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C H I C A G O  G H O S T S:
The Mysterious Bishop Muldoon


"The Haunted Rectory" from
 Muldoon:
 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.