Erik Larson’s famed 2003 novel The Devil In The White City has an adaption in the pipeline over at Hulu. Word is out that Keanu Reeves is circling one of the two lead roles in the production. No news yet on which one. This comes from Deadline.
Which one is very important here. Why? Well, if you are not familiar with the story of The Devil In The White City and the gruesome legend of H. H. Holmes then read on…
The Devil In The White City is set against during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The two stories of architect Daniel H. Burnham and serial killer Henry H. Holmes collide. Holmes was a sociopath who built a hotel near the World’s Fair to lure victims.
According to the grisly history, the hotel included a gas chamber and a crematorium. Holmes would murder his victims sell their skeletons for medical study. The history states that Holmes killed at least twenty-seven people, though some estimates put it as high as two hundred. This is now somewhat disputed.
Born Herman Webster Mudgett on May 16, 1861, Holmes Holmes was also a con artist and a trigamist, the subject of more than 50 lawsuits in Chicago alone.
Thought to be active as a serial killer from December 1891 to November 1894, victims were killed in a mixed-use building that he owned in Chicago. This was located about three miles from the World’s Fair. He called it the World’s Fair Hotel to lure visitors to the attraction into staying there.
After the murders started to hit the press, it became dubbed “The Murder Castle”.
Despite his confession of 27 murders while awaiting execution, he was only ever convicted of one murder, that of accomplice and business partner Benjamin Pitezel. Some of the 27 he confessed to murdering were still actually alive at the time of his confession.
Holmes was executed on May 7, 1896, nine days before his 35th birthday.
A more modern evaluation of the case has led to accusations it was massively exaggerated for the sensationalistic tabloid press of the time. A combination of the ineffective police investigation, bad record-keeping, and these tabloid headlines means that historical record has been replaced by hyperbole.
Amusingly, it has been said that Meghan Markle may be a distant relation to Holmes.
A screen adaptation has been in the works for twenty years, since the novel was published. David Fincher took a run at it, as did the Scorsese and Di Caprio team for Paramount Pictures.
The Hulu adaption was first announced in 2019. DiCaprio and Scorsese are still attached as executive producers. Todd Field is set to direct the first two episodes. Paramount TV Studios will provide the heavy lifting with ABC Signature and Appian Way throwing in cash.