Research Trip for New Book

Frank Geyer arrested Annie McCraken for larceny on May 19, 1880.

Frank Geyer arrested Annie McCraken for larceny on May 19, 1880.

Early in the month of May, I made another research trip to Philadelphia, Washington DC, and surrounding cities and was honored to meet with Detective Geyer’s amazing family. Unlike the troubling claims repeated in two popular books (Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and Harold Schechter’s Depraved) of his wife and daughter being tragically killed in a house fire just prior to his assignment to the H. H. Holmes case, Geyer’s family lived on. Geyer’s wife and daughter never died in a house fire. It’s baffling as to why the erroneous statements were ever printed when it could have been easily verified.

Most of my research time was spent at the City of Philadelphia Archives. I can’t say enough about their professional and knowledgeable staff! While there, I poured through old police employment roll books and files, criminal records, rare books, and many other valuable documents.

I set aside one special day to travel to the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington DC. After driving in circles for quite some time, I found a parking spot within an hour walking distance from LOC (good thing it stopped raining). But it was worth it. I combed through Pinkerton Detective Agency files looking for information on the H. H. Holmes case and Pinkerton’s involvement in the investigation prior to the City of Philadelphia assigning Detective Geyer. Some Internet sites identify Detective Geyer as a Pinkerton Detective, which is not correct. Detective Geyer had a long employment history with the City of Philadelphia. Even so, I checked Pinkerton’s employment cards to verify Geyer was not an employee (which he was not) and came across a rare letter from Pinkerton officials who responded in 1940 to a request for information on their involvement in the H. H. Holmes case. In the letter, they describe reviewing their Pinkerton files and documents and very specifically state Geyer was with the City of Philadelphia.

Pinkerton Involvement in HH Holmes Case

Pinkerton Detective Agency officials review their H. H. Holmes case file in 1940, and respond to a request for information from Mr. Dudley. Page 1 of letter. (Source: Library of Congress, Pinkerton Files)

Pinkerton Involvement in HH Holmes Case, page 2

Page 2 of letter.  (Source: Library of Congress Pinkerton Files)













All in all, it was a much needed research trip. A special thank you to Geyer’s wonderful family for sharing precious photos and memories with me, and especially Geyer’s great great grandson, who drove over twelve hours one way to be there. I also can’t say enough about the City of Philadelphia Archives staff and the Library of Congress personnel. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


JD Crighton

JD Crighton, author, emergency manager

Posted in Articles, Detective Frank P. Geyer, H. H. Holmes Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,