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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Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and Herman W. Mudgett, alias H.H. Holmes a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2003
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780609608449
0609608444
9780375725609
0375725601
Characteristics: xi, 447 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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padocarl
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.

r
ryner
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!

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shilohsmom
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.

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elizabeth88_1
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!

k
KarenCharMeck
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!

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.

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Charlie68
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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GeneKathol
Dec 01, 2016

A fascinating story of historical fiction...a way to account for actual history that was never fully documented. His development of characters is superb, and his story line compelling.

AL_CHRISTINES Oct 16, 2016

Two brilliant men, one an architect of beauty, the other of murder. Both men amazingly creative and inventive, the shocking and horrific tale of H.H. Holmes by no means overshadows Burnhams life, nor the brilliant planning and building of the World's Fair. This book could be two separate books but these true stories parallel in interesting ways. Devil is incredibly well written and meticulously researched. Although the horror of Holmes and his murder castle can be difficult to read, it is discussed in an almost clinical way that made it easier to handle. If you aren't very squeamish, this is a very good read.

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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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CrochetCat374
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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