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The Devil's Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes

4.68  ·  Rating details ·  112 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Winner of the 2018 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.

H.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer. In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspira
Paperback, 121 pages
Published November 20th 2018 by StrangeHouse Books
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Sadie Hartmann
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: night-worms
You should know a few things:
This poetry collection won a Bram Stoker in 2018
These poems are based on "America's First Serial Killer" H. H. Holmes. If you haven't read, The Devil in the White City (a historical fiction novel by Erik Larson about Holmes, I highly recommend it as I believe that book only enhanced my reading of this collection)
Lastly, this book was included in the Night Worms package, "Feasting on Horror" November 2019 (and I am a co-owner). I was excited to buy this horror poetry
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I am / your American serial killer, wrapped up / in 19th century shreds of screaming women."

I adore Sara Tantlinger's poetry, and I am intrigued by the story of HH Holmes, so I knew The Devil's Dreamland was going to be perfect for me as soon as I heard about it. I started it as soon as it arrived, and it quickly became one of my favorite books I've read this year.

Sara's research was so in-depth, and you can see the love she had for this project poured out into the pages. Although the poems h
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure, I know small tidbits about H.H. Holmes, but I've never really read about him in detail or watched any documentaries. So this book of poetry is essentially my introduction to him, and it was perfect. Tantlinger doesn't assume that readers know the details, so she gives you small amounts of information for a number of the poems, including an author's note at the beginning of the collection.

Essentially, these poems gave me just enough to want to know more, while at the same time s
May 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
"You were never anything but
a delicious memory inside
the Devil's Dreamland"

Wow! A fantastically unique experience, getting to read the depraved tale of H.H. Holmes told in such a haunting, yet lovely format!
Tracy Robinson
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All. The. Stars. Amazing poetry collection surrounding HH Holmes.

I have always been fascinated with books, documentaries, and tv shows dealing with true crime, especially those centered around serial killers. Last year, I watched a Netflix documentary on H.H Holmes, and just before I learned of Tantlinger's book, I was already listening to a podcast series on H.H. Holmes. Why are my viewing and listening habits relevant? Because it made my reading experience so wonderful as I saw Tantlinger cre
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read an advanced copy of this excellent collection and provided a recommendation for the cover -- and now that it's out, I'm rereading it and in awe of how good this book is all over again.

The Devil's Dreamland is a deeply-researched and daring crime documentary, told through verse, that persistently invites the reader to contemplate the unimaginable through a historical autopsy of Chicago's historically heinous murderer, HH Holmes. More deviant and inexplicable than Jack the Ripper, Holmes i
Audra (ouija.reads)
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a true crime buff and new fan of horror poetry, this combination of both was a must-read for me!

The collection reads more like a story, following Holmes from his beginnings, to his first forays into crime and other ill pursuits, to the building of his murder castle in Chicago, and beyond. I thought I would read a few each day, but I got sucked into the narrative flow of the poems and ended up reading through it mostly in one sitting. It isn't the type of poetry book you would want to dip in a
Andrew Stone
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is great! One of my favorite poetry collections I've ever read. Def recommended for horror / history / serial killer fans of all mediums. ...more
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece. What more is there to say.

I am not one who reads a lot of poetry. Honestly I don't read any poetry. This was included in the Nightworms Feasting on Horror package for November 2019 which I purchased. The subject matter being America's first serial killer, a one H.H. Holmes, was intriguing to me but I was still a little wary as again I don't read poetry.

Wow! Am I glad to have stepped out of my reading comfort zone and read this. Tantlinger's prose is morbidly lyrical. She is able
Timons Esaias
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I used two poems from this collection as teaching examples, last year, when teaching the ins and outs of genre poetry. I had only skimmed parts of the book to find them, but now I've had the chance to read it cover-to-cover.

As I said to the author herself, "Wow."

The poems take on the story of Herman Webster Mudgett at several levels: the con artist, the serial killer, the madman, the metaphor for the coming 20th Century, and the possible Anti-Christ. The facts of the story are uncertain as it i
Aug 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A vile, violent, visceral triumph. This poetry collection took my breath away. From Tantlinger’s expert word choice to her own creative interpretation of Holmes’ psychosis, I just have no qualms. This is my second venture into Tantlinger’s work and it certainly won’t be my last. I now crave descriptions that will make my spine crack and my stomach twist, and only Tantlinger seems to be able to deliver this wish.

If you’re a poetry lover, a true crime addict, or a fan of horror, you will definite
Kasey Ashton
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
1st read of the year & first 5 🎃 book of the year 🎉. Who knew horror poetry could be so visceral, disturbing, & morbidly fascinating while also being beautiful & lyrical 🤷‍♀️🖤. Highly recommend The Devil's Dreamland, especially if you think you don't like poetry, this book may just change your mind or at least leave with a strong case of the chills 😱. ...more
Thank you so much, Sara Tantlinger, for providing me with a review copy of The Devil’s Dreamland!

This collection of poetry is inspired by serial killer, H.H. Holmes. & that right there is probably why I was so ecstatic to read it. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology & had a heavy emphasis on studying the mind of serial killers. For those who are unaware of H.H. Holmes, he is considered to be America’s first serial killer & committed most of his heinous crimes in what is deemed to be the ‘Mu
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime, horror, poetry
I'm in awe of this collection of poems. I already knew plenty about HH Holmes—I've read several books about his crimes. This is something else entirely. The scholarship is excellent, and she clearly knows her subject inside and out, and I mean way inside. The blending of fiction with fact is seamless as she explores the thoughts of the killer as well as those of his victims. There are some truly magnificent insights here, and some of them are beautiful, and some of them are chilling. And, on top ...more
Sonora Taylor
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 out of 5. A wonderful, haunting tale of HH Holmes’ life and misdeeds, all woven through poetry. Tantlinger’s verses are vivid, well-constructed, and creepy. I really enjoyed this collection.
Claire Holland
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dark-poetry
Tantlinger weaves a dark and stunning story. Highly recommend.
Andrea Blythe
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The Devil's Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes by Sara Tantlinger is a profound and chilling collection, which blend fact and supposition to relate the life and times of the man thought to be America's first serial killer. The poems are visceral with a fascinating narrative arc. I was excited to have been able to recently interview Sara for the New Books in Poetry podcast, which should be available soon.

Edited to Add: My podcast interview with Sara Tantlinger is up at New Books in Poetry.
Sarah Read
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love true crime, check. Love historical lit, check. Love horror, check. Love poetry, check. Love Love Love this book. I was fascinated by this concept from the beginning—a biography of a serial killer told all in poems? Tantlinger does an amazing job painting the life of H. H. Holmes and his victims. It’s done with darkness and sympathy and without flinching away from the horror of it all. If flows smoothly, then slaps you in the face with lines like, “are these not your father’s teeth?” Pure co ...more
Suzy Michael
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-books

Sarah Tantlinger takes us inside the mind and house of one of America's most prolific, and possibly first serial killers, H.H. Holmes. The Devil's Dreamland is a collection of poetry centered around the man and the mystery, taking a look at all aspects of his life in chronological order. Chilling and engrossing, The Devil's Dreamland is a must read for true crime and horror fans alike!

H.H. Holmes rose to fame with the horrific crimes he committed in the late 19th century, many of which occurred
Cassandra L. Thompson
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’m very strange with my preferences, I admit this. I like things horrific, but not extreme. I like historical fiction, but it needs to have some bite. I like poetry, but I need it dark in nature, with words that drip and cadence that flows.

So when I discovered The Devil’s Dreamland by Sara Tantlinger, I died. I have been obsessed with the demonic maniac that is H.H. Holmes for a long time (and yes, I also died when American Horror Story decided to play off him for Hotel), indulging in several b
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
The Devil's Dreamland caught my attention because some of the Ladies of Horror were talking about it. When I learned that it was poetry inspired by H.H. Holmes...well, how could I resist? Holmes (or Mudgett, however you want to refer to him) has always been pretty fascinating. As a serial/signature killer he stands out a bit. Most killers that fall under those labels tend to have preferred types and methods of killing and killing for monetary gain seems to be fairly rare. And let's be honest, th ...more
Amanda (spooky.octopus.reads) Turner
Who knew true crime poetry could be a thing? This one is such a good thing that it won a Bram Stoker award in 2018, and I can totally see why!

I was blown away by this collection I received in the Nov 2019 Night Worms package. There obviously was so much research and background work done to pull this poetry collection together.

I actually learned so much about H. H. Holmes that I didn’t know prior to reading. To be honest, I had a basic background of the serial killer and his crimes, but this po
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What an incredible read. I wanted to give it 5 stars just based on the premise, which is so creative and unique. Of COURSE I want to read a book of poetry that shows me the perspectives of the serial killer H.H. Holmes and the people he worked with, purchased medical items from, and murdered! Then I read it, and damn! It's amazing. It's really enthralling. The poetry format still came across as a full story and for those who might not enjoy poetry, it isn't what you think. It's better. It p ...more
Fred Shrum
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From dark poet Sara Tantlinger comes an evocative take on malevolent charmer H. H. Holmes.
Sara's tome is part biography, part blueprint and part history. All wrapped in poetry that will leave you breathless. Through Sara you will realize all the hallmarks of a killer in Holmes's upbringing. Psychologic knowledge that we didn't have in Holmes's time. "The Tenant" builds a sense of tension to a heart pounding conclusion. With "chloroform" unease turns into alarm. "The Kiln" reads like a tune that
Alex Gray (gray__pages)
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Young medical student, what do you keep
beneath the bed where I must sweep?”

I am new to the world of dark poetry. In my humble opinion, this gorgeous collection by Sara Tantlinger was the perfect place to start. This collection is based on the man known as America’s first serial killer, H H Holmes. What I loved about this book is that the poems told a story, from the beginning of Holmes’ life to the end of it upon his conviction.

Tantlinger’s poetry is like opening a door to a beautiful nightmar
Richard Leis
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, horror
To be honest, I'm reluctant to watch or read works based on real serial killers. I need the emotional distance of fiction in my horror. I also worry about glorifying and sensationalizing them, keeping them famous while their victims are always less well known or mourned.

But Sara Tantlinger has mostly won me over with her dark horror collection The Devil's Dreamland, and especially those poems that weave together what is known or imagined about the killer's life with the history of Chicago and co
Nina The Wandering Reader
Apr 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, poetry
I freaking loved this collection and how each poem chronicled the dark life and crimes of H.H. Holmes from various perspectives--his wives, his neighbors, his accomplice, his victims. Once I finished, I immediately wanted to learn more about Holmes because up until this moment, I knew nothing about him ( yes, yes I know I need to read Erik Larson's "The Devil in the White City")! So I will probably do a deep dive into the world of America's first serial killer now that Tantlinger has piqued my i ...more
Well Read Beard
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-books
Wonderful collection of linear poetry, telling one story - the life of the horrific serial killer H.H. Holmes. I love the format - It was easier to read than most poetry collections due to the it being a single story. I am all in with this type of book, I want more - a series of serial killer poetry collections? This is my 2nd book by Sara - both were ridiculously amazing reads - both have grown my love of poetry.
Jan 31, 2022 rated it it was amazing
By Sara Tantlinger

I must admit that I find H H Holmes as interesting as Jack the Ripper; if not more.

This collection of poetry was written in chronological order - from birth to what comes after death. This could have been a truly gruesome collection - but ir was written with such pretty words.

I have quite a thing for true crime poetry and it is something that I find really interesting.
Jessica Gleason
Aug 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was, I want to say, delightful, which is a strange way to describe poems about a serial killer. But, I found it to be wonderfully delightful.

As a lover of poetry and with a keen interest in serial killers, this was certainly up my alley.
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Sara Tantlinger is the author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and the Stoker-nominated works To Be Devoured, Cradleland of Parasites, and Not All Monsters. Along with being a mentor for the HWA Mentorship Program, she is also a co-organizer for the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter. She embraces all things macabre and can be found lurking in graveyards ...more

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