Capturing The Devil

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

As in her previous novels, Kerri Maniscalco is exceptional when describing historic descriptions of the time period; decadent illustrations of Audrey Rose’s finest gowns, accessories, food and decorations as well as the horrifying, detailed descriptions of murder that her, Uncle Jonathan and Thomas investigate. The main character, Audrey, is a fearless, sophisticated Victorian feminist who always endears her readers into believing about the respect of a woman’s choice and the power of true love.

When Audrey, Uncle Jonathan and Thomas first arrive in Chicago, despite the tang of smoke in the air the authors impression of the city is charming and accurate in historical perspective as a city that had been burned to ash but risen much like the mythological phoenix. While visiting the World’s Fair, the character Noah, a friend they meet from the academy, makes a comment about seeing the White City at sunset. As a reader, I had no idea what would come next until Audrey and Thomas see the electric lights come on across the grounds as the sun sets, another brilliant creation of a picture in words describing the exciting beginnings of electricity.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve encountered before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another. Every sentence describing the HH Holmes lair is masterfully crafted and terrifying. Capturing the Devil is an irresistible page turner that makes you wait until the final pages to find out whether Audrey and Thomas will die or marry.

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside New York City, where her fascination with Gothic settings began. In her spare time, she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Stalking Jack the RipperHunting Prince Dracula, and Escaping From Houdini.

Kerri describes what it was like to live in a haunted house, “It’s an old house with a lot of history! Parts of it are civil war era and other parts are Victorian. One of my favorite stories about the ghost activity was when my best friend and I were home alone making snacks after school and heard a child giggling in the foyer. We ran to help my mom and little sister with the groceries, only to discover they weren’t home yet. The TV wasn’t on and neither was the radio, so we were pretty freaked out. We stood there, looking at each other, fear creeping in, when my mom pulled into the driveway a few minutes later.”

Kerri also talks about her publishing experience; what she feels very similar to what writers normally do,” I have a bunch of trunked novels tucked into the depths of my office. I queried other books, got tons of requests, tons of rejections, and continued working on my craft. Some people call it stubbornness, but I like to think I’m an optimist. My agent plucked me from the slush, then I took an online webinar with her and it really opened up our communication. I have the full story (with gifs) on my website. She sent my book off to my (now) editor and the rest is history! BUT…I wrote seven or eight books before I wrote Stalking Jack the Ripper, and each one was a fantastic learning experience. It’s also important to note that SJTR wasn’t the first book my agent shopped to editors—we came VERY close with two other projects before getting that yes from JIMMY Books. My best advice for other writers is perseverance!

Why Kerri chose Chicago and Holmes is that she read Holmes’ jailhouse confession before she drafted Stalking Jack the Ripper, and it played a pretty large role in how she developed the whole series. From the castle in Romania, to setting Escaping from Houdini on the RMS Etruria, and even the characters from each book. I go into greater detail in the author’s note in Capturing the Devil, so I won’t spoil anyone here!,” she said.

This is her final book in the series but she is currently working on a new project that will be turned in this fall, and while she can’t give any details now, Kerri is totally obsessed,” I am thrilled to write a story that’s been flittering around on the backburner for years.”

Kerri has Lymes disease and encourages others to devour reading regardless of illness,” Reading has been one of my greatest escapes when my Lyme rears up and wreaks havoc on my body. I can go anywhere and do anything between the pages of a book. At my worst with Lyme, I could only read a sentence or two and then I’d forget what I’d read. It was frustrating, but it still gave me something to focus on outside of the negative parts of a chronic illness. Reading and writing remain my favorite hobbies; I credit them both with being a light to get me through the dark times.”

Capturing the Devil will be on sale September 10, 2019

· Book page on Hachette’s website

· Amazon

· Barnes & Noble

Find your local store at Indiebound

Chicago’s Most Haunted: The Congress Hotel / H.H. Holmes Murder Castle

What’s great about the Congress Hotel, one of the most haunted in Chicago, is you can go there, rent a room and stay the night.  Rates for rooms are not outrageous and you can spend as much time as you want to catch pictures of ghosts. They actually host a Haunted Halloween Ball at the Congress at 520 Michigan Avenue.

Originally constructed in 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel featured cobbled streets, gaslights, and horse drawn carriages. The hotel was originally called the Auditorium Annex when it opened to house the throngs of visitors to the World’s Colombian Exposition.

Many famous people and presidents have stayed at the Congress which include Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. And the most visible ghosts include Peg Leg Johnny who was murdered, a workman who was buried behind the walls in the balcony of the glorious Gold Room. The Gold Room and Florentine Room are still beautiful spots for special occasion parties and weddings.

The six floor has been known to have some strange experiences as well as the 12th floor where a mother and her children committed suicide throwing themselves out a window. Staff have claimed that one room is so dangerously haunted…they had to seal the room and no one will go near it.  Supposedly, one of the most haunted rooms of all is 441 and remember, it is not locked forever….you can stay there.

Another bizarre story at the Congress is that of the ghost, Dr. Henry H. Holmes who wanders the hallways looking for woman to to enrapture in his arms and murder at his Murder Castle. His real name was Herman Mudgett, Chicago’s first serial murderer, who went to work in a drugstore owned by Dr. E.S. Holton, in Englewood, a suburb of Chicago that is now part of the city.

And it was here Holmes would draw in young woman and visitors from the Fair. Missing woman were reported and some have said that Holmes had killed 27 women and other reports include even more even though there is no conclusive evidence of how many he killed. In July 1895, Chicago police and reporters began investigating Holmes’ building in Englewood, now locally referred to as “The Castle”. Though many sensational claims were made, no evidence was found which could have convicted Holmes in Chicago.

According to Exploring Illinois, Holmes, who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, had already racked up a fairly impressive resume of fraud, forgery and petty theft by this time, including, while still a med student, taking out insurance policies on cadavers he stole from the school. Holmes, though, was a hard worker at the drugstore and eventually bought it.

Holmes purchased an empty lot across from the drugstore, where construction began in 1887 for a two story mixed-use building, with apartments on the second floor and retail spaces, including a new drugstore,on the first. When Holmes declined to pay the architects or the steel company, Aetna Iron and Steel, they sued in 1888.[5]

In October 1895, Holmes was put on trial for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel, and was found guilty and sentenced to death. By then, it was evident that Holmes had also murdered the Pitezel children according to a Philadephia detective who found the children and had followed Holmes.

What was the murder castle like? According to Prairie Ghosts, the second floor however, proved to be a labyrinth of narrow, winding passages with doors that opened to brick walls, hidden stairways, concealed doors, blind hallways, secret panels, hidden passages and a clandestine vault that was only a big enough for a person to stand in. The room was alleged to be a homemade “gas chamber”, equipped with a chute that would carry a body directly into the basement. The basement was a chamber of death with devises and materials that indicated torture and murder.

The murder castle is no longer there and a post office remains in its original location but the story is well-documented in Erik Larsen’s, Devil in the White City and Leonardo Di Caprio plays Holmes in the movie. However, staff at the post office have seen strange sightings in the basement.