The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

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

Book - 2003
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This New York Times bestseller 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.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his "World's Fair Hotel" just west of the fairgrounds--a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson's gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2003
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375725609
Characteristics: xi, 447 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before. Erik Larson's gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair of 1893 that obsessed both men.

364.1523 Larson --

Larson's spellbinding bestseller intertwines the true tale of two men--the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World's Fair in Chicago; and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting... Read More »

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Apr 07, 2018

Erik Larson's uncanny ability to weave seemingly disparate personalities (Louis Sullivan,
Buffalo Bill, Susan B. Anthony, psychopathic serial killer H.H. Holmes) in a larger than life
historical setting (1893 Chicago Word's Fair) always amazes me. Based on real events, this book is a suspenseful, page-turning thriller. Probably the favorite of the three Erik Larson
books I have read, so far.

Mar 28, 2018

This Book review is on a book called The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson. Its a non-fiction book about the Chicagos World Fair in 1893. The main charecter in this book are H.H. Holmes and Daniel Hudson Burnham. Holmes and Burnham seem very simalar on the outside but on the inside they are very different. Holmes is a very cunning man with charm and Burnham is a man that loves the work he does.
While I was reading the book sometimes it felt boring during Burnhams chapters. During Holmes chapter it was much more intresting and it made me want to keep reading through the boring parts. I say this because during Holmes parts he would lure woman into his life and then make them dissaper abbruptly. I remember reading that he suffocated his wife with a rag covered in chloroform. I have not read any other books by this author. I have not read any other books with this type of theme.
I would recommend this book to anyone that has alot of patience and time because Burnham’s chapters are alot longer than Holmes’s. I would say this book is for mature adiences or anyone looking for a mystery murder type of book.

CRRL_MegRaymond Feb 21, 2018

1893. The World’s Columbian Exposition, also known at the Chicago World’s Fair. The “White City” was an amazing feat of engineering, entertainment, and discovery. It was also a great place for an enterprising serial killer like Henry H. Holmes.

Jan 30, 2018

Reminded me a lot of The Boys In the Boat. Tremendous research, well-written, name intensive... at times put me to sleep, but I am a better person for reading this. Seriously it is amazing how much of US history is tied into the World Fair of 1893. Definitely recommend to read before it hits the big screens.

Jan 22, 2018

Everything you never wanted to know about the 1893 Chicago world's fair. About 10% of the book is about the exploits Henry Mudgett. Waste of time if your looking for literature on H.H.Holmes

Jan 20, 2018

#2 A Book of True Crime

Jan 10, 2018

A great read about a huge moment in American history. The author does an outstanding job transporting the reader back into the grimy, cutthroat but highly innovative past surrounding Chicago during the time of the World Fair. The intertwined murder story happening in parallel is just as good as well.

Nov 14, 2017

If you can get past all of the engineering material, it is a really good book.

Sep 28, 2017

A fascinating tale of the Columbian Exhibition (the World’s Fair) and how it came to be built in Chicago on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America, a subject that constitutes 85 percent of the book. Such an event would not even be attempted today. The remaining 15 percent of the book tells the story of America’s first serial killer, a man who operated with impunity during the time of the Fair in Chicago, who he killed, and how he was caught. Another small portion of the book is about a crazy man who, how do I say this?, put a full stop to the Fair. The chronicle of the Fair is compelling; that of the killer and the crazy man deeply unsettling. Well worth reading.

Aug 24, 2017

I had heard good things about this book so had it on my "For Later" list at the library. When the hubby and I went to the thrift store for the last piece of an upcoming running costume I was told I needed to spend $3 to use my credit card. Off to the book section I went and I grabbed this title for $1 - SCORE! This is a non-fiction book that intertwines the history of the 1983 World's Fair in Chicago and a serial killer. I am normally not a history buff, but this kept me engaged and I was able to finish the book in about two days. Seeing all of the inventions (and famous folks) that came from this era was pretty awesome. Also, I appreciate all of the work the author put into the book (all quotes came from letters, newspaper articles, interviews, etc). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

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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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