Haunted Hot Spots

By The Columbia Chronicle

Marnie Schipper

Staff Writer

“While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin…” -Percy Bysshe Shelley

When the temperature starts to drop and the leaves begin to change indicating that fall is on its way, people’s thoughts often turn to Halloween and the ghosts and goblins associated with the holiday.

Children and adults make trips to local cemeteries in hopes of catching a glimpse of the paranormal while others seek the undead through one of the many ghost tours that crop up in October.

For Ursula Bielski, author of “Chicago Haunts,” ghost hunting is a year-round hobby. Bielski is a local historian, ghost hunter and parapsychology enthusiast who regularly speaks on the connections between the city’s history and its folklore. Because she had an interest in the paranormal and her grad school professors “drummed it into my head that history was purely subjective,” Bielski decided to write “Chicago Haunts” in an effort to show how history can be experienced through true ghost stories. “Chicago Haunts” is the result of eight years of research and hundreds of conversations with people who claim to have witnessed some sort of paranormal activity or at least know someone who has.

According to Bielski, Chicago is a hot spot for ghosts, including the most famous of Chicago’s ghosts, Resurrection Mary. Mary is Bielski’s favorite ghoul because “she reflects people’s interests, people from different neighborhoods will claim her for their own.” Mary is also a ghost that a great many claim to have seen first-hand. For those unfamiliar with the story, Mary is said to be a young blonde woman who appears to travelers (mainly men) along Archer Avenue in Southwest Chicago. Resurrection Mary sightings began in 1939 when people complained to the police that a woman tried to jump on the running boards of their cars. Later, it was said that Mary would meet young men at local dances, spend all evening with them, and after agreeing to a ride home, would direct them down Archer Avenue where she would vanish from the car as it neared the gates of Resurrection Cemetery. Although Mary sightings differ slightly in account, they continue to this day.

No one knows for certain the true identity of Mary but a ghost that haunts the community mausoleum in Rosehill cemetery is believed to be Richard Warren Sears. Sears, who rests near his arch rival Aaron Montgomery Ward, has been seen in top hat and tails leaving his chamber to walk the halls of the mausoleum between his own crypt Ward’s. Ward, however, has refused to stir.

With 100 or more reported sightings, the cemetery proclaimed most haunted in Chicago is Bachelor’s Grove, located in the Rubio Forest Preserve. Although the cemetery is deserted and surrounded by a chain-link fence where numerous ‘No Trespassing’ signs are posted, it continues to draw the fearless in droves. Reputed to be a place for satanic practices, the cemetery inspires tales of floating blue and white lights and a house that seems to appear and disappear at will. A two-headed man was spotted in the quarry pond along with darkly hooded figures that stood silently for a few moments and then disappeared.

While cemeteries such as Bachelor’s Grove and Rosehill are common haunting grounds, Chicago’s ghosts can be found almost anywhere. From Dillenger’s Alley (next to the Biograph on Lincoln Ave.) to the area in Lincoln Park where the St. Valentine’s Day massacre occurred, it would seem that any spot associated with a grizzly death is fodder for ghostlore.

“Everyday events, especially tragic events, inspire if not the creation, but the talk of supernatural phenomenon,” says Bielski. Chicago is rich in the kind of history that inspires such talk and as a result, rich in supernatural occurrences, real or imagined.

Group Tours in the Chicago Area:

“Excursions into the Unknown,” conducted by Ghost Research Society President, Dale Kaczmarek.

(708) 425-5163 or www.ghostresearch.org

Chicago Supernatural Tours hosted by

Richard Crowe (773) 735-2530

To request an investigation or to report Chicago area paranormal phenomena, contact Tom and Steve McNichols at the Office of Paranormal Investigations, (773) 794-0349

paranormal@ameritech.net

The Ghost Hunters Society

Mike Komen, Poltermike@worldnet.att.net

Photos provided by Tamara Bell.

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