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The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City Summary


Here you will find a The Devil in the White City summary (Erik Larson's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Devil in the White City Summary Overview

In 1912, Daniel H. Burnham, an accomplished architect and the mind behind the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, finds himself aboard the Olympic, immobilized due to his deteriorating health. He is reminded of his dear friend, Frank Millet, a distinguished painter for the Chicago World Fair of 1893, who is also on a voyage, but aboard the ill-fated Titanic. Despite his attempts to contact Millet, Burnham is informed of a disastrous accident involving his friend's ship, though he remains hopeful, as the Olympic is en route to the rescue. Rewinding to 1890, Chicago is in the throes of rapid development. H.H. Holmes, a young doctor, arrives in the city and feels at home amidst the disorder, and the opportunities it presents for heinous deeds to go unnoticed. When Chicago is chosen to host the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the city sees it as an opportunity to enhance its reputation. Burnham and his associate, John Root, are selected to design the Fair due to their architectural prowess within the city. Holmes, meanwhile, manipulates a local named Mrs. Holton into selling him her drugstore, only for her to vanish without a trace. Upon gaining control of the Fair's architectural design, Burnham and Root face numerous challenges including internal disputes, time constraints, and economic downturn. Despite these odds, and the untimely death of his partner, Burnham perseveres. Concurrently, Holmes marries Myrta Belknap and plans to construct a hotel with suspicious features, including vaults, gas jets, and a hidden basement, in anticipation of the Fair's visitors. Back at the Fair, despite numerous setbacks, it opens on time, with some parts still under construction. Holmes' hotel begins to host guests, who mysteriously start disappearing. Meanwhile, Burnham is implicated in a tragic fire at the Fair due to a construction flaw but is subsequently released. Despite financial challenges, the Fair manages to break even on Chicago Day due to record attendance. In the wake of the Fair, Holmes flees Chicago due to massive debts and plots to build a new fortress in Texas on the inherited land from his new wife, Minnie Williams. However, in the search for missing children of an associate, Detective Geyer uncovers Holmes' horrifying deeds, leading to his conviction and execution. The narrative comes full circle with Burnham aboard the Olympic, where he learns about Millet's tragic end on the Titanic, preceding his own demise by a mere two months.


The opening scene unfolds on April 14, 1912, introducing the renowned architect, 65-year-old Daniel Hudson Burnham, aboard the luxury liner, Olympic. Despite suffering from intense foot pain, he selected the Olympic for its majestic qualities and reputation as the biggest passenger ship in operation. However, before his voyage begins, another ship takes the title of the largest. Burnham’s thoughts drift to his friend, painter Francis “Frank” Millet, on this other ship. He tries to telegram Millet, but the operator refuses to send it. The narrative shifts to Burnham’s recollection of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the White City. This event, marking Columbus’ 400th discovery anniversary, ran for half a year. During its run, Burnham and Millet forged a strong bond as chief architect and chief painter respectively, braving numerous obstacles to manifest the Fair. They crafted a magical landscape filled with massive structures, lagoons and novel entertainment forms. The Fair drew influential innovators, societal leaders and introduced enduring products and ideas. However, the Fair was marred by disasters. Workers lost their lives or sustained injuries during construction, fires claimed additional lives and an assassination spoiled the closing ceremony. Moreover, young women who moved to Chicago for the Fair began to vanish. Gradually, as distressed parents sent letters, it was evident the women were last seen at a certain building. A mysterious man lurking in the shadows began to refer to himself as the Devil.

chapter 1

Chicago, in the late 1800s, is proficient at concealing its sinister underbelly. A lot of youthful, recently liberated women are drawn to the city's edgy allure, taking up jobs as office assistants or dressmakers. However, a few employers harbor unsavory intentions in recruiting these youthful, appealing women who are new to independent living. The city teems with indulgences and evils. Chicago's mortality rate escalates because of illnesses, fires, train mishaps, and homicides. The latter surges due to thefts or familial disputes. These murders, however, are unlike the 1888 "Jack the Ripper" atrocities in London's Whitechapel area. Such grotesque events were unfathomable in Chicago. Larson presents a young medical practitioner who revels in the city's disarray, smoke, and the scent of slaughtered beasts. He implies that there will come a time when parents will pen letters "to a strange and gloomy castle", seeking information about their vanished daughters.

chapter 2

On February 24, 1890, Chicago's populace eagerly anticipate Congress's decision on the hosting city for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Notable architects, Daniel Burnham and John Root, are among the anticipants. Post the devastating fire of 1871, Chicago had bounced back as an industrial and architectural hub, yet it was deemed culturally inferior to New York. Hosting the Fair would help shed Chicago's image as an uncultured, industrial city. The last World's Fair was held in Paris in 1889, where the Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure then, was unveiled. This had set a high bar for the US, and they yearned to outdo France. As the votes are tallied, Chicago is one vote away from victory. The suspense is palpable. A young man finally displays the last vote, announcing Chicago's win. Larson then shifts focus to Burnham's past. He had an aptitude for drawing but was an average student. Despite rejections from Ivy League colleges, he found his calling in architecture, becoming partners with John Root. Their firm, Burnham & Root, was commissioned by John B. Sherman to build a mansion, leading to Burnham marrying Sherman's daughter and Root marrying the daughter of the stockyards' president. Both Burnham and Root became successful architects, with their innovations revolutionizing Chicago's architecture. Their firm faced some challenges, including a fire and a building collapse, and they had ongoing tension with rival firm Adler & Sullivan. When Chicago secures the Fair, celebration ensues. New York's representative, Chauncey Depew, graciously concedes defeat. The World’s Columbian Exposition Company is formed and quickly appoints Burnham and Root as the chief architects. The task is daunting but the duo is ready. The expectation is to outshine France, and there's no room for failure.

chapter 3

In late summer of 1886, a well-groomed young man named H. H. Holmes arrives in Englewood, a Chicago suburb. His mesmerizing blue eyes make him stand out. He comes across E.S. Holton Drugs, and inside, he meets Mrs. Holton who confides that her husband is gravely ill. Holmes seizes the opportunity and buys the drugstore, renaming it H. H. Holmes Pharmacy. His charisma draws in numerous young women, leading to his swift success. Oddly, soon after, Mrs. Holton vanishes. Holmes' backstory, as Larson narrates, reveals he was born Herman Webster Mudgett in a devout family in New Hampshire. After graduating early from school, he took up teaching, where he met Clara A. Lovering, whom he married in 1878 only to abandon shortly. While studying medicine, he conspired with a friend to stage deaths using cadavers to claim insurance. Though Mudgett “acquired his ‘portion’” of the material, he found the scheme too precarious. After several job switches, he relocated to Chicago in 1886 and adopted the name Holmes.

chapter 4

The board responsible for the Fair is at odds over the location within Chicago. James Ellsworth, one of the directors, enlists the help of famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his associate, Harry Codman, to review potential venues. Olmsted suggests Jackson’s Park due to the picturesque landscape offered by Lake Michigan. Despite this, the board remains indecisive, leaving the architects with less time to plan. Patrick Prendergast, a diligent supporter of ex-Mayor Carter Henry Harrison, is introduced. An Irish immigrant, he fervently supports Harrison's bid for reelection. Prendergast is under the illusion that he will be given a job when Harrison is reelected. In 1890, there is impending news of a worldwide economic downturn causing widespread panic. The Fair's management fear the prospect of hosting and drawing a crowd to a World’s Fair in the middle of a recession. The board officially assigns Burnham as head of construction while Root is designated as main architect and Olmsted as lead landscape architect.

chapter 5

Holmes woos and ties the knot with a woman called Myrta. Z. Belknap, who relocates from Minneapolis to Chicago. He's particularly drawn to her "aura of vulnerability and need". He attempts to separate from his first wife, Clara, accusing her of cheating, but the case doesn't proceed. Initially, Myrta is employed in the pharmacy, but her envy of Holmes' dealings with women customers escalates. Eventually, she moves to Illinois with her parents and gives birth to a daughter, Lucy. Holmes maintains a connection with Myrta and Lucy by visiting, and presenting them with money and presents. Holmes acquires an empty plot under the pseudonym H. S. Campbell and drafts his own building plans. His design includes a hidden chute leading to the basement, a gas jet inside a walk-in vault, and a sub-basement for "permanent storage of sensitive material." He minimizes costs by dismissing workers without pay and procuring supplies on credit. Despite having the funds, he doesn't settle his debts and points creditors to H. S. Campbell. He sells off the pharmacy and constructs a new one in his building, incorporates more businesses, and relocates there in May 1890. Upon discovering that Jackson Park has been designated the Fair's location, he realizes his property's value has shot up due to its nearness. Holmes stays in touch with three individuals: Patrick Quinlan, Benjamin Pitezel, and Charles Chappell. Larson hints that Pitezel's kids—Alice, Nellie, and Howard—will gain nationwide recognition.

chapter 6

Following the selection of Jackson Park for the World's Fair, Burnham, Root, and Olmsted begin to strategize. They plan for lagoons and canals by the lake, with a main "Grand Court" surrounded by five grand palaces. In December 1890, Burnham journeys to New York to discuss building designs with five prominent architects: George B. Post, Charles McKim, Richard M. Hunt, Robert Peabody, and Henry Van Brunt. Burnham's meeting with these architects is met with slight enthusiasm. They doubt the feasibility of the timeline but agree to meet with Olmsted in Chicago later. Root joins the persuasion, trying to generate excitement with the promise of artistic freedom, to no avail. The two planners feel that they are providing a unique opportunity but are disappointed by the architects' indifference. However, a large commission convinces the architects to tentatively accept the offer. There is criticism from Chicago's architectural community as they feel overlooked by Burnham's decision to approach New York architects, leading Burnham to invite five Chicago firms to participate.

chapter 7

Holmes decides to transform his building into a hotel for the Fair. He assigns duties and constantly switches workers to avoid suspicion regarding his "necessary modifications." He also constructs a furnace-like structure in the basement, similar to a cremation chamber. He meets Jonathan Belknap, the great-uncle of Myrta. Despite feeling a somewhat unsettling vibe from Holmes, Belknap lends him money to purchase a house for himself and Myrta. Holmes then counterfeits Belknap's signature on a banknote. He extends an invitation to Belknap to visit his hotel in Chicago. Belknap denies Holmes' offer to visit the roof but consents to stay the night. Patrick Quinlan tries but fails to access Belknap’s room. The following day, Belknap learns about the falsified banknote, to which Holmes apologizes.

chapter 8

Upon their first encounter with Jackson Park, the Eastern architects are shocked and disheartened. The park is filled with dead trees, lurking quicksand, and volatile lake water levels, making it a complex site for construction. Root, upon his return to Chicago, greets the architects after their bewildering visit to the park. Despite acting unusually fatigued and unwell, he invites them to his residence the following day before heading home himself. In an attempt to foster excitement, the Fair’s Grounds and Buildings Committee holds a luxurious feast to celebrate the architects. Burnham and Lyman Gage, the Exposition's president, inspire the crowd with their speeches. Everyone appears to be on the same page. However, when they gather at Root’s residence the following day, the Eastern architects demonstrate a “listless and hopeless attitude.” They are concerned about the feasibility of creating such large and economical structures. Additionally, they express fears regarding the ground surfaces and the project timeline.

chapter 9

Ned Conner, his spouse Julia, and their child Pearl become tenants in Holmes' hotel. Ned is employed by Holmes in a ground floor jewelry shop, while Julia works in the drugstore. When Ned's sister Gertrude relocates to Chicago, Holmes employs her too. Ned finds Holmes' strong influence over Julia and Gertie unsettling. Ned, as a favor to Holmes, examines the vault for soundproofing. Although disturbed, he doesn't probe further into the vault's purpose. In Chicago, numerous people are vanishing. Parents correspond, seeking information about their missing daughters. The local law enforcement lacks the size and training to properly investigate. Unclaimed bodies that are discovered are typically utilized in medical schools for dissection or teaching anatomy.

chapter 10

The assembly of architects convenes in Burnham & Root’s library, though Root is conspicuously missing. William Mead represents McKim, who is in mourning for his mother. The group appoints Hunt as the chairman and Sullivan as the secretary, settling on a neoclassical architectural style for their work. Root falls sick with pneumonia and Burnham stays by his side, managing to also visit Hunt who is suffering from severe gout. Tragedy strikes when Root dies four days later at the young age of forty-one. Alone after eighteen years of partnership and friendship, Burnham finds himself torn between grieving for his friend and wanting to rectify erroneous newspaper reports that credit Root for spearheading the Fair, when it was in fact Burnham who did most of the steering. After Root’s memorial, Burnham resumes work while the Eastern architects return home. In another part of the city, a major bank in Kansas City collapses, prompting Lyman Gage to step down as the Fair’s president to save his own bank. Simultaneously, union leaders intensify their advocacy for workers’ rights while the community is anxious over potential fire, extreme weather, and disease. Amidst all this, Prendergast's sanity continues to decline.

chapter 11

Architects unveiled their designs for the primary fair buildings to the Grounds and Buildings Committee on February 24, 1891. Notably, Hunt's Administration Building, Post’s colossal Manufactures and Liberal Arts building, and Adler & Sullivan’s Transportation Building were presented. The committee was absorbed in quiet contemplation and later likened the gathering to "the greatest meeting of artists since the fifteenth century." Olmsted, aware of the intricate nature of the structures being proposed, feared it would leave him scarce time for the landscaping. His vision encompassed designing around water bodies, electric boats, and diverse foreign vessels. He hoped to subtly incorporate colours in his floral arrangements rather than using obvious flowerbeds. Meanwhile, Burnham was dealing with the pressure of a tightening schedule as various issues caused delays in the Fair's progress. Union workers were up in arms against immigrant workers, demanding union privileges, while the National Commission and the Exposition Company were locked in a battle over financial control, causing further delays. Sophia Hayden was the victor of Burnham’s contest to design the Woman’s Building, albeit her pay was only a fraction of what her male counterparts were earning. Following Root's departure, Burnham opted to bring in Charles B. Atwood of New York as the new designer.

chapter 12

Gertrude, Ned's sibling, suddenly states her need to depart from Chicago, avoiding eye contact with Holmes, a detail missed by Ned. Arguments between Ned and Julia escalate, leading Ned to suspect a possible affair between Julia and Holmes. Holmes, feigning concern, advises Ned to invest in life insurance for his family's security, even bringing in C. W. Arnold to present a policy, but Ned declines. Holmes then proposes that Ned purchase the drugstore, conveniently leaving out its significant financial burdens. It's only when debt collectors start showing up does he inform Ned about the irreversible nature of the sale. Following a divorce, Ned vacates, surrendering his share in the store. Once Ned is gone, Julia loses her appeal to Holmes.

chapter 13

Burnham is strained, leaving little time for his family. The Fair's massive scale hinders progress perception. The tension between the National Commission and the Exposition Company heightens. William Baker takes over Lyman Gage's position as Fair president. The architects fail to submit their designs on schedule. Jackson Park's soil quality slows down construction, notably at the site of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. Carter Henry Harrison barely loses the mayoral race in April 1891, to Burnham's relief as the former embodies the gritty, unpolished “old Chicago” that Burnham hopes the Fair will change. Conversely, Prendergast, who believes he'll be rewarded a government job for his strong campaigning, vows to work harder to ensure Harrison's victory in the next election. A dispute arises over the Fair's lighting. General Electric proposes using Thomas Edison's direct current system, while Westinghouse Electric suggests Nikola Tesla's cheaper and more efficient alternating current. Westinghouse secures the contract. Meanwhile, Burnham faces continual hurdles. Olmsted falls seriously ill in June, and the soil's manure makes the ground unstable with rain. The delayed drawings are finally completed mid-summer 1891, and Burnham manages to secure building contracts. To prevent further delays, he grants himself czar-like powers in the contracts, allowing him to hire, penalize tardiness, and settle disputes. Actual construction starts on July 3, 1891, with less than 16 months left. Burnham aspires for an edifice that would rival Paris’s Eiffel Tower. It is only when Alexandre Gustave Eiffel himself suggests constructing a taller tower that American engineers voice their support for a local engineer. However, no practical idea is proposed. Sol Bloom from San Francisco attempts to bring an Algerian village to the Fair, but the Fair’s Ways and Means Committee rejects his idea. He then takes it to Mike De Young, an exposition commissioner and San Francisco’s mayor. De Young, seeing potential in the ambitious Bloom, convinces the Exposition Company to recruit him to oversee Midway Plaisance's concessions, a role he reluctantly accepts. To mitigate risks, Burnham establishes a robust security and fire department, prohibits smoking, and plans for a water-purification facility. He also fortifies the structures to weather high winds. Bertha Palmer, the Board of Lady Managers' leader, becomes an issue for Sophia Hayden. Palmer suggests women nationwide contribute items as decorations for Hayden’s building, triggering a long conflict between the two women that leads to Hayden's mental breakdown. The Fair's construction site becomes deadly, leading to the loss of workers' lives.

chapter 14

Having fallen pregnant, Julia Conner consents to Holmes performing an abortion, only if he agrees to marry her. On Christmas Eve, she spends time with her friends, the Crowes. Holmes then takes her to the basement for the supposed "abortion," where he kills her and her daughter Pearl using chloroform. When the Crowes notice their absence, Holmes lies that Julia and Pearl have gone back to Iowa. Charles Chappell is employed by Holmes to prepare Julia’s skeleton, which he then sells to a local medical school. Holmes has realized that there is a significant need for cadavers within the medical field for educational uses such as surgery or anatomy.

chapter 15

Rising tensions and escalating violence rock Chicago as the Fair's costs balloon beyond predictions. Burnham makes severe cuts to the workforce to decrease expenses, fully aware of the potential destitution awaiting his workers. He galvanizes engineers at the Saturday Afternoon Club meeting, encouraging them to develop a design to surpass the Eiffel Tower. His speech motivates a young engineer from Pittsburgh. A feud emerges between Burnham and George Davis, the Fair's Director-General. In a bid to secure additional funding, the Exposition Company's directors propose to seek direct appropriations from Congress. This decision triggers an intense, comprehensive scrutiny of all Fair-related expenditures.

chapter 16

Benjamin Pitezel, under Holmes' direction, enrolls in a sobriety course in Dwight, Illinois. There, he is introduced to Dr. Leslie Keeley’s “gold cure” elixir and passes its formula to Holmes. With this information, Holmes goes on to create his own health retreat, the Silver Ash Institute. Pitezel also introduces Holmes to a stunning woman he encountered in Dwight, Emeline Cigrand. Taking an interest, Holmes employs Emeline as his secretary and begins to woo her. Despite being cautioned by Ned to steer clear of Holmes, Emeline pays little heed. During a visit by Emeline’s relatives, Dr. and Mrs. Cigrand, they become suspicious of Holmes’ hotel. Dr. Cigrand describes the shoddy construction as “gloomy and imposing,” but refrains from voicing his unease, respecting Emeline’s affection for Holmes.

chapter 17

The dedication date is postponed to October 21, 1892, and opening day is scheduled for May 1, 1893. Olmsted is irked by the slow construction that often interferes with his work. He persistently champions the use of electric boats and wants the Wooded Island in the lake to remain free of structures. Yet, Burnham convinces Olmsted to permit the Japanese to construct an outdoor temple exhibit. As March concludes, Olmsted, on the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion, falls into a depressive state. He leaves Harry Codman in command and retires to Europe to recuperate. During his stay, he visits the site of the Paris Exposition to ponder on his designs. He believes the Chicago landscape should be unpretentious and restrained, but he doubts if the Fair is overly extravagant. Despite receiving treatment in London, Olmsted's health doesn't improve. His daily carriage rides through the picturesque English countryside inspire him to incorporate "vines and creepers" in his designs. Sol Bloom discovers that the Algerians, whom he wanted for the Fair, mistakenly arrived in America a year too early. The Algerians are accommodated in temporary structures at the Midway. Following a call for designs, Burnham rebuffs a ludicrous Eiffel Tower competitor proposed by a Pittsburgh engineer. The architects collectively opt to paint the structures in stark white. This task initially belonged to William Pretyman, a friend of Root's, but he resigns abruptly when the decision is made without his input. Francis Millet, a New York painter, is hired to replace him. Millet devises a method to apply paint using a hose and nozzle, creating the first-ever spray paint. Chicago's tap water is contaminated. Burnham promotes the use of piped spring water from Waukesha. However, when a mineral springs company attempts to install a pipeline through the town, it is met with strong resistance. Burnham circumvents this issue by purchasing a spring in a town near Waukesha. A severe storm on June 13th damages the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, causing the collapse of plenty of lumber. Burnham prods the construction workers to increase their pace, leading to some unfortunate fatalities. The discord between the Exposition Company and National Commission is deemed to be the reason for the slow progress, resulting in Burnham being appointed as the director, thus granting him complete authority. The Pittsburgh engineer brings polished details for his proposal to Burnham. Although initially granted a concession by the Ways and Means Committee, it is retracted the following morning. The engineer's proposal is considered as an unprecedented, fragile "monstrosity", leading him to spend even more on the specifications. Olmsted returns to Chicago to substitute for the ill Codman. He is distressed to find his surface landscape ruined by construction, although the less visible foundations seem to be progressing well. He is relieved to learn that Burnham has chosen to use electric boats. Francis J. Bellamy pens The Pledge of Allegiance for schoolchildren to recite during the dedication ceremony. The ceremony takes place in the unfinished Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. A chorus of 5,000 members sings the Hallelujah Chorus, but due to the immense size of the building, they require a visual cue to follow the speaker. Harriet Monroe reads her poem, "Columbian Ode".

chapter 18

Prendergast pens an incoherent and disjointed postcard to Alfred S. Trude, a legal defender in the criminal space in Chicago, dated November 28, 1892. Trude dismisses the postcard as the work of a madman, but decides to keep it nonetheless.

chapter 19

George Washington Gale Ferris, a Pittsburgh engineer, secures a group of investors, establishes a board, and provides financial proof for his ambitious project set to rival the Eiffel Tower. His proposal earns the approval of the Ways and Means Committee in December. Ferris enlists Luther V. Rice, a fellow engineer at the Union Depot & Tunnel Company, to oversee the building process. He discloses his plan to construct a large, rotating wheel, but fails to inform that it will be capable of accommodating 36 passenger cars.

chapter 20

In the final month of 1892, Emeline Cigrand visits her acquaintances, the Lawrences, in a building owned by Holmes. She informs them that she's going to spend the festive period with her family in Indiana and there's a likelihood she won't return. Mrs. Lawrence observes a change in Emeline's affection for Holmes. Soon, Emeline's visits cease, disappearing without a formal farewell. Holmes explains that she married a man named Robert E. Phelps, even producing a marriage announcement to prove it. This, however, raises eyebrows for Mrs. Lawrence, who finds it uncharacteristic. She recalls seeing Holmes and two others moving a trunk downstairs. She suspects Holmes of murder, but refrains from alerting the authorities. The Cigrands and Lawrences are unaware that “Phelps” is a pseudonym for Benjamin Pitezel. Holmes commissions Charles Chappell to clean and put together the skeleton of a woman he received in a trunk. A woman's bare footprint materializes, imprinted on the inside of the soundproof vault.

chapter 21

Chicago is enveloped in ice in January 1893, causing widespread disruption. Amidst this, Codman recuperates from surgery for appendicitis, while Ferris embarks on his wheel's construction, battling the challenging frozen and quicksand terrain. Tragedy strikes when Harry Codman passes away, leaving a heartbroken Olmsted burdened with direct supervision of the fairgrounds. He seeks assistance from architect Charles Eliot, who upon realizing Olmsted's deteriorating health, arranges for his medical attention. By March, Olmsted appoints Eliot as a partner and due to his declining health and other commitments, departs from Chicago. He leaves Rudolf Ulrich in command with explicit instructions to ensure the Fair's design juxtaposes the white buildings with expanses of green landscapes. Amid all these, heavy snowfall causes the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building's glass roof to cave in. The only near-completion structure at the Fair is the Women’s Building.

chapter 22

Holmes' enterprises continue to flourish. He brings in money from various sources: the hotel, rent collection, a mail-order medical service, and the Silver Ash Institute, to name a few. All the while, he avoids paying for his hotel furniture, purchased on credit. He skillfully deflects inquiries about the missing women from the Cigrands, Conners, and private detectives, even claiming he would alert the authorities if he were to learn anything, despite being responsible for their deaths. While looking for a new secretary, Holmes reconnects with an old associate, Minnie R. Williams, who has relocated to Chicago. Her "plain, short, and plump" appearance is not what he usually goes for. Minnie and her sibling Anna were left orphaned in Mississippi. Anna was taken in by a clergyman, and Minnie was taken to Texas by her wealthy uncle-guardian. After her uncle's death during her third year at the Boston Academy of Elocution, she inherited a sizable Texas estate. Holmes had met her during a business trip to Boston and wooed her with gifts and dates. She fell for him even as he lost interest. Holmes proposes to Minnie under the condition that she refers to him as either Henry or Harry Holmes, even though she knew him as Harry Gordon. He doesn't legally document their marriage, leaving him still technically married to Clara Lovering and Myrta Belknap. He successfully convinces Minnie to transfer her Texas property to "Alexander Bond", another alias of Holmes. He then transfers the deed to "Benton T. Lyman", an alias of Pitezel. Holmes now has control over Minnie's inherited property. Holmes creates a sham business, the Campbell-Yates Manufacturing Company. The company doesn't produce anything, but it's used to manage assets and keep creditors at bay. He lists the five owners as himself, Minnie, H. S. Campbell (the imaginary owner of Holmes' hotel), A. S. Yates (another invented character), and Henry Owens (a worker at Holmes' hotel).

chapter 23

As 1893's spring arrives, Chicago gears up for the impending Fair. A variety of international exhibits make their way into the city, ranging from a British locomotive and ships, to Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and German arms, even including sphinxes, mummies, and cannibals. Bloom takes the initiative to launch the Algerian village a year ahead of schedule, reaping financial benefits. Despite lacking appropriate music, he presents his belly-dancers at a club, playing a self-improvised tune on the piano that is now synonymous with snake charming. Unasked for advice on cuisine, fashion, and lifestyle flows in from New York. Adelaide Hollingsworth gifts a voluminous 700-page book chock-full of recipes and homemaking tips for women. Jacob Riis, a journalist, insists on the city cleaning up its streets, a massive undertaking. The Fair brings a surge in customers to Carrie Watson, the owner of a prominent brothel, prompting her to increase her staff. Post his electoral defeat, Carter Henry Harrison takes up the editorship of the Chicago Times, expressing a wish to rerun for the position of the “Fair Mayor”, provided public support. However, his ambition is met with criticism from the majority of leaders and newspapers who view him as a symbol of the unrefined past of Chicago. In contrast, he is seen as a friend by the working class. Prendergast, certain of his significant contribution to Harrison's growing favorability, is of the opinion that a win for Harrison would mean a debt of gratitude to him, landing him the position of Corporation Counsel - a common occurrence within the political structure. He pens postcards to those he believes will shortly become his colleagues. Another of his incoherent cards finds its way to Trude. In April 1893, Harrison secures his fifth term, oblivious to Prendergast's existence.

chapter 24

Holmes extends an invitation to Minnie's sibling, Anna, to come and see the Fair. His aim is to quell any doubts Anna has about him. Her trip is set for June.

chapter 25

As fatalities escalate and union carpenters demand better pay and conditions, the Ferris wheel construction stalls. The white paint also needs continuous retouching. Despite these challenges, Burnham's morale is high, particularly after McKim arranges a celebratory banquet for him. The progress is clear with over 200 structures and exhibitions already in place and non-union carpenters filling the strikers' roles. Olmsted's birds arrive and Buffalo Bill's show next to the fairgrounds sells out instantly. Still, the messy state of the ongoing construction challenges Burnham, with crates, railroads, and temporary roads scattered everywhere. Burnham and the union representatives reach a settlement, establishing minimum wage and overtime pay, marking a significant achievement for organized labor in Chicago and nationwide. Olmsted comes back to Chicago, disheartened by the incomplete scenery and awaits the construction completion for planting. He regrets delegating his business to Rudolf Ulrich, who has become Burnham's assistant, neglecting Olmsted's grand vision for the Fair's landscape. Despite realizing that his work will not be finished by the Fair's start, the visible progress energizes him. Joseph McCarthy, a milk seller, spots Prendergast wandering aimlessly with a hat covering his eyes, walking into a tree. A severe storm wreaks havoc on the Fair, causing leakages in the roofs of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building and the Woman's Building, damaging exhibits. The Ferris wheel's drainage systems fail to handle the water surplus, while mud converts to lakes. Around 20,000 workers labor day and night in relentless rain to rectify the damage. Olmsted's health fluctuates. His ordered plants have not arrived, and he is compelled to plant disliked flowerbeds to make the landscape presentable for Opening Day. The Fair's opening cannot be delayed. International guests descend on Chicago and a parade is arranged to welcome President Grover Cleveland. The Fair surpasses the excitement of the Chicago Fire of 1871, as newspapers get ready to cover the historic event. An announcement for Holmes' World’s Fair Hotel is prepared for some newspapers' inside-pages. On the eve of the opening, British journalist F. Herbert Stead explores the fairgrounds, encountering a discombobulating scene of "gross incompleteness," filled with garbage, empty crates, and freight cars.

chapter 26

High-ranking officials, among them President Cleveland, Burnham, and Mayor Harrison, arrive in carriages, followed by a grand procession to the Fair through the Midway Plaisance. The grounds have undergone a dramatic transformation overnight with ten thousand men clearing trash, planting flowers, and laying sod. Yet, the Ferris wheel is still incomplete. At eleven o’clock, the ceremony commences amid much pomp. The Court of Honor is packed with elegantly dressed attendees. The Fair officially starts when President Cleveland turns a gold key on a table covered with the American flag. The ensuing spectacle includes roaring steam engines, a central fountain brought to life, and an enormous American flag being unfurled. The crowd joins in singing “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” the unofficial national anthem. Opening Day is a triumph, drawing in excess of 250,000 visitors, despite the unfinished Ferris wheel. But, in the following days, attendance plummets, attributed to the country's economic crisis and “reports of the unfinished character of the Fair.” Banks across the nation collapse. The flowerbeds prepared for Opening Day by Olmsted’s team have to be dismantled. To lure more visitors to the Fair, Burnham tasks Frank Millet with creating enticing attractions. Millet arranges fireworks, parades, and days dedicated to specific states or groups. Despite these efforts, the daily visitor count barely touches a sub-profit average of 33,000.

chapter 27

Holmes' lodging starts to bustle, but only with women tenants. Despite the hotel's ominous atmosphere, the women are drawn to him. Minnie grows envious of the women, which causes a nuisance for Holmes. To resolve this, he rents an apartment away from the vicinity to distance her from the hotel. Due to the absence of communal spaces, guests either come back late or stay in their rooms. Holmes is unfazed if a guest leaves prematurely without settling her dues. Strangely, no one questions the charming doctor's chemical odor.

chapter 28

Prendergast is under the impression of an upcoming appointment as Corporation Counsel. He dispatches a postcard to W. F. Cooling, a fellow worker at a German newspaper in Chicago. Cooling is informed that Jesus holds supreme authority, and is offered an assistantship when the appointment occurs.

chapter 29

The Fair embodies the future of urban civilization. It stands as a beacon of modernity with clean water, electric lighting, and a robust sewage system, starkly different from the grime and haze of regular cities. It's the birthplace of many innovations, such as Edison's Kinetoscope, the long-range telephone, and the Tesla Coil. Novelty items like zippers, a dishwasher, Aunt Jemima's Pancakes, and the vertical file also make their debut. Visitors are mesmerized by the Court of Honor, their expressions somber as if entranced. The Midway, however, buzzes with life, featuring exotic performances like belly dancers in the Street in Cairo. The guards are constantly barraged with inquiries. Buffalo Bill's Wild West show becomes a massive hit. Despite being denied a spot within Jackson Park, Cody, the proprietor, sets up his spectacle on neighboring land. He often draws larger crowds than the Fair, particularly on Sundays. When the Fair's directors refuse a request for a children's free day, Cody obliges, even footing the train fare and supplying unlimited ice cream, drawing in 15,000 children. The show's overall attendees peak at around four million. By June, the Fair nears completion, with all exhibits and landscaping done. The grandeur of the Court of Honor and its neoclassical design moves people to tears. Burnham, when leading tours, insists the Court of Honor should be the first stop. Among the visitors is the widowed Dora Root, who expresses a mix of sorrow and awe seeing her late husband's vision come to life. The only unfinished attraction is the Ferris wheel. Evenings at the Fair are spectacular, with everything illuminated by electricity which endorses the large-scale use of alternating currents. Visitors enjoy the novelty of walking around safely under the glow. The Fair's awe-inspiring aura is reported back to their respective hometowns by guests and journalists.

chapter 30

People start vanishing from The World’s Fair Hotel, which reeks of chemicals and gas. Despite repeated inquiries from loved ones about the missing people, the police remain oblivious or overwhelmed by their workload. Holmes relishes the terror of his victims, never killing them directly but rather through chloroform, gas leaks, or a soundproof vault. The pleasure he derives most from these heinous acts is the control he holds over the lives of his victims.

chapter 31

The inaugural spin of the Ferris Wheel takes place, with Ferris's partner, W. F. Gronau, supervising the event in his absence. Despite a worrying noise, Rice assures onlookers it's merely rust being scraped off. The crowd erupts in cheer when the wheel finally moves. Ferris is notified about this successful test run by Rice through a telegram. However, the wheel's boxcars are still pending installation. During this time, Infanta Eulalia of Spain, the sister of King Alfonso XII and daughter of the exiled Queen Isabel II, is also visiting. Her visit provides Chicago with a chance to display its newfound sophistication, particularly to New York. Various events are planned in Eulalia’s honor. However, she shuns formality, preferring to mingle with the crowds undercover and eat in the German Village. Her nonchalance towards the planned activities, which she often arrives late to, leaves early, or entirely skips, is interpreted as an insult by some in Chicago.

chapter 32

Minnie's sister, Anna, known as "Nannie," makes a visit and meets Holmes, presented as Henry “Harry” Gordon. Anna's initial doubts about him lessen upon witnessing his affectionate behavior towards Minnie. The trio embarks on a Chicago tour, with Anna being captivated by the grand structures, despite the city's unpleasant smell, smoke, and darkness. They also visit the Union Stock Yards, where Holmes remains indifferent to the slaughtering that leaves both women aghast. They proceed to explore the Fair. The immense Court of Honor leaves them stunned. The Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building captures their interest, especially. Anna's fascination extends to the locomotive trains, electric boats, and the elevated railway encompassing the Fair. The Midway section, filled with belly dancers, camels, a hot air balloon, a wax museum, and a house of optical illusions leaves her amazed. Their visits to the Fair become a regular occurrence over the next fortnight. Holmes persuades Anna to extend her stay for the summer, leading her to send for her trunk.

chapter 33

Mrs. Ferris, Gronau, Rice, and several others are the first to ride the Ferris wheel. The crowd rushes into the subsequent car, forcing the operator to halt the wheel, but no harm is done. Gronau offers that the car feels stationary, yet its speed is visible when peering out the window below. Reaching the peak, an outburst of cheers fills the air before a hush falls over the crowd, entranced by the magnificent view. Over the following fortnight, Rice and Gronau progressively increase the number of cars and riders. Ultimately, the wheel hosts 36 cars and carries over 2,000 passengers.

chapter 34

Olmsted embarks on undercover journeys to comprehend the low turnout at the Fair. His inquiries reveal that while people are intrigued, they've been deterred by rumors of its unfinished state. Many intend to visit after their harvests, once everything is in place. The economic downturn, however, raises concerns about the cost. The architecture and scenery are the major attractions for most, much to Olmsted's delight. In an effort to enhance the visitor experience, Olmsted proposes several amendments. These include mending the uneven, mucky paths, tidying up the premises, and eliminating the steam vessels allowed by Burnham. He also suggests infusing more amusement by having people in traditional indigenous attire interact with the public. However, Burnham finds these changes too understated, preferring the visitors to be overwhelmed by the Fair's magnificence. A ban on photography is enforced at the Fair. Burnham commissions Charles Dudley Arnold for all formal photographs. Nevertheless, visitors have the option to hire a portable Kodak camera, known as the first "snap-shot", though free photography is prohibited. The Cold Storage Building, responsible for ice production and preservation of perishable items, experiences a small fire on June 17th. An important feature in the design was neglected during construction, leading seven insurance companies to revoke their policies. Fire Marshal Edward W. Murphy ominously suggests that a bigger disaster is looming. Burnham, however, remains uninformed.

chapter 35

Ferris unveils his wheel to American engineers, and on June 21st, it begins accepting paying patrons. Larson notes that if the Exposition Company hadn't withdrawn their initial offer to Ferris, only to reinstate it six months after, the wheel would've been ready for the Exposition's inauguration. Many express anxiety over the wheel's structural integrity, fearing it appears too frail and a strong gust could topple it. Ferris attempts to dispel these worries, and Larson hinting that the wheel's durability will soon be challenged.

chapter 36

Visitor numbers at the Exposition soar to approximately 90,000 daily. Olmsted, although generally content, points out some faults such as the lack of a central entrance and haphazardly positioned snack stands. He acknowledges Burnham's successful coordination of numerous architects to create something so impressive in a limited time span. Concurrently, the national economy is in shambles, with businesses, banks, and railroads shutting down, inciting fear and driving people to suicide. Interestingly, the Fair witnesses minimal crime. It attracts a number of significant figures who serendipitously meet: Houdini, Tesla, Edison, Clarence Darrow, Paderewski, Woodrow Wilson, Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, among others. Helen Keller has an encounter with Frank Haven Hall, the creator of the Braille typewriter. Susan B. Anthony gets an invitation to Cody's Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. The city of Chicago takes immense pride in the Fair, the Ferris wheel in particular. The event is likened to a dreamlike wonderland that attendees wish would never end. The "grace and beauty" of the fairgrounds instills a belief in visitors that nothing terrible could possibly happen here.

chapter 37

Holmes, Minnie, and Anna marvel at the Jackson Park firework display on Independence Day. Anna updates her aunt in a letter about Holmes' proposition to take her and Minnie on an extensive journey to Maine, New York, and eventually Europe. He even proposes that Anna remain in Europe to pursue her passion for art. As Minnie gets their residence ready for the incoming renter, Holmes extends an invitation to Anna to tour his Englewood hotel. Through these actions, Holmes has managed to fully gain Anna's trust.

chapter 38

Even with the 4th of July celebrations drawing crowds, Burnham and the bank investors remain concerned about low visitor numbers. The Fair's expenses have gone beyond predicted figures and they need a daily footfall of 100,000 patrons to break even. The financial backers suggest setting up a Retrenchment Committee to trim expenses, which could involve layoffs and eliminating committees. Burnham is worried that this approach might put the Fair in jeopardy. It's imperative that the railway companies lower fares to Chicago and Millet comes up with innovative approaches to increase visitor turnout. The situation appears daunting.

chapter 39

Holmes shows Anna around his hotel, tricking her into entering a walk-in vault to fetch a document before locking her in. He listens to her panicked pounding and suffocating pleas, believing it's a mistake and he'll rescue her soon. Holmes revels in the control he now has over Anna's fate. He imagines revealing his true intentions by smiling at her, or speeding up her death by filling the vault with gas. The sounds of her desperate cries exhilarate him. Once she falls silent, he releases the gas. He then reunites with Minnie, claiming Anna is awaiting them at the hotel. Two days onward, the Okers, their landlords, are informed via a letter that Holmes no longer requires the apartment. A trunk sent by Anna from Texas arrives but is undeliverable, hence it's left at the station. During the evening, Holmes contacts a furniture mover named Cephas Humphrey. Humphrey transports a trunk along with a rectangular box that resembles a coffin. Holmes hands over clothes from "his cousin Minnie" to Pitezel's wife and gives Quinlan two trunks marked MRW.

chapter 40

Disaster befalls on July 9th as a violent storm wreaks havoc, tearing apart a hot air balloon, causing damage to roofs and glass but amazingly, the Ferris wheel remains untouched. The following day, smoke is seen emanating from the Cold Storage tower. A group of twenty firefighters scramble up the building with a hose, unknowingly walking into a lethal trap. Flames engulf the tower as a result of burning debris falling between the wooden structure and the inner smokestack. The base of the tower erupts tragically, leading to the loss of lives of the firefighters. Only two manage to escape by sliding down the hose. The others, realizing their fate, bid their final goodbyes before succumbing to the fire. A subsequent investigation by the coroner's office results in criminal negligence charges against Burnham, Fire Marshal Murphy, and two other construction officers. Despite the charges, they are released on bail without arrest. The accusation against Burnham shocks everyone, but he is supported by his construction superintendent, Dion Geraldine. It is revealed that Burnham was not informed about the initial fire or the defective construction of the tower. In response to the tragedy, the exposition directors initiate a Retrenchment Committee. Burnham fears that this action could potentially damage the Fair. He believes that the committee, tasked with approving each new cost, may not fully appreciate the importance of certain expenses.

chapter 41

A group of teachers from St. Louis, joined by journalist Theodore Dreiser, win a visit to the Fair. Dreiser becomes smitten with the reserved Sara Osborne White. His attempts at wooing her during the trip fail but eventually, she accepts his proposal. Despite warnings from his friend that they aren't compatible, they take the plunge into marriage. The Ferris wheel transforms into a site for romance, with the golden hour, the hour between five and six, becoming the most favored time. In a department store, Holmes encounters Georgiana Yoke, a young lady with striking blue eyes. Touched by Holmes' apparent loneliness and enamored by his elegance, Georgiana is easily charmed by him. They agree to get engaged on the condition that she would refer to him as Henry Howard, "after his uncle." Meanwhile, Mayor Harrison embarks on a relationship with a woman much younger than him. They plan to go public on American Cities Day, just two days before the Fair concludes on October 30th. This would be a chance for Harrison to present himself as the head of the city that "built the greatest Fair of all time".

chapter 42

The Budget Committee informs the Board that the Fair's expenses are "shamefully extravagant." They wish to control the remaining finances, but their proposal is deemed too extreme by the Board, causing the Budget Committee to resign. Despite previous criticism from New York, Chicago's elegance and sophistication took them by surprise. Charles T. Root, a New York editor, publishes an apology to Chicago for underestimating its ability to host the World's Fair. However, the Fair organizers still struggle to increase the number of paying visitors. They appeal to railroads to reduce fares to support the national event. The Chicago Tribune criticizes Chauncey Depew, a supporter of the Fair from New York, for failing to advocate more for affordable transportation. To draw crowds, Millet organizes various events. He sets up boat and swimming races, and plans an extravagant party called "The Ball of the Midway Freaks," scheduled for August 16th. The ball, hosted by celebrity George Francis Train, features belly dancers mingling with senior officials like Burnham and Davis. The attendees, dressed in their native costumes, fill the ballroom with energy. The event proves to be a unique success, highlighting the Fair's contrasting personas – sophisticated by day, and a lively party at night. In August, daily attendance exceeds 100,000. However, the economic downturn worsens, with banks and railroads collapsing. Incidents of suicides and riots increase while laborers demand reform.

chapter 43

Prendergast becomes increasingly restless about his awaited government role. He ventures to City Hall to inspect his forthcoming office, stunned when the clerk fails to acknowledge his name. He requests to meet with Kraus, the existing Corporation Counsel. With a tone of sarcasm, Kraus presents Prendergast to his colleagues as his "successor," asking if he would prefer to assume the role right away. Their laughter does not amuse Prendergast.

chapter 44

Chicago Day in October sees a significant surge in Fair attendance, weeks before its conclusion. Harrison encourages local businesses to shut down for the day, and the weather couldn't be better. A fireworks display is organized by Millet. Guards accumulate three tons of silver from the day's earnings, allowing the Fair to clear its debt. The previous record of 397,000 attendees set by the Paris World's Fair is massively surpassed. The Chicago Fair has a total of 751,026 visitors, setting a new high for peaceful public gatherings. The only event left is the closing ceremony scheduled for October 30th where Burnham is set to be acknowledged as the pre-eminent architect.

chapter 45

As the Fair concludes, its creators return to their daily routine. McKim departs quietly, conveying his satisfaction with the event's success in a letter to Burnham. The architects contemplate destroying the Fair, either by fire or explosion, to spare themselves the sight of its decay, a thought that Larson hints may be prescient. Olmsted’s declining health forces him to acknowledge his career's impending end, yet he remains content. Sullivan returns to his architectural firm, which struggles financially, leading him to dismiss his assistant, Frank Lloyd Wright. The Fair's closure leaves ten thousand workers jobless, many of whom end up homeless. Despite this, Mayor Harrison strives to provide them with temporary employment and shelter. Holmes also decides it's time to leave Chicago due to pressure from private detectives investigating the disappearances of several people. He attempts to commit insurance fraud by setting fire to his hotel's top floor and submitting a claim under the alias H. S. Campbell. However, the investigator suspects a scam and insists on meeting H. S. Campbell in person, prompting Holmes to abandon his fraudulent claim. The failed insurance fraud scheme causes Holmes’ debt issues to resurface. His disgruntled creditors hire George B. Chamberlin from Chicago’s Lafayette Collection Agency. In a meeting with all creditors, their lawyers, and a detective, Holmes offers contrite apologies and blames his financial troubles on an economic crisis. Chamberlin is taken aback when the creditors show empathy towards Holmes. When Holmes is asked to step out of the room, he seizes the opportunity to escape. Subsequently, Holmes insures Benjamin Pitezel’s life and travels to Fort Worth, Texas with Pitezel and Georgiana Yoke. There, he intends to construct another building on land owned by Minnie.

chapter 46

The Fair's closing draws near, leading to an increase in attendance. Millet organizes an extravagant celebration, including a Columbus' discovery of America reenactment. During American Cities Day, attended by 5,000 civic leaders, Mayor Harrison confirms his impending November nuptials to Miss Annie Howard. He delivers an enthusiastic speech on the Fair's achievements and Chicago's success, and suggests burning down the White City if it can't be preserved beyond a year. Prendergast, feeling slighted after his Corporation Counsel’s office visit, firmly holds onto the delusion that Harrison promised him a job. His calls and messages go unanswered. On American Cities Day, he buys a gun for $4, leaving one chamber empty to prevent accidental misfires. His attempt to visit the governor's office in the Unity Building is foiled due to his suspicious behavior. After his rousing speech, Harrison returns home for dinner. His maid, Mary Hanson, fields a call from a sickly looking stranger requesting to see Harrison. She tells him to return in half an hour. Soon after dinner, Harrison and his children retire for the night. The stranger returns and gunshots are heard. Harrison informs his son and a neighbor that he has been shot and will die. Shortly after, he passes away. Prendergast surrenders himself to the police, revealing that he shot Harrison for "betraying [his] confidence." He claims he worked on Harrison's mayoral campaign in the hopes of receiving a Corporation Counsel appointment. The Exposition Company foregoes the closing ceremony, opting for a funeral instead. Burnham finds participating in the procession challenging. The Fair began with his partner John Root's death and ended on a similarly grim note. Despite this, the Fair unofficially remains open till October 31st, allowing people to bid farewell to both Harrison and the Fair.

chapter 47

The harsh winter increases the number of homeless individuals, many of whom are former Fair employees, who find shelter in the cavernous, deserted buildings. The sight of the once grand Fair now abandoned is heart-wrenching for the locals. Charles Arnold, the Fair’s photographer, continues to capture these scenes. A fire, with no known origin, devastates several structures on January 8th. Labor disputes escalate, primarily led by Eugene Debs and Samuel Gompers in Chicago. George Pullman, owner of a railcar company, triggers a workers' strike by slashing jobs and wages without lowering rent. On July 5th, 1894, arsonists set fire to the Exposition's majestic structures. As the year after the Fair unfolds, authorities start to grasp the magnitude of missing persons. The New York World later contemplates the number of individuals who vanished from Holmes' "castle."

chapter 48

In 1985, Philadelphia's Frank Geyer, a detective, takes on the task of locating the lost kids of Benjamin Pitezel. Holmes, the perpetrator of Pitezel's faked death and a fraudulent insurance claim, is behind bars. Despite Holmes's claim that the death was an accident, the police suspect murder. The three missing Pitezel children are Alice, Nellie, and Howard. Holmes alleges they are with Minnie Williams. He confesses to faking Pitezel's death by incinerating a corpse. Holmes convinces Pitezel's spouse, Carrie, in St. Louis that Pitezel is alive and eager to see his children. Geyer uses unmailed letters from Alice and Nellie to their mother to trace their whereabouts. He investigates in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Detroit, collaborating with local officers in each place. Holmes' strange behavior includes staying in hotels before renting houses. Intriguingly, he kept his wife, Georgiana Yoke, in one Indianapolis hotel and the children in another. In Indianapolis, Geyer uncovers that Holmes intended to send Howard to an institution. Despite Alice's homesickness and boredom, revealed in her letters, Holmes kept the children nourished. Geyer believes Howard didn't survive past Indianapolis. In Detroit, Geyer finds Holmes, Yoke, the children, and Carrie, with her two remaining children, Dessie and baby Wharton, all registered in separate hotels just blocks apart. Alice's final letter to her grandparents reveals her homesickness, her need for warmth, and the absence of her brother, Howard. Geyer concludes that Holmes was engaging in a manipulative game of possession.

chapter 49

Holmes maneuvers to exploit his guards at Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia by posing as a perfect detainee. He indulges in the pleasure of receiving newspapers from the outside and takes delight at the sluggish pace of Geyer’s investigation. In the confines of his cell, Holmes pens his memoir, incorporating a "diary" which he purports to have begun the year prior. Larson suggests this is a fabricated narrative aimed at eliciting sympathy. In these memoirs, Holmes details his daily activities, expresses concern for his spouse Georgiana, and recounts his supposedly blissful childhood, though this is likely untrue. Furthermore, he sends letters to Carrie, insisting he is innocent in the demise of her children and Benjamin.

chapter 50

Geyer teams up with Detective Alf Cuddy in Toronto, discovering that Holmes had been there with three different groups. Thomas Ryves provides a crucial lead, suspecting his neighbor in October 1894 was Holmes after reading a newspaper description. Famed in America for his detective work, Geyer's investigations are widely followed in the press. Holmes's motives baffle him as it appears Holmes is just toying with people for his own amusement. The whereabouts of the Pitezel children remain a mystery. Ryves reveals that his peculiar neighbor only moved in with a bed and a trunk, once borrowing a shovel for storing potatoes in his basement. Oddly enough, he vacated the next day after returning the shovel. A grim discovery awaits Geyer at this house - he unearths the naked bodies of Alice and Nellie Pitezel, buried three feet deep in the basement. Nellie's feet had been removed to disguise her clubfoot that made her easily recognizable. The sight of Nellie's detached scalp due to her heavy black hair is particularly horrifying. Their mother comes to Toronto for the heartbreaking task of identification. No sign of Howard yet.

chapter 51

Holmes, while incarcerated, learns of the finding and mourns, theorizing that it must have been Minnie who committed the murders. He declines to respond to inquiries, seeking out reporter John King to rapidly release his autobiography, hoping to rally the public to his side.

chapter 52

Detectives Geyer and Richards revisit Indianapolis in their hunt for Howard, while Chicago law enforcement explore Holmes’ Englewood hotel. They unearth vaults, gas valves, a kiln, bloody surgical instruments, charred personal belongings, and human bones in the basement. Guided by Charles Chappell, they discover four full skeletons. Holmes' hotel is suspiciously burned down on August 19. Geyer, alongside insurance investigator W. E. Gary, revamps their investigation journey through Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, in the quest for Howard. Geyer insists on revisiting Indianapolis, trusting his initial hunch. After tracking 900 leads across various towns, their final hope lies in Irvington. Here, Mr. Brown, a realtor, identifies Holmes as a tenant, marking a breakthrough in the investigation. Elvet Moorman, a local, reveals that he assisted Holmes in installing a woodstove in his rented house. Detective Geyer discovers Howard’s remains in the chimney flue. His mother verifies Howard’s identity using a few items, including a toy that Benjamin had gifted him during the World’s Fair.

chapter 53

On the twelfth day of September, 1895, a court in Philadelphia charges Holmes for the killing of Benjamin Pitezel. He also faces accusations from Indianapolis and Toronto for the deaths of Howard, Alice, and Nellie. However, Holmes insists that Minnie was responsible for the children's demise. The Chicago law enforcement faces severe criticism for their lack of knowledge about Holmes.


The legacy of the Fair still permeates American culture. Walt Disney, inspired by stories of the White City from his father, built the Magic Kingdom. L. Frank Baum and William Wallace Denslow's visit to the Fair sparked the creation of Oz. The Fair also gave us Columbus Day, the Ferris wheel, the Midway, alternating current, Cracker Jacks, and Shredded Wheat. Signs of its influence can also be seen in the Romanesque columns on older buildings in many cities. The Fair reshaped people's perception of cities, portraying them as architectural masterpieces. This led to Burnham being sought after by cities wanting to replicate the Fair's beauty. The Fair's Palace of Fine Arts, now the Museum of Science and Industry, still stands in Chicago. However, the Fair's architectural style was met with criticism. Some believed its neoclassical design stifled American architecture. This view was adopted by Louis Sullivan, whose firm fell into obscurity after the Fair. Sullivan's unpleasant demeanor cost him potential projects. He turned to drugs and alcohol, often relying on Burnham for financial support. Burnham, who was deeply affected by his rejections from Harvard and Yale, was later awarded honorary master’s degrees by both institutions. Although some credited John Root for the Fair's aesthetics, Burnham stated they barely had a plan when Root passed away. Root’s death motivated him to refine his craft and several of Burnham’s buildings still stand, with seven located in Chicago. In his later years, Burnham developed an environmental consciousness and predicted the end of horse-powered transportation. Despite suffering from colitis, diabetes, and a chronic foot infection, he never stopped working. In 1909, he confessed to a friend, “You’ll see it lovely. I never will. But it will be lovely.”


Olmsted's memory issues escalated into dementia and paranoia in the years following the Fair, leading his family to admit him to McLean Asylum. Regardless of his mental state, he recognized the asylum as his design. He lived with the regret that his long-term vision for his works was not fully realized before his demise on August 28, 1903. George Ferris moved his iconic wheel to Chicago’s North Side after a year, but the cost of relocation and a financial depression forced him to sell most of his stake in the wheel. After separating from his wife in 1896, Ferris succumbed to typhoid fever by November. His ashes were rejected by his estranged wife. The wheel found new owners in the Chicago Wrecking Company, who profited from its display at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. By 1906, the wheel was dismantled for scrap metal. Sol Bloom, enriched from the Fair, met failure with his next venture of shipping perishable foods that rotted due to a train strike. Regardless of this setback, he maintained an optimistic outlook. Bloom later entered politics and played a significant role in the establishment of the United Nations. Buffalo Bill amassed wealth that he invested in numerous ventures, such as founding Cody, Wyoming and sponsoring actress Katherine Clemmons. However, he lost his fortune during the Panic of 1907 and died penniless in 1917. Dora Root mourned her life with John but remained resilient. She expressed gratitude to Burnham for his support. Prendergast faced trial in December 1893, with his lawyers arguing for insanity. The jury, however, wasn't convinced, noting his intentional act to keep a chamber empty in his gun to avoid accidental firing. Even after a sanity inquest led by Clarence Darrow, Prendergast was sentenced to death.


Holmes faced trial in 1895 in Philadelphia for the murder of Pitezel. When Pitezel's wife Carrie took the stand and was shown the letters from her daughters Alice and Nellie, the court was filled with sorrow. The verdict was death by hanging. While awaiting his fate, Holmes penned a confession, admitting to the killings of Alice and Nellie and the premeditated murder of Benjamin. Despite the potential scientific benefits, Holmes declined any post-mortem examination of his brain. Following his execution, a string of ill-fated events unfolded. Detective Geyer fell sick, the prison warden took his own life, the priest who gave Holmes his last rites died under suspicious circumstances, the jury head was fatally electrocuted, and Emeline Cigrand’s father died in a boiler explosion. A fire broke out at District Attorney Graham’s office, leaving behind only a single picture of Holmes. Today, no gravestone marks his resting place.

aboard the olympic

Prior to his journey on the Olympic, Burnham wrote a lengthy note to Millet, who was on the Titanic, urging him to favor Henry Bacon as the architect in an upcoming Lincoln Commission meeting. However, Burnham soon discovered the disastrous fate of the Titanic and the passing of Millet. The Olympic did not come to the sinking ship's rescue, as another vessel had arrived and J. Bruce Ismay, the Titanic's maker, believed it would be too degrading for the Olympic to witness its sister ship's wreckage. Burnham survived for another 47 days, battling multiple health conditions including diabetes, colitis, a foot infection, and food poisoning, which eventually led to his death on June 1, 1912. His wife, Margaret, relocated to Pasadena, enduring both World Wars before her death in 1945. The couple was laid to rest in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, alongside many of their acquaintances from the Fair.

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