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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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