Happy Halloween

As a child, I loved autumn with the breathtaking color of the season, pressing leaves in scrapbooks, spending hours selecting a costume and, of course, carving a pumpkin with, for me, Dad. It was his job to cut but I scrapped away the innards. The only time I liked kitchen duty. And I remember being a gypsy, (above/ black and white) with my best friend, Karen next to me and her brother behind and another neighbor. My first celebrated Halloween; living on the south side of Chicago on 91st street. Future Halloweens in the city included becoming Little Bo Peep with a crooked staff that eventually gave way to the wind and a date girl wearing a beautiful wide skirt with mini calendars attached. Among the many dressed as Super Man, witches, Bat girl, Sleeping Beauty and Minnie Mouse, cowboys and Indians, and of course, Casper, with silly masks to match our attire back in the 1960s.

For me as a Mom in the 1990’s in Downers Grove, it began when my son was only two and hated being a clown. That’s because the face Mom had painted on his delicate skin was way too scary for Halloween. He scared himself when he looked in the mirror and trick or treating was just out of the question. But it did get better especially when he was some sort of car robot with a mask and my daughter was a princess with her best friend as a cat…still a best friend today (above/color picture). As my son and daughter celebrated the season each year, costume decisions improved to include Robin Hood and a court jester, a baby. a Power Ranger instead of Super Man and a nerd with a huge dictionary….not a computer… Though there was one Halloween, that costumes were trash bags since the rain was incessant for trick or treating. That didn’t stop us. We also decided that a carved pumpkin was not enough so the house was dressed with lovely rust and yellow floral arrangements and a yard filled with ghosts, signs, funny gravestones, and spider webs throughout.

And the neighborhood was packed with children trick or treating; knowing the adults that answered their doors. If we didn’t have an appropriate trick or treat bag, a pillow case would do and besides the candy bars, suckers and bazooka gum with comics, we would get even more like a popcorn ball. Sometimes we would worry about the occasional razor blade showing up in our candy but candy being spiked with chemicals was rare.

Now, though there are no grandchildren, I am assistant in a grade school and there is nothing more fun than watching the fabulous costumes, parties and parades every year and they continue to knock on the door, same door, on October 31st, 2021. Though the signs have become faded and the gravestones totter, new additions such as a family of scarecrows have been added, floral arrangements refurbished and my 30 plus daughter coming to spend a pre-Halloween weekend, carving the best pumpkin ever, while munching on roasted pumpkin seeds and home-made pumpkin bread.

Once a child, forever a child and another year of adding more pictures to that scrapbook or should I say, Facebook page instead.

The Other Side

By Caryl Clem

When Halloween approached, I was one of the first kids to ask for a “ ghost story”.  Kids succumbed to magical powers by a person or animal who acts like your long lost friend.  I imagined myself outside the protection of my family. I became  a moving target for evil forces: a fear that quenched exploration of the other side for years.

Later in college dorm life, peer majority exploring mystical forces opened the door to the Ouija Board. I sat huddled in my room with friends who wanted to invite spirits to guide us. A blessing was uttered to protect us against the evil spirits. My turn came, I asked to speak to the spirit of my birth father. I was adopted, had no idea who he was The message spelled out, PLANE DOWN.  I had had dreams of him in a uniform. When cold air  rushed through the room and almost detached my closet door from its’ hinges. Fear was like frostbite chasing my friend back to their rooms.  I gave the board away. Today’s reflection, did it really happen? Over 50 years later a contact through Ancestry said my father was in the service but never came back to marry his girl.   My birth mother went to a unwed mothers’  sanctuary.  

Switching schools while attending college, I lived by a city cemetery. A  new friend who lived across the driveway during an open  window  conversation one night said,” There is a rumor that a ghost appears above this headstone every year. Do you want to check it out.  We can meet at 11:40  p.m. and walk there to see.” I have nothing else to do that night being too old to trick or treat.  I reply, “ Let’s do it !”

I had never climbed over a gated fence before or felt so vulnerable. Getting out would be just as hard. It is near midnight on Halloween while a friend and I walk towards the gravestone. Glistening fear on my neck.  Within a few minutes mist is swirling by the site turning into a gowned woman twirling. I had reacted, “ Let’s get out of here. “  I was running chased by a cool breeze. Once over the fence, I feel a sense of quiet and calm. I was too afraid to look back to see if the mist disappeared.

I lived in my Grandmother’s last residence built by an aging contractor who told my father, “ This is my last job.” I loved the quaint cottage style dwelling. I prayed for blessings as I moved in, young, ready for my life’s journey. My hairbrush traveled without my help. It could be resting on the kitchen counter,  or on the stove , or in the refrigerator. It was part of a set that was parked on my vintage dresser. A ritual every morning, brush your hair to life. I often searched for the hairbrush mumbling, “ Thanks for watching over me, I need to brush my hair now.” Guided by an unknown force, I would find the hairbrush and carry on with my day.I live on this side but unexplained forces exist.  

Put forth blessings for all of us facing the day in front of us, no matter what side you are on. 

Ghost town in Illinois: Cairo

It is scary to walk through the streets of the somewhat abandoned city that is located at the southern most tip of Illinois also situated at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Throughout the downtown section, you can hear the ghosts calling out among the crumbling and decaying buildings. Residential sections are also becoming worse than ever before. Churches are boarded up as well mansions. Cairo was an important city for steamboats and a city charter was written in 1818 but failed. Another charter was written in 1857 and by 1860, over 2,000 lived in Cairo. John Neal planned the beginning of the Illinois Central Railroad in Cairo in 1855 which helped build the city. According to sources, the town’s population, which had been over 15,000 at its peak in the 1920s, had dipped to 6,000 by the ’80s. As of 2010, it was down to roughly 2,000. What happened?

During the Civil War, it became headquarters for General Ulysses S. Grant and General John A. McLernand at the St Charles Hotel. Later that became the Halliday Hotel but unfortunately burned down in 1942. This became an important training area for the Union army. Troops were shipped in and stationed at Camp Defiance which was established. A number of businesses grew at the time including a hospital but also saloons and brothels for the soldiers. After the war, the camp was dismantled, the site of Camp Defiance would become Fort Defiance Park, an Illinois State Park.  In 1862, the Union Army deposited large numbers of African-Americans in Cairo until government officials could decide their fate. These many black men, women, and children lived in a “Contraband Camp” established by the Army. The camp was later abandoned when the African-Americans found little work and having no money to buy farms. Many returned to the South but many stayed and worked.

In 1909, there was a terrible lynching; probably one of the worst in history. Will James was charged with murder and rape of a white girl who worked in shop named Annie Pelley. A rumor circulated that he confessed along with an accomplice Alexander. The sheriff was asked to hide Will James because the trial was delayed but mobs found him in the woods near Belnap and forcibly took him from the sheriff. The mob returned to Cairo and hanged him at the square at 8th and Commercial Street. The rope broke and he was riddled with bullets from the mob. When they put the rope around his neck, he admitted killing her but Alexander was the lead in the killing. However, after his death, there was no Alexander to be found. A local photographer who admitted to killing his wife was in jail. The mob got him out of the jail and hung him at a telegraph pole at Washington Avenue and 21st Street. The Governor finally released several units of the National Guard since they were still searching for Alexander and destroying everything in their path. In 1910, a deputy was killed but the town survived opening with Gem theatre; the sign is still there today. Though a fire gutted the building in 1934 and restored two years later but the Great depression created major problems for Cairo and the city flooded in 1937.

Prostitution was huge in Cairo becoming a rough town and after World War 11, the unemployment rate skyrocketed; the city becoming a central location for organized crime in the 1950’s. Population began to decline and violence continued. In the 1960’s, Cairo did not follow integration procedures as other cities and towns but became a cesspool for segregation. More vigilant white groups fought against the blacks in 1967 and the National Guard was called in again. Little League baseball was canceled to keep black children from playing, and a private “all-white” school was established. The state and federal government did get involved but only 6,000 remained in Cairo in 1970.

In 1986, the hospital closed as well as the bus service two years later. The Illinois Central no longer stops at the passenger station. In the last few years, numerous buildings have that include Elmwood and McBride housing projects.

But the city continues to fight and share its history. Magnolia Manor is still a beautiful home built in 1869 but now is a museum located on Millionaires Row. Riverlow, a mansion across the street, has declined and not been restored or torn down.

The wonderful world of untapped innocence in the classroom

One kindergarten student was visiting a classroom and having such a terrible moment in class that within five minutes of him crying, two other kindergarten children gave him their special classroom rewards they had just received from their teacher.

For the last 40 days of school, a first grade student always makes sure the special needs child is securely sitting in their carrier seat on the bus and and tries to cheer him if he is having sad day.

Julie always helps five-year old Amanda on the playground when swinging on swings or going down the slide just to make sure she is having fun safely.

Five year old John helped another another boy, Tom, who was angry, pick up blocks that he had thrown so that Tom would have a better day.

Seven -year old Mary made a special picture for her friend that is very sick and was not instructed to do so. This gesture was created during indoor recess at school.

One boy always makes sure a friend that is new to school finds the right classroom he is in everyday.

Mira always asks another to play with her at recess or when they have a break because the other one feels left out.

Robert struggles with assignments but will sit and concentrate for a long time reading The Pigeon has to Go to School and many of the Mo Willems books as a special treat with his teacher.

A second grade student, Elisa shared her favorite book patiently with a first grader and helped her improve her reading, reading some words for her and sounding out others. She asked if she could help her in the future if she needed assistance.

Sheri McCabe, fourth grade instructional assistant, made a great Wonder Wall last year for a student she was working with and learned about the teaching idea from others on the Internet. She wanted to use it again so she put it in the room she is working in this year. She told the class about. Whenever they have a question about something they wonder about, they can put the questions on a post it and put it on the wonder wall and they will discuss them once a week. Sheri went back to the class a couple hours later and all these post it’s were up on the wall. Here are the questions they asked: How does it feel to be blind? I wonder how a rocket blasts off? Why is there school? Who made books? How do you drive a car? How is candy made? Do plants fart?

It doesn’t get much better than this. God bless them all!!!

I

The Ghost of Al Capone

My Aunt, who has long since passed, claimed that she knew Ralph Capone and had a date with him. And she had heard that his brother Al, was trying to really help other businesses in Chicago prosper but that all changed and no one that knew the infamous man talked about him in later years. He became Public Enemy #1 and better known as Scarface; the most dangerous organized crime leader of all time. Al Capone was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York working brothels there and came to work for Johnny Torrio, in Chicago as a body guard and was hit by a gang. He was an Italian-American mobster who helped build the Chicago Outfit in the 1920s deciding to retire giving Al Capone his entire business.

Al’s brothers came from New York to help which included Ralph. Al was truly Untouchable like the movie about until he prompted the St. Valentines Day Massacre though he was not officially connected to the rival gangs murders. Al expanded the boot-legging business which he ran for seven years and was put in jail for tax evasion in 1931. He was also suffering from neurosyphilis and had know for sometime that he had but was embarrassed to get treatment. He was released from prison because he was so sick after 8 years and died at his Miami Beach home on Palm Island on January 25, 1947 at the age of 43. Sources say his mind was that of a 12 year old and died of cardiac arrest after a stroke.

Where is Al Capone’s ghost now?

Maribel Caves Hotel in Wisconsin was demolished in 2013 but some say the Capone who owned it still walks on the premise.

Many still claim to see his ghost sitting at the bar of the Congress Hotel which is haunted with many ghosts. He was known to hang out there and have many a business meeting. Several of his friends actually lived in the hotel in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The corridors where used for smuggling and many other illegal activities.

Capone’s home at 7244 South Prairie Ave., Chicago was originally built in 1908, and purchased by the mafia boss in 1923. Capone lived there until he bought his Miami home and after that, he gave his Chicago home to his mother. The house had few owners; the house finally sold to for 226,000 in 2019 being on the market for several years.

The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is the beating heart of Uptown’s historic entertainment district. Chicagoans have enjoyed drinks and music here since 1907, when it opened as a roadhouse. Capone henchman “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn ran the joint during Prohibition. Chicago Tours have frequently designed custom tours that visit this famous juke joint though I have not seen any ghosts there when I have visited.

He has been seen by many floating by the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago as well as sitting on a bench. Some say they have seen him at a Bulls game.

Windy City Ghosts offers some great Chicago Gangster Tours. The tour is perfect for people who want to learn more about the Second City’s history, those who would like to get to know a specific Chicago neighborhood in depth, as well as those interested in the paranormal. Everyone is welcome, from ghost tour newbies to history buffs to professional ghost hunters. Gangsters and Ghosts offer a walking tour on the streets to really acquaint yourself with the infamous city of Chicago, through a guided Chicago Gangster Tour or Ghost Tour, detailing the crimes, deals, and charisma that made the city what it is today.

It only takes one…….

As I was sharing my story about Prairie Avenue to the many Facebook sites, I was thinking about my cousins comment to me when I would become discouraged. It only takes one to read your story and become inspired. Right at that moment when God’s angel was reminding me, someone wrote a response on how she enjoyed all of my stories of Chicago field trips. All? It can also take one negative comment… why I write without getting paid more. My passion…..do ya think?  What are other examples of… it only takes one…. to positively change your attitude? Read on…..

After years of infertility and sickness, they found a lady had only three mature eggs. One was fertilized. The miracle egg became the perfect baby. It only takes one!

After years of addiction, he finally quit and remained sober meeting the love of his life.

After a few years in a public school, a child was not doing well. A change to a smaller, private setting was a much better venue and the student prospered. She became a teacher. She became a principal.

She had lost her family to death, as well as her job and really wanted a new start. She moved to the state she had always dreamed and her life changed for the better.

Sometimes, it takes just one phone call, email or conversation to open new doors of hope.

Sometimes it just takes one smile on someone’s face.

What about that son, daughter or loved who says just the right thing at just the right time?

What about the one friend that has known you for decades and all of sudden shows up in color or in a message?

And what about your Mom or Dad telling you how proud they were of you before passing away many years ago?

Maybe it is the phantom driver behind you who paid for your lunch in the McDonalds drive through line that made a difference in your life.

Let’s not forget the people who shoveled your driveway after a massive snowstorm while you slept and never let you know who did the work.

Or the plumber that changed out a toilet for free after a huge leak on the weekend and no one was there to help.

Even the dentist who fixed a partial denture that had a chip for no charge because he knew your insurance would not pay.

And what about that one email from Chicken Soup of Soul that tells you they are going to publish your story and the book arrives in print.

The man that was dying of cancer with no hope from any physician meets a friend at a high school reunion who is a doctor that specializes in his type of cancer. The man is still alive many years later.

How about the man that could not stand to watch his wife of 50 years die; her health had been failing for months but kept hearing a voice saying he would be okay and when she died, he heard her voice saying that she was great.

Or the millions of angels stories out there of tragic accidents being halted.

When you have been told that as a teacher, you have been an Angel to their child, you finally put your decisions in God’s hands.

And sometimes, it only takes ……that one prayer.

More Prairie Avenue Ghosts

I love to walk up and down the historic avenue. I have read many historical novels such as Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker.  Its always a new field trip to walk with the ghosts on Millionaires Row and to read about them. Residents of the street have influenced the evolution of the city and have played prominent national and international roles moving there after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. By 1886, the finest mansions in the city, each equipped with its own carriage house, stood on Prairie Avenue. In the 1880s, mansions for George Pullman, Marshall Field, John J. Glessner, Philip Armour and Kimball. Mansions were located between 16th and 22nd streets.

A few of the mansions do remain such as the Glessner House which is a active museum and the Henry B. Clarke house, also a museum. The Marshall Field, Jr. Mansion at 1919 South Prairie Avenue, now condos, is marvel of preservation and sensitive reuse. And many say that Prairie Avenue is haunted.

Glessner House was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. So different from the Victorian houses that were being built at the time and eventually those, for the most part, were torn down. The House is a National Historic Landmark and offers wonderful tours with many of the rooms accurately restored to their original appearance and decorative objects and furnishings have been added by the Glessner family. John Glessner lived there until 1936 and thousands tour the house every year. Henry Hobson Richardson never got to see his creation built since he died after he completed the blue prints. Many have seen him walk the halls. Even during the time the Glessner family lived there, Haunted houses.com claim that many family member felt a cold presence moving through the mansion,even today.

The Glessner House Museum offers haunted tours of historic Prairie Avenue. Director of the Glessner House has admitted that there is a strange feeling that has been experienced on the street. The Keith House, privately owned by Marcy Baim, is another on the street. It has been restored, at 1900 Prairie and offers special events such as weddings.

The Kimball House: The house was built in 1890–92 for William Wallace Kimball, a piano manufacturer. I still have a Kimball upright that was built in 1949.  Kimball reportedly spent $1,000,000 on the home. The house is located at 1801 Prairies and though some feel that the outside design is cold, the inside is beautiful with maple floors and 29 rooms which have been sub- divided though many have stayed the same such as the library, huge drawing room, and dining room that housed Mrs. Kimballs massive silver collection. She also collected many paintings by such artists as Rembrandt, Millet, and Monet including many others. But when Mrs Kimball died in 1921, the house was converted to a boarding house which eventually failed and was bought by Daisy Hull for 8,000 in backward children. But finally, the house, along with the Coleman house at 1811 were acquired by R. R. Donnelley in 1973 who donated them to the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1991.  They leased and then sold the properties to the U. S. Soccer Federation for use as their national headquarters, which is how the building is used today. Mrs Kimball still walks the halls. Noises have been heard along with apparitions seen as well as the feeling of being watched.

The Marshall Field Jr House was designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman, the home sold to the son of one of Chicago’s most famous 19th century entrepreneurs for $65,000 in 1890. After a stint as a psychiatric hospital, the structure was sold to the Chicago Architectural Foundation in the 1970s before being partitioned into condominiums in 2007. There are six million dollar condos with a private courtyard in the back. In the past, there have been claims to hear footsteps and strange cries.

Glessner House

By Caryl Clem:

Mrs. Frances Glessner started Monday Morning Reading classes on November 21, 1894 to explore great scholars and experts’ works with 25 or more Chicago ladies. The tradition to inspire and provoke thoughts is still alive and thriving.  Standing indestructible on stone blocks at 1800 Prairie Street, the Glessner House is a Chicago cornerstone.  Visibly Glessner’s outside is stern, simple architecture, an original Richardson Romanesque, inside gracious airy rooms. The Glessner home was deeded to Chicago after the couple’s deaths as a museum to provide a place for great minds to find expression and appreciate culture.

William Rainey Harper, Yale graduate became President of the University of Chicago from 1891-1906.  He wanted woman faculty newcomers to be able to meet prominent Chicago wives throughout Chicago. He approached Frances Glessner for suggestions and the Monday Morning Reading classes were born. The Who’s Who of Chicago’s aristocratic Southside met educational trailblazers from a variety of cultures.   Many of the faculty wives were living in crude conditions while homes were built.  The city seemed foreign and difficult to maneuver for these university women.  Friendships emerged during the meetings that made strangers to Chicago feel welcomed.

John Glessner’s farm machinery business finesse resulted in the formation of International Harvester. He instigated the mergerof the largest farm implement companies together to end the reaper wars. He devoted his after work hours to serving various organizations to improve life in Chicago. The following are just the tip of his social iceberg:  Citizen’s Advisory Board to Chicago, Chicago Relief and Aid Society, Chicago Orphan Asylum, Rush Medical Group, Art Institute of Chicago and trustee of Chicago Orchestra Association.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1966 did not want to see the Glessner house meet the fate of other homes of the Gilded Age suffering neglect and eventual tear down.  The home was fortified for continued use. The architect Henry Hobson Richardson died before he could see his completed masterpiece. Rumors abound that a white entity is seen floating in different rooms in the house leaving a telltale trail of cold air. John Drury mention in his book, Old Chicago Houses, that rooms were a laboratory for  the Institute of Technology  designing aptitude tests for students to identify what career choice best suits their personality and strengths . Glessner house is now a museum.

https://www.glessnerhouse.org/programs