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Deadly Descendants: Local man says he is related to 'Jack the Ripper'

Deadly Descendants: Local man says he is related to 'Jack the Ripper' (KSNV)

Tracing your family roots.

It's research that can turn up all kinds of surprises, and maybe even links to famous ancestors.

But for one local man, the truth is shrouded in murder.

Jeff Mudgett says his great great grandfather was an American serial killer during the late 1800's.

His name was H.H. Holmes.

Mudgett believes the secrets go even deeper. He's out to prove Holmes was also "Jack the Ripper."

"Jack the Ripper, three to five horrible murders he committed in London. That was JV stuff. This man was the personification of evil. If there was a picture of pre-meditated murder, it should be my great-great grandfather," says Mudgett.

Mudgett knows not everyone will be happy with his research, but he's not giving up.

It's a natural human desire to want to know where we come from and how our ancestors lived.

Like any good horror story, this one begins in a cemetery. A body exhumed after more than 120 years below ground.

H.H. Holmes was the name he chose to go by. His real name was Herman Webster Mudget," says Mudgett.

Mudgett is facing a family secret. Digging up the body of his great great grandfather, in hopes of solving a disturbing mystery.

Was his relative Jack the Ripper?

Mudgett, who now lives in Las Vegas, has been studying this dark branch of his family tree for 20 years.

He even wrote a book: "Bloodstains."

Here's what he's learned.

During the late 1800's his great great grandfather paid for medical school by robbing graves.

He later built a Chicago hotel that history has dubbed "The Murder Castle." It was complete with secret rooms, gas vents, and lime pits.

It was a perfect killing spot during the Chicago World Fair.

"He and his assistants would send them down a greased chute, land on a gurney in the basement, where he had torture racks, things like that. This is in America," said Mudgett.

Mudgett says Holmes would later admit to murdering 27 people.

Some historians think the number could be as high as 200. Preying on lonely travelers, no one would miss. A story that served as the basis for season 5 of the popular FX series, "American Horror Story: Hotel."

Today, Holmes' hotel is long gone. A post office built on the grounds.

And while Mudgett has requested to excavate a neighboring plot for human remains, so far the government has refused.

"When you get into the innocent victims who were never identified, I have a problem with that. That's an obligation I think I have," says Mudgett.

HH Holmes was executed in 1894. Not for anything that happened in Chicago and his alleged murder hotel, but rather for killing his partner in Pennsylvania. Which takes us back to that exhumation this past spring outside of Philadelphia, where Jeff Mudgett believes more secrets lay buried.

"I know he's the Ripper. I'll never be able to have half the world agree with me on that. The English are going to go bonkers over this show. They get so angry. I know what that evidence points to for me. I don't have any doubts," says Mudgett.

The story of HH Holmes is now being told in an eight-part series on the History Channel.

One question now remains: Can science prove the theory?

Martin Schiller is a professor with UNLV's school of life science.

While he's not involved in the Holmes analysis, he says DNA testing is certainly possible for a 120-year-old sample. Even the cost of sequencing has dropped in recent years.

"At UNLV, the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine has a genome sequencing lab. We can sequence your entire genome in one day," says Schiller.

Unfortunately, testing has been slower in the Holmes case. Mudgett worries his great great grandfather may have escaped the gallows altogether and had another body buried in his place.

Either way, the search for the truth goes on.

"We have his handwriting samples which match," says Mudgett.

It's a real-life horror story Mudgett believes he was born into.

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