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The Killing of Little Emma Werner

A Historical True Crime Short

By R. Barri Flowers


The Killing of Little Emma Werner

A Historical True Crime Short

Copyright 2017 by R. Barri Flowers

All rights reserved.

Cover Image Copyright Everett Historical, 2017

Used under license from



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Murder Chronicles: A Collection of Chilling True Crime Tales

Murders in the United States: Crimes, Killers and Victims of the 20th Century

Serial Killer Couples: Bonded by Sexual Depravity, Abduction and Murder

Serial Killers and Prostitutes: True Crime Series – Volume 1

The Sex Slave Murders: The True Story of Serial Killers Gerald & Charlene Gallego


Male Crime and Deviance

Prostitution in the Digital Age

Runaway Kids and Teenage Prostitution

Sex Crimes, Predators, Perpetrators, Prostitutes and Victims

The Dynamics of Murder: Kill or Be Killed

The Prostitution of Women and Girls


Before He Kills Again: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller

Dark Streets of Whitechapel: A Jack the Ripper Mystery

Dead in Pukalani: An Eddie Naku Maui Mystery (Book 1)

Dead in Kihei: An Eddie Naku Maui Mystery (Book 2)

Justice Served: A Barkley & Parker Mystery

Killer in The Woods

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Murder on Kaanapali Beach: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 2)

Murder of the Hula Dancers: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 3)

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Murder During the Chicago World's Fair: The Killing of Little Emma Werner

Murder at the Pencil Factory: The Killing of Mary Phagan – bonus excerpt

Murder of the Banker's Daughter: The Killing of Marion Parker – bonus excerpt

The Pickaxe Killers: Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Garrett – bonus excerpt


About the Author


The Killing of Little Emma Werner

On the night of Tuesday, May 9, 1893, seven-year-old Emma Werner was the victim of a brutal and lethal attack in Chicago, Illinois. The dreadful murder came at the start of the city's much ballyhooed World's Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair. It coincided with the heinous crimes of ruthless serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett, who built a hotel called the World's Fair Hotel to house and profit from Fair visitors needing a place to stay. It was also used as a death trap for unsuspecting, mostly female, guests and employees alike. Emma's killer was twenty-one-year-old George Craig, who worked as a painter at the World's Fair. By the time the Fair was over, the mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, would be assassinated by Patrick Eugene Prendergast, a resentful newspaper carrier. And before the shocking final disposition to the murder of Emma Werner could come to pass nearly four years later, Craig and Prendergast would cross paths in jail, Mudgett and Prendergast would be executed, and Craig would be set free in what many saw as an unbelievable miscarriage of justice and misguided sense of compassion for the cold-blooded child killer.

Opening of the Chicago Columbian Exposition

For many people who lived in the place referred to by some as the Windy City, the devastating October 1871 Great Chicago Fire was still fresh on their minds in early 1893. The fire cost as many as 300 people their lives and wiped out thousands of structures over a 3.3 square mile radius, leaving over 100,000 occupants homeless, with the cost of property damage exceeding $200 million. Unbeknownst to Chicagoans, other troubles were right around the corner, such as the Prohibition Era Saint Valentine's Day Massacre that would occur on February 14, 1929. Alleged to have been orchestrated by Chicago mob boss Al Capone, seven members of a rival North Side Irish gang would meet their demise execution-style, leaving its own blot on the city's history.1

But that was for another time and place. There would be other tragedies and challenges to contend with in 1893 itself. The current focus was on the enthusiasm surrounding the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition. The name was abridged to be called the World's Fair, and was often referred to as the Chicago Columbian Exposition, the Chicago World's Fair, or simply the Fair.

The Chicago World's Fair was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the 1492 voyage by Christopher Columbus to the New World. It also provided a golden opportunity to show off to the world the reconstructed and exciting city of Chicago in the post era of the aforementioned catastrophic fire that ripped through much of it. Though Friday, October 21, 1892, marked the day that ceremonies commenced to usher in the Fair, it was on Monday, May 1, 1893, that the Chicago World's Fair first officially opened its gates to the public for the event that would last through the end of October 1893. Among the opening day attendees were President Grover Cleveland and a descendant of Christopher Columbus, the Duke of Veragua.

Located on Chicago's South Side in Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, the fairgrounds were spread over 600 acres and consisted of more than 200 temporary buildings that were primarily of neoclassical architecture with the team of designers including architects John Wellborn Root, Daniel Burnham, and Charles Atwood. The Court of Honor section that encircled the "Grand Basin with its massive gilded statue of the Republic," was given the moniker, "The White City," as the buildings were covered in white painted staff or stucco, presenting a brilliant white look in stark contrast to the city's tenements.2 This term reflected as well the Fair's widespread reliance on street lights, making it much easier to get around effectively during the night.

The exposition included "canals and lagoons, and people and cultures [representing] 46 countries."3 Millions of people would attend the exposition, "its scale and grandeur far exceed[ing] the [previous] world's fairs," and partake in its array of food, art, music, entertainment, and various advances in technology.4 The Fair featured the introduction of the Ferris wheel, fluorescent light bulbs, dishwashers, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Juicy Fruit gum, and Cream of Wheat. Other attractions included life-size replicas of the three ships Columbus used during his first voyage, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara; as well as the exhibition "Street in Cairo," with a famous belly dancer named Fahreda Mahzar, who was often referred to as "Little Egypt, the Bewitching Bellyrina."5

By the time the 1893 Chicago World's Fair was over, more than 27 million visitors would pass through the gates, which was equal to around one-fourth of the United States population that year. This would include 751,026 people on October 9th, chosen as Chicago Day, which was a then world record for attendance at an outdoor event. In the process, the Fair would endure a smallpox epidemic that gripped the city and, upon closure, the fairgrounds would lose many structures due to a devastating fire.6

From the Fair's construction to its closing, tens of thousands of skilled laborers and other workers were hired and put to work. Among these was a twenty-one-year-old painter named George Craig, who would set his sights on a little girl for a vicious and fatal attack to mar the events during the exposition.

H. H. Holmes and the World's Fair Hotel

The Chicago World's Fair proved to be the backdrop for more than one monster. Herman Webster Mudgett used the event as a site to lure naïve and unwary young female victims to his house of horrors as a serial murderer. Using the alias Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, or H. H. Holmes, the bigamist and con artist built a hotel a few miles from the site of the Fair, calling it the World's Fair Hotel. Unfortunately, for many, there was nothing inviting about it.

Born on Thursday, May 16, 1861, in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, to Levi Horton Mudgett and Theodate Page Price, Holmes was the third born of four children for the couple. His parents were farmers and devout Methodists, with the father said to be an alcoholic and prone to violent outbursts.

During his early years, Holmes was bullied and would develop an obsession with death and the dissection of animals. In 1882, he enrolled in the Department of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Michigan, where he would graduate in June 1884 at the age of twenty-three. During his time at the school, Holmes perfected the art of insurance scamming by pretending that stolen cadavers that he disfigured were victims of accidental deaths, from which he collected on insurance policies he had taken out on the decedents.

In Philadelphia, Holmes found work at the Norristown State Hospital for psychiatric patients and would change his name from Herman Webster Mudgett to Henry Howard Holmes, apparently as a means to escape detection as a con artist.

In August 1886, Holmes moved to Chicago. Less than a year later, he married Myrta Belknap while still married to another woman, Clara Lovering. He would eventually marry a third woman, Georgiana Yoke, without having divorced either of his other wives, and had at least two children between them. But his interest in women would take on much darker tones than bigamy as Holmes plotted his murderous course in Chicago.

After finding employment as a drugstore clerk in the neighborhood of Englewood on West 63rd Street and South Wallace Avenue, Holmes wound up owning the store, by hook or crook. Soon after in late 1888 (coincidentally, around the same time that Jack the Ripper was targeting prostitutes in London, England's East End in Whitechapel, for which some believed the unidentified serial killer was actually H. H. Holmes), the psychotic Holmes was setting the stage for his own place in history as a murderous psychopath. He purchased the vacant lot across from the drugstore and three miles from the Chicago World's Fair with the address: 601-603 West 63rd Street.

There, he built a three-story structure named the World's Fair Hotel. The building spanned an entire block, was 50 feet wide and over 160 feet long, and had a cellar. Due to the enormity and unappealing nature of the hotel, it was given the moniker "The Castle" and eventually morphed into "The Murder Castle" once the horrible deeds committed by Holmes came to light.

The ground floor contained many shops, including Holmes's drugstore that had been relocated; with apartments and Holmes's office occupying the upper stories that were described as "a labyrinth of rooms with doorways opening to brick walls, oddly angled hallways, stairways leading to nowhere, doors that could only be opened from the outside, and a host of other strange and deceptive constructions."7

The huge hotel had almost 100 rooms, with chambers of horror, including an "asphyxiation chamber—no light—with gas connections," an intricate alarm system that kept Holmes apprised of the comings and goings of occupants, and worse.8 Sadly, the Castle proved to be a frightening place for some employees and guests for which there was no escape.

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