STRANGE GH: Serial killer’s final wish was to return to Grand Haven

Oct 17, 2011


Born Friederich Wilhelm Hoellman in Brandenburg, Germany, in 1859, he came to America in 1883 — settling in Grand Haven with his wife. Hollman worked as a farmhand and attended St. Paul’s Evangelical Church here.

A 2-year-old daughter passed away in 1886, then his wife died during a stillborn birth a year later. He remarried in 1888, taking Augusta Pauline Rohde as his wife. 

Hollman enraged the local Lutheran community for abusing both of his wives. A mob nearly lynched him for beating Augusta once and subsequently ran him out of town.

By 1889, the Hollmans moved to Wisconsin’s Green Lake County. There Hollman threatened to hang Augusta and practiced on a dog to show her how he’d do it. He was arrested and jailed in 1890 for nearly beating her to death. Then, in January 1892, he abandoned her and their two children, and never saw them again.

Hollman’s bitterness toward Augusta manifested into a hatred for all women, and he was accused of killing five between June and December 1896 in Wisconsin and Illinois. He posed the women after strangling them, to make it appear as suicides, by tying a chord around their necks and hanging them from a door knob.

Hollman was captured and charged with one murder committed on Dec. 2, 1896, and jailed at Paxton, Ill. It was the strongest case of the lot to ensure a conviction. A guilty verdict was rendered at trial in April 1897 and Hollman was sentenced to hang.

Even Hollman’s defense attorney thought he was guilty.

“I have certainly come into possession of facts which cause me to believe that he is the most cold-blooded brute that ever breathed God’s pure air,” attorney Columbus Schneider wrote in a letter published in the Grand Haven Tribune.

Hollman had one departing request: “I ask that my body be sent to Grand Haven, Mich., and placed beside that of my wife and child,” Hollman wrote in his final statement.

He was executed on May 14, 1897.

His request to be buried in the plot he purchased in Lake Forest Cemetery next to his first wife was denied when his only relative here, a cousin named Charlie “Hallman,” refused to accept the remains. Thus, he was buried in the potter’s field section of Glen Cemetery in Paxton.

Hollman vowed to return from the dead to seek revenge on those who had condemned him.

“Just wait until I am dead. I will come back every night and visit those men who put me here,” Hollman told the Chicago Tribune. “I will haunt them to their graves. I will rap on their windows at night and they will see my face. I will curse them and see them in hell.”

In May and August of this year, a paranormal group investigated the 140-year-old abandoned Ford County jailhouse where Hollman was hanged, and they experienced strange phenomenon. A digital recorder picked up a “voice” speaking the name “Amelia” several times.

Amelia was the name of Frederick Hollman’s first wife. Apparently, Hollman still wishes to return to Grand Haven to rest beside her, but doesn’t know how to get here.


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