Good looks, a “castle”, and a silver tongue helped H. H. Holmes become a prolific serial killer. Throughout the Erik Larson’s The Devil In The White City we watch Holmes coldly have women fall head over heels in love with him, take everything he wants and then he would kill her. The most bone chilling realization you get from the book is that Holmes doesn’t transition into a monster, he was born that way and the reason he becomes a killer is as he puts it ““I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.” (109)
This transition to full blown serial killer comes alive with his new found power as a hotel owner of World’s Fair Hotel. In the pivotal chapter of “Modus Operandi” the reader gets a disturbing look into his process of murdering the women and how coldly he goes about it. A calculated attack on the victim where he just heinously kill them in their sleep. Where Holmes will just wait until he lost the rush of his last killing to do it again, like a drug addict with unlimited money, the only thing stopping him at that point was him.
Unsuspected because everyone he talked to seemed to like him, and on the surface that made a lot of sense. He was a rich white male in his thirties that looked good and had the charisma to make Johnny Bravo look boring. With the police overworked in a regular year much less one where the world fair was being held it is not too crazy to see how it all turned out for him. He was able to get away for so long because on the surface it was just something that was normal, another woman went missing after staying at a hotel for a day.
The brilliance in Erik Larson’s book lies in the meticulous research placed in the history of the historic events here to the point where the whole world written feels real. You care for every victim who is about to be blind sided when Holmes gets what he wants and his wicked intentions come out. The evil personified that makes up Holmes is best put when Larson wrote in the chapter “Modus Operandi” with “He liked being near enough to hear the approach of death in the rising panic of his victims. This was when his quest for possession entered its most satisfying phase.” (257)
Simply put H.H. Holmes was a dreadful person who got a death that was well deserved for him. The calm almost disconnected dialogue he would speak in. The weasel like demeanor he has when running away from loan collectors. Yet with those there’s the charisma girls are attracted to like a moth where he’s the only light bulb. Larson wrote a genuinely interesting Holmes that stole the show of The Devil in the White City.
Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City. Vintage, 2004.
Jordan, “How a Killer Kills” presents a thoughtful examination of The Devil in the White City, focusing on “Modus Operandi” as a pivotal chapter in the book. Shifting your focus from description to analysis and eliminating errors of grammar, diction, punctuation, and style would strengthen the essay.