If you’ve been in an airport in the last decade, chances are you’ve seen the slick black copies of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City on a bookstore table. The non-fiction book tells the true story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and all of the elegance and innovation that came with its arrival. It also tells the story of H.H. Holmes, one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, who committed his heinous crimes around the corner from the fair.
Now, Larson’s bestseller has found its way to the screen: Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will executive produce a series based on the book with Paramount Television for Hulu. According to Variety, the project has been in development for more than a decade, since DiCaprio first purchased the rights and was set to star as Holmes. Scorsese came aboard as director in 2015, but the plans for a feature film eventually dissolved. News of the series came from Monday’s Television Critics Association panel.
The Devil in the White City focuses largely on Holmes, who killed as many as 200 people against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair, as well as architect Daniel H. Burnham, who helped design the fair’s opulent “white city” on the Chicago lakefront. Holmes himself was an architect of sorts; in 1887, he began construction on what would come to be known as his “Murder Castle,” a three-story building in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago that he made purposely disorienting to trap, confuse, and kill his victims, then send them to the basement to be experimented on and ultimately cremated.
The Murder Castle has been the subject of much fascination for true crime aficionados; Carden Illustration even released a puzzle version of the castle’s many twisting halls, abrupt rooms, and booby traps. Following his arrest, Holmes claimed that he killed at least 200 people in his home, although he eventually confessed to 27 murders.
No word on casting yet, but we hope they keep their sights set on a younger actor. Holmes was 34 when he was hanged to death for his crimes in 1896, meaning he was around 30 when he carried out the majority of his murders. Maybe someone like Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, who just won a Golden Globe for his work on the BBC drama, The Bodyguard. Like Madden, Holmes was a rather handsome man, who, like Ted Bundy, was likely able to get away with as much as he did because of that charm. Madden would be a great fit for the role.
We don’t have any other information about Devil in the White City at this time but we’ll certainly have our eyes on this project as it develops.
Image: Columbia Pictures