It all started with the following sentence: “She certainly was a crackerjack”.
One sentence in a short story by O. Henry, called To Him Who Waits.
It was just a description of a beautiful girl.
Instead of writing “Beautiful” he wrote “Crackerjack”.
That’s his prerogative.
If this were someone else, I would consider the sentence to be trivial and ordinary.
But it was not someone else.
It was O. Henry.
By this single reference, O. Henry creates a connection between his own story and The World’s Columbian Exposition (otherwise known as The World Fair) held in Chicago.
Crackerjack means “great” and “excellent”. It was a popcorn snack covered with peanuts and molasses and was first sold in the World Fair in 1893, which marked 400 years since the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
This fair was something very special, enormous and impressive.
There is much to read of such an event, which inspired, among many other things, the writing of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).
Erik Larson wrote a book The Devil In The White City and when I stepped into the library one day – there it was: standing on a shelf, all firm and steady with its bold lettering, stating: “Number 1 in New York Time Best Seller’s List”.
So I took it.
Even though it wasn’t on your list.
There is nothing I could write, tell, say, elaborate, describe, summarize, incorporate, mark or deliver after the extremely comprehensive and thorough work Erik Larson had done.
It was truly serious research – so serious, that sometimes I had the sensation of attending a history class. Not at school. University style. Larson was so particular! So many details, facts and verifications!
I admit I initially thought it would be more “novel like” than it actually was (the reading was not always fluent: it took me a month to finish it, but I’m willing to blame myself).
Nevertheless, something has to be said.
The book is divided equally: one chapter about the architect – Daniel H. Burnham, who built the White city in Chicago, and one chapter about H. H. Holmes, a handsome doctor with striking blue eyes, the serial killer.
It was true I anticipated reading the chapters relating to H. H. Holmes more than I did with the chapters relating to Daniel H. Burnham, because they had more narrative in them in comparison to the architectural explanations of Burnham. But every time I finished reading such a chapter, or even whilst reading it, I regretted it. I think I was disgusted at least 30,000 times.
I just don’t get Holmes. Sorry. In his confession (he made three altogether), he claimed he was born with the devil in him and therefore, he had no choice but to become a murderer. He also had the audacity to demand not to have an autopsy performed on him, in order for others to try to understand the structure of his diabolical, twisted mind (they buried him in cement. Layers and layers of cement, so that no – one could touch his body). The question is, can we really find a scientific explanation for such a being.
How can anyone truly understand Holmes?
Was it the desire to control other people?
Is that why one kills 200 human beings? Because one gets a kick out of the ability to control their lives – or ending them, to be more precise?
What this also the case with Dr. Shipman in England?
This was a murderous mechanism of one person, who murders unknown numbers of men and women, who deceives them in the most convincing and sweetest of ways, and then strips the bodies of their flesh and skin (which he later burnt in his own “homemade” incinerator) and sells their skeletons to medical students.
As if Nazism’s ideology explains more.
Not an animal – animals do not act like this.
Not an alien.
Not a human being.
So what is he, really?
The Silence of the Lamb, 1991.
Mr. Brooks, 2007.
No Country for Old Men, 2007 (based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy).
Do we get it now?
I don’t think so.
It’s not that murder doesn’t exist. It does. But this is a something else.
I don’t even know what.
Is there a scientific formula to explain it?
An argument based of electric short circuit?
Holmes wrote that the devil possessed him.
Maybe it did.
Pure genetic evil.
Question is – where does it leave us, after reading The Devil in the White City?
Maybe I’ll eat one someday.
My regards to O. Henry.