The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Book - 2004
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Erik Larson --author of #1 bestseller In The Garden of Beasts --intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2004, c2003
Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed
ISBN: 9780375725609
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 L334d 2004
Characteristics: xi, 447 p. : ill., maps ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

Erik Larson unspools the story of a serial killer who used the 1893 World's Fair as a hunting ground for victims and the frenetic activity as a cover. Also available in audio.

In this drama filled, yet true story of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Erik Larson--author of #1 bestseller IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS--intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative wit... Read More »

Astonishing story of the glorious Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and the narcissistic serial killer who preyed on young women while he hid in plain sight.

Erik Larson intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, he has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrill... Read More »

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Jun 23, 2017

In early 1890 Congress voted to give the 1893 Columbian Exposition (aka World's Fair) to the city of Chicago, providing director Daniel Burnham less than three years to bring this monumental project to fruition -- a seemingly impossible task. At the same time, a more sinister project was in the works a mile down the road in Englewood, where physician H. H. Holmes was building a peculiar and disquieting apartment building. Erik Larson does an excellent job telling the story of how these two ostensibly parallel story lines intersect in wonder and tragedy.

This is one of those books that are perennially popular at the library, and it had been on my I-should-probably-pick-that-up-one-of-these-days list for years. Recently, I listened to a Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast about H. H. Holmes, which proved (finally) to be the catalyst, and I devoured it while on vacation. The chapters about Holmes were slightly more unputdownable, but the details pertaining to the planning and execution of the fair were mind-blowing. The vastness of the exposition buildings and the sheer number of workers onsite during construction seemed astonishing for that time period. I'm somewhat saddened that today the Museum of Science and Industry remains the only major building standing from this momentous event in American history. I shall visit it!

Jun 20, 2017

Absolutely fascinating. I loved this book. The juxtaposition of the creation of the World's Fair and the destruction wrought by Holmes was most interesting. The ease with which he committed his crimes is easily explained by the era itself. Communication - amongst family members and especially among police departments -was not nearly so prevalent as it is today. In fact, it was almost non-existent. (If a family member moved to the city for a better life and you never heard from them again, most people just figured that that person had just moved on with their lives and certainly very few had the time or the money or other means to come looking. It was the rare family that did so.) And the spread of news was mind-boggling slow compared to not just today but even a few years after this time. When I finished this book I wanted to take the train (because that's how people travelled in those days :) ) back to see the city and the World's Fair. I highly recommend this book.

Jun 20, 2017

Erik Larson kicks ass, both in his description of the preparations for the fair and in his description of Holmes's life and horrific crimes!

Jun 07, 2017

This book is the perfect way for a reader to learn about a fun and fascinating piece of American history, while also enjoying a twisted real crime story. Larson does a great job weaving the two together. You'll especially enjoy this book if you've lived in Chicago. Highly recommended!

Jun 07, 2017

Whoa. What a messed-up dude! Technically the book followed 2 men: Daniel Burnham, 1893 Chicago World's Fair master architect, & Henry Holmes, a young, ambitious doctor that found his kicks in murdering young, vulnerable women. You can probably guess which man I was referring to when I said he was a messed-up dude. The 2 men's lives were intertwined in that they are both heavily linked to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The book jumps back-&-forth between the creation & building up of the fair & the creation & building of Holmes' murder hotel. To see the 2 separate designs & dreams take shape is simply fascinating --- & chilling. This fair brought about the creation of 2 major things: the ferris wheel & the psychopath. Again...I think you can pin these things correctly to the 2 main characters (although technically the ferris wheel wasn't created by Burnham, but it was the new creation & big hit that put Burnham's fair on the map).

Age recommendation: 16 & up (murder, mutilation of the human body)

On a scale of 1-10 stars, I give it 9.

liljables Mar 18, 2017

Fans of narrative non-fiction and/or true crime are sure to enjoy this book! Lawson weaves together the stories of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the concurrent murder spree of Dr. H. H. Holmes. The chapters describing the lead-up to the Fair's opening explore the changing identity of the city of Chicago (and America as a whole), while the alternating chapters delve into the thoughts and actions of "America's First Serial Killer". This creates an interesting juxtaposition between the perceived opulence and civility of the Fair and the ease with which horrible crimes were committed in its shadow.

Mar 03, 2017

I have liked EL's other books, especially about the Lusitania. This one just never took hold & I've grown to so dislike the reading by Scott Brick that he ruins any book for me.

SaraLovesBooks Dec 20, 2016

I have really enjoyed this read. I knew about H.H. Holmes, of course, and his "Murder Castle" in Chicago during the World's Fair. I did not, however, know about everything that went into the making of a World's Fair. I enjoyed how Larson went back and forth between the planners of the World's Fair, and H.H. Holmes and his victims. The final part of the book is about the investigation of H.H. Holmes, and the finding of the three Pitezel children.

The book is really well-written, and has been meticulously researched. It was hard, initially for me to get into, which is why the book is four and a half stars, rather than five stars. In a lot of ways, early on, it felt like Larson had never met an adjective he didn't like. That made it hard to get into at first, even with the good narration. But I was glad I stuck with it, and got used to the writing style. I would highly recommend this book, for history buffs and for true crime buffs.

Dec 12, 2016

An interesting look at a unique era of American history. Well-written and thoroughly researched; the book is highly engaging.

AL_SARAHD Dec 09, 2016

Do you know why Chicago is called the "Windy City"? What is the "White City"? Do you know how the World's Fair was brought to Chicago after much debate?
Did you know that America's most prolific serial killer lived there? Did you know that there are still missing persons associated to Mr. H.H. Holmes?
Find the answers to these questions and more inside this brilliantly terrifying true tale.

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Jun 07, 2017

jandt_mcmurray thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Brenda74 Nov 12, 2012

Brenda74 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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notTom Dec 16, 2010

Between majestic architecture and cold-blooded murder, the early 1890's were a defining period for the city of Chicago. The Colombian Exposition of 1893 (the World's Fair of 1893, so named to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's landing in America) proved that Chicago could put its elbows on the table of the world's greatest cities. It hugely impacted the course of American history through its influence on technology, architecture, and the popular conscience. This book weaves together the stories of Daniel Burnham, a prominent architect in charge of planning the Exposition, and Herman Webster Mudgett, better known to history as H.H.Holmes, America's first serial killer. Opening a hotel just down the Midway from the fair, Holmes was ensured of a constant flow of trusting young women. What his ill-fated guests did not realize was the presence of air-tight rooms with gas-jets, a greased body chute and the basement containing vats of acid and a crematorium. In the style of Truman Capote, this is a non-fiction novel, a gripping account of deeds of great and evil men alike, made all the more interesting because these events really happened.


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Aug 06, 2015

"With its gorgeous classical buildings packed with art, its clean water and electric lights, and its overstaffed police department, the exposition was Chicago's conscience, the city it wanted to become."


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