Devil in the White City


DevilI finally finished Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, which I struggled through largely because my Boston book group which I rarely see is currently reading it and I’ll be back there to attend later this month.

While I was thrilled to finish it, I have to admit that Larson did manage to bring Chicago in 1893 alive — after the read however, not always during. I found myself wanting to revisit pages that explored Chicago’s physical beauty and presence at the time, from its slums to the grandeur of the legendary World’s Fair.

He looks at the lives of two men, the historical architect Daniel Burnham and psychopathic killer Henry H. Holmes. Burnham’s firm wins the right to create Chicago’s World Fair, which became known as the “White City.” This was a huge undertaking affecting the health and lives of a number of prominent men in history.

As a lover of great architecture, it was inspiring to read through one thread, a meeting where some of the greatest architects of our time gathered, unrolled their drawings and presented their ideas — each aware that something extraordinary had occured in the room that day. As one architect put it to Burnham at the time, “I never expected to see such a moment. Look here, old fellow, do you realize this has been the greatest meeting of artists since the fifteenth century?”

I got goosebumps reading the line and could also feel the silence in the room as each artist presented, wondering if they would outdo the other. At the same time, they realized that they were in this together, as a team, to create an awe-inspiring wonder that would only stand for the world to see for a mere six months, from May to October 1893.

All this magnificent creation right along side the life of Dr. Holmes, who had various aliases. Here was a man who managed to kill countless people, mostly women and children, all without police suspicion.

It was that last 20% of the book that I found riveting, when east coast investigators got closer and closer to uncovering the truth, a truth that makes you wince and your skin crawl simultaneously.

Writes Larson, “what motivated Holmes may never be known,” basing his account on known details of his history and behavior and on what forensic psychiatrists have come to understand about psychopathic serial killers and the forces that drive them.

Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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