I received a copy of “Bloodstains” from a friend. My only knowledge of it was that the author was said to be the great-great-grandson of a man believed to have been Jack the Ripper.
As a former law enforcement officer my interest in the psychological makeup of serial killers and sociopaths was heightened by this book. I had read articles, books, watched movies and documentaries, and heard countless theories about the true “Jack.” Nothing seemed of a definitive nature to truly identify the infamous murderer and in all honesty, part of me doubted this writing would be any different. But, I remained open to all possibilities—and am glad I did. I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
In the prologue you are introduced to Herman Webster Mudgett, the great-great-grandfather. History knows him as Dr. H. H. Holmes, the infamous serial killer, yet calling him such does his pure evil little justice as you come to know him throughout the book. In the cover’s photo of Holmes’ eyes you sense he is devoid of emotion. It is the indifferent stare of a man who sets his own boundaries of humanity regardless of how degenerate they may be.
Within the first chapter you realize a dysfunctional chord runs throughout the Mudgett family. Bert, the grandfather, was a man who remained to himself: cold, hard, seemingly without love from his family, or displays of love to anyone. In life he was focused on his grandson, Jeff. Yet never was there outward affection a loving grandfather should have for a grandson. In death, he was only considered with disregard. Other family members have their problems as well, but it is Jeff’s introspection as an adult, his questions about lack of emotions, concerns about his lineage, his odd thoughts and such that becomes our focal point. And it is not until his father presents two boxes, items willed to Jeff by an uncaring grandfather that the true essence of the book begins to be revealed.
I now take absolute care in not writing any form of spoiler pertaining to “Bloodstains.” I state this because the story is well written, each page so masterfully woven with the next that I fear too much information could easily be divulged. But once the boxes were produced, my mind locked upon them, demanding to learn more.
The boxes contain two private journals of his great-great-grandfather, Herman W. Mudgett, aka Dr. H. H. Holmes. The journals are keys which unlock doors of knowledge that have never been ventured through since the beast closed them. And like Pandora’s Box, once the doors were opened, the evil within escapes.
This book is not for anyone with a weak constitution. It is not a graphically written horror story or tainted with pornographic flavor. But it will be disturbing, chilling, and emotionally destructive to the average person innocent of the mindsets and actions of serial killers. I also believe there will be readers who do not complete the book simply because it evokes such a spectrum of horrid mental images.
You follow Jeff’s plight and struggle with his bloodline demon. You begin to learn information which contradicts other writings about H. H. Holmes, about Jack the Ripper, yet you will find yourself nodding agreement that this is plausible and sickeningly truthful. There will be moments of doubt and confusion, and you will wonder about Jeff’s own degree of sanity, but the threads of the story are so tightly woven that soon its full tapestry, however macabre, comes clearly into view.
Could a demon have risen from the entries of a murderer’s journal, infect and disease Jeff’s soul as it did, especially with the writer being his lineage? Such a question is one each individual must answer for themselves. After having spent time as part of a paranormal investigative team and researched related subject matter through the years, I would not cast it all aside as foolishness. After all, the Catholic Church still performs exorcisms.
The presentation of Dr. H. H. Holmes in “Bloodstains” rightfully depicts a man as heartless as Vlad the Impaler, but displays a level of intelligence worthy of acknowledgment in the field of medicine. This acceptance of his dual nature creates conflict with a reader because you want to see him solely as a wrong-doer, not one involved with academic scientific pursuits.
When the last page was read, I sat in silence, debating my new concerns with all the tales about Jack the Ripper. Within the book I had viewed Jeff’s internal struggle with a demon so vile Hannibal Lecter paled in comparison to, and realized once more the mind still retains unexplored regions. I was relieved though that a troubled grandfather at last received his worthy redemption. And when I closed the book, I felt it remain in my thoughts for many hours.
“Bloodstains” is well written—no, it is masterfully written. Jeff Mudgett has bared himself for all to see, whether good or bad, presenting the reader with a turbulent story that allows for personal acceptance or denial. I give this book the highest marks for the depth its journey carries a reader. Everyone has skeletons in their family closet. Unfortunately, some have demons.