Classic Chicago

Devil in the White City

A killer walked among Chicago's Columbian Exposition fairgoers


In 1871, the thriving, growing Metropolis built around the Chicago River was virtually leveled overnight and left 100,000 people homeless. However, Chicago didn’t get its reputation of having big shoulders for nothing. Its citizens banded together, rebuilt the city and Chicago roared back to life. So much so, that 20 years later, Chicago hosted the world and welcomed it to its Daniel Burnham-designed White City for the 1893 World’s Fair.

While millions sought to marvel in the fair’s majesty, one man came to prey on the weak and wreak havoc on the wide-eyed and nimble hearted. A serial killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes, aka Herman Webster Mudgett, built the “World’s Fair Hotel,” which was really an elaborate “murder castle” in the city’s Englewood neighborhood. Inside, Holmes had a gas chamber, dissection table and even a crematorium to easily get rid of the bodies. Even sicker? He would often sell his victims’ skeletons, which he would remove before cremating them, and sell them to doctors and scientists who would use them for study. Curious to learn more about this true crime story? Author Erik Larson published the creative non-fiction book, Devil in the White City in 2003; Leonardo DiCaprio optioned the movie rights in 2010.

Mugshot of serial killer HH Holmes

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