The Devil in the White City, was chosen for our local library book club read. Although as gruesome as the Hannibal Lector stories, it is not a work of fiction, but of H.H. Holmes who was thought to be the first American serial killer. Holmes is only one of Herman Webster Mudgett's alias names. Although his killing spree mostly took place in a strange Chicago hotel, later called the Murder Castle, he is known to local Fort Worth historians as O.C. Pratt which is the name he used when, after marrying Minnie Williams a railroad heiress, he tried to construct a second Murder Castle in Texas on the property Minnie Williams had inherited (thought to be on the corner of Rusk and Second Street).
The Chicago hotel he built had windowless rooms, angled doorways and stairs leading nowhere. Doors could only be opened from the outside and some rooms had ducts through which he spewed murderous gases. The basement was designed as a torture chamber and crematorium.
H. H. Holmes' confession after he was captured in 1896 and admitted to 27 murders (the true toll is thought to be over 200) was:
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 song.
He felt the need to murder and mutilate early in his "career" starting with animals whom he performed surgery on. He stole bodies from Michigan Medical School then took out insurance policies on the deceased and made their deaths look like accidents. When the World's Fair opened in Chicago, he lured visitors to his hotel and advertised for hotel workers who soon disappeared. But it was fraudulent insurance schemes that led to his demise.
Production for The Devil in the White City movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio is in the works.