Chicagoland/Suburbs: More haunted theatres

The Biograph Theater, now known as the Victory Garden, was opened September 5, 1914. All 942 seats were on a single floor. This Lincoln Park neighborhood landmark is probably best known by Chicagoans as the place where John Dillinger was shot and killed on July 22, 1934 after attending a screening of “Manhattan Melodrama” starring Clark Gable. There are stories of people seeing a shadowy figure of a man running on the sidewalk, or heading for the alley. He runs, then falls and disappears, almost as if reenacting the shooting over and over again. Some feel that Dillinger was not shot but some believe it was a look alike. According to the Ghost Research Society, some people have even claimed to have photographed strange shadowy figures lurking in the alleyway, just steps from where Dillinger was killed.

Woodstock Opera HouseThe four story structure has been used for many years to host live performances of celebrities including launching the career of Orson Wells. The Woodstock Opera House, built in 1889, originally housed the library, city council, court, and fire department for the city of Woodstock, Illinois. The Opera House sat above on the second floor. According to Family Travel on a Budget, in the 1940s, Shelley Berman was working on scenery for a production. A loud noise in the seating area startled him. He scanned the room and noticed that several chairs in row DD were in the down position. He ran over to investigate, and when he arrived, all the seats were in their upright position. Berman shared his experience with other cast members, and a haunted legend was born. Many claim that the ghost is a young woman from the early 1900s that threw herself from the belfry of the opera house since she could not get a part and could not handle rejection.

Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford is an historic theater that opened on October 9th 1927; a grandiose movie palace and stage with a Barton Grand Theater pipe organ that hosted a number of celebrities and movies. With the support of the community, the theatre was re-stored in its original style in 2001. However, according to sources, paranormal groups have documented several ghosts at the theater, but the Van Matres, Louis St. Pierre, a manager, and Miss Kileen, a secretary, are the core spirits watching over the historic theater. Many have seen the ghost light, as they refer, during their visit. Besides attending events and shows at the theater, tours are available. Feel free to contact Coronado to plan your visit.

Rialto Square Theater opened in 1926 as an old vaudeville and movie palace in downtown Joliet. The grand space has been restored to its original beauty including an elegant rotunda and dome with amazing chandeliers throughout. The theatre is also home to a Barton Grand Theater pipe organ. Accidents have happened in the building including the balcony according to Haunted Houses who claim that staff and workmen have seen an apparition of a women floating around the theater. Apparentaly, she is more active after the the theater is closed to the public.  Visitors have also taken pictures and have seen strange figures in the photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

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: According to Curbed Chicago, 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.

Find out more about the Shadows on the Street: Haunted Tours of Historic Prairie Avenue Glessner House 1800 South Prairie Avenue Chicago, IL, 60616 United States.  During this 60 minute walking tour through the Prairie Avenue Historic District, learn about the mystery surrounding the death of Marshall Field Jr., the tragic events that plagued the Philander Hanford house, the lingering ghost of Edson Keith, and more.

Chicago’s only Irish castle

I have attended a wedding back in the 1980’s. My mother lived not far from the castle during her elementary years of school in Beverly.  The castle was built on Longwood drive and 103rd, three stories high, with crenelated towers of limestone. Known as the Givens Castle, it was to look like a real Irish Castle from Dublin.

The south side Chicago castle was built between 1866-1867 under the direction of Robert C. Givins. According to Beverly Unitarian Church Fellowship, which purchased the church in 1942,  originally the castle had fifteen beautifully furnished rooms. They were decorated with rich tapestries, elegant chandeliers, and big copper gaslights; they were warmed with tiled fireplaces and were lit with stained glass windows.

There were five owners, or some say, castle keepers of the building. The Givins family, the Chicago Female College, the Burdett family, the Siemens family, and finally Beverly Unitarian Church. The Givins family lived there on and off from 1887 to 1909. The Chicago Female College, a prestigious high school for girls, rented the Castle from 1895 to 1897. The Burdett family lived in the Castle from 1909 to 1921. The Siemens family lived in the Castle from 1921 to 1942. Today, the Commission for Chicago Landmarks have claimed the house as Chicago’s only castle.

But after my mother would drive me by her old home in Beverly in the 1960’s, she would take me by the castle and claim,that it was haunted, according to her father. We attended a wedding together in later years and I didn’t see a ghost, neither did she, but some still claim that within the castle, they have heard mysterious sounds such as the tinkling of glasses with no logical reason.

According to Prairie Ghosts and my Mom, a young girl had died from the flu back in the 1930’s when the castle was owned by the Chicago Female College. In the early 1960’s,the janitor of the church saw a young girl and actually talked to her. She seemed confused and mentioned that the church was not the  same. The custodian was sitting with her and then got up to walk away, turned back to approach the young girl and she was gone.  Legend and my Mom claim that this girl was the ghost of the one who died and was in shock, especially not realizing that this castle was now a church. The custodian searched everywhere and the girl was not found, even footsteps in the snow outside did not appear that day.

More ghosts in DuPage County

Tivoli Theater: According to Ursula Bielski, in Chicago Haunts, Downers Grove’s Tivoli theater was the location of a tragic fire set by a pyromaniac many years ago.  According to the story, the subject set the fire but was trapped in the backstage area and died. However, the remains were never found and the worker never was heard of again. People have seen a strange mist rise by the curtain in front of the movie screen. To this day, they have no logical explanation for the mist.

Emmets Brewing Company: Nick Vogel from the Suburban Life shares a story of a janitor who worked after hours at Emmets, located on Main street in Downtown Downers Grove. The man accidentally fell asleep in a booth and something woke him grabbing his leg and then something touched his arm. He saw an apparition that moved to wall which is bordered by the cemetery next door. He hears noises and doors slamming all the time and he feels it is a spirit from the Main street cemetery which began in 1859, interring many war veterans. However, all interments are not known, but those which are,  they are mentioned in the booklet “Voices That Are Gone” by the village Historical Society, and for sale by them.

Country House: One of my favorite burgers on dark rye while enjoying a rustic atmosphere and a beautiful fireplace in the bar area is served at the Country House in Clarendon Hills; a family friendly restaurant I have frequented for over 30 years and even their website talks about the famous ghost.

In 1974 during a meeting with a contractor to renovate the restaurant, the men were sitting in the bar and shutters on the windows opened without human contact displaying shafts of light. Other workers have seen dishes move and have heard moaning in the walls. Others have actually seen a woman who they call the lady in blue.

The Country House has gone through a number of ownership changes over the years and is currently owned by two local residents who purchased it in 1974 according to the Clarendon Hills Historical Society.  It’s the late 1950s, and the story begins like so many others – with a bartender and a pretty blonde. On this particular evening, the woman visited her regular establishment. After a few choice words with her lover, a fight erupted that greatly upset her. The woman was so hurt by the exchange and the actions of her lover that she left in huff. Unfortunately, the roads were as uncaring; she collided with a tree or a telephone poled a short distance from The Country House. While she might have perished in the accident on that fateful night, she lives on through her daughter and the legend of The Country House.” Some say she had a daughter with her And the lover went after her.

Leland Tower:  In Aurora, Leland Tower was built as a hotel in 1926 and even had telephones in the rooms. It was a twenty two story building; one of the tallest outside of Chicago. Topping the skyscraper, was the Sky Club, a dinner and dancing club outfitted with elaborate decor and furnishings of the highest quality. But in the 1960’s is became an apartment building. Many suicides have occurred over the years with jumping to ones death in the Fox River. According to Ghost Stories World, elevator banks are very mysterious at night. Eerie moaning sounds are heard from there sometimes. Foul ghastly odor smells throughout the building on those spooky nights. Some of those folks who lived there admitted that Aurora is haunted. They felt weird several times. Always sensed like being watched by uncanny presences or have seen a mysterious cat who really scared some of them.

Old Copely Hospital: The hospital was established in 1888 and had about 25 beds. In 1995, the new Rush-Copley Medical Center was constructed and the Old Copley Hospital closed. The hospital currently is in bad shape due to a poor asbestos problem and massive decay. According to sources, some who had stayed at the hospital, it is rumored to be haunted. Some have seen apparitions and the guest visits of a nun. In the news this week, developers would like to bring the hospital back to life instead of demolishing it forever. What about the ghosts then?

 

Ghostly sightings in Crystal Lake

By CARYL CLEM:

Ghost curiosity, about unexplained mysteries of paranormal activity grows as digital equipment and better camera equipment captures proof of the apparitions. Unexpected, often dreaded, an uninvited visitor appears floating then dissolving into a wall, air, or sky. Transparent figures not held by physical boundaries, some make noises, move objects, slam doors, emit smells of  perfume or smoke, others are moving orbs of light, or cast a shadow turning into a green mists.

Experts classify ghosts into 5 main groups:

  • Interactive Personality that portrays a loved one or famous person.
  • Ectoplasm or Ecto-Mist a vaporous form that rises from the ground usually white or green.
  • Poltergeist has the ability to make sounds and move physical items whose energy can increase to dangerous levels.
  • Orbs are balls of translucent light most often photographed among ghost hunters.
  • Funnel ghosts, swirling forms spied in buildings and landmark structures.

For the ghost believer or doubter, YouTube offers several videos that capture the essence of ghost hunting online.  Crystal Lake is 50 miles from Chicago and has a history dating back to 1836. Crystal Lake has 7 acclaimed haunting locations.

1.  The Dole Mansion constructed from 1858-1864 owned by a prominent businessman Charles Grain and ice baron member on the Chicago Board of Trade. After the civil war, the imposing Italian style mansion on the beach of Crystal Lake includes servant quarters and a stable for racing horses. Another family, Ringling circus owners, bought the property,  converting the estate to a country club. The Depression closed the their doors but now as historical landmark.

The Haunted Dole Mansion Crystal Lake, Illinois – YouTube

2.  Colonel Palmer House an over 150 year old Greek Revival architecture has been rumored to have faces of beaten children peering out basement windows while screams can be heard in the air. A story was created about an orphanage with a mean man in charge except no record exists of an orphanage on that property.

3.  Barnes and Noble Bookstore claim a ghostly patron lady who can be seen rocking in the back storeroom or who invisibly moves carts of books around the store. Items mysteriously disappear to be found later. An elderly lady willed her land to a church to be used as a site for a school. The land was sold for other purposes.

4.  Fountains of Crystal Lake have had several reports of following wispy figures traveling down upper floor hallways to reach a dead end where the translucent form dissolves through a wall, while leaving one can hear footsteps behind them. It has been reported that on a checkerboard upstairs, pieces move without human assistance. Basement visitors feel a chill in the air, and report strong sensations of being watched.

5.  Lake Avenue Cemetery is rumored to be haunted by a women committing suicide; setting herself on fire.

6.  Park in Covered Bridge Trails has witnesses reporting activity by the stream of various orbs of light.

7.  Mount Thabor Cemetery has frequent witness reports of swirling orbs, associated with the symbol of a human soul. Luminous multicolored balls of red, green, and white have been photographed. Several sightings describe an eerie green mist. Check out more from USA Today

If an entire day of ghost hunting sounds daunting, Crystal Lake offers an array of activities to explore from the  quaint downtown, modern shopping centers, restaurants, golf course,  amidst scenic views of Crystal Lake.  What To Do with 15 Landmark Preservation homes and various water sports at Three Oaks Recreation Area is just a sample of what is available.  A Heritage Trolley Tour is offered in June.

Chicago’s haunted cemeteries

Graceland Cemetery: On Chicago’s North Side, Inez Clarke is suppose to haunt the cemetery and has for several decades. A little girl that has been seen wandering the cemetery grounds. As the stories were told, it was the ghost of a little girl who had died in a lightening storm, while spending time outside at a family picnic, when she was six years old. However, according to Prairie Ghosts and a cemetery expert, no Inez Clarke has ever been buried at Graceland. He also looked up US Census records and found that no child existed at all.  Other supernatural stories exist at Graceland that include the Statue of Death where it has been said that if you look into the scary face of the statue, you may see what your own death in the future will be!

Rosehill Cemetery: Beginning in 1859, Rosehill is the largest and oldest cemetery in Chicago occupying over 330 acres of land and located at 5800 North Ravenswood Avenune. According to the Ghost Research Society, the most recent sighting of an apparition occurred in October of 1995 when a grounds keeper burst into the administration building around eight o’clock in the evening swearing that he had seen a strange figure of a woman on the grounds. She had been standing by a tree near the Peterson Avenue wall. As he began to walk towards her to find out what was wrong, he suddenly froze in his tracks. The apparition seemed to be floating wearing a vintage dress! The ghost disappeared into a mist and it was only then that he was able to move; hurrying to the administration building. Here, he made a report of what he saw. The very next day a phone call was received by the Rosehill office from a woman calling from Des Plaines who said that her deceased aunt had made a nocturnal visit. Her aunt was complaining to her that she had not been properly remembered and that no grave marker adorned her burial plot. She ordered a monument for her aunt, Carrie Kalbas, and since that day, no ghostly sightings have been reported. The Ghost Research Society has electronically visited many haunted sites in the cemetery but have found nothing so far.

Mt Carmel: Currently an active cemetery, Mt Carmel is a Roman Catholic cemetery located in the Chicago suburb of Hillside, Illinois. The most recent famous interment was the body of Cardinal Joseph Bernardine after his death in 1996 from liver and pancreatic cancer.  Mt Carmel is also the final resting place of gangster, Al Capone and many have claimed to see his ghost by his gravestone. Julie Petta, who died in childbirth, is also a famous ghost to walk the lawns of Mt Carmel also known as the Italian bride. Julia, it is said, died either in childbirth or on her wedding night. As legend has it, her mother was abused with nightmares from Julia that her grave be opened. After six years, Mother finally had her body exhumed and surprisingly, she was in great condition. The Mother was allowed to to build her a massive monument. According to The order of the good death, the monument to Julia was financed by her brother in 1927, six years after her death to celebrate her unusual death.

Holy Sepulchre: My aunt and uncle were buried at Holy Sepulchre, a beautiful Catholic Cemetery in Alsip. But the cemetery is also home to the legend of Mary Alice Quinn, known as Chicago’s Miracle Child. Mary died when she was 14 and was buried in the Reilly family plot but prior to her death, she was a natural healer. Those that visited her grave saw apparitions and smelt roses even in the winter time according to sources. The late Mayor Richard J. Daley is buried in Section 19, near the cemetery entrance on 111th Street.  The same section also contains the burial place of Dan Ryan, long time Cook County Board President after whom the Dan Ryan Expressway is named.  Helen Morgan, famous blues singer is interred in Section 14 and more than 500 priests, brothers and sisters are also interred according to the Ghost Research Society. A number of car accidents have occurred on the 111th side of the cemetery but most have been explained.

Resurrection Cemetery: Check out this article that I published last year about Mary  https://karlasullivandotcom.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/chicagos-most-popular-ghost-resurrection-mary/

Bachelors Grove: Check out this article also published last year https://karlasullivandotcom.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/chicagos-most-haunted-bachelors-grove/

Ten of the most haunted colleges in Illinois

Loyola University:    A little over a decade in the early 1900’s when the Chicago Jesuit-affiliated school was known as St. Ignatius College, were the beginnings of a relationship between a nun and Jesuit priest. Apparently, the nun fell pregnant and, the devastated sister reportedly hanged herself on the 14th floor of what is now the school’s Mundelein Center for Fine and Performing Arts (previously Mundelein College). The priest later discovered the nun’s body and was so upset, he committed suicide by jumping out of a window. Students have since reported a flickering glow from the same window. Some have also heard strange sounds like a humming from the room where the nun had hung herself. Others after taking pictures have seen glowing orbs in the photographs.

Benedictine University:  In Lisle, at one point, the University was closed because of so many haunting s. One ghost is a boy in a blue shirt and shorts who wanders the campus and then disappears. According to sources, Jaeger Hall is haunted with children. Two ghost children were actually photographed in Neuzil hall. The campus was originally an orphanage and a girl had drowned in a lake on the grounds.

Rockford University(College): Like many colleges, there are several places on campus that are haunted. Clark Art Center, which is home to two theaters, have had witnesses see lights flicker in the back stage areas as well as hear a bell in the prop room chime on its own. The Adams Arch is actually the doorway to the old Adams Hall building, which was built in 1891 and is another famous place to hear the ghostly laughter of a girl when you are standing under it.

Morton College: In Cicero, just outside of Chicago, many claim that the college is haunted by a young girl who was killed on the Laramie Bridge, not far from the college. According to sources, security have actually seen the ghost of Emily on various rooftops of the college. Others have heard her cry out in the theatre.

Western Illinois University: Numerous hauntings have taken place due to many who committed suicide at the University. Ghosts have been found at Bayliss Hall, Simpkins Hall,Tanner, Thomson and Washington Hall. In 1972, a young man fell down an elevator shaft and his image has been seen today. Many students have observed flickering lights, cold spots, strange noises as well as floating images.

Southern Illinois University: Many books have been published about the hauntings in several buildings of SIU. Wheeler Hall, which was once the university’s library, and Shryock Auditorium are haunted as well. It has been named one of the top 50 haunted colleges throughout the United States. A former mental health institution and nursing home was purchased by the school in 1957. After being called Building 207, it was demolished in 2013 but click on the link for more information concerning the graves that exist today.

University of Illinois In Champaign, the library has been haunted which moved to its current location in 1928. Many believe the main stacks are sinking and images have been seen within them. The Lincoln building has a ghost located on the third floor which is next to the English building which used to be a women’s dormitory where a lady committed suicide. Flashing lights and slamming doors have been seen as well as ghostly visits in the Psychology building.

Milikin University:   James Milikin received a charter to build the Decatur University in 1901 and was to be an off shoot of Lincoln College in Lincoln. It is said that its theater has a ghost called the rail girl probably one of the colleges most popular ghosts. There have been numerous reports of strange sounds and footsteps in the theater. Stagehands and set designers have dealt with disappearance of props used during productions. Generally, tools are missing all the time.  There are also hauntings at the Old Gymnasium that was established in 1911.

Lincoln College: In Lincoln,  the college is rumored to have ghosts in the University Hall that was built in 1866. Mist forms on windows and an actual face was seen in the bell tower. A boy and girl passed away in the late 1800s and many feel that their ghost images remain at the college. In Olin Sang Hall, electronic equipment has been tampered.

Illinois College: In Jacksonville, Illinois was founded in 1829. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain were lecturers at the college during the early years. Illinois College was also known as a station for the Underground railroad and there were many famous graduates over the years such as William Jennings Byan. Beecher Hall claims to be haunted today with the footsteps of Bryan or Abraham Lincoln since he spoke at the college often. Effie Smith often haunts the Smith house. There are many other buildings on campus were lights turn off and on without explanation and images vanish in closets.

 

 

Chicago’s Most Haunted Houses: Hull House and Glessner House

The Jane Addams Hull House Museum is worth a trip to see whether are looking for a ghost or not. Jane Addams founded, with Ellen Gates Starr, the world famous Hull House on Chicago’s west side. Jane Addams lived their until her death in 1935 where she established a kindergarten and day care facilities for children of working mothers as well as providing classes. Some of the classes included preparing for citizenship, theater, music and art.

The Museum is located in two of the original settlement house buildings- the Hull Home, a National Historic Landmark, and the Residents’ Dining Hall, a beautiful Arts and Crafts building that has welcomed some of the world’s most important thinkers, artists and activists. Located on the second floor of the Residents’ Dining Hall, the museum’s gift shop has a range of ecologically and socially sustainable gifts including all natural hand soap, t-shirts, books about Jane Addams and the Reformers of Hull-House, and other items that you can only find at Hull-House.

The Museum is closed on Mondays and Saturdays and public tours are available without a reservation unless you have a group of ten or more.  Hull House Museum is located at the University of Illinois /Chicago at 800 S. Halsted.

According to Prairie Ghosts, at the time that Jane Addams took over Hull house she thought it was haunted and writes about this in her book Twenty Years at Hull House. She had heard loud footsteps in her room which was where the previous own Mrs. Charles Hull had passed away and she then took a different room.  Local legend claims that a deformed baby was born in the houses called the Devil baby and some claim to have seen the ghostly figure of the disfigured child who was suppose to have horns. The movie Rosemary’s Baby actually was created from the parts of this legend.

Over the years, I have enjoyed strolling Prairie Avenue in Chicago and reading about the life and times of the rich and famous during the late 1880’s, researching stories of Marshall Field, who lived in a six block section of the street only for the elite. This also included George Pullman, John Glessner and Pillip Armour. Prairie avenue was sometimes called Milionaires row and the beautiful Glessner House/Museum still stands and available for tours.

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.

However, is a ghost and many visitors continue to see his apparition.

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.

Many say it is haunted too.

Chicago’s Most Haunted: Eastland Disaster

This summer I took a trip to Michigan City, Indiana and spent a few minutes in Washington Park by the lake having no idea at the time that over 100 years ago the S.S. Eastland ship was suppose to arrive with Western Electric employees and their families to  celebrate a summer picnic.  It never happened.  After researching the Eastland Disaster, I returned to the park again imagining its beauty in 1915.

It.was an ideal location that offered various attractions according to the Eastland Disaster Historical Society including a roller coaster, electric merry-go-round, dancing pavilion, picnic grounds, baseball park, bathing beach with bath houses, band stand/gazebo, bowling alleys, amusement park, and photo studio. Though today, still beautiful, Washington Park has less attractions and activities including women dressed in hats, stockings, long dresses and the men dressed in suits and ties on the beach.

Western Electric picnics began in 1913 and really took off with over 6,000 attending where attendees boarded several ships in Chicago docked near the Clark Street Bridge for a leisurely trip to Michigan City across the lake for the picnic. On July 24th, 1915 the Eastland along with other ships began boarding at 6:30 am. Five thousand people had arrived for the excursion.

Because the Eastland was late the prior year in arriving at Washington Park, the owners decided it would be the first to depart. They were quick to board the passengers at a rate of about 50 per minute. At approximately 7:10, the Eastland reached capacity of 2,500. The engines started about 5 minutes before with a light list to port.  Attempts were made to move passengers to starboard but they did not follow the directions.  The list becomes worst and valves are opened to fill the no. 2 and 3 starboard ballast tanks. Water eventually enters the Eastland through the port gangways and a warning signal is sounded.

The Eastland tries again moving away from the wharf. The angles of the list reaches 45 degrees and everything begins to slide with water pouring in through portholes on the main deck. Passengers are rushing to the staircases which becomes not an exit but a death trap. The list worsens. Passengers and crew members jump off from fear of being trapped. The Eastland finally rolls in the Chicago River and 844 people are killed.

Today, paranormal investigators have found activity between the Clark and LaSalle bridges and people have reported screams and orbs in photographs. But the Armory where bodies from the Eastland were taken to be transported to funeral homes and used for family identification which was Harpo Studios where Oprah Winfrey taped her show, was haunted for years.

Oprah and her staff continued to see shadows which some have called the Grey lady; they think the ghost was of a mother who has lost her child. However,demolition of the Harpo campus took place in 2016 which will make way for a new building that thousands of McDonald’s corporate employees will call home in 2018.

Is the site still haunted?

Chicago’s Most Haunted: The Iroquois Theatre/The Oriental

The most devastating theatre fire in history happened on December 30th 1903. Over 600 people died which were mostly woman and children during a matinee performance of Mr. Bluebird.  Many Chicagoan’s did not think a fire of such magnitude could ever happen again since many had lived through the Great Chicago fire. This building was built to be fireproof.

However, A Day in History comments  that at the same time the fire inspector and Chicago’s building commissioner claims that the Iroquois was fireproof, the editor of Fireproof magazine inspected the theater and wrote an article that there were major fire alarm issues including no alarm and sprinkler system.

The Iroquois opened just shortly before on November 23rd of that year and was located on West Randolph between State and Dearborn. The theatre had a capacity of approximately 1,600 seats with three audience levels that included a main floor with orchestra that offered about 700 seats. The second floor had about 400 seats and the gallery or balcony areas had about 500 seats. The backstage area was extensive with emergency doors that remained locked the day of the fire. The theatre had only one public exit.

The December 30th 1903 matinee performance drew a huge crowd since so many children were out of school celebrating the holidays. It was about 3:15. Strange, how that time was very close to the same time only 50 plus years later when the most historic school fire broke out at Chicago’s Our Lady of Angels School on the south side. A fire, I  was alive to see and never forget.

During the second act, sparks from an arc light ignited a curtain. Stagehands tried to put out the fire but it had spread mainly to the fly gallery high above the stage. The stage manager tried to lower a fire curtain on the stage to block the fire from the audience but what they thought a fireproof stage curtain snagged and was flammable. The stage doors had bascule locks which protected people from not entering from the outside but nobody knew how to open them. Many were killed by being trapped especially in the balconies.

There were no exit signs, no emergency lighting, no iron fire escape and locked exit routes that nervous ushers forgot to unlock. The burned out theatre  was completely demolished and in the 1920’s, the Ford, Oriental Theatre was built with beautiful art Deco decor design and great access to bathrooms/ emergency doors designed by the firm Rapp and Rapp. Exceptionally different from the interior before and still safely operating today.

However, as elegant as the Oriental is, many ghost experts say that there is a real presence there because it was a site of such tragedy and death including David Cowan author of To Sleep with the Angels and his wife, author and 30-year veteran and paranormal researcher Ursula Bielski who host Chicago haunting tours

Especially behind the theatre, many have called the alley… Death Alley, because it is there that the most haunting s have been sited including a child crying. Other ghost experts claim that there tour groups continually experience sounds and apparitions today. It was also here in the alley during the 1903 fire that the corpses of so many tragically burned victims were piled and arranged to be eventually removed.

Others have felt cold spots and have actually been touched by unseen hands!