Chicago is a famous city for many reasons. Frank Sinatra sang about his love for Chicago, after all it was his kind of town. Chicago was and, still is, home to deep dish pizza, infamous gangsters, corrupt politicians, a crazy violent history, the blues and the famous Wrigley Field. The city also boasts one of the most famous sky lines in the world. President Obama served as an Illinois Senator and Oprah Winfrey called Chicago her home for decades. There are a massive amount of haunted cities in the United States, that confidently claim to be the most haunted. In my humble opinion, Chicago, Illinois, is one of the top haunted cities no doubt. No other city can boast even close to the amount of ghosts in Chicago.
A lot of people find it hard to believe in the paranormal. It's all about science and logic for some. But there have been many documented ghosts and haunted locations, especially in Chicago. But for those who believe in the supernatural or are curious, Chicago is the place to get your spook on. The main "sites" are on a map so you can walk around and explore at your own pace and go for a stroll, or you can take a guided tour, so that you can get the history the haunted sites, or just read my blog, either way. They say if you take a walk in the middle of the night, you may see some apparitions in windows, and other encounters are always possible. I would definitely love to do that. It sounds super creepy and fun, to me, at least. I'm a bit quirky and eccentric perhaps but I love to learn new things and visit new places. Maybe have a few glasses of wine before your night time adventure.
|Photographed during a Ghost tour|
Believe what you'd like. We now know it as the "the Windy City." Back in the day it was called "Sin City," by many, due to an extraordinarily dark history of epically fatal disasters. The ghosts reported to make Chicago their home, range from the ghosts of serial killers like; Gacy, Richard Speck and H.H. Holmes, America's first known serial killer, who still haunts his "House of Horror," where he tortured and killed unsuspecting, naive victims. I went into detail about that in my last blog. There are hitchhiker ghosts like Resurrection Mary, to the ghosts of the victims of Indian Massacres. There were also gangsters such as Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bugs Moran, and their victims, that made Chicago home to many of them in the afterlife. Tragedy is associated with ghosts and the paranormal. Usually if someone dies under tragic circumstances a ghost story follows shortly after their unfortunate death. This has proven to be true in most ghost "stories", especially in Chicago for it is just filled with stories of undeniably dark tragedy, violence, loss and haunts. I almost hate to tell you to visit and to enjoy such dark things. Alas, you and I know that would be a lie. I pride myself on my honesty. I'm not sorry, because if this didn't interest you, you wouldn't be reading my blog :) Undoubtedly if you have the chance to go visit, you should. I'm super curious naturally and have reason to believe in ghosts. I have added Chicago to my list of Haunted places I want to visit for my blog. So welcome to haunted Chicago!
|Plaque for Fort Dearborn|
Then came the fires. According the legend, the Great Chicago Fire was started by a cow that belonged to an Irishwoman named Catherine O’Leary. She ran a neighborhood milk business from her barn behind her home. Word got around that she had possibly, thoughtlessly, left a kerosene lantern in the barn after her evening milking. People started saying that her cow kicked over it over, igniting the hay on the floor. Of course, no proof of this story has ever been offered, other than word of mouth. And I'm sure no one else near her general vicinity had a lantern? Or perhaps a lantern and a drinking problem? There are always other possibilities. People love to gossip and hear themselves talk a bit too much at times. Alas, the legend took hold in Chicago and was told around the world. Regardless of how the fire started though, on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, Chicago went from a booming city, to a city in flames.
|The Great Fire|
|The chaos and looting during the Fire chaos|
In just over an hour, the west side of the city was in ashes and the fire showed no signs of slowing down. The fiery inferno was a force to be reckoned with and became impossible to battle, with more than a dozen different locations burning at once. The fire swept through the streets and buildings like a tornado, destroying everything in it's huge path, igniting more than 500 different buildings. One by one, these great structures fell. The "Tribune" building, that had been long thought of as “fire proof”, burned too, like hundreds of other businesses, that were reduced to blazing ash.
Prisoners, who had begun to scream and shake the bars of their cells as smoke filled the air, were released. Most of them were allowed to simply go free but the most dangerous of them were shackled and taken away under guard. No wonder the crime wave hit Chicago, when they had released that many prisoners? Just after 2:00 AM, the bell of the courthouse tolled for the last time and crashed through the skeletal remains of the building to the ground beneath it. The roaring sound made by the building’s collapse was reportedly heard more than a mile away.
|The Charred Ruins|
The flames were not the only thing that residents of the city had to worry about either. In the early hours of the fire, looting and violence had broken out in the city, probably due to the fact that they'd released the prisoners. Surprise, surprise. Saloon keepers, hoping that it might prevent their taverns from being destroyed, had foolishly rolled barrels of whiskey out into the streets. Soon, men and women from all classes were staggering in the streets, thoroughly intoxicated. The drunks and the looters did not comprehend the danger they were in however and many were trampled in the streets. Plundered goods were also tossed aside and were lost in the fire, abandoned by the looters as the fire drew near. This only added to the chaos of everyone trying to escape. The streets were filled with people. Crying children searched for their parents, random survivors roamed about, confused and in shock. There were the wealthy ladies who had panicked, and put on all of the jewelry they owned, there of course were prisoners, and immigrants. There were even accounts of nearly naked prostitutes who stumbled out from rented “rooms and areas” on Wells and Clark Streets, I guess that... closed business temporarily for them? Fortunately for them, hookers can "work" anywhere, in any city. Other people carried the sick and the crippled on chairs or on makeshift litters. The bodies of the dead were transported in coffins or wrapped in bed sheets. It combined to create a vision that most of us cannot even imagine today. With the prostitutes, prisoners, and wealthy jewelry clad women running around, that would have probably have been amusing if a horrible fire hadn't just ravaged the city and taken lives. Thankfully, the fire began to die on the morning of October 10, when steady and soaking rains began to fall on Chicago. The people of the city were devastated, as was the city itself. Over 300 people were dead and another 100,000 were without homes or shelter. The fire had made it's mark on Chicago, that was four miles long and about two-thirds of a mile wide. Over $200 million in property had been destroyed. Records, deeds, archives, libraries and priceless artwork were all lost although a little of it had survived in public and private vaults. In the destruction of the Federal Building, which, among other things, housed the post office, more than $100,000 in currency was burned. What a waste. Chicago had become a burnt and depressing wasteland.
After the fire, there were rumors of more looting in the city, though I doubt there was much to take at that point. It was said that criminals were now breaking into safes and vaults in the ruined business district. Local business owners hired Allan Pinkerton to deploy his detectives around the remains of stores and banks and soon, six companies of Federal troops arrived under the command of General Phillip Sheridan to assist in maintaining order. The city was placed under martial law with a curfew temporarily. As terrible as the disaster was, Chicago was not dead. It was shocked and shaken, but within days of the fire, rebuilding began on a grand scale. The vigor of the city’s rebirth amazed the rest of the nation and within three years, it once again dominated the western United States. Like a Phoenix, it arose from the ashes and became the home of the first skyscraper in 1885, then passed the one million mark in population five years later. Hopefully they hired different contractors that time around, so the city wouldn't be a fire waiting to happen, again. The Great Chicago Fire triggered the beginning of a new metropolis, much greater than it was before. No doubt, some of Chicago's many ghosts wander the burn sites in Victorian wear. The Chicago Fire Academy (on the site of the former O'Leary home) may be the home of several ghosts today.
Holy Family Church is the second oldest church in Chicago.
Father Arnold Damen, a Jesuit priest from Holland, founded it. In
October 1871, two drowned former altar boys warned the church's
parishioners that a terrible fire was about to occur. I'm wandering how they managed that? Did two little boy ghosts come to church? I think the Chicago Tribune had a more logical warning. Regardless, Father Damen
prayed that entire night and the wind shifted so that the church was
spared.Was it divine intervention, fate or just good luck? Seven candles are kept lit in front of the picture of Our Lady
of Perpetual Help, in memory of that miracle. I do believe in a lot of things. God included. Even miracles. Ghosts. But I don't quite get the candles. But it is what it is. Father Damen's ghost; dressed in his priest robe, as
white, filmy spirit--has been seen at the Holy Family Church on West
Roosevelt Road, and at St. Ignatius College, next door to the church.If
you see a priest walking briskly around the church or college,
keep watching and he may vanish abruptly. If he does, you're one of
the many people who's seen Father Damen's ghost. If you are an alter boy, run, less you die like the two "psychic" drowned alter boys prior. Did they die in the church? Was it a baptism gone wrong? Were they playing by a nearby creek? Who knows. I'm sure the story, as with all stories, changed over time and people came to their own conclusions. But never doubt the power of suggestion.
|Chicago Fire Academy- art made at site of fire|
|The Holy Family Church|
|Eastland Disaster Site|
|The Eastland Tipping over|
The big downtown stores sent wagons and trucks to ferry the injured and dead to nearby hospitals and makeshift morgues. Large grappling hooks were also used to pull bodies from the water. By late that afternoon, nearly 200 bodies had been taken to the 2nd Regiment Armory on West Washington Blvd. A police diver who had been hauling bodies up from the bottom of the river since mid-morning suddenly had a breakdown and became crazed, due to the carnage. It was a lot to take in. He had to be subdued by several of his friends and fellow officers. City workers began dragging the river far south of where the ship had capsized, using large nets to stop the bodies from washing out into the lake. By the time that it was all over, 835 of the ships passengers perished, including 22 entire families. Several hundred lawsuits were eventually filed but almost all of them were thrown out by the Circuit Court of Appeals, who held the owners of the steamship blameless in the disaster.
According to reports, many employees have had strange encounters that cannot be explained, including the sighting of an apparition that has been named the “Gray Lady”. Staff members would hear whispering voices, the laughter of children, sobbing sounds, old-time music, the clinking of glasses and marching of invisible footsteps, like those of a large group. They are frequently heard on the lobby staircase and nearby doors often slam shut without assistance. A large number of the staff members believe this to be a very haunted place! You think? It sure seems to be that way.
Most common were the claims of drivers who would see the girl walking along the road. They would offer her a ride and then witness her vanishing from their car. These drivers could describe the girl in detail and nearly every single description precisely matched the previous accounts. The girl was said to have light blond hair, blue eyes and was wearing a white party dress. She was pretty. Some more attentive drivers would sometimes add that she wore a thin shawl, or dancing shoes, and that she had a small clutch purse. Others had even more disturbing experiences. Rather than having the girl vanish for their car, they claimed to actually run her down in the street. They claimed to see a woman in a white dress bolt in front of their car near the cemetery and would actually describe the sickening thud as she was struck by the front of the car. When they stopped to go to her aid, she would be gone. Some even said that the automobile passed directly through the girl. At that point, she would turn and disappear through the cemetery gates. Bewildered and shaken drivers began to routinely go into nearby businesses and even at the nearby Justice, Illinois police station. They told strange and frightening stories and sometimes they were believed and sometimes they weren’t.
|Is this faded figure Mary?|
|Resurrection Cemetary in the evening|
|The seared bars|
The marks of the small hands made big news and curiosity-seekers came from all over the area to see them. In an effort to discourage the crowds, cemetery officials attempted to remove the marks with a blowtorch, making them look even worse. Finally, they cut the bars off and installed a wire fence until the two bars could be straightened or replaced. The cemetery fiercely denied any supernatural explanation of what happened to the bars. Their "cover" story was that a truck had backed into the gates while doing sewer work at the cemetery and that grounds workers tried to fix the bars by heating them with a blowtorch and bending them. Nice try. The imprint in the metal, they said, was from a workman trying to push them together again. But something had to have pulled them apart. A truck backing into it and welding didn't explain the small hand prints that were clearly visible in the metal. The bars were removed to discourage onlookers, but taking them out had the opposite effect and soon, people began asking what the cemetery had to hide. The events allegedly embarrassed local officials, so they demanded that the bars be put back into place. I'm not sure why a little cube of fence would really be missed, and it seems a ridiculous over reaction. Once they were returned to the gate, they were straightened and painted over with green paint so that the blackened area would match the other bars. Unfortunately though, the scorched areas continued to defy all attempts to cover them and the twisted spots where the hand prints had been impressed remained obvious until just recently, when the bars were removed for good.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Mary sightings reached their peak. It was during this period that Resurrection Cemetery was undergoing some major renovations and perhaps this was what disturbed her. Whatever the reason, she was definitely not resting in piece. During the 1990’s, reports of Mary slowed, but they have never really stopped altogether. They continue to occur today and while many of the stories are harder to believe these days, as the tales of Mary have become a big part of Chicago's history and culture, to such a degree that she is practically famous. Some of the stories still appear to be chillingly real. So, who was Mary in real life? She was pretty and loved to dance. Her white dress was a "Flapper" style dress, so she's also called the Flapper ghost, in addition to Resurrection Mary. Does her ghost still haunt the cemetery? Many remain skeptical about her, but many people are close minded, and simple minded if you want my honest opinion. Even if you don't want it, you are getting it. I'd love the chance to try and see her. While many may not believe in Mary, others are still seeing her walk along Archer Avenue at night and are giving her rides, that end in her disappearance, every time. So let the scientists furrow their brows in the lab trying to come up for logical solutions for that. Sometimes you have to throw logic out the window and take the chance to think outside the box, to expand your mind. Who knows, you might actually surprise yourself. Curiosity-seekers still come to see the gates where the twisted and burned bars were once located and some even roam the graveyard, hoping to stumble across the place where Mary’s body was laid to rest. I would definitely have to go to the Resurrection Cemetery during the night time as well. Mary remains very mysterious her legend lives on, not vanishing, as Mary does, quite often, especially when she reaches the gates to Resurrection Cemetery.Unless she's busy mangling bars.
Another phantom hitcher haunts the roadways near the Evergreen Cemetery Park, in Chicago. For more than two decades, an attractive teenager has been roaming out beyond the cemetery, trying to get a ride. A number of drivers claim to have spotted her and in the 1980’s a flurry of encounters occurred when motorists in the south and western suburbs reported picking up this young girl. She always asked them for a ride to a location in Evergreen Park and then mysteriously vanished from the vehicle at the cemetery, very much like Resurrection Mary. According to the legends, she is the spirit of a child buried within the cemetery, but there is no real folklore to explain why she leaves her grave in search of a ride, or travelers. She probably is just lonely. It would probably be pretty lonely and boring being a ghost. She is what some would call the typical “vanishing hitchhiker” but there is one aspect to this ghost that sets her apart from the others. In addition to seeking rides in cars, she is resourceful enough to find other transportation when it suits her. One evening, a young girl climbed aboard a bus and breezed right past the driver without paying the fare. She walked to the back portion of the vehicle and sat down, seemingly without a care in the world. Irritated the driver called out to her, but she didn’t answer. Finally, he stood up and walked back toward where she was sitting. She would either pay, he thought, or have to get off the bus! Not surprisingly though, before he could reach her, she vanished before his eyes! In recent years, encounters with this phantom have also taken place at a bus stop that is located directly across the street from the cemetery. Many have claimed to see a dark-haired young girl here who mysteriously vanishes. According to reports, many people have had the same eerie experience at this bus stop. Now, let's move on to other haunted places in Chicago. Sin City!
Bachelors Grove Cemetery has been investigated by Paranormal Investigators for many years and they all say that the same basic thing. Bachelors Grove Cemetery is one of the most haunted places they have ever been. Burials in the cemetery date back to 1830 or before and it is estimated that 300 or more graves are in the cemetery. People see what they call shadow people like a ghostly shape sometimes caught on camera.
|A possible ghost of Bachelor's grove?|
There are also darker spirits that shove people and demand that they leave the cemetery. Orbs are seen often in the cemetery. Many people over the years have heard a baby crying, and searched for hours for a crying baby they can not find. Police have been called many times over the years to find the crying baby which no one can find. It remains yet another mystery. The ghosts of Bachelor's Grove are slightly more intimidating than the hitchhikers. Watch your back. Because they will be watching you.
Located on Dearborn Street on the north side of Chicago, Excalibur is a three story Gothic style building that was built after the Chicago Fire. The building became a nightclub in 1989. It was the hot spot in Chicago for a while, before it was the site of the Chicago Historical Society. Excalibur is three stories and is one of the largest clubs in Chicago. Rumors of hauntings began after the Eastland disaster on July 24th, 1915. The building that is now Excalibur served as a temporary morgue for the people who had died on the ship. During The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, two women had taken refuge in the building that was standing before Excalibur was built. Many believe the two women died in the building and their spirits have remained.
In the Excalibar night club, some of the paranormal activity includes glasses and beer bottles breaking by themselves, cold spots and ghostly apparitions like 'The Lady In Red'. Present and past employees claim to have heard screaming in the club. Some of them say the screams sound like a familiar voice calling their names. The Dome Room of Excalibur is said to be the most haunted place inside the club. The club exploits the rumors of hauntings by having a 'Houdini Sceance' on Halloween and allowing ghost tours inside the building. Excalibur Night Club has been featured on the TV shows Sightings and America's Most Haunted Places.
It is said by some that, Wrigley Field is the most haunted ballpark in the world. People believe that Wrigley Field is haunted by Harry Caray, Charlie Grimm and the singer / songwriter of the Cubs anthem 'Go Cubs, Go', Steve Goodman.Charlie Grimm was a player and former manager of the Chicago Cubs. It's been said that his ashes are buried in left-center field. His ashes are not the only ones buried in the park. Steven Goodman's ashes are also buried in the park, under home plate. Fans have been known to scatter ashes of loved ones around the park as well. According to ball players and fans, balls that have been hit into the ivy tower have vanished on numerous occasions. Harry Caray's ghost has also been seen along with other dark figures in the bleachers. There are unexplained cold spots throughout the ball park. Security guards have reported that the bull phone will ring late at night. The bull phone is a direct phone line from the dugout and cannot be dialed from anywhere else. Marty Moore, who was a security guard for seventeen years backs up the story and believes Wrigley Field is haunted. He had said the ballpark is quite frightening when there alone.
Many people lived and died in Chicago, more than a lot of places in America. The ghosts don't seem to necessarily "Rest in Peace." They still "live" in Chicago. They give it character and intrigue. So many people died horrible, vicious deaths, and had to stay behind for whatever reasons. Hopefully their tormented souls find some rest one day. I really can't wait to visit Chicago! There are so many opportunities for ghost-sighting and it's such a busy city with so much to do, not just ghost hunting. Enjoy!
|5th Annual Chicago Ghost Conference|