The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

Downloadable Audiobook - 2003
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Investigative reporter Erik Larson unearths the lost history of the 1893 World's Fair and of a madman who grimly parodied the fair's achievements. The "White City" was a magical creation constructed upon Chicago's swampy Jackson Park by a roster of architectural stars, including Daniel H. Burnham, Frederick Olmstead, and Louis Sullivan. Drawing 27 million visitors in six months, the fair gathered the era's brightest intellectual lights and launched innovations like Juicy Fruit gum, Cracker Jacks, and the Ferris wheel. Nearby, Dr. Henry Holmes built "the World's Fair Hotel," a torture palace to which he lured 27 victims, mostly young women. While the fair ushered in a new epoch in American history, Holmes marked the emergence of the serial killer, who thrived on the forces transforming the country.
Publisher: [Santa Ana, Calif.] : Books on Tape, 2003
ISBN: 0739353012 (sound recording : OverDrive Audio Book)
9780739353011 (sound recording : OverDrive Audio Book)
Branch Call Number: eAUDFILE 364.1523 LAR
Additional Contributors: Brick, Scott

Opinion

From Library Staff

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s 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 imp... Read More »

An account of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 relates the stories of two men who shaped the history of the event--architect Daniel H. Burnham, who coordinated its construction, and serial killer Herman Mudgett.--by the Publisher


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r
RescueDog
Sep 11, 2017

Something about this reader is hard for me to listen to. I find myself daydreaming and not paying attention. I was really having a hard time getting interested in this book, which I knew should have fascinated me. Then, finally, the fair got off the ground & I was hooked! I also switched to the Kindle version which helped. I decided to go back and read the entire book on the Kindle after finishing it on CD and I'm enjoying it very much!
I have 1 serious problem with Erik Larson. He names every person who has any involvement at all in the story, no matter how remote. I know he's using this device to show how thorough his research was & to give the story more credibility. I respect that, but I need help! I can't possibly remember all those names. Then when somebody comes up again (most of them don't) I can't remember who they were. Please Mr. Larson, give me some help! Name these minor players in footnotes or parentheses. Or put a list of main characters in the front so I know who to try harder to remember. I can only really follow these books using the Kindle so that I can search the character names as I encounter them.
I'm so jealous that I didn't get to attend the fair! It sounds like it was wonderful!

j
jandt_mcmurray
Jun 07, 2017

Whoa. What a messed-up dude! Technically the book followed 2 men: Daniel Burnham, 1893 Chicago World's Fair master architect, & Henry Holmes, a young, ambitious doctor that found his kicks in murdering young, vulnerable women. You can probably guess which man I was referring to when I said he was a messed-up dude. The 2 men's lives were intertwined in that they are both heavily linked to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The book jumps back-&-forth between the creation & building up of the fair & the creation & building of Holmes' murder hotel. To see the 2 separate designs & dreams take shape is simply fascinating --- & chilling. This fair brought about the creation of 2 major things: the ferris wheel & the psychopath. Again...I think you can pin these things correctly to the 2 main characters (although technically the ferris wheel wasn't created by Burnham, but it was the new creation & big hit that put Burnham's fair on the map).

Age recommendation: 16 & up (murder, mutilation of the human body)

On a scale of 1-10 stars, I give it 9.

i
IV27HUjg
Mar 03, 2017

I have liked EL's other books, especially about the Lusitania. This one just never took hold & I've grown to so dislike the reading by Scott Brick that he ruins any book for me.

SaraLovesBooks Dec 20, 2016

I have really enjoyed this read. I knew about H.H. Holmes, of course, and his "Murder Castle" in Chicago during the World's Fair. I did not, however, know about everything that went into the making of a World's Fair. I enjoyed how Larson went back and forth between the planners of the World's Fair, and H.H. Holmes and his victims. The final part of the book is about the investigation of H.H. Holmes, and the finding of the three Pitezel children.

The book is really well-written, and has been meticulously researched. It was hard, initially for me to get into, which is why the book is four and a half stars, rather than five stars. In a lot of ways, early on, it felt like Larson had never met an adjective he didn't like. That made it hard to get into at first, even with the good narration. But I was glad I stuck with it, and got used to the writing style. I would highly recommend this book, for history buffs and for true crime buffs.

i
InsJavert
Dec 02, 2016

I have mixed feelings about this book. From the synopsis of this book, I thought I was going to read about America's first confirmed serial killer against the backdrop of the Chicago World's Fair in 1900; not the order of the serial killer first, the world's fair second. Now this may not seem important, but expectation isn't a trifling matter. The book was the exact opposite, with the emphasis on the fair and the serial killer, not in the background, but a secondary story (not even parallel). I was interested in the serial killer investigation. What I got was the challenges and undertakings of the worlds fair and all the people involved in it instead.

Now don't misunderstand me. This does not ruin the book, the research, and all the events Mr. Larson presents in his book. In fact, there were so many interesting things that occurred and the results of the world's fair we have today as a result of it, made the book quite interesting. As much as I would like to identify and comment on these things, I will not spoil it for those who intend to read this book. Needless to say, I was quite impressed and edified from what I learned in the planning, building, and opening of the 1900 World's Fair.

I want to rate this book with 3.5 stars. Three stars do not give it the attention it deserves, but don't quite make it to my 4 star requirement. To met that requirement, I must totally drawn into the story as well as take away from the book, a lingering question, something to contemplate and further reflect on, or be so moved by an act or event. Again, interesting material, but did not take away any of my requirements.

This book is not for everyone. For example, romance readers will definitely find this a boring and laborious read. But if you are interested in history and good factual research, presented in a form and fashion that as you are reading the book, it is equivalent to being in that day and period and reading the local newspaper accounts of the time and being fully engulfed by it. On this account, Mr. Larson did quite a good job bringing the accounts of both the fair and serial killer to the reader. The example is how I read the book.

All in all, a well written account in American history, very well and deeply researched, but presented in a way that the reader, learns from the research in a way that is comprehensible and understandable to them.

AL_LESLEY Nov 10, 2016

Larson is a master in taking history and compiling it into a comprehensive, well constructed and above all highly entertaining read. I however enjoyed Isaac's Storm and Dead Wake oh so very much that this book and In the Garden of Beasts just couldn't pull me in nearly as much.

JCLJoyceM Aug 31, 2016

A fascinating and well-researched book about the troubles involved in building a magnificent display ground for the Chicago World’s Fair, one that would rival the fair in Paris that unveiled Eiffel’s tower. With all the disagreements about designing the buildings and grounds, it’s a wonder the fair took place at all. At the same time, a murderer is quietly manipulating female victims drawn to the city and the fair. I appreciated hearing details about his research at the end and his favorite resources, since the drawback to listening to the book is not seeing the footnotes.

j
jtfarley
Apr 22, 2016

Engaging and well-written account that I really looked forward to listening to any time I had the chance. As a Chicago resident, it had me really thinking a lot about the history of my city!

l
laura7999
Apr 17, 2015

Great book that will be a movie soon with Leonardo DiCaprio. Can't wait!

s
SuzeParker
Oct 06, 2012

Juxtaposing the creation of the 1893 World's Fair with the story of the serial killer who capitalized on the fair to lure his victims, Larson admirably brings to light everything that was both extraordinary and horrific about Chicago at the turn of the century.

Beating out New York as the site of the World's Fair, Chicago had something to prove. In the face of every possible obstacle, including bickering by committees that left a too-short time frame to accomplish the task, severe financial woes, union strikes and a fire that heavily damaged the enormous main building a short time before the event's opening, the fair succeeded only because of the brilliance, tenacity and political savvy of Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, tapped to organize and construct the fair and to oversee its operations.

The story of H.H. Holmes, America's first known serial killer, lends a creepy undertone to the sparkling "white city," as the fair was called. Holmes constructed a mammoth hotel-cum-slaughterhouse not far from the fairgrounds, equipping it with soundproof doors, gas chambers and a crematorium, and used it to attract victims -- mostly young, attractive, single women -- who had left homes and families to chase careers and self-sufficiency in up-and-coming Chicago.

The Devil in the White City is well-told and rich in detail that evidences Larson's deep research. The book impresses the reader with what a can-do spirit -- whether good or evil -- can achieve.

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jandt_mcmurray
Jun 07, 2017

jandt_mcmurray thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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