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C H I C A G O  G H O S T S

Resurrection Mary 
 St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Archer Avenue 
Bachelors Grove 
John Dillinger
Limestone Ghosts
The Eastland Disaster 
The Iroqouis Theater 
and Death Alley 
Ghosts of Prairie Avenue
Bishop Muldoon
The Luetgert Sausage 
Factory Murder 
H.H. Holmes (The Devil in the White City)
The Hancock Building and "Ghostbusters" 
Wrigley Field and the 
Curse of the Billy Goat 
Vanishing Hitchhikers 
Rosehill Cemetery 
Graceland Cemetery  
Rico D's 
The Willowbrook Ballroom
St. James-Sag Cemetery
Kaiser Hall 
The Curse of Streeterville 
The Museum of Science 
and Industry
Leopold and Loeb
Ghosts of the Cook County 
Forest Preserves 
Robinson Woods
Hull House
Al Capone
O'Hare Airport
La Llarona 
Archer Woods Cemetery
Marshall Field and Co. (Macy's) 
Navy Pier and The Lake 
Michigan Triangle 
Seaweed Charlie and 
Calvary Cemetery

Mount Carmel Cemetery and 
Julia Buccola

Frank Leavy's Hand of Death 
The Music Box Theater

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Experiences, articles, book excerpts, 
investigation reports, news and photos from 
our readers, fellow ghosthunters, 
tour guests . . . and beyond.  

Resurrection Mary

Ursula Bielski's brand-new book,
Chicago Haunts 3
(Thunder Bay Press)

Now Available everywhere,
in regional bookstores and
at  To buy, click here!

Submit your own Chicago ghost stories, news, photos and investigation reports for this page to


Scroll down to read more about . . .

New Excerpt: "Strange Energy: The Secret of Red Gate Woods"--

- Ghosts of Chicago DVD Now Available

- New Incarnation for the old Cavellone's West: The Stag's Head Irish Country Pub.  

Guest report from Archer Ave tour

- Dead Whisper now out on DVD!

- New Excerpt: "The Museum of  Science and  Industry" from Ghosthunting llinois by John Kachuba

 - Exclusive New Article: "Bad Memories: The Dead Secrets of Marshall Field"

- Excerpt: "Fort Meigs" from Jeff Belanger's Ghosts of War

- Link to "Chicago's Strange Angles" on

- Is Borley Still Haunted?

- Excerpt from Rocco and Dan Facchini's Muldoon: A True Chicago Ghost Story

- Excerpt: "Saints and Sinners: Mt. Carmel's Motley Crew" from Ursula Bielski's Chicago Haunts

- Excerpt: "The Hand of Death" from David Cowan's Great Chicago Fires


Strange Energy:
The Secret of Red Gate Woods

by Ursula Bielski

    Red Gate Woods  have long been known as haunted, running as they do along notorious Archer Avenue.  It is these Woods that shiver with the chanting of an invisible chorus, and these Woods that host apparitions of monks seen both here and at the adjacent churchyard of St. James-Sag.  It has been ventured that the haunting of Red Gate Woods may be connected to gangland days, when neighboring homes and business were connected by long underground tunnels for use during the Prohibition era.  According to some tales, a number of such tunnels ran to still-remote areas like Red Gate Woods from roadhouses as much as a mile away, making it simple work to do away with a rival in the basement and cart off the body for burial in the surrounding, as yet uncharted woodland.

History may never verify these events, but one other, much stranger reality seemingly cannot be denied. 

    As a child growing up in the deeply forested Palos area Southwest of Chicago, acclaimed advocacy writer and environmentalist John James Bell remembers that aimless hikes in the area’s seemingly endless preserves were what little boys were made of.  But, as Bell recalls in his essay, “The Many Faces of Apocalypse,“ fossils and turtles were not the normal loot such treks revealed, especially one surreal afternoon:

        As kids, my friends and I stumbled across the old         piece of plywood while hiking.    Such large junk was     a familiar site — these woods on Chicago’s South Side     near     Palos Forest Preserve were really not woods     at all, but overgrown underbrush along the                     industrial Illinois & Michigan canal corridor. The             piece of plywood was almost overlooked, but I noticed     that if you jumped on it there was a bit of a bounce.         We cleared off the dirt and grass. There were hinges;     it was a makeshift door. With some effort we                 opened it and within seconds we pledged to keep our     discovery secret. After all, it’s not every day that you     find buried in the woods a nuclear fallout shelter . . . .

    This was Red Gate Woods.  Before speaking with Bell, I had heard about the woods from Ed Shanahan, an expert on Southwest side paranormal phenomena, who had informed me, after a lifetime of my unknowing, that the nation’s first nuclear reactor was established here in 1943.  To this day the reactor reposes under the forested landscape along Archer Avenue.  In fact, nuclear engineers from the nearby Argonne National Laboratory are in charge of environmental monitoring of the Woods for the U.S. Department of Energy. 

    Argonne National Laboratory, which sprawls over more than 1500 acres in DuPage county, was the nation’s first national laboratory, having been chartered in 1946.  Argonne’s mission began with the Manhattan Project, the monumental World War II venture which saw its success at the University of Chicago, when Enrico Fermi and more than four dozen colleagues accomplished the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction.   When the war ended, Argonne was founded to develop nuclear reactor sites for peaceful use.  Red Gate Woods had already been established at the time of Argonne’s founding, and the new laboratory was naturally put in charge of it at once.  The University of Chicago reactor--known as Chicago Pile-1--was moved after the War to Red Gate Woods to be buried next to Chicago Pile-2, which was developed at Red Gate itself.  But while the area is consistently declared safe, as Shanahan asserts, there may be “a very good reason why paranormal tools may go a bit out of whack when taken there. "  As, indeed, they do.  In fact, the presence of the reactors may even explain some of the paranormal phenomena experienced here, including apparitional sights and sounds, perhaps given life by the long-buried energy on site.


"Chicago Ghosts"
Documentary now available
on DVD!

Chicago Ghosts is a one hour arm-chair tour of haunted Chicagoland locations produced and filmed by Karen Barrett of Blue Ghost, Inc.  Some of the featured locations include: Bachelor's Grove Cemetery, Robinson Woods Indian Burial Grounds, Resurrection Cemetery, Widow McCleary's, the Rialto Theater, Ethyl's Party . . . and a look into a "real" haunted private home in Bartlett, Illinois!

To order your copy, please visit:


Rico D's Adds B&B Accomodations

It's true!  Rico D's, center of some of of Chicago's most enduring and active ghost stories, is now a roaring old roadhouse with new bed & breakfast accomodations. The new venture, Frankie's Roadhouse and Bed & Breakfast, will still feature the same fantastic dining as always, but with some haunting new features.

The upstairs rooms has been restyled into guest rooms--including a double room suitable for family accomodations--and offered to anyone daring enough to spend the whole night at this legendary Archer Avenue location.  The restaurant will also be featuring special dinner packages each week to feature a delicious family style dinner and full tour of the haunted structure.  AND Rico D's will be hosting overnights of their own beginning the night of February 2nd!  

The overnights will include a buffet dinner, coffee and cookies in the wee hours, and a continental breakfast at dawn.  Reservations are now being accepted for bed & breakfast reservations and for the first haunted overnight in February.  For more information or to make reservations, call Shane at Frankie's Roadhouse or visit their website:


A Night on Archer Avenue . . .
On the evening of Sunday, October 29th, I led a wonderful group on a tour of one of the nation's most haunted roadways, Archer Avenue.  The night was superb.  Everywhere we went, we were greeted by old friends: at Chet's Melody Lounge, at Rico D's, and at the Willowbrook, where the staff laid out a beautiful and delicious spread for us amid the surreal swing atmosphere.  It was a magical night, shared by wonderful guests.  One of these guests, a ghosthunter from Coal City, documented some impressive phenomena during the course of the evening.  I asked her to share her experiences with all of you, with many thanks.  Here is her story:

"When we entered Chet's bar I immediately was drawn to the back area. I set down the equipment and pulled out the divining rods. I proceeded to walk closer to the walls and circle in front of the television. I got the first reading to the left of the TV (when you face it) when the rods where drawn together. I started shaking and asked my friend Bonnie to get out the Temperature Gage and the EMF (meter). I figured the EMF would go crazy because of all the electronic stuff back there (and it did!), so I asked Bonnie to take the rods, and I took the temperature guage and recorded the base temperature of 72.4 in the bar. As I walked with the guage it began to fluctuate instantly from anywhere from 67.8 (which you saw while we talked! to 85.4!). I was so excited! Then we were able to go down to the basement, and I took the divining rods while Bonnie took the temperature. They immediately touched and centered. After you spoke I gave you the divining rods, and the other group was sent down to witness this event.

When you came up, you told me they continued to stay touching the whole time. Amazing!

After the wonderful reception at the Willowbrook and the tour through the woods and by the church we got to spend 5 or 6 minutes at the infamous Hull House. I was immediately drawn to the courtyard; I felt I could not walk in the grass. I gave Bonnie the Temperature guage and she called out the reading of 49.5 degrees outside. I took the divining rods. At the stone memorial base facing out to the road, I began using the rods. Not until I walked to the left and stopped at the side of the fountain did the rods touch--while they faced into the courtyard. I realize that these rods are also used for divining water, so I continued pointing them inward to the courtyard and came to the top of the sidewalk facing the fountain and out to the road. Again they touched. Bonnie was up on the porch and called me to join her at the window where we watched the curtains fluttering inside the house. We also witnessed something not visable poking at them. I asked Bonnie for the guage and went down to the last side of the courtyard sidewalk with my back to the house. Once again I used the divining rods and again they touched. I lowered them and turned on the temperature guage. It first registered at 48.7 then began to fluctuate between anywhere in the 30s and 40s. I held it for a few seconds more, and suddenly I felt extremely cold and looked down at the guage just as something moved through or past me. It read 21.7 degrees! I exhaled and saw my breath come out as white steam! I was not frightened but wanted someone else to witness this, so--not moving--I began to call Bonnie. She noticed everyone on the bus and called me to come away. I was ecstatic as I ran to tell you, and to get back on the bus. I felt like I was on cloud none the rest of the night! I did not experience any paranormal activity when I returned home that night (remembering the story you told us) but even today, I am still completely mesmerized by these events.

Your friend in paranormal hunting,
Laura Hennessy"


now available on dvd:
Dead Whisper: A new documentary featuring Robbie Thomas, Michael McDowell and the Indiana Ghost Trackers

What do the experts have to say about it?

"Four Stars!"
"Astonishing EVP"
"These phenomena could give us some new insight into the nature of the spirits, EVP and how they exist in the flow of time. Anyone fascinated by ghost phenomena and EVP will find this DVD of interest, and I can recommend it."
Stephen Wagner - Guide to the paranormal for

"Dead Whisper is going to knock people's socks off!"
Kevin Smith - syndicated radio host

"The most important film in a very long time!"
Lia Ramses - Ghost Radio

"Dead Whisper is going to get a lot of people shouting -- for more!  It's destined to become a paranormal classic. It's the new benchmark in paranormal video journalism."
Bill Schreiner, Owner & GM, Achieve Radio

(Webmaster's note: I just watched "DWhisper," and I have to add my own review: this movie shows just how meticulous, sensitive and effective ghost investigations can be.  I've admired and praised Michael McDowell and the Indiana Ghost Trackers for years as the best in the business, and this documentary shows McDowell and his colleagues at their finest. You must have this in your collection. --Ursula Bielski)

For more on this phenomenal new documentary, click on the banner at left, or visit


"The Museum of Science  and  Industry"
 Ghosthunting Illinois
by John Kachuba

(Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from "Ghosthunting Illinois"
by John Kachuba
.  Published by Ellis Books. All rights reserved.)

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, located at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, is one of the country’s pre-eminent centers for informal science and technology education.

    It is also home to at least three ghosts.

    The beautiful domed and columned building was originally built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 Columbian Exposition and is the only surviving structure from that exposition. The museum, which is situated along the shore of the Jackson Park lagoon, looks more like an ancient Greek temple than it does a center of science and technology. Perhaps it is that feeling of antiquity that draws the ghosts.

    One of the museum’s most famous ghosts is that of Clarence Darrow, the celebrated lawyer whose battle with William Jennings Bryan in 1925 over the issue of teaching evolution in schools—a trial known as the Scopes Monkey Trial—has become a landmark case in the annals of jurisprudence and was also the inspiration for the play and movie, Inherit the Wind. Darrow figured prominently in many other high-profile cases, including the 1924 Leopold and Loeb case, in which he defended two stone-cold teenage murderers of a fourteen-year old boy and won them life imprisonment instead of the electric chair.

    Darrow lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood that includes the museum. He died in Chicago in 1938 and his cremated remains were scattered in the Jackson Park lagoon as he had requested. Every year a wreath-laying ceremony honoring Darrow is held at the bridge spanning the lagoon. In 1957 the bridge was dedicated in his memory and is now known as the Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge.    

    Dale Kaczmarek, a Chicago ghost investigator who also operates area ghost tours, reported that a man on one of his tours took photos of the lagoon and captured the smoky image of a face near the bridge. Could it have been the ghost of Clarence Darrow?  

    “His ghost has been seen here in the museum as well,” said Travis*, a docent my wife Mary and me met at the Burlington Zephyr exhibit inside the museum. Travis was a baby-faced, rosy-cheeked young man whose new beard was just starting to grow in; it looked as though he had augmented it with charcoal. Travis wore the blue uniform and cap of a train conductor, but he looked more like a kid on Halloween trick or treating as Captain Kangaroo.  

    “People have seen an elderly man dressed in a suit, walking in the hall by the windows that overlook the lagoon. They say he matches the description of Clarence Darrow. He’s there for just a moment, then he disappears,” Travis said.

    Travis told us how the ghost interrupted a children’s Halloween story-telling session he was conducting at the museum. “I looked up and there he was. In the next second he was gone.”

    We were standing before the gleaming engine of the Burlington Zephyr, one of the country’s first diesel streamlined trains, as we spoke. The stainless steel Burlington Zephyr seemed to glow in the vast, dark hall of the museum. Three cars were attached to the engine; a mail car, a passenger car, and a passenger lounge at the rear of the train that featured a curved exterior and panoramic windows. Travis said he had more to tell us, but it was time for him to lead the next tour through the train. Mary and I climbed aboard with him and a handful of other visitors.

    The tour began in the mail car, with the history of the Burlington Zephyr given to us by Zeph, a robotic figure in the form of a talking burro so lifelike that some of the little children in the group patted its nose and tried to feed it some hay while it talked. The real Zeph joined the Dawn to Dusk Club of eighty-four distinguished passengers on the Zephyr’s maiden run from Denver to Chicago on May 26, 1934. Zeph came on board when the Rocky Mountain News offered the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) a “Rocky Mountain Canary” as a mascot for the trip. It was only when the burro was delivered that Ralph Budd, CB&Q president understood he had accepted a burro and not a bird. Budd quickly ordered hay to be placed on board for Zeph, remarking, “One more jackass on this trip won’t make a difference.” Zeph sped off into history as the Zephyr broke all train speed records of the day, traveling 1,015 miles in 13 hours and five minutes, the longest non-stop train trip the world had ever witnessed. The Zephyr’s average speed was 77.5 miles per hour, although it peaked at 112.5 miles per hour.

    The Zephyr’s sleek styling and incredible speed made it an instant celebrity and the train starred in the 1934 movie, The Silver Streak. Streamlining became all the rage in design, copied in everything from cars and airplanes, to toasters and vacuum cleaners and Madison Avenue ad agencies appropriated the Zephyr for advertising campaigns.

    The next car was the passenger coach. Unlike the stuffy old Pullman coaches, the Zephyr’s coach was as streamlined as its gleaming exterior. The clean lines and sleek design were accented by indirect lighting, plush upholstered seats, and colors in soothing pale green, cool blue, and light brown. Passengers could order 20¢ hamburgers and hot dogs, or other food from the kitchen. They were served by the all-female Zephyrettes, on-board hostesses who saw to the passengers’ every need.  There were no Zephyrettes on board that day to assist the life-sized plaster passengers who now sat scattered among the plush seats. Each of the figures had a speaker built into it so that it could “talk” to the others about the train and the journey. It was an eerie feeling, sitting next to these immobile figures, never knowing when the one right beside you might suddenly speak. I noticed that those same little children who so happily had fed the fake Zeph now clung to their parents.

    The last car on the tour was the lounge car. Large windows completely lined its sides and rounded back end. A film projected onto the windows gave the illusion of movement while the jostling floor mimicked the rocking of the train along the tracks.

    As we stood behind a velvet rope we watched three robotic figures dressed in the style of the 1930s, seated in comfortable upholstered chairs. Ralph Budd sat on the left wearing a three-piece suit. His sister, Mrs. Katherine Wilder occupied the center seat. To her left sat her young daughter. They all moved as they chatted with each other, subtle movements such as the turning of a head, a hand moving to one side, the flexing of a foot.  There was something secretive and mysterious in these movements, as if the robots were afraid of being caught in the act. I would look at the figure of Budd as it spoke, turning its head to look at me and then detect some movement from one of the other figures. Wasn’t Mrs. Wilder’s hands folded in her lap before? Wasn’t the daughter looking to her left only a few second ago? The figures were more than lifelike, they were just plain creepy.

    The tour ended in the lounge car and we all debarked from there. Travis had a break for a few minutes so we resumed our conversation while Mary wandered off to explore more of the museum.

    “That was a great tour,” I said.

    “Thanks.” Travis took of his conductor’s hat, wiped the sweat from his brow with his coat sleeve, and put the hat back on. Apparently, fake conducting on a train that couldn’t go anywhere was harder work than I thought. “What did you think of the animatronics?” Travis asked.

    “The which?”

    “Animatronics, the robots.”

    “Really good,” I said, “a little freaky maybe.”

    Travis nodded. “We have to turn them on, you know. They’re not able to move unless we do.” One of the people who had been on the tour was walking near us and Travis waited for her to pass by before continuing. “So how come the figures in the lounge car move on their own, without being switched on? Mrs. Wilder, especially. She’s been seen moving her head when the power’s off.”

    “Do you think the car is haunted?” I asked.

    He shrugged and drew me to a display board near the train. One of the panels described an accident at Napier, Missouri on October 2, 1939, in which the engineer and another person aboard the Burlington Zephyr were killed.

    “Maybe there’s reason for it to be haunted,” Travis said.

    We had walked around to the front of the sleek locomotive, its single headlight piercing the gloom of the great hall. Though at rest, it looked as though it could spring to life at any moment and hurtle through the museum, with or without the dead engineer at its controls. More people passed by and Travis lowered his voice when he said, “The train isn’t the only thing in the museum that’s haunted. Have you heard about the U-505?”

    I knew something of the history of the U-505, the only German submarine ever captured by the Americans in World War II.  The U-505 was commissioned in Hamburg, Germany in 1941 and was involved in several battles and by 1942 was already responsible for sinking eight allied ships. On June 4, 1944 the USS Guadalcanal task group in the mid-Atlantic Ocean attacked the U-505. The Germans attempted to scuttle the sub, were unsuccessful, and so, surrendered to the American forces. The capture of the sub was the first time an American naval force had captured an enemy ship on the high seas since 1815, when the USS Peacock seized HMS Nautilus during the War of 1812. The submarine was towed into port in Bermuda where U.S. and British military experts could study it. Its capture was kept a secret until after the war.

    In 1946, the U.S. Navy planned to scuttle the German submarine by using her for target practice. The existence of the sub came to the attention of the Museum of Science and Industry’s president, Leonard Lohr, who revealed ten-year old plans for the museum that included a submarine among its future exhibits. The people of Chicago raised $250,000 to purchase the sub and tow it to the museum where it was designated as a war memorial and became a part of the museum’s exhibits.

    But none of that was what Travis was talking about. He was talking about ghosts aboard the U-505.

    “What kind of ghosts?” I asked.

    “The commander,” Travis said, “a man named Peter Zschech. In 1943, the sub was attacked with depth charges by a British ship. The attack went on for a while and Zschech just lost it. While the depth charges were exploding all around the sub, he killed himself in the control room.”     Travis told me that the U-505’s First Officer took over and skillfully evaded the attacking ship, bringing the sub safely back to port in France. “Some people here think that Zschech is still aboard his sub,” Travis said.

    He said that before the museum opens, a staff person boards the sub and walks through its length to turn the lights on inside. One day, as a member of the staff walked through the darkened sub to turn on the lights, he suddenly felt an unseen presence with him.

    “The guy said that the presence ‘tried to enter him’,” said Travis. “Those were his exact words, ‘enter him’.”

    Another docent was straightening up the commander’s bunk, Travis said, when he felt someone right behind him. He whirled around but there was no one there.

    Female docents especially seem to be having a tough time with the commander’s ghost. One young woman had just made a rather insulting joke about the commander, according to Travis, when a steel door suddenly slammed closed on her hand, injuring her. Another woman felt a hand come out of nowhere and grasp her shoulder. Of course, there was no one else in the room.

    The U-505 exhibit was undergoing major renovations when Mary and I visited the museum. It will be interesting to see if the ghost of Commander Zschech becomes even more active as a result of being stirred up by the commotion, or whether he decides to ship out for some otherworldly port. But even if Zschech leaves, the ghosts of Clarence Darrow and those aboard the Burlington Zephyr remain to keep you company when you visit Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

(Ghosthunting Illinois--and other books by John Kachuba--may be purchased at  See what else John is up to at


Bad Memories:
The Dead Secrets of Marshall Field
by Ursula Bielski

The transformation of Chicago's beloved Marshall Field & Company into Macy's is now complete; the event which Field's loyal followers dreaded has come to pass.  But maybe it's a good thing.  Indeed, Marshall Field & Company was plagued with death and disaster--and their paranormal ramifications--for more than 100 years.

In December of 1903, a devastating fire at the nearby Iroquois Theater (now the refurbished Oriental/Ford Center) took the lives of 602 Chicagoans, many of them children attending a matinee performance at the site.  As the tragedy unfolded, the 8th floor of Field's was converted into a hospital where fire victims were bandaged with dishtowels from housewares; those who died during treatment were wrapped in sheets and blankets from the bedding department to await the coroner's wagons.

A year earlier, an elevator cable "gave way in an unexplained manner," causing the car to plunge ten floors, from the 9th level into the basement, killing the elevator operator and wounding one passenger.

In 1905, Marshall Field, Jr. was found shot to death in the bedroom of his own home on Chicago's Prairie Avenue, reportedly the result of a self-inflicted shotgun shot.  Field's family told police the death had been an accident: Marshall had been cleaning a hunting weapon when it accidentally discharged.  Neighbors weren't so sure, however, and the press soon leaked rumors of Field's longtime dealings in the old Levee vice district, where Chinatown sprawls today.  Had Field taken his own life to bow out of some untoward matter at Chicago's most prestigious brothel, the Everleigh Club?  No one really knows, but we do know that for a century the enormous Field, Jr. house (known as the Murray house from its first owner) stood abandoned: no one, it seems, could live in it. 

That is, until now. 

For the past several years, the 30,000 square foot property has undergone a massive gutting and reconstruction; the 43 rooms have been transformed into 6 condominiums, with price tags of $870,000 to 1.7million.  But are the new tenants really comfortable? 

We doubt it.  Along with the sinister mark of its previous tenant, the house bears another burden: like with the rest of Prairie Avenue, it was originally built on the killing fields of the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812.  That Anglo-Indian battle resulted in the scalping and killing of scores of Chicago settlers, whose bodies remained on the windswept sand dunes for four years, until soldiers returned to the burned out fort to rebuild it in 1816.  At the turn of the 19th Century, Prairie Avenue dwellers were already complaining about the paranormality of their lovely digs; today, with a new generation of affluence moving in, the new life in the neighborhood is joined, again, by the dead.

Throughout the mid-20th century, rumors arose of a number of employee suicides said to have occurred from the 8th level of the then open-air atrium in Marshall Field & Company; coworkers were said to claim that the victims all spoke of a "heaviness" or depression while working on that floor.  Could the use of the floor as a hospital--and morgue--for the Iroquois victims have left some kind of deadly impression on the building itself?

In 1972, a car rammed a crowd of pedestrians on the south side of Marshall Field and Company, continuing through a display window, killing one shopper and injuring seven others.

In 1973, almost exactly a year later, a Northside Chicago woman jumped to her death from the ninth floor of the landmark store, leaving behind a suicide note in the housewares department.

The tragedy surrounding the Marshall Field family and its world-famous department store has led some paranormal investigators to speculate on the reasons for the problem.  Many Chicagoans believe that the trouble may stem from Field, Sr.'s life of luxury on the Fort Dearborn Massacre site, sacred ground for Native Americans.  Could Field have built his mansion, as some claim, on the mass grave of the Native American dead?

Today, the proud and historic shell of the world's first modern department store has a new resident.  Like many Chicagoans today, it's from New York, and though the store pays a lot of lip service to the "legacy" of the great Marshall Field & Company, the new bosses likely have little idea of the history--and mystery--they've inherited.


"Fort Meigs"
 Ghosts of War
by Jeff Belanger

(Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from GHOSTS OF WAR
Jeff Belanger.  Published by New Page Books, a division of Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ.  800-227-3371. All rights reserved.)

War: War of 1812 (1812–1814)
Dates of battle: April 30–May 8 and July 21–28, 1813
Location: Perrysburg, Ohio
Participants: United States General William Henry Harrison against Tecumseh and his Indian forces and British General Henry A. Proctor
Casualties: 400–500 who died in the two battles, in skirmishes surrounding the fort, and from illnesses related to the living conditions

“Tell General Proctor that if he shall take the fort it will be under circumstances that will do him more honor than a thousand surrenders.”

--U.S. General William Henry Harrison in a note to
   British General Proctor, May 4, 1813

Fort Meigs marked a turning point in the War of 1812, a war that wasn’t going well in the northwestern region of the United States at the time. America had been defeated in Dearborn, Mackinac, Detroit, and Frenchtown, and another rout could lead to the loss of the entire region. The stockades and forces at Fort Meigs held through two attacks and sieges, but not without its price. Today there are still echoes from those who fought. Some have claimed that even the spirits of Native Americans who lived here for centuries before the fort was built still roam the grounds. Many people today report strange glowing masses of light and even the apparitions of American soldiers, but there is an even higher rate of unexplained occurrences around blockhouse number three.

On January 22, 1813, General William Henry Harrison and 900 of his men were fleeing Frenchtown (modern day Monroe, Michigan) after a failed American offensive against British General Henry A. Proctor. Along the Raisin River in Frenchtown, U.S. Major General James Winchester let his guard down and didn’t post enough sentries to watch the town at night. By morning, British cannon fire was raining down from all around and the Redcoats swarmed like angry hornets. Of Winchester’s 960 men, over 300 were killed and 500 were captured, including Winchester himself, and the rest ran south to catch up with General Harrison’s men. When the escapees caught up with Harrison, they were panicked and warned that an exaggeratedly immense British and Indian force was heading south to finish off any American forces in the area. Harrison’s only choice was to give up Michigan territory and keep moving south to find a position where they stood a fighting chance.

When Harrison reached a hill on the banks of the Maumee River in northwest Ohio that evening, he ordered his 900 men to dig in—all the while checking over their shoulders to the north to watch for advancing British and Indian forces. The men dug and pick-axed through the cold weather without rest because if their enemy closed in, this could very well be the last stand for the northwestern United States. After almost two weeks had gone by and no enemy came, General Harrison figured a British attack wouldn’t come until spring, so he set his men to building a more significant fort.

Soon more American soldiers arrived from Kentucky and Virginia, bringing the garrison totals up to 1,800 men. When completed, the fort’s log stockade enclosed ten acres, seven two-level blockhouses, and five emplacements, or prepared cannon positions. They dug large earthen parapets on the river-side of the fort, offering protection from any attack that might come from the water. When the basic configuration was complete, General Harrison named the fort in honor of Ohio Governor Jonathan Meigs.

Back in Michigan, General Proctor was also building a force of more than 2,200—about 1,000 British and Canadian militia and 1,200 Indian. On April 26th, they set out for Fort Meigs. Two days later, they began to set up camps two miles from the fort.
Gen. Harrison’s scouts saw the British movement and reported in. Harrison ordered the base to be readied for defense as British scouts watched unabashedly from the opposite side of the Maumee River.

On April 30th, a British gunboat drifted down the Maumee and fired at Fort Meigs but it achieved little. Around 11 A.M. the next morning, General Proctor opened up his cannon artillery on the Americans inside the fort.

General Proctor’s hope for a quick surrender was quickly dashed. General Harrison gave the order to his quartermaster: “Sir, go and nail a flag on every battery where they shall wave as long as an enemy is in view.” Until late that night the British fired heavy and light rounds at the fort, and by midnight only two Americans were dead and four injured, but a steady rain was turning everything to mud, including the giant traverse dug just a few days prior.

May 2nd saw an all-day assault from Proctor and the British and Indian forces. Fort Meigs returned fire sparingly, considering their supplies of ammunition. General Harrison offered a reward of a gill (about 4 ounces) of whiskey for every six-pound British cannonball his men could recover for firing back. The more whiskey the men received, the braver they became at facing the British gunfire. Over 1,000 cannon balls were recovered.

For two more days, the British battering continued until a scout arrived informing Harrison that reinforcements were only 45 miles away. Gen. Harrison devised a plan to counterattack the British from Fort Meigs while the reinforcements flanked the British troops on the opposite side of the river and American gunboats could drift in and have their pick of targets.

The plan came together, and American forces chased the Indians through the woods all the way back to the British camp two miles away. The reinforcements successfully took out many of the British cannon batteries on the opposite shore of the Maumee, and the British retreated to their own camp to take up defensive positions. Of the 846 men under Colonel Dudley who chased the Indians back to the British base camp, only 170 made it back to Fort Meigs. The American rout was successful in securing their fort, but disastrous considering the losses that could have been avoided had the men stopped once the British fled their siege. Harrison sent out men from the fort to help break the Redcoat defensive lines that were forming during their retreat. The British came back for a few more cannon attacks on Fort Meigs in the coming days, but when Harrison returned fire with great number and fury on May 8th, Proctor conceded that the fort would not be his and pulled out.

The past is still alive at Fort Meigs in many ways. The site offers regular tours from volunteers in period dress, and many have reported experiences ranging the supernatural spectrum from simple uneasy feelings to seeing strange balls of light and even recognizable apparitions.

John Destatte is a 52-year-old history buff who has been volunteering at Fort Meigs since the early 1990s. He grew up in the area, and though he hasn’t seen the ghosts himself, he’s heard many reports from people who have.

“Blockhouse number three always seems to be a place where a lot of people say they see things,” Destatte said. “I’m one of the resident skeptics. I don’t necessarily believe in these things, but it’s food for thought when you hear a number of people repeatedly give the same accounts and the same stories, and you say well maybe there is something to this.

“Blockhouse number three was destroyed during the first battle at the fort, essentially from artillery fire from across the river. During the original construction, there was found to be many remains of Native Americans who are buried on that site, which is natural because it’s a nice prominent point looking over the river. A lot of people say they feel an Indian presence there, or they seem to see some sort of Indian spirit. Then there’s the other people who say they see a woman and child looking out of the upstairs of the blockhouse.”

“Was there any record of a woman and child there?” I asked.
“It doesn’t really tie into anything we’ve ever come across. Blockhouses were not used for people to stay in. We don’t know of anything that would indicate why people would see that apparition. But those two things always seem to be associated with blockhouse number three. We know that there was probably some refugees from the local area that might have taken shelter here. Some of them were probably from Frenchtown, which is present-day Monroe, Michigan, and there are some references to women at camp, but there really isn’t much to go by.”

Destatte explained how many of the Perrysburg locals will walk around the fort in the evenings, walking their dogs, or just going for a stroll. Some of these locals have contacted the fort to ask some peculiar questions. “Off the east end of the fort there was a local kid hanging out. His parents called a couple days after he was up there and asked what was going on this last weekend. And I said, ‘Well, there wasn’t anything going on. We didn’t have any events or anything, why?’ And he said his son was up there and he heard drums and music and horses, men marching over where the cemetery is. And he was wondering if we were having a re-enactment up there.

“That was a new story, I never heard that before, but when you stop and think about it, it makes sense because that’s exactly where Miller’s charge was. And he probably would’ve heard men marching, and the drums and fifes and horses because they were right in the area where this kid said he heard all of the noise.”

On May 5, Colonel John Miller and 19th U.S. Infantry led a sortie consisting of 350 men from seven companies against the British and Indian battery in the ravine on the east end of Fort Meigs. The men charged in full view of their enemy. Indian snipers fired at them from the tree line and British soldiers fired back head-on. By noon, Miller accomplished his goal of spiking the nearby British cannons and he managed to capture 42 prisoners in the charge.

Another hotspot for sightings at Fort Meigs are the giant earthen traverses. During the sieges, some brave (and probably a little bit crazy) men from the fort would stand on the traverses and watch the British artillery shots launch from across the river. The spotters would call out if they felt the shell was going to fly over the fort, or announce where they thought it might land inside—giving the American forces a second or two to take cover. 

During May 5th, when U.S. General Green Clay and his 1,200 reinforcements arrived, they surprise-attacked the British battery before moving into the cover of the fort. The orders were to spike the British cannons, then move back to the fort. The eager Americans were so successful they continued to chase the British and Indian forces into the woods where many Americans were cut down. Some men inside the fort saw what was happening and screamed for their comrades to stop and come back. Today, some witnesses have spotted the ghost of an American soldier standing on the traverse and frantically waving his arms, trying to get the attention of someone on the other side of the river. “It would make sense that you might see somebody on top of the traverses waving their arms,” Destatte said. “It ties into the written accounts.”

 “You hear some stories too often to just totally disregard them,” Destatte said.

To order Ghosts of War, please visit or your favorite bookseller. For more information on this new book or Jeff Belanger's other works, plese visit


"The Haunted Rectory"
 A True Chicago Ghost Story

by Rocco &Dan Facchini

(The following excerpt is reprinted with permission of Lake Claremont Press from "Muldoon: A True Chicago Ghost Story.")

At the corner
of Rush and Chestnut Streets, just a block away from the historic Chicago Water Tower and the bustle of Michigan Avenue, stands Quigley Preparatory Seminary, a Catholic entry-level school of theology for teenage boys aspiring to the diocesan priesthood. (The word seminary is derived from the Latin noun semen: a seed carefully sown into an environment of strong faith, to develop strong and vigorous stock.) Today, the old school seems like a lost homeless person among the modern glistening skyscrapers—unkempt, injured, and misplaced. Much has changed since I was a student there, when the religious compound comprised some of the largest structures in the area. The Gothic court buildings of the seminary stood tall and majestic then—a beacon amid a sea of shabby houses, scattered parks, and cheap taverns. In particular, I remember a balmy spring afternoon in 1949, just weeks away from my graduation ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral. This was the first time I had ever heard of a haunted rectory in a Chicago parish.

At the time I attended Quigley, the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago was a five-year school, offering three years of high school and two years of college preparation. Quigley was different from most minor seminaries in the nation because students did not have to move away from home to attend. Most other seminaries were boarding schools in which students were isolated from family life, and society. But Quigley was founded on the progressive idea that a minor seminarian could pursue studies leading to the priesthood while living a typical life with his family. The devout purpose of the school was to support the young seminarian in his growth as a person of prayer, spirituality, and intellectual understanding, as a trained messenger who would bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the waiting world. Classes were held five days a week, with Thursdays off and classes on Saturday. This kept fellows from common adolescent social activities, especially dating. The school days were from 9:00 A.M. to 3:15 P.M. daily, with a guaranteed three hours of homework each night.

Classes had a strong emphasis on language studies. Everyone studied English along with a modern language tied to his ethnic background, such as Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, or German. The predominantly Irish student body learned French. Latin was required through all five years, and classic Greek with its ancient alphabet was required of all seminarians from sophomore year onward. Quigley's difficult and complex curriculum was weighted heavily in the humanities, reflecting a wide range of thoughts and feelings of every human age and providing deep insight into the human psyche. Each student studied a significant amount of literature, including Latin classics such as Caesar's Gallic Wars and works by Cicero as well as Greek literature pieces like Xenophon's Anabasis and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Ancient, medieval, and modern history was studied. English literature concentrated on the works of Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet. The significance of all these classical studies was to develop a well-rounded parish priest as someone able to understand, connect with, and counsel desperate souls.

My senior English literature professor was Father Vincent Casey, a monotonous and no-nonsense teacher. He had a round, serious face and stood about six feet tall, weighing some 200 pounds. He was meticulous, from his trimmed, graying black hair at his temples, to his pristine black cassock, to his well-organized teaching style—he always stuck to his appointed text. Though his lectures were lethargic and dull, Father Casey was a teacher who, in order to perform, needed total control over his pupils. When the class faded from his attention, the easily flustered Father Casey would nervously start coughing and stuttering, his face would turn crimson, and he would begin rapidly distributing demerits. Like so many other mild men of the cloth, when Father Casey blew his stack, it was catastrophic and everyone ran for cover.

On this particular spring afternoon in 1949, Father Casey was concentrating on the main characters of Shakespearean plays. According to him, each of the Bard's characters was a worthwhile study of human behavior. As we discussed the significance of Banquo's ghost from Macbeth, Father Casey made a rare interruption from the coursework that I never forgot. He paused for a moment and completely changed the subject. With uncommon energy, he began talking about an old rectory in the archdiocese—a dark, musty place that smelled like death and had a creaky staircase leading to the second floor. Soberly, he told the class about the ghost of a former pastor who had been seen walking up the staircase, almost bumping into a priest from the house. Father Casey went on to tell of this ghost who made itself known many times, year after year, both visually and sonically. The story seemed fresh to him, as if it had just happened recently. And Father Casey told it very seriously. When some of the class chuckled in disbelief, he deliberately cleared his throat and retold his story, speaking in a stronger and more nervous tone. This was something that obviously shook him up. I could tell that he wanted to be heard. He wanted to be believed.

Father Casey gave few details or facts that would reveal the name or location of the haunted rectory. He just kept saying it was a dark, ominous place. After discussing it briefly, he turned back to the lecture topic just as abruptly as he had begun telling the ghost story. It was apparent Father Casey was uncomfortable speaking of ghosts and spirits. Though he never brought up his ghost story again, and I can't remember ever discussing the story with any of my classmates, I was enthralled by his short narration. I could not help but wonder where that haunted rectory could be.

Having been a priest, I can appreciate Father Casey's need to cut his ghost story short. Priests know that the discussion of the spirit world is dangerous territory, as it can easily challenge traditional Catholic beliefs. Historically and to this day, the Catholic Church refuses to officially recognize the concept of ghosts. Though Christianity promises immortality through the spiritual afterlife of heaven and hell, it rejects the concept of the manifestations of spirits returning to earth. Therefore, there is a vague, yet significant, difference between the definition of a human soul and a ghost: The soul goes to a completely different conscious afterlife unknown to our physical world, while a ghost, seen as a tortured spirit trapped in our material world, for unexplainable reasons does not move on to future rest. For men of the cloth, it might be all right to joke superficially or to allude briefly to ghostly happenings. However, it is more comfortable to blanket unexplained occurrences with silence, avoid deep theological debate, and move on to safer topics.


Rest in Peace, Ed Warren . . .
Ghosthunter and Demonologist Ed Warren worked with his wife, Lorraine, on some of America's most famous ghost cases, hauntings and possessions, including the case at Amityville, New York. Ed passed away on the afternoon of August 26th, 2006, after a long illness.
For more information on the Warrens, their cases and history, please visit The Warrens Website.

For an in-depth interview--and words of rememberance from fans and friends around the world, please visit


Read Ursula Bielski's brand-new article on
Chicago's Strange Angles and
Haunted Architecture

Click to read it, exclusively on


Do You See What I See?
Is the site of "The Most Haunted House in England" still haunted? Below, Borley Church, Essex, in 1972. The photo was taken by photographer Eddie Brazil, currently an active paranormal investigator and Borley expert. According to Brazil, Borley has lately been seeing a resurgence in paranormal activity.  For more on the most up-to-date phenomena--including recent photographs--at the Borley grounds, visit the Harry Price Website.


Saints and Sinners:
Mount Carmel's Motley Crew

(Reprinted with permission of Lake Claremont Press.  From Ursula Bielski's Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City : Lake Claremont Press.)  

Along Roosevelt Road in West Suburban Hillside, a curious conglomeration of souls awaits judgment. Here, in one of the largest post-mortem gatherings of Chicago's Italian-Americans, some of the most notorious of Chicago's gangland players lie side by side with some of the most pious of the city's faithful, all nestled in a curious and cramped communion. While generally there is a fair balance between good and evil, now and then the strength of one or another seems to overpower its opposite force.

Mt. Carmel briefly captured international attention in 1996 when Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was entombed in its Bishop's Mausoleum after losing his grueling battle with pancreatic cancer. Pilgrims trudged to the site for weeks, toughing the cold to glimpse the interior of the otherwise closed tomb—everlasting home to the bodies of Chicago's past Archdiocesan leaders. But before the spectacle of that recent season, pilgrims had been traveling to Mt. Carmel for a peek and a prayer at the comparatively modest monument that marks the grave of a mysterious young woman named Julia.

Over the past seventy-five years, Julia Buccola Petta has been engaging the interest of thousands of Chicagoans, becoming no less than a martyr to many of Chicago's Italian-American women. Such status is partly due to the circumstances of her death, but is ultimately due to the circumstances that came after that death.

In 1921, the young bride died in childbirth and was buried at Mt. Camel carrying her baby. When in 1927, Buccola's mother had recurring visions of Julia begging to be dug up, Julia's casket was opened. To the shock of witnesses, the girl's body, six years in its grave, had remained in unblemished condition. Astonished admirers hastened to display a photograph of the perfectly preserved corpse on Buccola's tombstone, where it remains today along with the Italian-English inscription:

Filumena Julia Buccola aged 29
Questa fotoraha presa dopo 6 anni morti.

As a further tribute, a life-sized statue of "The Italian Bride" serves as a beacon to the endless stream of curiosity seekers who come to pay homage to a powerful image, the instantaneous meeting of birth and death.

According to some of those visitors, not only Julia's flesh has endured the rigors of the grave. Buccola's spirit also seems to have survived, joining the handful of Women in White featured in Chicago ghostlore. The ghost of this dead mother, clad in the wedding gown she was buried in three-quarters of a century ago, wanders near her resting place, say witnesses. In fact, one story recounts the day a small boy was accidentally left behind in the cemetery by his family. The boy's shaken kin rushed back to the cemetery and spotted the child taking the hand of a white-gowned woman. Upon the family's arrival at the scene, however, the woman vanished.

Over the years, the ongoing search for the phantom Julia spread to all generations. Even local Proviso West high-schoolers would make ritual attempts to catch a glimpse of this fabled apparition, sometimes leaving school dances en masse to line up, eyes wide, along the Mt. Carmel fence.

In 1947, 20 years after the unearthing of the Buccola grave, Mt. Carmel's ground was broken once again, this time for the interment of Alphonse Capone. The family plot, gathering several of Al's siblings, his mother Theresa, and his father Gabriel, is nondescript by Mt. Carmel standards. In a burial ground filled with life-sized likenesses and family mausoleums, the Capones' humble flush stones would go unnoticed but for the force of the family name.

Visitors to the Capone grave find flowers, beer cans, coins, and other tokens of varying sentiment: the love and regret of family; the compassion or curses of strangers; the grotesque admiration of the anonymous. At least a few unknown visitors, perhaps heirs to his wrath, have made attempts to soothe Al’s soul with peace offerings. Though few haunting-related stories exist to enforce the fear, the admonition to tread softly here is taken to heart by most.

The fear of being haunted was something to which Capone himself confessed. In his later years, he became convinced that he was being stalked by the vengeful spirit of James Clark, brother-in-law of Capone's arch rival, Bugs Moran, and a victim in Capone's cold-blooded coup, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.


The Hand of Death

(Reprinted with permission of Lake Claremont Press. From David
Cowan's Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes that Shaped a City.)

In 1924, Good Friday fell on April 18. On that afternoon, members of the Chicago Fire Department's Engine Co. 107 and Truck Co. 12 settled into their daily routine. Even though it was a holy day, cleaning the large firehouse was still a necessary duty. After drawing the task of cleaning the first-floor windows, Francis X. Leavy, a member of Engine 107, set about his duties without any specific zeal.

At that particular moment in history, the world beyond the stable pattern of firehouse life was pursuing an unusually lively pace. Europe was still rebuilding from the Great War. In Paris, a lost generation of writers and artists was trying to make sense of it all. In America, the Roaring Twenties moved wildly to the playing of Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong. It was the Jazz Age, an era of flappers and It Girls, of illegal liquor and underground speakeasies, of individual fortunes created by a skyrocketing stock market. Chicago was in the thick of the action, a Babylon of prostitution, gambling, and bootlegging thanks largely to its mayor and chief buffoon, William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, who along with most city cops and county judges, was compensated handsomely by the underworld. In 1924, Chicago's Grant Park Stadium was renamed Soldier Field in honor of America's World War I veterans, and a reform mayor, William Devers, was elected after promising to clean things up. But four years later the crooked Thompson would be back in office, once again padding his pockets with the spoils of public corruption.

Frank Leavy and his Chicago Fire Department colleagues didn't share in the glamour of the era. As gangster Al Capone lived a potentate's existence in downtown Chicago hotel suites, city firemen struggled to raise families on about $2,500 a year. Most had to work second jobs. Frank Leavy spent his days off driving a taxi.

Like most of his co-workers, Leavy was Irish. He joined the fire department 13 years earlier after an eight-year stint in the navy, which he had joined at age 14. A family man, he and his wife Mary were parents of a young son and daughter, Frank, Jr. and June. When Leavy said goodbye that Good Friday morning, no one guessed it would be for the last time. All day, the normally upbeat Leavy seemed uncharacteristically sullen, even melancholy.

As the firemen went about their cleaning, they listened to the Joker, the telegraph system at the front of the firehouse that devoted most of that afternoon to a four-alarm fire in the Union Stockyards. The fire was too far away; Engine 107 and Truck 12 were not due to respond. Yet, that such a large fire was burning only a few miles to the south made the men edgy. Leavy tried putting it out of his mind, concentrating on the window he was washing. He placed his left hand against the glass and wiped it clean with a soapy sponge in his right hand. It was precisely at this moment that he looked down and uttered a grim prophecy:

"This is my last day on the fire department."

Though Leavy had spoken to no one in particular, his words, coupled with his sudden change in personality, puzzled his fellow firefighters, including Edward McKevitt, who had been standing next to him. Before McKevitt could respond, bells started ringing. Box 372 was coming in for a fire a mile-and-a-half east. Engine 107 and Truck 12 were due to cover the response because other fire companies stationed closer to the new fire were fighting the stockyards fire. "Fourteenth and Blue Island," yelled the officer at the desk. "Let's Go." Leavy donned his boots, coat, and helmet and jumped on the back of the 1921 Ahrens-Fox pumper assigned to Engine 107.

The fire was bad. Burning was Curran Hall, a landmark 50-year-old brick building at 1363 S. Blue Island, southwest of the Loop. During its heyday, the four-story dance hall had been a popular party spot. But thanks to time and Prohibition, instead of dancing and fun, the hall now was home to several small businesses, including a leather goods store.

Engine 107's crew stretched a hoseline up the fire escape and into the burning second floor. They crawled on hands and knees through the heat and blinding smoke, inching their way to the seat of the fire. In those days firefighters had no breathing apparatus, so they had to follow the hose and crawl back and forth to the door to grab a breath of fresh air. After playing water against the flames for about a half hour, it began to darken, but the firefighters could sense something was wrong. Their instincts were confirmed when fire commanders outside began frantically screaming for their men to get out of the building.

But the warning came too late because no sooner did the men from Engine 107 and Truck 12 begin scrambling for the fire escape when the building's outer walls buckled, bringing down the entire structure, burying the firefighters inside. The collapse knocked out electrical power to the area, leaving those searching for trapped men to use flashlights. For several hours they dug by hand amid the possibility of a secondary collapse. When cranes were finally brought in eight bodies were dug out. Frank Leavy's dire prophecy had been fulfilled: he had been among those killed. Though Leavy's chest had been severely crushed, his was the only body recovered with an intact face, its features clearly distinguishable.

Of the eight dead firefighters, six were from the firehouse at 13th and Oakley. One civilian had also been killed. A ninth firefighter, also from the Oakley station, died eight days later. Twenty others had been injured. A tenth firefighter suffered a fatal heart attack while serving as a pallbearer for one of the victims from Truck 12.

When the building collapsed, Edward McKevitt was working outside. The next day, the shaken McKevitt related to a group of firefighters Leavy's spooky premonition of death. As he told the story, McKevitt glanced up at the window Leavy had been wiping. Etched in the glass, in the exact spot where Leavy had rested his soapy left hand was the image of a man's handprint. Because it hadn't been there before, McKevitt suggested the handprint was Leavy's, and he and the others tried scrubbing it away. When the image refused to come off, a combination of fear and mystery infiltrated the firehouse.

Arson surfaced during the investigation of the Curran Hall fire. Flammable liquids had been used to start the fire, which originated inside the leather goods store on the second floor. Detectives learned that the store's two owners had been in financial trouble, and that on the night of the fire, the pair had instructed their employees not to lock the rear doors. Witnesses later related seeing one of the men leave the building through the unlocked door shortly before the fire was reported. After a coroner's jury returned a verdict of murder by arson, the two owners were indicted. At trial the defendants were acquitted because, despite an abundance of circumstantial evidence, nothing could be produced to prove that they had actually started the fire themselves. For the dead firefighters and their families, this meant justice had been denied.

Meanwhile, the legend of the ghostly handprint lived on. Over the years, firefighters assigned to Engine 107 and Truck 12 came and went. But in the course of their daily house duties, many had tried to scrub the mysterious handprint from the window. Not one effort, including the use of ammonia or scraping the glass with a razor blade, had succeeded. Finally, the Pittsburgh Glass Company, which had manufactured the window, was called in. Still, the apparently supernatural print resisted even their toughest chemical cleaning compounds, causing the handprint to become all the more famous. Dozens of people visited the firehouse to view the strange phenomenon and listen to the story of Frank Leavy. Was the handprint an apparition? No one knew for sure. But when a city official obtained a copy of Leavy's thumb-print, it was compared with the print on the window. The two thumbprints matched perfectly. There could be no doubt: the handprint on the glass definitely belonged to Frank Leavy.

The handprint remained undisturbed for 20 years until one day in 1944, when the unexplained revisited the firehouse at 13th and Oakley. A newsboy accidentally threw the afternoon paper through the window, shattering the glass containing the handprint along with any hope of solving its mystery or preserving its physical evidence. What made the accident eerie was the date of its occurrence: April 18, 1944, exactly 20 years to the day of Leavy's death.

Leavy's widow, Mary, and her daughter, June, never went to the firehouse to view the handprint. The younger Frank Leavy did, though he never conceded that the print was his father's. Yet, he did follow in his father's footsteps by joining the Chicago Fire Department on April 18, 1945, the 21st anniversary of his father's death. He was not assigned to Engine 107.

Aside from the belief that the handprint was supernatural, some have theorized that Frank Leavy's fear of an impending crisis may have caused his pancreas to produce a chemical that left behind a permanent stain through his perspiration. No one will ever know for sure. The firehouse at 13th and Oakley was razed in 1971, replaced by a newer one a few blocks away.


Meat is Murder: The Butcher of Palos Park

By Ursula Bielski

Just southwest of Chicago proper lies a sprawling expanse of slough-studded forest, one of the largest preserve areas in Northern Illinois and, many believe, one of the most haunted regions in America.

Though the story to be told plays out in one of this area’s many villages, it cannot be told without setting the larger scene, because Palos Park is nestled in one of the nation’s most mysterious districts, and Chicago’s most supernatural realm.

The area known locally as “Palos” is comprised of three separate villages: Palos Heights, Palos Hills, and Palos Park, and these three towns slumber on the Eastern border of the most under populated part of this very haunted territory. The district is bounded on its north end by phantom-riddled Archer Avenue, home to Chicago’s most famous ghost, Resurrection Mary, an erstwhile Southside Polish girl who has, for more than seventy years, hitchhiked this old Indian road as far south as Willow Springs. Her stomping grounds are also home to the so-called Sobbing Woman of Archer Woods Cemetery, the gangland ghosts of Rico D’s restaurant, an old Capone speakeasy, and the phantom automobiles tied in legend to the 1956 double-murder of little Barbara and Patricia Grimes, whose frozen bodies were eventually found at nearby Devil’s Creek. 

Archer Avenue was built in the early 1800s by Irish immigrants who settled in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, near present-day Chinatown. The building of the road progressed in conjunction with a much larger, more significant project: the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a waterway that aimed to, at long last, connect by water the Chicago River and the Illinois River, thereby connecting the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. Constructing the road over an old Indian trail that snaked southwest out of the city, immigrants worked under conditions that were often slave-like, going without pay or food--and sometimes without water--for days or weeks at a time. It is estimated that many hundreds of canalers died along the canal route; indeed, one of Archer’s most haunted sites is the churchyard of St. James, established near the Sag Bridge, which was founded to accommodate the bodies of the many dead canalers. 

The suffering of the Illinois and Michigan canalers certainly left a preternatural imprint on this atmospheric road, but other factors that have contributed to the haunting of Archer Avenue can also go a long way in explaining the haunting of the entire region south of it, most notably the presence of water. 

Even before the building of the Illinois and Michigan canal (and, with less fanfare, the Calumet-Sag Channel and the Illinois Sanitary and Ship Canal), the DesPlaines River flowed through this heavily-forested land, a landscape covered with lakes, ponds and sloughs. Though it was long believed by many cultures that water keeps ghosts at bay, parapsychologists today contend that paranormal manifestations are actually encouraged by the presence of water, an excellent conductor for the electromagnetic energies that ghosts are thought to be. 

Another contributor to the paranormality of this region may be the sheer under population of much of it. The Chicago area is rife with forest preserves, some of them even within the city limits, and these areas have long been notorious as hotbeds of supernatural phenomena. Why? Theories abound. 

Of course, haunted houses most often harbor their ghosts in the attic or basement: areas with infrequent human visitors. Silly as it may seem, ghosts seem to prefer to “hide” from flesh-and-blood cohabiters rather than mix in with their everyday lives. It would follow, then, that forest preserves would be perfect habitats for Chicago ghosts with a distaste for the hustle and bustle of urban life. 

Other theories, however, suggest that it is humans--and not haunts--that have ended up infesting Chicago’s preserves. Some preserve visitors have attested to experiencing chanting and singing by unseen people; at times this chanting seems to be done by dozens of voices. Others have reported glimpsing apparitions of hooded or cloaked figures, including those seen at Red Gate Woods, along Archer Avenue, and at super-notorious Bachelors Grove Cemetery, part of the Rubio Woods preserve, an overgrown woodland ossuary that remains one of the most haunted cemeteries in the nation. These audio and visual apparitions are often tied to the ritualistic activities that have been reported in Chicago-area preserves since at least the 1960s. Those who make the connection believe that these rituals, performed largely by amateurs, have conjured up nature or even evil spirits that their unskilled conjurers could bring forth, but not send back. 

The little village of Palos Park is, today, pure woodland serenity, a pocket of humanity comprised mostly of mid-20th century ranch houses, bordering the great forested preserves of Southwest Chicago. Residents commute to Chicago to work, but thoroughly enjoy the riding stables, fishing holes and hiking trails of their home village. But don’t be fooled by this town’s peaceful looks. The place holds a terrible secret indeed, if the legends of this town are true. For, at the foot of a hill on the grounds of Palos Park’s unassuming, interactive “Children’s Farm”--a petting zoo and interpretive center catering to school groups--is buried the head--and only the head--of a horrifying local maniac: the Demon Butcher of Palos Park.

Hermann Butcher was one of a number of small businessmen who migrated to the Palos region during the chaos of the Columbian Exposition of 1892, when the influx of visitors to Chicago--many of them settling there--drove a significant section of the urban population to quieter realms outside the city limits. The town of Palos was originally dubbed “Trenton” at its founding in the 1830s; in 1850, the village was renamed by its postmaster, whose ancestor had sailed from Palos de Fronters with Christopher Columbus.

In the days of its establishment Palos Park was a farming community in a region that had been alive with Indians and French explorers in the 1700s, but the building of the Wabash Railroad was the key to its survival, as it allowed non-farming residents with Chicago ties to establish homes in Palos beginning in the late 1800s. 

Butcher, whose family name came from the long-held family business, was one of several German immigrants who set up butcher shops in Palos in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t long before he was the only butcher left in town. The significant depression that swept the United States in the 1890s did not miss Palos, and butchers here were pinned to the ground by the livestock shortage that accompanied it. Fortunately, Hermann Butcher was not only well-to-do, having enjoyed a thriving business in Chicago before his exodus, he was also well-connected to executives and managers at the best Chicago meat suppliers. Though he was forced, like his colleagues, to raise his prices, Butcher was able to remain in business. 

No one knows whether Butcher’s insanity stretched back further than his life in Palos, but what happened during his days here have made residents of Palos afraid to dig more deeply. 

The atrocities began one afternoon when a large shipment of beef arrived at Butcher’s shop. Like most butchers of the day, Hermann retained an apprentice who learned, at his side, the art and craft of butchering meat. Hermann was known in the village to drive his apprentice too hard. With a bad back and a sharp tongue, Butcher pawned off most of the daily workload onto his young charge, who bore the increasing burden with the patience of a saint. On this particular day, though the shipment was larger than usual, Butcher pressed his apprentice to carry every parcel of it down to the basement meat locker, without a lick of assistance from the master. Unfortunately, a particularly heavy package of beef caused the young man to falter on the steep steps; he tumbled to the basement, breaking his neck with a fatal snap.

Butcher was horrified. He knew he had a reputation for working his apprentice into the ground, and of disciplining him with his foul temper. Because of it, he had been on unfriendly terms with the boy’s family for months. Would the apprentice’s family think the boy’s death had been Hermann’s fault? That he had driven the boy too hard or, worse, in a flair of temper, pushed him down the stairs?

Strained by months of trying to keep his business afloat, Butcher wasn’t willing to chance it. If he were accused of contributing in any way to his apprentice’s death, who knew what could happen? And Butcher was sick of worrying and struggling. In a moment of desperation, Butcher stashed the apprentice’s corpse behind the parcels of beef that the young man had just unloaded. He locked the freezer door and hoped for the best.

It wasn’t long before the boy was missed, but inquiries as to his whereabouts were met by Butcher’s own, feigned bewilderment and anger: I have no idea where he is, Hermann claimed, but when you find him, tell him to get into work immediately! Butcher claimed he hadn’t seen the boy since he’d left work two days before; he suggested that the boy had been unhappy with the job and, perhaps, had decided to hop a Chicago-bound train to make his fortune in a more pleasing apprenticeship.

Despite his cool demeanor, the heat on Hermann increased as the week wore on. Adding stress was the always-dwindling meat supply. When fare for his customers was at an all-time low, Butcher took action. After closing up shop one evening, he made his way to the basement meat locker. Working by the light of a dim lantern, he carved up a portion of the apprentice’s chilled left leg and packaged it in butcher paper. At home that night, Hermann roasted the leg meat and sat down to dinner. Sampling the morbid fare, he found it surprisingly similar to beef, but with an added sweetness that rendered it quite delectable.

Early next morning, Butcher arrived at his shop and spent several hours butchering and displaying his gruesome offerings. When the first customers arrived, they were delighted to find the fine-looking cuts of meat and, in short time, every one was sold.

The next day, a nervous Butcher was waiting for the verdict on his grisly new supply. To his delight, the same customers returned, having found Hermann’s “beef” scrumptious. Luckily, Butcher had carved up most of the apprentice’s remaining corpse, so his customers went away happy again, but this couldn’t last... or could it?

Butcher found himself newly perplexed. If he could not supply more of the flesh his customers craved, what would they do? Likely, try to find more of the strangely delicious beef themselves, by contacting his suppliers. This simply couldn’t be allowed. The supply would have to continue.

When the last scraps and bones had been sold, Butcher launched a fresh plan to protect his ever-floundering business. Each evening for weeks, he made his way out to the railroad yard and singled out a hungry-looking hobo. Promising food in exchange for some light labor, Hermann lured his victims back to his shop, where he fed them a drugged dinner, washed down with potent schnapps, until they dozed off. When the unfortunate vagrant was suitably comatose, Butcher brought out his cleaver and hacked him up in his sleep, working late into the night to attractively arrange the cuts for sale the next day.

Soon, however, word spread through the hobo camp that something untoward was afoot; overnight, the camp emptied, and Butcher was again without meat for his shop.

By this time, Butcher had passed the point of no return. One by one, in the days that followed, the children of Palos began to go missing. Besides the hobos, who could be plied with food and liquor, these little ones were all that Butcher, in his aged state, could handle.

Worse, with the first child’s murder came even greater reviews of Butcher’s products: Hermann’s customers, of course, found the latest offerings the most succulent of all, so Butcher was insanely encouraged to provide more and more of the sickening stock.

Eventually, the locals began to suspect that one of their own villagers was behind the recent string of child abductions; working with an assortment of tips--and driven by the hunches of the apprentice’s family--a group of enraged villagers stormed Butcher’s shop late one night, searching it from top to bottom and finding, in the basement meat locker, a shocking array of packaged body parts--and the remains of a seven-year-old child hanging from a meat hook.

Making their way to Butcher’s home, the villagers forced entry and dragged Hermann out onto the lawn, where they butchered him with his own cleaver, spraying the house with blood. The final blow of the cleaver severed Butcher’s head, which the people of Palos buried at Indian Hill, across from Oak Hill Cemetery. 

Today, Palos Park remains a uniquely peaceful suburb of Chicago, the greatest beneficiary of the preserves that surround it. Residents enjoy horseback riding, fishing, boating and hiking in the beautiful woodlands that abut the village, and even the homes here nestle in lovely woodland settings. Still, at Oak Hill Cemetery, all is not at rest.

After the slaughter of Hermann Butcher, and the burying of his head at Indian Hill, the murderer’s headless remains were interred separately in a plot near the center of Oak Hill Cemetery, marked by a stone bearing only the name of “Butcher.” But they haven’t remained there. Residents of Palos Park tell of the body moving ever closer to the head. In fact, the grave has mysteriously moved twice already, from the center of the graveyard towards the road, to a plot near the pond, then to its current site along Southwest highway itself. Is it only a matter of time before Butcher’s body returns to its unbutchered state--rejoining its head across the road? 

Of course, skeptics claim that the Butcher remains have been repeatedly moved by decidedly unsupernatural means. The water table at the cemetery is such, they say, that certain graves have become waterlogged over the years, forcing the caretakers to move them, sometimes more than once. The migration of the Butcher body closer and closer to the road (and, inevitably, its head at Indian Hill) is, according to the unbelievers, pure coincidence. 

A visit to the Children’s Farm on a warm summer afternoon seems to chase away all thoughts of ghosts. The air smells of hay and new-mown grass, and the sounds of young animals mingle with the laughing of children, visitors to the Farm enjoying its pleasant, natural surroundings. 

Wandering away from the animals and the outbuildings, however, yields a distinctly different feeling, especially if one wanders toward Indian Hill... (to be continued)

(Many thanks to the Palos Historical Society and the Children's Farm for reference materials and a lifetime of information!)