Photos From the Grave of ‘America’s First Serial Killer’

Archaeologists at Penn Museum exhumed the body of 19th century mass murderer H.H. Holmes from Holy Cross Cemetery outside Philadelphia earlier this year. Lead archaeologist Samantha Cox and her team shared photographs with NBC10 taken inside the grave and throughout the excavation and research process. The pictures provide a fascinating look at what happens to a body after 121 years underground, and are the first glimpses of what remains of the man often described as America's first serial killer.

21 photos
1/21
Penn Museum
2/21
Penn Museum
The skull found in the grave of H.H. Holmes. Penn Museum archaeologists, as part of a series on the History Channel called "American Ripper," unearthed the mystery of whether H.H. Holmes is really buried in a cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.
3/21
Penn Museum
Penn Museum archaeologists and anthropologists began excavating the grave site of Herman Webster Mudgett-- aka serial killer H.H. Holmes-- at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon.
4/21
Penn Museum
The show's co-host and great-great grandson of H.H. Holmes, Jeff Mudgett, right, dug into the question of whether Holmes was actually hanged at Moyamensing Prison in South Philly, or if he managed to escape his sentence and flee to South America in 1896. Here, he and others began the exhumation process.
5/21
Penn Museum
In late 2016, Holmes' family petitioned a Delaware County Court to exhume the remains buried in H.H. Holmes' grave to determine if it was really him that was buried in a grave at Holy Cross Cemetery. Digging began in spring 2017.
6/21
Penn Museum
Workers installed temporary metal walls to reinforce the dig site as they went deeper into the earth.
7/21
Penn Museum
Penn Museum lead archaeologist Samantha Cox during the dig at Holy Cross Cemetery.
8/21
Penn Museum
Investigators first found a wooden box, which could have potentially been the box that Holmes was buried in.
9/21
Penn Museum
A closer look at the first box found inside Holmes' grave site.
10/21
Penn Museum
A part of the second pine box that archaeologists found 10 feet down in the grave.
11/21
Penn Museum
The box was empty, but that did not stop investigators from continuing to dig deeper down into the grave site.
12/21
Penn Museum
Ground water and partially hardened concrete inside the grave.
13/21
Penn Museum
Underneath the cement sarcophagus found in the grave, they found the skeleton of a man, which DNA analysis concluded to be Holmes.
14/21
Penn Museum
An archaeologist standing above the body, exhuming some of the bones to take to the Penn Museum to analyze.
15/21
Penn Museum
The skeleton head, along with teeth, a neck tie, and the remains of a mustache found buried in the grave of H.H. Holmes.
16/21
Penn Museum
A relic found in the grave site of Holmes, with his name engraved on it.
17/21
Penn Museum
Two team members exhuming the bones and relics from Holmes' grave.
18/21
The team who worked on exhuming the bones found at Holmes' grave site.
19/21
Penn Museum
Skeletal analysis and facial reconstruction were performed to determine whether the skull belonged to Holmes.
20/21
Penn Museum
DNA evidence proved conclusively that it was in fact Holmes buried in the grave.
21/21
Penn Museum
Penn Museum shared their photographs exclusively with NBC10.
Contact Us