Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Old Town Tatu on Ghost Lab (long post)

The Weird Chicago Team started investigating Odin Tatu (formerly the Klemundt Funeral Home, currently Old Town Tatu ) before Weird Chicago even existed - we were all still working for another company at the time. And the first investigation (June, 2006) of the tattoo shop was different than the more recent ones have been; back then, we were just looking for ghosts from the funeral parlor. Richie "Tapeworm" Herrera was the owner of the place then - it was on that first investigation that he pointed to the staircase and said "you guys see that staircase?.....twice, when I was walking down those stairs, I felt like someone was trying to push me. And that freaked me out, because everyone knows you can't fight BACK with these cats, right? So the first time it happened, I said 'listen! if I die in this place, it is ON!'" (those aren't his exact words - I'm basing this on my notes from that night - the recorder wasn't running at the time - and cleaning up his language a LOT, as I try to keep things clean(ish) around here).

Anyway, by now you probably know the story - Tapeworm died a few weeks after that first, somewhat informal investigation, and since then people have focused on looking for HIS ghost there. And if there was ever a ghost I believed in, it's his. Many times, I've felt someone in that basement flicking my ears and pulling my hair - all the ways guys like Richie would pick on nerds like me.

Tapeworm had several stories for us that first night - what he told us, and the events of that night, are chronicled extensively in Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps and on our podcast (16mb mp3), which includes some of the audio. The short version: Tapeworm had seen a guy in a brown suit, another guy in a powder blue suit, a little girl, and a woman in white. I think he was making the woman in white up - my impression of him that night was that he genuinely thought the place was haunted, but had some misinformation about the place and wasn't above exaggerating. Exaggerating when you tell ghost stories is hardly unusual. Almost everyone does it - and Tapeworm probably would've copped to it sooner or later. He was a cool cat.

We've had just a handful of experiences there on the occasions that we've brought tour groups there (which we can't often do - just occasionally). There have been a handful of interesting pictures, but I haven't seen anything REALLY exciting. There've also been a few nights when the basement suddenly began to smell of formaldahyde.

Anyway, going into the ghost lab show, there have been some mysteries:
1. For how long has there been a funeral parlor on the spot? Oral tradition has it dating to the 1880s. The Klemundt Funeral Parlor on the site was built in the 1920s, but the basement is clearly the foundation of an earlier building (there are places where you can see where the windows were). What this building was has never been determined. Also undocumented is the notion that the garage was once a stable and that some 30 bodies were buried on the grounds at one point (members of the Klemundt family I've spoken to seem to disagree on the history of the place, though they HAVE thought it was haunted for years).

2. Who was "Walter?" On that first investigation, the EVP mic picked up a ghost that identified itself as Walter. Tapeworm got all excited and said that Walter Klemundt was the last owner of the funeral parlor to die. We later learned that there was no Walter Klemundt (or that there WAS a Walter, but he wasn't dead yet, depending on who you asked). I suspected that there may have been someone in the building messing with us on this one. It happens.

Trying to get to the truth of the matter on anything ghost-related is rough going. I often compare ghost hunting TV shows to professional wrestling - some of the moves might be "real," but, whatever the intentions of the investigators, most of the shows are 90% showmanship. Trying to get "answers" to any of these mysteries from a show is usually a fool's errand. They may learn information that contradicts the stories they've heard, or find a good explanation for the evidence they gather, but those scenes will probably end up on the cutting room floor.

Pointing out the problems of these shows and the evidence they gather tends to make me look like a spoilsport (at best), but, hey, if we want to find any real ghosts, we should learn to separate the misinformations and outright fictions that generate around any well-publicized "haunted" place from the real history and sightings, especially if we're ever going to go so far as to actually declare a place to be haunted. I've never said that for sure about any place myself, even though I'd probably make a lot more money if I were willing to go on TV and say "it's a shadow person! Dude, this place is freaking HAUNTED!" However, there are a handful of places I'd put in the ol "it practically MUST be" category - and Old Town Tatu is one of those.

When the Ghost Lab guys contacted me over the summer to get my permission to use the audio I recorded there, I certainly got the impression that these guys were doing their level best to get the facts straight and conduct scientific investigations. That hasn't always been the impression I got from the show itself, but, hey, that could always just be the editing.

Anyway, on to tonight's episode:
Glad they like my "Walter" EVP (I recorded the "walter" voice that they played on the show in the basement back in 2006 - Ken, who appears in the show, was also in the basement at the time). I'm not buying their "turn me on" one, though. Sounds like a mechanical noise to me. I can't pass judgement on their other one without hearing it unedited. Certainly seems like something Richie would say, though.

The released-endorphin theory is a fun idea. I won't be getting a tattoo during a tour, though.

Old Irving Park (it's not actually anywhere the neighborhood known as Old Town) is hardly what I'd call the rough side of Chicago. I mean, it's on the North side. Everyone knows (thanks to Jim Croce) that the SOUTH side is the baddest part of town. One could argue that the west side is worse now, but the Irving Park and Kimball area isn't bad at all.

I heard about their findings about there being a Walter in the Klemundt family - a guy named Walter Loeding - last summer, during their investigation. It's a great find - I had Walter Loeding's obit among the handful of Walters whose funerals or wakes were held there, but the obit didn't mention that he was a relative of the family. If there is a ghost named Walter, he's as likely a candidate as anyone.

However, I don't think that he is the person Tapeworm was talking about. He certainly never owned the place, and I doubt Tapeworm would have heard of him. Even most of the members of the Klemundt family I'd spoken to didn't know about him.

Anyway, one story about Walter Loeding - who died in the late 1960s - that has gone around in the last couple of months is that when he died, he didn't own a suit, so the family bought him a brown one, making him likely to be the guy in the brown suit Richie told us he'd seen. There's also a story I've heard that during his funeral, a guy wearing a powder blue suit crashed his car into the place and died - Tapeworm also talked about seeing a guy in just such a suit. The story about Walter being buried in a brown suit sounds reasonable enough, but I'm not sure I'm buying the idea that a guy fatally crashed into a funeral and that the story somehow didn't make the papers.

In summary, The Ghost Lab team still seems like they believe everything they hear to me - and they repeated some misinformation (which I thought they KNEW was misinformation from the family) about the history of the building, particularly the basement. BUT, they didn't make any totally outrageous claims, didn't waste time showing any orb pictures (I'd say the odds they got those in the basement are about 100%), and they did dig up some good stuff.

Klemundt Funeral Home, currently the home of Old Town Tattoo (alias Odin Tatu) on the North side of Chicago.

"Orbs" in the basement at Odin / Old Town Tattoo, emerging, it seems, from Ken's butt. The shape of this one gives it away as a dust particle (which is pretty generally what orbs turn out to be - very few reputable ghosthunters believe that orbs are ghosts). This one may prove my own pet theory - orbs aren't ghosts, they're ghost FARTS. :)

Tapeworm, who challenged the ghosts in his the Odin Tatu building to a fight in the event of his death - which, tragically, came three weeks later.

"Orbs" that appear to have faces in them are almost invariably just "matrixing," a trick of the mind the makes us look for faces and other such patterns in random visual noise (and no serious ghost investigator still claims that orbs are ghosts to begin with). But the "face" in this one at Odin Tatu sure does look like Tapeworm! It's one of two distinct "faces" that tend to show up in this location - the other looks like the guy on the Quaker Oats box. I never hold orbs up as ghost evidence, but this one is kinda neat. It was taken about a year and a half after Tapeworm's death.

The gravestone in the fireplace at Odin / Old Town Tatu. They found this in the attic when they moved in.

This, not the mask shown on Most Terrifying Places, was the mask Tapeworm said tended to fall off the wall. This was taken during the first investigation, just after he showed it to me.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Ghosts at the Congress Theatre?

We've covered the Congress Hotel, its fascinating history, and its supposed ghosts, frequently here. But the Congress Theatre? The one that was on Ghost Hunters lately? We've never mentioned that.

That's because it's never really been thought of as a haunted location around the city before. None of the other ghost tour guides in the city had heard about it, either.

That said, though, had anyone asked me, I would have assumed the employees here had a ghost story or two to tell. As Jim, a lifelong theatre employee who works on our team, says: "If you ask a theatre person to tell you a ghost story, they WILL do it." There's hardly a theatre in the city that isn't said to be haunted. However, stories to back up the hauntings at the Congress Theatre seem awfully flimsy - the old "the mob used to meet in the basement" story goes around here in Chicago even more that the ol' "Indian Burial Ground" story. And, of course, all old theatres are full of strange noises and dark corridors and basements, and most have bars. Selzer's First Theorem (which I suppose I can call this now, since it's been published in a book available at most major bookstores) states that any vaguely spooky place where people get wasted will eventually show up on a book, tv show, or website about ghosts. It just took this one longer than most.

I'm not saying the place ISN'T haunted or anything - I've never been there, so I shouldn't really pass judgement. But it certainly seems like one of those places that people say is haunted just because it looks like it ought to be - or, in this case, because it would look good on TV.

I'm not the business of criticizing TAPS or anything (I don't really watch the show very often), but I certainly have gotten the impression that The SyFy channel is starting to pressure the TAPS crew to find stuff wherever they go. You have to take ANY ghost hunting tv show with a certain grain of salt - no matter how honorable the intentions of the actual investigators are, they still have to filter their shows through the suits at the network who usually have a final say in how the show is edited. I've always had a pretty good idea that if I were more willing to say places were really, truly haunted and risk looking like a jackass, I'd be making a lot more money in this business.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Banned in Idaho?

Just a little bit off-topic:

Mother Wants Book Banned From Idaho Library. The book in question is How To Get Suspended from Influence People, which I wrote a few years back. She's gone all the way to the mayor with her complaint!

That's right, folks - come on a one of my tours, and you may get to meet an alleged smut pedlar!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Liar's Club

Update 2013: the number of axe murders said to take place in this bar seems to go up every Halloween. Only one can actually be verified, though. 

If you watched Ghost Lab tonight, you caught them talking about the two axe murders and one pop bottle bludgeoning that took place in The Liar's Club, a frequent tour stop for us. An interesting thing in this episode was the woman talking about people picking up on residual emotions left over from violent deaths. I have actually seen this in action at the club - in the upstairs room, where the murders took place, I once had a tour patron become very disturbed - she felt almost as though she was being "possessed" by something very unpleasant, and had to leave the room. I can't say what was really going on in her head, but I HAVE gotten good at telling when someone is putting me on, and she wasn't doing that. However, that has only happened once, and is, in fact, the ONLY ghosty experience I've ever had at the location. But it did happen RIGHT in the spot the Ghost Lab team was testing.

As usual, the issue I have with these guys is that they seem to believe everything they hear, and seem awfully quick to claim that any weird picture or equipment reading they come up with is definitely a ghost. Perhaps it's just the way the show is edited. I'm glad they at least came clean on the banging noise that turned out to be a manhole being driven over tonight, and I'm glad to see them using gear that I DON'T have - I've never had the chance to use a biocam.

I'm also not entirely sure why they put up obviously photoshopped headlines instead of the real newspaper clippings - probably just a rights issue. In any case, for your perusal, here are a couple of actual articles about the murders in the Liar's Club: the pop bottle bludgeoning in 1962 and the axe murder from 1986.

I don't have any documents on the 1950s ax murder (bizarrely, it didn't make the Tribune, if in fact it happened at all) - HOWEVER, there are more stories about the history of the place. A guy who lived in the building was shot - and nearly killed - in a fight outside of a nearby bar in 1955, and there was actually very nearly ANOTHER murder in the upstairs room in just the last year, when a guy narrowly survived after having his throat cut in a bar fight.

The article notes that the body from the 1986 murder was found on the third floor, not the second, which is always said to be where all of the murders took place. It is also probably worth noting that the pop bottle guy appears to have died in the hospital, not outside of the club, though I believe other sources say he was dead on arrival.

It looks like next week's episode will be the investigation at a place I've investigated heavily - Old Town Tatu.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Town Tatu

Old Town Tatu was recently featured on Most Terrifying Places in America on the travel channel (click the link to see part 1 - the segment kicks in about 7 minutes in. Part 2 is right here. The segment features Weird Chicago's own Ken Melvoin-Berg (as well as driver Brant McRae, who plays the "visual apparition").

The haunted tattoo parlor is also featured prominently in Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps (teh excerpt online is all about the place). I was the EVP guy on the first investigation of the place a few years ago - the night when Tapeworm claimed that he'd challenged the ghosts in the place to a fight in the event of his death. "They freak me out, because everyone knows you can't fight back with these cats!" he said (in not those exact words - I'm cleaning up his language a LOT). "So I just said, 'listen! if I die in this place, it is ON!'" And, as the program notes, he died in the place three weeks later.

I'm not sure how good the history used by Most Terrifying Places was - the history of the building is sort of in dispute. The Klemundt Funeral Parlor building dates back to the 1920s, not the 1800s, but the basement level is clearly the foundation of an earlier building, about which little is known, though it IS said to have been an 1880s funeral parlor (records on the place tend to contradict each other; a common problem around here). Even if it WAS a funeral home in those days, I'm not sure that it was the first established funeral home in Chicago, as the show says - by the 1880s, Chicago's population was around a million, so I sort of doubt that no private funeral home had been established. However, the term "Funeral home" doesn't appear in the Tribune until the 1890s, and "Funeral Parlor" doesn't appear until 1902 - the custom at the time was for wakes to be held in private residences.

But whether the history there is correct or not, I can vouche for the stories about Tapeworm. I have my doubts about many of the stories I've been told about hauntings in the place from decades past, but if there's ever been a ghost I believed in, it's the ghost of Tapeworm.

For a LOT more information about the place, check out Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps or download The Weird Chicago Podcast (16mb mp3) episode about the place, featuring recordings from the first investigation of the place, shortly before Tapeworm's death. I understand that some of the EVP I recorded there has been analyzed for an upcoming episode of "Ghost Lab," too. They seem to have done MUCH more historical research. Most of what they found is stuff I could have told them myself if they'd asked, but they did come up with some stuff that was news to me, including a possible identity for "Walter," the ghost who seems to identify himself in the EVP. I'll be back with a full report when the episode airs!

Note: In Tapeworm's day, the place was called Odin Tatu - it was renamed Old Town Tatu after his death. For the record, it's located on Irving Park on the Northwest side, not in the neighborhood known as Old Town. It's too far away to be a regular stop on tours, though we have been known to go there occasionally.

Some pictures from the "pics of stuff from the book" page put up for Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps:

Klemundt Funeral Home, currently the home of Old Town Tattoo (alias Odin Tatu) on the North side of Chicago.

"Orbs" in the basement at Odin / Old Town Tattoo, emerging, it seems, from Ken's butt. The shape of this one gives it away as a dust particle (which is pretty generally what orbs turn out to be - very few reputable ghosthunters believe that orbs are ghosts). This one may prove my own pet theory - orbs aren't ghosts, they're ghost FARTS. :)

Tapeworm, who challenged the ghosts in his the Odin Tatu building to a fight in the event of his death - which, tragically, came three weeks later.

"Orbs" that appear to have faces in them are almost invariably just "matrixing," a trick of the mind the makes us look for faces and other such patterns in random visual noise. But the "face" in this one at Odin Tatu sure does look like Tapeworm! It's one of two distinct "faces" that tend to show up in this location - the other looks like the guy on the Quaker Oats box. I never hold orbs up as ghost evidence, but this one is kinda neat. It was taken about a year and a half after Tapeworm's death.

The gravestone in the fireplace at Odin / Old Town Tatu. They found this in the attic when they moved in.

This, not the mask shown in the show, was the mask Tapeworm said tended to fall off the wall. This was taken during the first investigation, just after he showed it to me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Fool Killer Submarine - Part 3!

excerpted from the Weird Chicago book

Phillips appears to have designed at least four submarines in his lifetime - according to his descendants, his third model, built in 1851 and known as the Marine Cigar, was stable enough that he was able to take his family on fantastic underwater picnics (this was probably the one he lost in 1853 while trying to salvage the wreck of The Atlantic in Lake Erie - it's still lost in the lake today). A fourth model had torpedo mechanisms added. These third and fourth models were improvements of his earlier, less successful boats; the first, built in 1845, was a fish-shaped apparatus that sank in Trail Creek near Michigan City. The second just may have been the Fool Killer.

While actual details are scarce, family legend has it that Phillips' second model was a forty-foot cigar-shaped submarine that was built in the late 1840s (in an 1853 letter to the Navy, Phillips did mention building a sub in 1847). According to these family stories, the machine lacked a decent mechanism for propulsion and sank on a test run in the Chicago River. Phillips' family said, decades later, that the submarine found in the river was undoubtedly one of his.

That the Fool Killer was a Lodner Phillips creation seems to be backed up mainly by family legend, which is not always reliable; another Phillips family legend states than when Phillips refused to sell one of his boats to the British Navy, they sank it, a story that is almost certainly not true. And the letter Phillips wrote to the Navy in 1853 indicates that the submarine he built in 1847 was a success - no mention is made of it sinking (though the letter was an attempt to sell his latest boat to the Navy, and talking about failed models wouldn't have been much of a selling point).

But that the Fool Killer was one of Phillips' subs is still the best explanation that has yet been offered for the origin of the mysterious submarine. No drawings or diagrams for his second submarine survive, but drawings of Philips' subs from the 1850s do strongly resemble the pictures of the Fool Killer that eventually came to light.

So, could the submarine have been beneath the river since the 1840s? It's entirely possible, especially if the reports about the ship being from 1870 are incorrect, as has been suggested. Some recent articles have stated that Phillips sold the submarine in 1871 to a man who promptly sunk it, explaining the early newspaper reports of the sub being from that era, but Phillips was busy being dead by this time.

Who, then, was the poor man who died onboard? Since Peter Nissen died onboard a different ship, not a submarine, and William Nissen seems to have been alive when the sub was raised, the identity of the ship's poor victim remains a mystery.

It's possible that the bones were planted on the submarine when it was raised in 1915 as a publicity stunt to get more people to come see it on exhibition. After all, complete skeletons were not found - just skulls and a few other bones. What happened to the rest of them? The Phillips' family legend about the sub sinking in the river don't include anything about anyone being onboard at the time. Also, Phillips first and third sub models were known to have escape hatches - why wouldn't the second one have had one?

William Deneau does seem to have been a bit of a showman - in 1958, on the anniversary of the Eastland Disaster, Deneau told reporters that he had just been onboard the repaired Eastland - which, he said, was still sailing under another name - for a cruise from California to Catalina the year before. In fact, the ship had been scrapped years before. Like most great showmen, Deneau may have been willing to fudge the facts a bit in the name of a great story.

While it's likely that we'll never know the truth about the bones, many of the questions about the submarine and its origins could surely be answered today if anyone knew where the submarine was now - but unfortunately, this is another mystery.

In May of 1916, the submarine was listed in newspapers among the attractions at Parker's Greatest Shows, a traveling carnival run by Charles W. Parker, which had arrived for a weeklong engagement in Oelwein, Iowa. It was listed as "The Submarine or Fool Killer, the first submarine ever built," being exhibited along with "skee ball, a new amusement device," but it was merely listed among other top draws, including "The Electric Girl, The Vegetable King, Snooks, the smallest monkey in the world (the paper was especially enchanted with the monkey, who delighted crowds by sucking his thumb), the fat girl, and the Homeliest Woman in the World." The Fool Killer was mentioned in the papers almost daily, though one can imagine that it didn't take much to make the papers in the town of Oelwein in 1916. In any case, it does not seem to have been as big a draw as the monkey. No mention was made of the bones, which may not have traveled on with the submarine.

By 1917, Parker's Greatest Shows had replaced the sub with a new submarine that could demonstrate manuevers in a giant glass tank, leaving historians to speculate Parker sold the old submarine for scrap, but no one really knows what happened to it - it could still be out there someplace today, as far as anyone knows!

We here at Weird Chicago are continuing our search for more information about the craft and what became of it - but it's likely that the riddle of the fool killer will never truly be solved!

The Fool Killer Submarine - our first post on the subject!

The Fool Killer Ad our post featuring the Tribune ad

The Fool Killer: More Evidence - a post comparing a drawing of one of Phillips' subs to photos of the foolkiller

Fool Killer Clue? - speculating that newspaper reports that the sub dated to the 1870s might have been mistaking it for OTHER experimental subs.

Finding the Fool Killer - a newly-unearthed account of the submarine's discovery, with an early guess as to its origin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Fool Killer Submarine - Part 2!

excerpted from the Weird Chicago book

Inititially, the Tribune reported that the ship had been first launched in 1870 as a floating craft and sank to the bottom of the lake the first time it was submerged. According to their first article on the sub's re-discovery, it was believed to have been bought and raised by Peter Nissen, the accountant-turned-daredevil, around 1890, who sank it the first time he tried to use it. The next month, when the skulls were found, the Tribune reported that the ship had been purchased and raised in the 1890s by a man named WILLIAM Nissen - since then, most people have assumed that the skeleton onboard was his.

However, this is hard to verify - census records indicate that there WAS a William Nissen in Chicago in the 1890s, but he was still alive as of the 1920 census, five years after the bones were discovered! This William Nissen seems to be no relation to Peter Nissen, leaving one to speculate that the report had been a typo, and that the reporter meant to say "Peter," not "William."
The fact that they called it The Foolkiller at all may indicate that they - or Deneau - had simply mistaken it for one of Peter Nissen's boats, which was an easy enough mistake to make. Nissen did build three experimental crafts, named the Fool Killer 1, Fool Killer 2, and Fool Killer 3 (seePeter Nissen: Chicago's Forgotten Hero), and, though none of those were submarines, buying, raising and testing a dangerous homemade sub sure seemed like the kind of thing Nissen WOULD have done!

Further complicating the matter is the Tribune's statement that the ship had first sunk in 1870, then raised again and sunk in either 1890 or 1897 (the date seems to change from report to report). One report in the Washington Post even said that it had claimed a number of victims around the time of the World's Fair. However, if in fact the ship had sailed before, the paper saw no reason to mention it at the time, even though the launch of a submarine in the great lakes in 1870 would probably have been an event noticed by papers all over the world, as later submarine launches in the lake were. Furthermore, if the submarine had sunk in 1870 on the first time out and raised after twenty years, who would be crazy enough to go sailing in it?

Most likely, all of the contemporary reports on the history of the craft were mistakes - no sources were ever given, and they seem to be the result of half-remembered stories of news items from decades before. Perhaps they were mistaking it for the submarine tested in Lake Michigan in 1892 by George C. Baker, which was about forty feet long - roughly the length of the Foolkiller - or the model Louis Gatham tested in the lake the next year. The Tribune also initially said that it was built to be floated, but pictures of the Fool Killer make it clear that it was never built to be a floating vessel.

But the Tribune also once reported that it was first owned by an "eastern man," and some have speculated that this might refer to Lodner Darvantis Phillips, a shoemaker from Michigan City, Indiana, who also happened to be a submarine pioneer. There were only a very small handful of submarines ever known to be in the Great Lakes in the 19th century- and Phillips just happened to build a few of them, including perhaps the only successful submarine built in its time.

Tomorrow: Evidence that Lodner Phillips built the craft!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Fool Killer Submarine - Part 1!

excerpted from the Weird Chicago book.

In the days following the Eastland Disaster, a diver named William "Frenchy" Deneau was responsible for recovering around 250 bodies from the murky water. Four months later, in November, he was back in the river, working to lay cables beneath the Rush Street bridge. While he worked, his shovel hit upon a large metallic object which turned out to be the wreck of a forty-foot long iron submarine. Deneau announced to the newspapers that he had found The Fool Killer, and "ancient, primitive submarine" that had been lost for at least eighteen years - and possibly much longer!

At the time, submarines were in the papers almost daily. While attempts at submarine warfare had been made in both the Civil War and the American Revolution, using submarines as weapons had only recently become practical. Half a world away, Europe was in the grip of the world's first submarine warfare, one of the deadly new types of battle introduced to the world in the first world war. The discovery of the wreck of an old submarine in the Chicago River was an event noted by several regional papers throughout the country.

Initially, it was expected that the sub would be raised by the Chicago Historical Society, but Deneau obtained permission from the federal government to raise the ship for "exhibition purposes." The next month, after boat traffic died down for the winter, he arranged to raise it up from the murky depths. Once it was ashore, a startling discovery was made: inside of the ship were several bones - including the skulls of a man and a dog!

While police combed their records to identity the body, Deneau made preparations to put the odd craft on display. He appears to have enlisted the Skee Ball company as investors - it seems that they planned to tour the submarine around the country along with their games as a special promotion (imagine the slogan: "Come for the the Fool Killer, Stay for the Skee Ball!")
By the end of February, the ship was on display at 208 South State Street. For a dime, customers see the remains of the old ship -- and the remains of the dead guy and the dead dog! Admission also included a lecture and question-and-answer session by Deneau, a presentation on the history of submarines, and a chance to examine the interior of the Fool Killer itself (at the attendees' own risk). On Saturday mornings, groups of ten or more children could get in for half of the usual price.

The exact location where Deneau found the wreck is a bit of a mystery - the newspapers first said it was near the Rush Street Bridge, then said it was at the Wells street bridge. A year or so later, while he was in World War I as a doughboy and speaking to reporters, Deneau said "remember that old submarine, the Foolkiller, I found? I found it over by the Madison Street bridge!" It also seems that in the process of raising it, workers had to drag it through the river a couple of miles to the Fullerton Street bridge.

And the location of the wreck is only one of the mysteries; the list of unanswered questions about the submarine is a long one. Who built it? How long had it been in the river? Who the heck was the dead guy inside of it, and what in the world possessed him to take his dog out on a submarine trip in the river? And whatever happened to the thing?

Research into these questions has proved frustrating - stories and theories abound, but none can really be verified, and the newspaper reports seem to be full of mistakes and contradictions. Tune in tomorrow, when we'll start wading through them! Click the "foolkiller" tag below to see posts featuring pictures of the craft, the ad that appeared in the Tribune in 1916, and a video clip of Adam talking about the mystery on PBS!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


It's a story you hear now and then: A guy is driving down the road when suddenly a girl jumps out into the path of his car. He panics as he hits the brakes, but it's too late - he crashes into her with a dull THUD and watches in horror as she bounces off the car and lands on the ground. He pulls over, runs out, and finds that she's vanished, leaving only an impression in the snow where she fell....

Often, this is said to happen around Resurrection Cemetery - it's one of the variations on the Resurrection Mary story (though no one can say if it's the same girl who is seen roaming the grounds or the one who hitches rides).

But last night, it happened on the tour, far away from Archer Avenue.

We were pulling into Sobieski Street, the north side dead end where H.H. Holmes' "glass bending factory" once stood. As we backed up, there's was a terrifying THUD and BANG, as though we'd backed into something. I was afraid that Happy Dave, the driver, had backed us into a fire hydrant - or a person.

But when we got out, there was nothing there. Dave was a good four feet from the fire hydrant - or anything else that could have made a big noise. Dave was so freaked out that he didn't want to return on the 10 o'clock tour, but I was a bit relieved - all things bein equal, if we're going to hit something, I'd rather it be something that can't sue us and won't damage the bus (though we've generally found that the bus is nigh-invulnerable).

Sobieski Street was stranger-than-average last night; that blinking light (there's a light there that occasionally goes off and on whenever I say the names of the people most likely to have been killed/disposed of there) was doing things I've never seen it do before in two years of going there - changing colors and whatnot.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New podcast!

At long last, a new podcast up! More to come, hopefully very soon. Available on itunes, or By clicking right here!

This episode features some updates on local haunts, including our own experiments with the "era cues" that Ghost Lab was trying, and a reading about the history of ghost hunting from Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ghost Lab and "Era Cues"

"Ghost Lab," a new program on Discovery, premiered tonight - these guys have interesting theories and a lot of cool gadgets. I especially like their "era cues," which we do ourselves sometimes (playing music popular at Bull Moose party rallies on the piano in the Florentine Ballroom to see if it generates any activity is a good example of the technique). On an upcoming episode, they'll be investigating Old Town Tatu, which we've been investigating for about three years now (it's on the second episode of our podcast and featured prominently in Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps) - I understand they analyze the EVP picked up on my microphone there.

I don't necessarily agree with all of their techniques or ideas or anything (they seem awfully quick to believe that a place is actually haunted, and don't always seem that comfortable with the scientific stuff, but this could always be just the way Discovery edits it), but they strike me as being a bit less hokey than most ghost shows out there - and seeming anything BUT hokey in an episode where you look for the ghost of Elvis is no easy task! In any case, they look like they're having fun, which makes it fun to watch - certainly more fun to watch than those awful shows where they pretend to be possessed and scream every time they hear a tapping noise (if you're that scared of a tapping noise, ghost hunting is probably not the profession for you). These guys also didn't waste their time with orbs, which is always a plus.

Anyway, we've used "era cues" on occasion. I wouldn't say I'm a proponent of the theory, but it's one of those things you can try that certainly can't hurt! I certainly prefer playing period music to saying "do any spirits here have a message for me" or challenging ghosts to a fistfight.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...