DWCityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, or The Devil in the White City, is a nonfiction book by Erik Larson with a literary narrative detailing the 1893 World’s Fair and murders from a serial killer. The two protagonists, of sorts, are American architect Daniel Burnham and one of America’s first serial killers H.H. Holmes.

Burnham is the architect of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Burnham struggles throughout the book to create the fair, and attempts to do it for the betterment of the reputation of Chicago. After his partner dies, he has many problems and obstacles to face, including construction injuries and deaths, and the need to find a better central attraction than the Eiffel Tower. He eventually overcomes these obstacles and the fair is a success. However, once it ends, Chicago’s mayor is assassinated.

H.H. Holmes is a serial killer who uses the Chicago World’s Fair to lure his victims to his murder house that he had built, complete with secret passages and laundry chutes of sorts that lead to the basement. However, those chutes are not for clothes; they are for him to dispose of dead bodies, which he disposes of in a kiln. He flees Chicago after nearly being caught, and is arrested later in Philadelphia.

The book’s movie rights were purchased by Leonardo DiCaprio in 2010; however, no film has been made as of yet. The book is available for purchase here.


Back to Crime Library