Martin Scorsese has enlisted Leonardo DiCaprio to play legendary serial killer H.H. Holmes in The Devil in the White City, a film based on Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.
DiCaprio will play one of the first documented serial killers in the United States and possibly one of the most ingenious killers in American history. Holmes had a hotel built, which he personally designed to facilitate his murderous appetites, and opened the establishment during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. While the hotel was officially called the World’s Fair Hotel, it would soon be nicknamed “The Murder Castle” due to Holmes’ activities. The hotel was constructed with gas lines that ran throughout the hotel and fed into guest rooms, enormous furnaces, lime and acid pits, and large vaults, enabling Holmes to torture, suffocate, and strangle his victims at will.
Holmes had worked up the perfect scheme. Once he opened his hotel, he would hire mostly single women as hotel staff and require that each of the women obtain a life insurance policy for which Holmes, who would pay the premiums, would be the beneficiary. These woman, once hired, had been marked by Holmes to be his first victims. Hotel guests, as well as Holmes’ own lovers, also became H.H. Holmes’ murder victims.
By the time it was over, H.H. Holmes confessed to 27 murders, though only nine could be substantiated. Ultimately, Holmes was actually suspected of over 200 murders.
The Devil in the White City will reuniteLeonardo DiCaprio with Martin Scorsese for the first time since the duo created the highly successful The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio and Scorsese have also teamed up for Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island, proving that the duo has what it takes to put out blockbuster hits.
The Devil in the White City has been labeled “in development” for the better part of 10 years, but it may take the big names of DiCaprio and Scorsese to pull it out into the light of day and make something of it. For those wondering if Leonardo DiCaprio has that serial killer flair, imagine him reciting one of H.H. Holmes most famous lines.
“Yes I was born with the devil in me. I was born with the evil standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.”
[Featured image: Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese courtesy of Mark Davis/Getty Images for SBIFF]