Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


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Rate: 5/5

Medium: KindleBook

Overview (No Spoilers): After hearing that Leonardo DiCaprio had purchased the film rights for the Devil in the White City and discovering its subject of choice, it was only a matter of time before this nonfiction was added to my reading list. This was my second book by Larson (the first being In the Garden of Beasts) and yet again he excels at vividly recreating historical environments that allow the reader to practically step back into another era. The Devil in the White City follows the creation of the Chicago World Fair, along side the simultaneous development of the serial killer, Dr. HH Holmes, and the building of his house of horrors. The Chicago World Fair, defied the odds and build the spectacular White City despite numerous delays, obstacles, weather, and an unforgiving time constraint. The Chicago World Fair was America’s response to Paris’ 1889 World’s Fair, in which saw the debut of the iconic Eiffel Tower, therefore there was immense pressure to have the whole affair be a success for national pride. The event was truly amazing with gathering the likes of Edison, Houdini, Tesla, Woodrow Wilson, Susan B. Anthony, Wild Bill, Annie Oakley, and tangential characters such as Walt Disney’s father, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Helen Keller who have yet to reach the main stage. There’s also the amazing inventions witnessed by the masses, many for the firs time, such as electricity on a mass scale, the zipper, long distance telephone, dishwasher, Aunt Jemima’s pancakes, Juicy Fruit, Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon, to name a few. However, not far from this White City a man was preying on lone, vulnerable young women alone in the city. Overall, this story seems too suspenseful and fantastical to be real life which makes it all that more appealing or horrifying, with regard to Holmes. The impact of the Chicago Fair on our lives even today, with the not only the inventions but the repercussions such as the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ferris Wheel, even the layout we know of modern Chicago. The upcoming movie is taking a very generous take on this amazing story, with linking the main architect of the Fair with the serial murderer through employment. I have a great dislike for movies, which take unbelievably wonderful true story and make it subpar, see the Revenant and more so Monuments Men, therefore I have great concerns about this future feature, however delightful the book might be.

Additional Insight (May contain spoilers):

  1. What happened to any of Holmes three wives and his children?
  2. How did they find out the skeletons in the schools were from Holmes victims.
  3. How many people did Holmes actually kill?
  4. Am I able to time travel to go back to the White City? Has there every been such a gathering of influential individuals?


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