Devil in the White City
By using his charming personality along with his manipulative and witty characteristic, Holmes is able to target weak people and exert his power over them to avoid detection of his successful killings, piled debt and fraudulent behavior. Throughout Devil in the White City, Larson points to examples of how Holmes was manipulative, intelligent, and got most anyone he met to like him just by the way he presented himself. When he arrived to Englewood, Holmes first stop was the E. S. Holton Drugs pharmacy were he met an elderly women, Mrs.
Holton, working by herself because her husband was up stairs dying of cancer. Holmes, having “sensed vulnerability, sensed it the way other men might capture the trace of a women’s perfume” (Larson 36), asked Mrs. Holton if she needed assistance in the pharmacy. She agreed to give Holmes a job working at the pharmacy. After Mr. Holton died, Holmes offered to buy the pharmacy from Mrs. Holton in order to ease her sorrow. After selling the pharmacy, Mrs. Holton disappears and Holmes tells everyone “she had decided to visit relatives in California,” as time passed Holmes changed the story a bit and said “Mrs.
Holton, he explained, liked California so much she had decided to settle there permanently” (Larson 47). Holmes was so manipulative he made Mrs. Holton believe he was easing her burden of the Pharmacy by first working there for her, then buying it after her husband passed, but this was his plan all along. Little after Holmes moved to Chicago the magical Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, nicknamed the “White City” for its majestic beauty, built by Architect Daniel Burnham, was announced to be built in Chicago at Jackson Park.
Once Holmes noticed Englewood was a successful tourist stop, he decided to build a three-story hotel for the visitors of the fair. Holmes used the White City as his trap to lure victims to his three-story World’s Fair Hotel, nicknamed “The Castle”, which he designed for murder. Being the young, educated, attractive, and wealthy man Holmes was, he easily acquired the attention of many young women. “As he moved through the station, the glance of young women fell around him like wind-blown petals” (Larson 35).
Using his wealth and looks along with all his other positive features, he was able to exert power over his victims. He was intelligent and manipulative and above all he was a womanizer and was able to convince women, his victims, to believe his words, “he was good with conversation” and women liked taking to him. “Holmes listened with moist eyes. He touched her arm. He could ease her burden” (Larson 37). The upcoming fair presented itself as the perfect opportunity to kill. Holmes’s dark castle would become a hotel for the fair.
Young women from around the world would come to his hotel that would be waiting for them with open arms. Holmes’s victims were primarily women, but included some men and children. These young women would leave the protection of their parents and their own homes in their small towns and go to the big city of Chicago. This was perfect for Holmes since this made the young women somewhat clueless on how to take care of themselves, especially since they were in the city alone and had no choice but to speak to strangers like Holmes.
Holmes preyed on women who were alone, weak, and who saw him as a charming, wealthy young bachelor that lived in Chicago. As Larson explained, Holmes preyed on women with an “alluring amalgam of isolation, weakness, and need” (Larson 199). Holmes’s second wife Myrta’s great-uncle Jonathan Belknap from Big Foot Prairie, Illinois, came to visit Myrta. Although Belknap had never met Holmes he knew that Holmes’s marriage to Myrta wasn’t going well. Due to Holmes’s troubled marriage to Myrta, Belknap was prepared to dislike Holmes.
Because Holmes was well-educated, intelligent, manipulative, determined, and confident, he was able to convince Belknap that “he was handsome and clean and dressed well and spoke in fine sentences” for a man of so few years; this helped ease Belknap’s dislike towards Holmes (Larson 87). Holmes asked Belknap for a check of $2,500, which he later forges in order to doubles. Once the check is forged, Holmes invites Belknap to his hotel, where during the period of his visit Holmes plans to kill him. Holmes was so intelligent and manipulative that not only was he married to Clara A. Lovering and Myrta Z.
Belknap at the same time, he was also promising Julia Conner and Minnie William he would marry them before he killed them both. Holmes was so manipulative and soulless that he decided to tell Minnie he would marry her in order to get her to sign over her inherited estate. Once she did, Holmes’s main priority became convincing Minnie’s sister, Anna, to come visit Chicago so he could kill them both. Anna was suspicious about Holmes because she knew her sister was not the prettiest woman in town. As soon as she arrived to Chicago she immediately noticed Holmes’s charming personality. He was shorter than Minnie’s letters had led Anna to expect, and not as handsome, but there was something about him that even Minnie’s glowing letters had not captured. He exuded warmth and charm. He spoke softly. He touched her in ways that made her glance apologetically at Minnie. His warmth and smile and obvious affection for Minnie caused Anna’s suspicions quickly to recede” (Larson 264). By meeting Anna in person Holmes was easily able to gain her trust and to put her under his charm, just like how he did with the rest of his victims.
After having gained the trust of both women, Holmes planned to have the sisters tell everyone in Chicago and back home in Texas that the three of them are going to go to Milwaukee and visit 2 weeks in Maine and then go to New York then sail to Germany, London, and Paris since Anna is really talented at art. Once Anna sends a letter back home letting her aunt know she will be going to Milwaukee in the morning and visit 2 weeks in Maine and then go to New York then sail to Germany, London, and Paris with Minnie and her husband, Holmes kills them both.
Holmes had many relationships with women, all at the same time while also flattering the women who were guests at the hotel. He would just tell each lady what she wanted to hear in order to get her to do just about anything he needed, or even wanted just for fun. Once Holmes and Minnie were married Minnie started getting jealous when Holmes flirted with the female guests at the hotel, so in order to get Minnie’s jealousy out of the way he told her they should move into a house. “Holmes explained the move to Minnie as a long-overdue necessity.
Now that they were married, they needed a bigger, nicer place than what they currently occupied in the castle. Soon the building would be bustling with visitors to the fair. Even without the guests, however, it was no place to raise a family” (Larson 244). With Minnie out of the way Holmes would only let women stay in his hotel for he saw them as his victims since they fell for his charm and would do what he said. Once he got what he wanted from the women he tricked, he would simply put them in his sound proof vault, inside The Castle, and kill them.
With the completion of the World’s Fair, people found Chicago to be a place of interest. Once the fair opened many people including wealthy politicians would go to Chicago to visit the fair and thus crowding the city. With so many people reporting missing family members and many more people going in and out of Chicago, the Chicago police and detectives became confused. They did not know whether to protect the wealthy people at the fair or figure out where to start and how to track down any suspects for the missing people reports.
One of Holmes’s guests, Mrs. Lawrence and her husband, became friends with one of Holmes’s victims, Miss Emeline G. Cigrand, who went missing right before Christmas. When Mrs. Lawrence asked Holmes where Emeline had gone without saying goodbye, Holmes said “Oh, she’s gone away to get married” (Larson 187). After questioning Holmes more Mrs. Lawrence was convinced Holmes had killed Emeline. They didn’t tell the police because they thought none of the police would care. It was as if no one expected the police would be interested in yet another disappearance or if they were, that they would be competent enough to conduct an effective investigation” (Larson 190). Holmes left behind a powerful legacy of sorrow and darkness. He took advantage of the World’s Fair by creating a World’s Fair Hotel where he killed many women after he got what he wanted from them. Holmes’s charm, wit, soullessness, intelligence, and manipulative personality got him through the mid to late 1800. Works Cited Larson, Erik. Devil in the White City. New York: Crown Publishers, 2003.