The Devil in the White City

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

Larson, Erik

eBook - 2003
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Devil in the White City
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized Americab2ss 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 fairgroundsb7sa 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. 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 that obsessed them both.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2003.
ISBN: 9781400076314


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Mar 16, 2015
  • stewstealth rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book is ostensibly about the modern age. The book details the difference between the "black city" of old Chicago with the new "white city" which was built for the worlds fair. The difference being clean water and electricity. A well written and researched book, it is definitely worth reading.

Feb 01, 2015
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The Chicago World Exposition of 1893 was a wonder attracting over 20 million visits. Almost nothing remains of the fantastic structures which were designed and built against impossible odds in a very short time. This story is fantastic in itself, but when told alongside the grisly but true tale of a charming psychopath who lured women to his hotel during the fair, the result is a book which is impossible to put down. Truth is often stranger than fiction.

Jan 08, 2015
  • DanglingConversations rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Well written and researched, a wonderful way to absorb a bit of background about architecture, landscape design and the complexity of getting a world's fair off the ground when there are diverse interests and visions competing for accolades. I thought I would not be able to tolerate reading about those disgusting murders, but it all fit into the author's desire to profile the mind of the men and women of America's post WWI burgeoning industrial society. I was fascinated by the little vignette of Frank Lloyd Wright's contribution to the fair before he became the outstanding Chicago architect. This book will stand the test of time and deserves the attention of thoughtful readers.

Nov 17, 2014
  • mayfairlady rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Whether you are visiting Chicago or not this is a great look at the events surrounding the Chicago World's Fair. Excellent read.

Sep 07, 2014
  • specialk45 rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

In my opinion this was very little writing about "crime" and mostly contained historical information about the World's Fair. Slightly interesting, though for me when reading about crime, I like it to be more focused on the crime end-of-things. I was disappointed by this book because it had good reviews.

Aug 22, 2014

A well researched and entertaining, true account of the 1893 Chicago Wolrds Fair wrapped around a murder manhunt.

Jun 28, 2014
  • ShirleyRDavis rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Enlightening docu-thriller about the building of the White City (1893--Columbian Exhibition) in Chicago. The book relates the architects, and their triumphs/tribulations meticulously throughout their journey of planning, building and executing the Columbian Exhibition. Edge-of-the seat details of the actions of a true serial killer hidden by the bustle, crime and growth of Chicago are entertwined. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book for the knowledge it revealed about the only city I have ever lived in, and the skill of the writer to tell a suspenseful, thriller-shocker with accuracy to boot!

Apr 17, 2014
  • KCLSLibsRecommend rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A true ‘thriller’ in every sense of the word! Local writer Erik Larson’s research illuminates the genius behind the innovative 1893 Chicago ‘World Columbian Exposition’. Daniel H. Burnham, architect of the fair, was responsible for the construction of the famous ‘White City’ around which the fair was built. At the time the Exposition was going on another sort of genius was busy in Chicago as well. Serial murderer, H.H. Holmes, was entrapping young women in his home and executing them in a sealed room while he watched them die. Larson weaves these two stories together as skillfully as any novelist, but the difference here is that these two stories really happened. Absolutely gripping!

Mar 15, 2014
  • weali rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Only about a fifth of this book is about H. H. Holmes. The rest is about the World Fair--it's a good book unless you're looking for a true crime...

Jan 24, 2014
  • sine_wave rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Fantastic Book. Read this a couple years ago on the plane to Edmonton. You will not be disappointed.

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Nov 12, 2012
  • Brenda74 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

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Dec 16, 2010
  • notTom rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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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