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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic,…
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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that… (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Erik Larson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
18,100614176 (4)1 / 936
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America₂s 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 fairgrounds₇a 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.… (more)
Member:catthebooklady
Title:The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Authors:Erik Larson
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 447 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:None

Work details

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (Author) (2003)

  1. 113
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (bnbookgirl)
  2. 81
    Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson (thatwordnerd)
    thatwordnerd: Both books tell a true story, with a multitude of sources, but are written in a way that makes the reader feel as if it is almost fiction. The reader (see more) is not hit over the head with facts and is able to get sucked into the story and the era.
  3. 60
    The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh by R. Michael Gordon (cammykitty)
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    Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King (jbgryphon)
  5. 50
    Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: Another account of H.H. Holmes
  6. 40
    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  7. 40
    American Gothic by Robert Bloch (CarlT)
    CarlT: Though AMERICAN GOTHIC is fiction and THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is non-fiction, both books are based on the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (nicknamed "The White City") and the horrific murders committed by serial killer Henry H. Holmes.
  8. 30
    Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago by Richard C. Lindberg (meggyweg)
  9. 41
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Offering rich details of Savannah in the 1980s (Midnight in the Garden) and Chicago in the 1890s (Devil in the White City), these well-researched and dramatic recreations of terrible crimes are equally compelling, despite differences in time period and location.… (more)
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    The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures by Edward Ball (davesmind)
  11. 31
    Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott (DK_Atkinson, g33kgrrl)
  12. 31
    The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry (browner56)
    browner56: Two fascinating looks at murder and mayhem in the Windy City at the turn of the last century.
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    Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell (mysterymax)
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    Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro (ghr4)
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    The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (elbakerone)
  16. 32
    The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.) by Simon Winchester (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Both concern late-19th C American killers in the backdrop of a bigger social story of advancement (Chicago Fair and Oxford English Dictionary).
  17. 00
    Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris by Steven Levingston (Luchtpint)
  18. 00
    The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr (Luchtpint)
  19. 00
    The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Devil In the White City and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher are compelling and richly detailed books about historical true crime. These stories present not only details about the crime but also about the social mores of the time.
  20. 00
    The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer by M. William Phelps (bnbookgirl)
    bnbookgirl: mixing true crime with historical event

(see all 29 recommendations)

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English (609)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (613)
Showing 1-5 of 609 (next | show all)
The Devil In The White City by Eric Larson A forgotten event that stunned the world and the opportunities it presented to one dedicated serial killer whose scale of operation defied comprehension. The event was the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.
 
In truth this is 2 books, one a story of a serial killer and the other about America's coming of age in both its own eyes and those of the rest of the world. Of the 2 books I prefer the second.
 
In the very beginning of the book he states, "this is not a novel" everything that happens in the book happened in real life. Eric Larson is a great writer who can weave a fantastic tale of non-fiction, yes you read that right.
 
If you are familiar with his previous book In the Garden of Beasts you will know what I mean. The facts and figures will stun you but never get in the way of this gripping story. The characters are brought to life with a veracity that is rare in non-fiction.
 
Reading this book was like slipping under the covers of this world and seeing a time past which held the beginnings of so much that forms the foundation of so many things that we take for granted in this life. I had to restrain myself to a few chapters every session as I wanted this to last. It never fades or runs out of steam it is consistently good to the very last drop.
 
Drink Up. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
I registered this book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13955084

A history about two remarkable men working in Chicago at the same time. One an architect, the other a serial killer.

Daniel Burnham was half of the architectural team of Burnham and Root when the country was choosing the city that would host the next World's Fair: the date for the fair was 1893. In this case it would be a celebration of Columbus coming to the new world. A handsome, likable man, Burnham at the time was considered the promoter and money manager while Root was the designer.

At the same time, a man calling himself H.H. Holmes moved into the city. Also attractive and personable, he manipulated his way into the purchase of property on which he built a three-story building that took up a whole block, not far from the location chosen for the World's Fair. Holmes had a way with words. He could confront creditors and before they realized it they were feeling sorry for him and even extending more credit. He was especially taken by young women and they by him, for he was charming and seemed direct, honest, warm.

While Burnham, chosen to be the chief architect of the fair, was working his magic to entice great architects to join him and to overcome one obstacle after another, Holmes was working his magic to bring young ladies into his parlor, where they would ultimately be dispatched to a vault, where they would either run out of air or be gassed to death. He did not confront his victims directly in most cases, choosing these rather neater methods of killing.

The book gives us the play-by-play of each man, as much as the historical record shows. While Burnham's visibility increased daily, Holmes managed to stay under the radar in spite of numerous disappearances from the apartments in his building. The police force at the time had not put anything together.

The story of the building of the fair is incredible. With wind and storms and difficult soils, difficulty obtaining materials, not enough time, challenges with the architects and the famed Frederick Law Olmstead, brought on board for the landscaping, it was a miracle that the fair opened at all. When it finally did open as planned not everything was complete. Most notably the engineering attraction that drew the most attention (which I will not identify in case you don't know what it is) did not open for another couple of months. While open, attendance was a concern, driving boards and commissions to try to reign in the expenses. This caused yet more of an issue, given that special events at the fair drew the largest crowds and these events cost money.

The fair story is enough, really, for a book. But alongside we had our killer. The two men never met but they were undoubtedly at the fair at the same time at least once. The tie between them is thus tenuous - Chicago and the World's Fair - but makes an interesting contrast. The story of how Holmes was finally caught includes some mighty fine detective work. At times it does seem like fiction. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
3.5 stars ( )
  snakes6 | Aug 25, 2020 |
I almost didn't finish this book. I read the book and listened to it through audio at the same time so that it would help me focus. I still struggled. There are a ton of interesting facts in the book, but it did not keep my attention as much as I thought it would. I love history and I find the World's Fair and Chicago itself to be very interesting. This book didn't do anything for me and I would not recommend others to read it. This book could have been half the amount of pages and may have kept more readers' attention. ( )
  snickel63 | Aug 21, 2020 |
Great nonfiction account of the crazy project that was the Chicago World Fair of 1893. I had no idea the impact this fair ended up having on the coming century of lifestyle of 20th-century America. Really enjoyed the pacing and the storytelling of the author and the contrast with the story of H.H. Holmes was really great. Would definitely be open to reading other novels by this author as well as recommending this novel to others. ( )
  briandarvell | Aug 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 609 (next | show all)
Mr. Larson has written a dynamic, enveloping book filled with haunting, closely annotated information. And it doesn't hurt that this truth really is stranger than fiction.
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Larson, ErikAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.
Daniel H. Burnham

Director of Works

World's Columbian Exposition, 1893
I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than a poet can help the inspiration to sing.
Dr. H. H. Holmes

Confession

1896
Dedication
To Chris, Kristen, Lauren, and Erin,

for making it all worthwhile

—and to Molly, whose lust for socks

kept us all on our toes
First words
The date was April 14, 1912, a sinister day in maritime history, but of course the man in suite 63–65, shelter deck C, did not yet know it.
Quotations
"Suddenly New York and St. Louis wanted the fair. Washington laid claim to the honor on the grounds it was the center of government, New York because it was the center of everything. No one cared what St. Louis thought, although the city got a wink for pluck."
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood"
"They are blue. Great murderers, like great men in other walks of activity, have blue eyes."
"In all the workforce in the park numbered four thousand. The ranks included a carpenter and furniture-maker named Elias Disney, who in coming years would tell many stories about the construction of this magical realm beside the lake. His son Walt would take note."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America₂s 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 fairgrounds₇a 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.

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Book description
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 H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. --John Moe

Ar 9.2, 23 Pts
Haiku summary
Grizzly killings in

the shadow of great World's Fair

held in Chicago.

(legallypuzzled)
A glittering fair,
Like a white gauze covering,
Horrifying scars.
(hillaryrose7)

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