Thursday, November 20, 2008

Countless Historical Chicago shots!

Google has put about 20% of LIFE magazines 10 million-shot photo archive online, and plans to get the rest up eventually. Thousands of new Chicago images are up. This is a GOLD MINE, folks! Who knows what will turn up? New shots of rarely-seen criminals? A new shot of the Fool Killer Submarine? Of the Murder Castle?

Just typing in "Chicago" gets 200 results, but "chicago crime," "chicago people," etc bring up more and more.

Chicago Pictures from LIFE

Friday, November 14, 2008

Possible Ghost Shot!

The other night I ran a private tour for a group from No strange noises in the Florentine Room tonight, but we did get a cool picture - that's me on the left, but the origin of the shadow on the right is undetermined:

I never hold up anything as "good" evidence - there is no such thing as "good" ghost evidence, only "cool" ghost evidence. This is some of that! The picture was actually taken without the use of a flash (hence the brightness/contrast adjustment), and most of the rest of the group was on the other side of the ballroom, about to leave. The light source visible is presumably from the doorway. It's POSSIBLE that someone else was taking a picture at the exact same second, but the silhouette is much better defined than I'd expect from that sort of situation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Massacre Tree

I've written a bit on here before about Chicago's first tourist trap: the massacre tree. A tree on 18th street outside of the long-demolished Pullman Mansion that not only marked the spot of the 1812 Ft. Dearborn Massacre, but that, well have Chicago had become a big city, still had bullet holes from the massacre in it. It blew down in a storm in the late 19th century - this is the first time I've seen a photograph of it:

Note the Pullman mansion, another lost landmark, in the background.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Remains of Jean LaLime

It's a story often retold on tours (including ours, from time to time): two of the first settlers in town were John Kinzie and John (Jean) LaLime. Kinzie murdered LaLime, moved into his house, and buried the body in the front yard, where he tended to the grave for years. Years later, the bones were dug up and given to the Chicago Historical Society (who, of course, were just thrilled), then were destroyed in the Great Fire.

The thing is, though, the killing wasn't exactly murder - it was a case of self defense, by all accounts. And the bones certainly didn't burn up in the fire - they were still underground at the time! The skeleton (pictured on the right) was actually dug up around the corner of Illinois and Wabash where workers were digging for a cellar in 1891. Experts couldn't be sure if it was LaLime or not, as old timers had conflicting views on exactly where he was buried, but most agreed that this was probably him (or what's left of him). My understanding is that the historical society actually still HAS the bones.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last Night in the Park

Last night I walked past Haymarket Square, past the theatre were Roosevelt first said to speak softly and carry a big stick, down a street once trod by Abraham Lincoln himself, and into Grant Park for the election night rally.

I spend a LOT of time researching events from Chicago's history. Just a LOT. To be there for a part of Chicago's history was just indescribable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Who's bad?

There's a tagger in my neighborhood who is getting bolder and bolder, spray-painting the word "BAD" all over:

It can only be Michael Jackson and his Gang of Toughs!

While mostly inactive of late, Jackson and his gang made a name for themselves in the early 80s, when their knife-fighting skills were the stuff of legends. By the end of the 80s, when the spray-painted "bad" became their trademark, they were a bunch of smoooth criminals. Mostly inactive of late, this could be the sign that Jackson is making a comeback.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An H.H. Holmes Collector's Item

From an 1896 issue o The Oologist magazine:

Benjamin Pretzel? I wonder how many of these the guy (who lived a couple blocks from the place) sold? Was there any way to distinguish the packets from any other packet of abspestos? Are any still out there today?

I've occasionally had a chance to get things along this line, but I don't want anything Holmes ever owned in my house. I have some "collector's items," including a clothes hanger Bob Dylan bent up, and a strand of Charles Dickens' hair, a doorknob from the hotel Capone used as his headquarters, and some bricks from death alley, but I draw the line at serial killer relics.

In similar news, I recently found an article from 1895, during excavations of the castle, that had another explanation for the bones found there: they were not murder victims, but remants of a cemetery that had been on Wallace after the Civil War, but was built over. This is not impossible; Chicago is certainly in the habit of building over cemeteries without moving the bodies first. But to the best of my knowledge, the "castle" was not built over an old graveyard.

Here's something I'd never seen before yesteray: Holmes without his hat on.


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