated to Chicago (taking the
name Henry Howard Holmes), where
he worked for a small pharmacy that
he later bought when the owner died.
He made himself a respectable member
of society, bought land across
from his drugstore, and constructed
a three-story mansion (later called the
“Murder Castle”) that had on its upper
two floors a maze of more than hundred
rooms built for his passion for
murder. During the Chicago World’s
Columbian Exposition in 1893, the
mansion was run as a hotel for visitors
to the Exposition. Many unsuspecting
young women registered to stay there,
but most never left.
After the close of the Exposition,
Holmes left Chicago and traveled
around to various places, always leaving
behind a trail of victims. He was
finally arrested in Boston in 1894
and imprisoned in Philadelphia.
During his imprisonment he gave a
long confession, and several articles
were written about him in the Hearst
newspapers. Eventually he was tried,
convicted, and hanged in 1896. Thirtyseven
murders were verified by the
police, but the actual number over
Holmes’s lifetime has been estimated
at over two hundred. The text for this
cycle is based on the confessions of
Holmes and the notes of Detective
Robert Corbitt who worked the case.
The cycle opens with the voice
alone, describing the “room” where
there is evidence of what happened
there. The piano enters with two repetitions
of a very widely spaced figure
(Bi-j, Btg-Cy-DS) followed by a falling
phrase that ends on a dissonant chord.
The vocal line continues, carrying the
text in word rhythms with some spoken
words and one mehsma. Holmes
describes himself as a fine fellow with
many talents, whose business is profit
and whose resources are people. By the
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013 117
Judith Carman
end of “I State My Case,” the piano has
begun to reveal a melodic motif that
will be associated with the speaker
throughout the cycle.
In “As a Young Man” Holmes recounts
his years in Ann Arbor studying
medicine, his need for money,
and the means he used to get it. The
piano in the first half of the movement
is an ostinato pattern of chromatic
sixteenths in the right hand over a
syncopated afterbeat pattern in the
left. It is marked insidious, menacing.
The straightforward vocal line,
though quite dissonant at first, is
marked calm, cool, clinical. Holmes
and a classmate devise a plan for “doing
BUS’NESS. Fraud in the form of
a little waltz.” At this point the piano
begins a waltz that is reminiscent of a
Schubert Ländler, given a honky-tonk
effect with tremolos in the melodic
octaves in the right hand. The vocal
melody sings the melodic motif more
and more, darker and darker in atmosphere
as bitonality begins to appear.
“I Build My Business” is set as a
polka, specifically the Wallerstein
Polka, “Jenny Lind’s favorite.”
Holmes’s description of his business
dealings, many of which depended
upon the murder of one of
his colleagues or clients, is gleeful and
bombastic and ends with the boast,
“FORTUNE RETURNUS, BUS’NESS
EXPANDUS” set in stentorian falling
octaves, and leading directly into the
introduction to “Thirteen Ladies and
Three Who Got Away”—a Grand
Waltz Macabre. This extremely dramatic,
aria-like movement is a recital
of the circumstances of some
of Holmes’s killings in the “Murder
Castle.” First, he says, “You build a
hotel. Then you set the method. Secret
vaults, secret rooms. You employ
young ladies.” From here to the end,
he describes how he killed the thirteen
ladies, calling each by name. The three
who got away went to the police and
initiated the investigation that eventually
ended with Holmes’s capture,
trial, and execution. The Grand Waltz
Macabre sets the scene for the gruesome
vocal line that uses the motif
(F-F*-D-D*, the pattern recurring at
various pitches) in bitonality against
the piano.
“Evidence” seems to come from
Detective Corbitt’s notes, cataloging
the few things found in one ofthe
murder rooms: “—a little spinning top
and a tin man—a top coat—a trunk
Inspired artist/teachers. Renowned guest artists. Arts immersion in Vienna.
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UNIVERSITY
118 JOURNAL OF SINGING
Music Reviews
with a strip of blue calico mending a
seam—a woman’s shoe … a strand
of hair caught on the stove pipe—a
jawbone—seventeen teeth… Bones.”
The music repeats from the opening
movement and picks up snatches from
other movements before ending high
on the keyboard as the voice sings,
“It’s the bones that betray.”
I can’t think of any other composer
who would tackle such a subject as
this. Larsen shows the amazing range
of her response to different subject
matter in all the works in this review,
but in this particular work she shows
her mastery of setting long and difficult
texts. Making the more gruesome
parts seem surreal in their innocent
waltz and polka settings gives some
distance from the horror of knowing
that H. H. Holmes was a real
person and that these things actually
happened. I am not sure who would
sing this cycle or for what audience—
perhaps a murder mystery writers
convention—but it would be a tour
deforce for a dramatic baritone who
relishes portraying bad guys as well as
a thoroughly chilling experience for
the audience. I should add that the
fourth movement (“Thirteen Ladies
and Three Who Got Away”) in its entirety
is not for the squeamish. (Note:
The original title was The Strange Case
of Dr. H. H. Holmes, and the cycle is
listed that way in the American art
song bibliography. Since I first got the
music, however, the title on the website
has changed to “The Peculiar Case
of Dr. H. H. Holmes,” possibly because
there is a book of the same title
that uses “Strange.” (Also of interest
is Erik Larson’s book about Chicago
in 1893, The Devil in the White City.)
“A PIG IN THE HOUSE” (Alvin
Greenberg). Tenor and Piano. Libby
Larsen Publishing, 2004. Tonal/bitonal;
E3-G4; Tess: mH; 4/4, “N74, With porcine
spnghtlyness;\ltN\, P/mD; 6 pages.
Composed “for Paul Sperry on his
birthday from the Minnesota farmer’s
daughter,” this funny poem by Alvin
Greenberg makes an equally funny
song, if a little sad at the end. The
three-measure piano introduction.
With porcine sprightlyness, sets up
the staccato pattern and “squealing”
figures that will accompany the voice
throughout the song. The vocal line
is a straightforward setting of the text
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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013 119
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Review
Reviewed Work(s): Demon Doctors: Physicians As Serial Killers by Kenneth V. Iserson
Review by: Cameron Stark
Source: BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 325, No. 7367 (Oct. 5, 2002), p. 781
Published by: BMJ
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25452535
Accessed: 26-03-2018 02:51 UTC
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Medical Journal
This content downloaded from 204.17.31.62 on Mon, 26 Mar 2018 02:51:41 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
reviews BOOKS CD ROMS ART WEBSITES MEDIA PERSONAL VIEWS SOUNDINGS
Demon Doctors:
Physicians as Serial Killers
Kenneth V Iserson
Galen Press, $28.95, pp 520
ISBN 1883620 29 5
See www.galenpress.com to order
Rating:
Iserson writes clearly, although with
occasional overtones of melodrama:
given the subject matter, this is probably
hard to avoid. Herman Mudgett, for
example, is thought to have killed more than
130 people in the United States in the 1880s
and 1890s. A graduate of the University of
Michigan Medical School, he already had a
childhood history of torturing and killing
animals. While a medical student, he stole
corpses and used them in insurance frauds.
Working as a pharmacist in Chicago, he
used the proceeds of various other frauds to
construct a rooming house built to his speci
fication by teams of builders, none of whom
knew the whole plan. Mudgett included
sound proof and airtight rooms, a dissecting
room, an industrial size cremation oven,
escape routes, and greased shafts in which
he moved victims around the building.
Killing or subduing people by controlling
gas flow to their rooms or by using
chloroform, he mutilated victims in his
dissecting room, or stretched them on a spe
cially made rack before killing them. He was
finally caught and executed in Philadelphia
after another murderous insurance fraud.
This volume offers no new insights, but
performs a useful service in bringing infor
mation from disparate sources together in
one volume. Some of those discussed in the
book, including Mudgett, Thomas Cream,
Marcel Petiot, and Harold Shipman, had
largely incomprehensible motives. The
motives of others are more apparent. In the
1980s in Japan a doctor with training in
microbiology, Dr Mitsuru Suzuki, infected
patients, family, and work colleagues with
salmonella and shigella by various means,
including lacing food, coating a tongue
depressor, and contaminating medicines
and barium contrast medium. Suzuki seems
to have been driven by a desire for revenge
on a system that he felt did not recognise his
talents, and by his desire to complete a
dissertation on S typhi outbreaks.
As in many of the cases discussed, the
profession was accused of being slow to
respond to Suzuki’s actions, despite suspi
cions. In an earlier American example,
Linda Hazzard, an osteopath who worked in
Seattle as a doctor by virtue of a “grand
father rule,” championed a treatment regi
men that resulted in many patients starving
to death. Existing regulations made inter
vention difficult, and she continued to prac
tise for several years until convicted of
manslaughter in 1912. After her release,
prospective patients sought her out, and she
continued to offer her “fasting treatment”
until the 1930s.
Hazzard and Suzuki are both on the
edge of medical life. In Iserson’s discussion
^^^m
Cleaning the guillotine after the execution of Dr Petiot
Dr Mudgett Dr Shiro
of Dr Ishii Shiro and his colleagues, national
medical establishments move centre stage.
Shiro oversaw Japan’s biological weapons
programme from 1932 until the end of the
second world war. Most of the research was
conducted in mainland China, using the
local population as research subjects.
Experiments were mainly concerned with
establishing the suitability of various disease
organisms as weapons, and in developing
ways of disseminating them. After being
exposed to disease, many victims were
dissected alive, often with no anaesthetic.
Other Chinese victims were used for
surgical practice, or subjected to cold or
hypoxia in an attempt to gain militarily use
ful information. Hundreds of physicians
seem to have been involved in these
activities and, including those killed in
China by biological weapon use, more than
200 000 people may have died as a direct
result of their activities.
After the war, the United States
negotiated access to the research results to
support its own biological warfare pro
gramme. As part of the settlement, none of
the major medical participants were pros
ecuted. Most continued their careers, and
some occupied senior medical positions
until the 1980s. These experiments, involv
ing a large cohort of doctors who set aside
their professional ethics because of national
interests, and whose work was subsequently
used by other doctors who knew the origin
of the information, may represent a more
fundamental challenge to the profession
than the actions of isolated serial killers.
Cameron Stark consultant in public health
medicine, Highland NHS Board, and honorary
senior lecturer Highlands and Islands Health
Research Institute, Inverness
crs@hihri.abdn.ac.uk
Items reviewed are rated on a 4 star scale
(4=exce1lent)
BMJ VOLUME 325 5 OCTOBER 2002 bmj.com 781
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HH Holmes, Herman Mudgett

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Analyze the case to identify specific psychological characteristics and patterns that might be inferred about Herman Mudgett
Document your findings in a 1,750- to 2,100-word paper that includes the following elements:
Behavioral variables, including a review of signature and modus operandi
Repetitive patterns evident in criminal acts
Possible issues in development and life experience that may be identified as possible causes for prevalent criminality and psychopathology
Format paper consistent with APA guidelines, using and citing at least SIX (6) peer reviewed non-classroom literature references.
Many citations need to be made throughout the paper. References should be fairly current. I have included 3 that MUST be used in the paper.
MUSIC REVIEWS
Judith Carman ||
Judith Carman
ABBREVIATION KEY: Diff = difficulty
level; V = voice; P = piano; E = easy;
mE = moderately easy; M = medium;
mD = moderately difficult; D = difficult;
DD = very difficult; Tess = tessitura;
LL = very low; L = low; mL = moderately
low; M = medium; mH = moderately
high; H = high; HH = very high; CR =
covers range; CS = covers staff; X = no
clear key center.
THE SONGS OF LIBBY
LARSEN,PART 2
THE PECULIAR CASE OF DR. H. H.
HOLMES {Ubby Larsen, based on the
words of H. H. Holmes and Robert
Corbitt). Baritone and Prepared Piano.
Libby Larsen Publishing, 2010. Tonal/
bitonal; G2-G4; Tess: mH; regular and irregular
changing meters; varied tempos;
V/M-D, P/M-D; 43 pages
(18 minutes).
I. “I State My Case.” Tonal; BI-J-EÍ;
Tess: mH; 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/8, J =
40-78, Not too fast. Savor the
words. Highly ambiguous; V/
mD-D, P/mD; 6 pages.
Journal ofSinging, September/October 2013
Volume 70, No. 1, pp. 117-123
Copyright ©2013
National Association of Teachers ofSinging
II. “As a Young Man.” Tonal; F*2-D4;
Tess: mH; 4/4, 3/4,8/4, “N”/4, ^ =
100-108, calm, cool, clinical; V/
mD-D, P/mD-D; 10 pages.
III. “I Build My Business.” E” major;
Bt2-G4; Tess: mH; 2/4, “N”/4, J =
126, Brightly; V/M-mD, P/M-mD;
9 pages.
IV. “Thirteen Ladies and Three Who
Got Away {Grand Waltz Macabre).”
Tonal, minor with dissonance; C3-
G4; Tess: mH-H; “N”/4, 6/8, 2/4,
3/4, freely, grandly—freely, recitative;
V/D, P/D, 15 pages.
V. “Evidence.” Minor tonality with
dissonance; G2-E4; Tess: CR; 4/4,
3/4, 5/4, 6/4, J = 40+, Subito J =
76-80; V/mD, P/M; 3 pages.
“A room, unused since I used to
reside there. In it a stove that still bears
the traces of fire… a woman’s shoe—
an ink bottle—a handful of pearl dress
buttons … bones.” The opening lines
from “I State My Case” are a chilling
beginning to this masterful but incredibly
macabre song cycle about one
Dr. H. H. Holmes. Strictly speaking,
the cycle is not “about” Holmes but
is a first person narrative of his life
and activities, a dark and menacing
monodrama of murder.
Born Herman Webster Mudgett in
Gilmanton, New Hampshire in 1861,
Dr. H. H. Holmes was America’s
first widely known serial killer. After
growing up in a more or less normal
family, Mudgett went to medical
school in Michigan where he began
making money through insurance
fraud (claiming that cadavers had died
accidental deaths) and by supplying
the medical school with cadavers,
some of which were probably his
own handiwork. After graduation he
discovered that “doctoring” was not
a very lucrative practice and eventually
migrated to Chicago (taking the
name Henry Howard Holmes), where
he worked for a small pharmacy that
he later bought when the owner died.
He made himself a respectable member
of society, bought land across
from his drugstore, and constructed
a three-story mansion (later called the
“Murder Castle”) that had on its upper
two floors a maze of more than hundred
rooms built for his passion for
murder. During the Chicago World’s
Columbian Exposition in 1893, the
mansion was run as a hotel for visitors
to the Exposition. Many unsuspecting
young women registered to stay there,
but most never left.
After the close of the Exposition,
Holmes left Chicago and traveled
around to various places, always leaving
behind a trail of victims. He was
finally arrested in Boston in 1894
and imprisoned in Philadelphia.
During his imprisonment he gave a
long confession, and several articles
were written about him in the Hearst
newspapers. Eventually he was tried,
convicted, and hanged in 1896. Thirtyseven
murders were verified by the
police, but the actual number over
Holmes’s lifetime has been estimated
at over two hundred. The text for this
cycle is based on the confessions of
Holmes and the notes of Detective
Robert Corbitt who worked the case.
The cycle opens with the voice
alone, describing the “room” where
there is evidence of what happened
there. The piano enters with two repetitions
of a very widely spaced figure
(Bi-j, Btg-Cy-DS) followed by a falling
phrase that ends on a dissonant chord.
The vocal line continues, carrying the
text in word rhythms with some spoken
words and one mehsma. Holmes
describes himself as a fine fellow with
many talents, whose business is profit
and whose resources are people. By the
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013 117
Judith Carman
end of “I State My Case,” the piano has
begun to reveal a melodic motif that
will be associated with the speaker
throughout the cycle.
In “As a Young Man” Holmes recounts
his years in Ann Arbor studying
medicine, his need for money,
and the means he used to get it. The
piano in the first half of the movement
is an ostinato pattern of chromatic
sixteenths in the right hand over a
syncopated afterbeat pattern in the
left. It is marked insidious, menacing.
The straightforward vocal line,
though quite dissonant at first, is
marked calm, cool, clinical. Holmes
and a classmate devise a plan for “doing
BUS’NESS. Fraud in the form of
a little waltz.” At this point the piano
begins a waltz that is reminiscent of a
Schubert Ländler, given a honky-tonk
effect with tremolos in the melodic
octaves in the right hand. The vocal
melody sings the melodic motif more
and more, darker and darker in atmosphere
as bitonality begins to appear.
“I Build My Business” is set as a
polka, specifically the Wallerstein
Polka, “Jenny Lind’s favorite.”
Holmes’s description of his business
dealings, many of which depended
upon the murder of one of
his colleagues or clients, is gleeful and
bombastic and ends with the boast,
“FORTUNE RETURNUS, BUS’NESS
EXPANDUS” set in stentorian falling
octaves, and leading directly into the
introduction to “Thirteen Ladies and
Three Who Got Away”—a Grand
Waltz Macabre. This extremely dramatic,
aria-like movement is a recital
of the circumstances of some
of Holmes’s killings in the “Murder
Castle.” First, he says, “You build a
hotel. Then you set the method. Secret
vaults, secret rooms. You employ
young ladies.” From here to the end,
he describes how he killed the thirteen
ladies, calling each by name. The three
who got away went to the police and
initiated the investigation that eventually
ended with Holmes’s capture,
trial, and execution. The Grand Waltz
Macabre sets the scene for the gruesome
vocal line that uses the motif
(F-F*-D-D*, the pattern recurring at
various pitches) in bitonality against
the piano.
“Evidence” seems to come from
Detective Corbitt’s notes, cataloging
the few things found in one ofthe
murder rooms: “—a little spinning top
and a tin man—a top coat—a trunk
Inspired artist/teachers. Renowned guest artists. Arts immersion in Vienna.
Real-world skills. Lifetime friendships. Professional training. Personal attention.
Imagine studying vocal performance in the heart of the country.
Imagine Webster University.
^bste r
UNIVERSITY
118 JOURNAL OF SINGING
Music Reviews
with a strip of blue calico mending a
seam—a woman’s shoe … a strand
of hair caught on the stove pipe—a
jawbone—seventeen teeth… Bones.”
The music repeats from the opening
movement and picks up snatches from
other movements before ending high
on the keyboard as the voice sings,
“It’s the bones that betray.”
I can’t think of any other composer
who would tackle such a subject as
this. Larsen shows the amazing range
of her response to different subject
matter in all the works in this review,
but in this particular work she shows
her mastery of setting long and difficult
texts. Making the more gruesome
parts seem surreal in their innocent
waltz and polka settings gives some
distance from the horror of knowing
that H. H. Holmes was a real
person and that these things actually
happened. I am not sure who would
sing this cycle or for what audience—
perhaps a murder mystery writers
convention—but it would be a tour
deforce for a dramatic baritone who
relishes portraying bad guys as well as
a thoroughly chilling experience for
the audience. I should add that the
fourth movement (“Thirteen Ladies
and Three Who Got Away”) in its entirety
is not for the squeamish. (Note:
The original title was The Strange Case
of Dr. H. H. Holmes, and the cycle is
listed that way in the American art
song bibliography. Since I first got the
music, however, the title on the website
has changed to “The Peculiar Case
of Dr. H. H. Holmes,” possibly because
there is a book of the same title
that uses “Strange.” (Also of interest
is Erik Larson’s book about Chicago
in 1893, The Devil in the White City.)
“A PIG IN THE HOUSE” (Alvin
Greenberg). Tenor and Piano. Libby
Larsen Publishing, 2004. Tonal/bitonal;
E3-G4; Tess: mH; 4/4, “N74, With porcine
spnghtlyness;\ltN\, P/mD; 6 pages.
Composed “for Paul Sperry on his
birthday from the Minnesota farmer’s
daughter,” this funny poem by Alvin
Greenberg makes an equally funny
song, if a little sad at the end. The
three-measure piano introduction.
With porcine sprightlyness, sets up
the staccato pattern and “squealing”
figures that will accompany the voice
throughout the song. The vocal line
is a straightforward setting of the text
asu school of
The Arizona State University School of Music in the
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masters and doctoral degrees and is ranked among the
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W^li^^M. FOR DESIGN AND THE ARTS
ARIZON A STAT E UNIVERSIT Y
Voice faculty
David Britton
Jerry Doan
Carole FitzPatrick
Anne Kopta
Judy May
Lyric Opera Theatre faculty
William Reber, artistic director
Dale Dreyfoos
Toby Yatso
Michael Barnard
Robert Harper
Choral faculty
David Schildkrp*
Bartlett Evans
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013 119
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Review
Reviewed Work(s): Demon Doctors: Physicians As Serial Killers by Kenneth V. Iserson
Review by: Cameron Stark
Source: BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 325, No. 7367 (Oct. 5, 2002), p. 781
Published by: BMJ
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25452535
Accessed: 26-03-2018 02:51 UTC
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reviews BOOKS CD ROMS ART WEBSITES MEDIA PERSONAL VIEWS SOUNDINGS
Demon Doctors:
Physicians as Serial Killers
Kenneth V Iserson
Galen Press, $28.95, pp 520
ISBN 1883620 29 5
See www.galenpress.com to order
Rating:
Iserson writes clearly, although with
occasional overtones of melodrama:
given the subject matter, this is probably
hard to avoid. Herman Mudgett, for
example, is thought to have killed more than
130 people in the United States in the 1880s
and 1890s. A graduate of the University of
Michigan Medical School, he already had a
childhood history of torturing and killing
animals. While a medical student, he stole
corpses and used them in insurance frauds.
Working as a pharmacist in Chicago, he
used the proceeds of various other frauds to
construct a rooming house built to his speci
fication by teams of builders, none of whom
knew the whole plan. Mudgett included
sound proof and airtight rooms, a dissecting
room, an industrial size cremation oven,
escape routes, and greased shafts in which
he moved victims around the building.
Killing or subduing people by controlling
gas flow to their rooms or by using
chloroform, he mutilated victims in his
dissecting room, or stretched them on a spe
cially made rack before killing them. He was
finally caught and executed in Philadelphia
after another murderous insurance fraud.
This volume offers no new insights, but
performs a useful service in bringing infor
mation from disparate sources together in
one volume. Some of those discussed in the
book, including Mudgett, Thomas Cream,
Marcel Petiot, and Harold Shipman, had
largely incomprehensible motives. The
motives of others are more apparent. In the
1980s in Japan a doctor with training in
microbiology, Dr Mitsuru Suzuki, infected
patients, family, and work colleagues with
salmonella and shigella by various means,
including lacing food, coating a tongue
depressor, and contaminating medicines
and barium contrast medium. Suzuki seems
to have been driven by a desire for revenge
on a system that he felt did not recognise his
talents, and by his desire to complete a
dissertation on S typhi outbreaks.
As in many of the cases discussed, the
profession was accused of being slow to
respond to Suzuki’s actions, despite suspi
cions. In an earlier American example,
Linda Hazzard, an osteopath who worked in
Seattle as a doctor by virtue of a “grand
father rule,” championed a treatment regi
men that resulted in many patients starving
to death. Existing regulations made inter
vention difficult, and she continued to prac
tise for several years until convicted of
manslaughter in 1912. After her release,
prospective patients sought her out, and she
continued to offer her “fasting treatment”
until the 1930s.
Hazzard and Suzuki are both on the
edge of medical life. In Iserson’s discussion
^^^m
Cleaning the guillotine after the execution of Dr Petiot
Dr Mudgett Dr Shiro
of Dr Ishii Shiro and his colleagues, national
medical establishments move centre stage.
Shiro oversaw Japan’s biological weapons
programme from 1932 until the end of the
second world war. Most of the research was
conducted in mainland China, using the
local population as research subjects.
Experiments were mainly concerned with
establishing the suitability of various disease
organisms as weapons, and in developing
ways of disseminating them. After being
exposed to disease, many victims were
dissected alive, often with no anaesthetic.
Other Chinese victims were used for
surgical practice, or subjected to cold or
hypoxia in an attempt to gain militarily use
ful information. Hundreds of physicians
seem to have been involved in these
activities and, including those killed in
China by biological weapon use, more than
200 000 people may have died as a direct
result of their activities.
After the war, the United States
negotiated access to the research results to
support its own biological warfare pro
gramme. As part of the settlement, none of
the major medical participants were pros
ecuted. Most continued their careers, and
some occupied senior medical positions
until the 1980s. These experiments, involv
ing a large cohort of doctors who set aside
their professional ethics because of national
interests, and whose work was subsequently
used by other doctors who knew the origin
of the information, may represent a more
fundamental challenge to the profession
than the actions of isolated serial killers.
Cameron Stark consultant in public health
medicine, Highland NHS Board, and honorary
senior lecturer Highlands and Islands Health
Research Institute, Inverness
crs@hihri.abdn.ac.uk
Items reviewed are rated on a 4 star scale
(4=exce1lent)
BMJ VOLUME 325 5 OCTOBER 2002 bmj.com 781
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