Was Dr. H. H. Holmes the Origin of the Hippach Curse?

Was Dr. H. H. Holmes the Origin of the Hippach Curse?
Were wealthy Chicago businessman Louis A. Hippach and his family victims of the Holmes curse?

I have written about the Hippach family of Chicago before and have referred to them as possibly one of Chicago’s most unlucky families.  If I actually believed in curses I would be tempted to claim that the Hippach family was cursed for some previously unknown reason.

I have also done a fair amount of research into Herman Webster Mudgett who, during the time of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, murdered and swindles his way around Chicago as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.  During the course of that research I was introduced to something referred to as the “Holmes Curse”.  It seemed that quite a few individuals who butted heads with Holmes met with an untimely end or tragedy even if Holmes did not directly cause it.   So many in fact that Chicago historian and author Adam Selzer wrote an entire book about it called “The Curse of H. H. Holmes”.

Could the infamous Holmes’ curse actually be the reason for the Hippach family having so much tragedy in their lives?

I don’t believe in curses but after a little history on the Hippach family you just might.

Ida Sophia Hippach was born Ida Sophia Fisher on November 24, 1866 in Chicago and later married Louis A. Hippach who was the wealthy co-owner of Tyler and Hippach Co., a plate glass dealer, in Chicago.  The Hippachs had four children; Robert L, born November 1889, Archibald A., born September 1892, Gertrude B. (Jean), born October 1894 and Howard H., born May 1896.  Louis was also a past president of the Union League Club of Chicago.

Louis A. Hippach

Louis A. Hippach,Co-owner of the Tyler-Hippach Glass Company – Courtesy The Hippach Family

On December 30, 1903, Robert Hippach (14) and his younger brother Archie (12) were attending a matinee performance of “Mr. Bluebeard” at the Iroquois Theater on Randolph Street in Chicago.  It was during the performance of this play that a faulty light caused the theater to be engulfed in flames killing over 600 innocents mostly consisting of women and young children.  Robert and Archie were two of those many who lost their lives.

Families attempt to identify bodies of those killed in the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903

Families attempt to identify bodies of those killed in the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903

Their mother, Ida, was so distraught that her health started to fail.  In 1912, She thought that a European vacation with her daughter, Jean Hippach, might help relieve some of her depression.  On April 10, 1912, while in Cherbourg, France, she decided to purchase first class tickets for her and her daughter on the maiden voyage of the White Star Line’s newest luxury liner, Titanic.  They were told that they were lucky enough to have purchased the last two first class tickets to New York!  Both Ida and Jean, who was 17 years old at the time, survived aboard lifeboat number 4.

Jean Hippach 1913

Jean Hippach at the age of 18 the year after the Titanic Disaster – Courtesy The Hippach Family

The tragedy didn’t stop there.  On August 29, 1914, Jean was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Hugo Carlson.  Hugo and Jean were driving along Lake Shore Drive and were just north of Fullerton Avenue when their vehicle struck and killed an 8 year old boy named John Dredling while his father, mother and four siblings watched.  Carlson jumped from the vehicle to render aid to the boy and while he and Jean were outside the vehicle trying to help the little boy and console his family an unknown passerby stole a briefcase from their automobile!

Exactly two months later, on October 29, 1914, the Hippachs’ only remaining son, Howard, was killed in an automobile crash in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at the age of 19.

Mr.Louis A. Hippach’s glass company, Tyler and Hippach, was bombed by radical labor groups in 1922 and in 1926 an employee, George Linton, was robbed at gunpoint by three assailants who made off with $5,000 in company payroll.

In 1930, Jean Hippach divorced her first husband, Hjalmar Unander-Scharin, and her second husband killed himself shortly after the end of World War II.

Why was the Hippach family so seemingly “cursed”?  If you believe in curses, the answer might lie within the pages of a dusty old lawsuit I happened to come across at the Cook County Circuit Court Archives.  It seemed that in 1890, Dr. H. H. Holmes was in the process of building his infamous “Murder Castle” at 63rd and Wallace and his castle was in need of some plate glass windows.  Dr. Holmes purchased at least some of these windows from the firm of Tyler and Hippach.

In 1891, Tyler and Hippach sued the infamous Devil in The White City, Dr. H. H. Holmes.

In 1891, Tyler and Hippach sued the infamous Devil in The White City, Dr. H. H. Holmes.

In typical Holmesian fashion he didn’t make good on his promise to pay for the windows and Tyler and Hippach sued Dr. Holmes and his secretary Kate Durkee for $540.00.  They even went so far as to place a lien on Holmes’ murder castle itself!  If that wouldn’t invite the Holmes curse nothing would. The judgement in favor of Mr. Hippach was finally entered in September of 1895 while Holmes was sitting in Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia awaiting trial for the murder of his former partner, Benjamin Pitezel.

Holmes was eventually executed by hanging on May 7, 1896 and seven years later the Hippach family’s luck took a tragic turn for the worst.  Were the Hippachs victims of the Holmes curse or simply Chicago’s unluckiest family?

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