Monday, October 31, 2011

Mystery at the Couch Tomb

The following (fake) newspaper article was found taped to the back of the Couch vault:

Though the article is too funny to be real, the date is a giveaway - it's dated 1857, several years before they started naming parks (or anything else) after Lincoln. The space was still called City Cemetery then

Nearby was another item, a fake section of Ira Couch's will:

Besides the fact that printers didn't exist in those days (or ballpoint pens, with which the signature appears to have been added), I'm pretty sure Couch's net worth was more than 210k.

So, I assume this is part of a scavenger hunt, letter-boxing, or "How to Host a Murder" sort of thing? Well done, in any case!

On the Radio

This morning I was on WBEZ talking about ghost hunting at the haunted Hooters on Wells on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"'s podcast, "How to do Everything."  Happy Halloween!

Listen in to me doing my best to talk about ghost hunting without seeming like I'm crazy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Death of the Lone Wolf

1921 must have been an interesting time to be in death row. You had Sam Cardinella and several members of his gang, all awaiting execution and plotting for Cardinella's escape (by means of being brought back to life after the hanging). And there was Carl Wanderer, who had shot his wife and blamed it on a drifter (whom he had also shot).  And there was Harry Ward, known as the "Lone Wolf Bandit." While Cardinella bided his time and sneakily tried to effect his escape, Ward tried every weird trick in the book to get out of the hanging.

"The Lone Wolf" had been arrested for a double murder that occurred while he was robbing the shop of "Al the Hatter" at Cicero and Lake.  A former bandit in Mexico, Ward acted as calm and collected as any man who had ever been in prison. A warden later told Ben Hecht that Ward was the most cold-blooded man who ever lived, and that he had been the best rummy player he'd ever known. Warden and Ward spent Ward's last night playing cards in the death cell.

But as calm as Ward seemed, he was either putting on a good show or was entirely confident that he was going to escape. Recently, he had attempted to plead insanity (as practically everyone did) - the defense had held up a plan he had to open a harem on an island in Lake Michigan and start an airline to take customers to and from the island - as evidence.

As the date of his execution approached, a woman named Elizabeth smuggled a metal file into his cell inside of a magazine. It was confiscated when another prisoner (one of the guys Carl Wanderer wouldn't let into his "army") ratted him out.

All through the day, friends of Ward had been driving up to the jail, only to be warned away by armed police. A "priest" came in to minister to Ward, but fled when they started searching him. 

Oddest of all was that Ward's attorney was approached by "a stranger" with an offer to revive him after hanging - he said that if the body was obtained immediately and taken to an undertaker, he could revive it with pulmotors.  The attorney refused - Ben Hecht probably based his story of a gangster named Frankie Piano on this story.

The was only a short time after the police had caught several men trying to revive Sam Cardinella (and had possibly let Nicholas Vianna, a Cardinella associate, BE revived, according to legend retold in FATAL DROP), and they were in no mood to take chances this time. Authorities wouldn't release the body from the jail until he had been dead for an hour.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Carl Wanderer and Sam Cardinella: BFF?

It's always interesting when two crime stories intersect - and in a real way, not another case of the newspapers making wild stabs at a game of "connect the dots" with criminals (like the attempts to connect Johann Hoch to HH Holmes, Louis Thombs, and every other criminal of the day).

In 1920, Carl Wanderer was jailed for murdering his wife and trying to blame it all on a drifter (whom he'd also killed). Whether he was trying to get away from his wife to rejoin the army, be with a 16 year old girl, or with an army buddy with whom he was in love depends greatly on who's telling the story, but one clue is how he behaved in prison.

While in jail, he grew bored with the monotony of prison life and the lack of opportunities for exercise. Hence, he asked for (and received) permission to raise an army of convicts and drill them in military formations. His seven men would perform drills at his command, using brooms instead of guns. Two others asked to join, but they were black (this army was not integrated), and, having killed only one man each, seen as unsuitable material for this particular army, which was made up of multi-murderers (the papers listed the average murder per soldier as three).

One of the soldiers was Sam "Il Diavolo" Cardinella, the leader of the "murder clique"that had terrorized the city. He may have joined the ranks to help his master plan to escape: he was losing a lot of weight as part of a plot to make sure he would be strangled by the gallows without his neck breaking. After his execution, the police found his friends trying to resuscitate the body.

Also present in the army was Harry "The Lone Wolf" Ward, whose execution was also nearly foiled by a crazy plot to bring him back to life (more on him in future posts). Most of the others were members of the Cardinella gang.

Stories of both of these guys are in William Griffith's book, shamelessly plugged below:

fataldrop button

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chicago and the first Fingerprint Evidence

Here's a story I've been telling a brief version of on tours lately:

In 1910, a robber named Thomas Jennings was making a run from the scene of a burglary - the Englewood home of Clarence Hiller, who had once been chief clerk of a local railway. During his escape, Jennings fired two shots at Hiller and killed him instantly. But Jennings made a mistake he couldn't have predicted at the time: he touched some wet paint on a railing with his hand, leaving a print. After his capture, the prosecution used the fingerprint to convict him. Such a thing had never been done before.

Naturally, the defense objected to such evidence. The attorney told judge Kavanagh that "There is only one case in the world where finger prints were attempted to be introduced in a criminal trial. That was an old English case, and it was then held that a special law would have to be passed to legalize such evidence."

Captain Michael Evans of the police was asked about his confidence in the system. "Suppose," said the attorney, "that I were to plant my thumb - so - on this piece of white paper, could you make a print from this paper that would prove it was my thumb that had been pressed on it?"

Upon replying that he could, the attorney said (probably with a smug grin), "All right. Go ahead and do it."  Evans dusted the spot the attorney had touched with powder and showed the jury the print, and a print taken from the attorney matched the one on the paper.

But the judge and jury were both convinced, and Jennings was sentenced to hang.

I have no doubt that earlier cases of finger prints being used as evidence could probably be brought up by a thorough search (this strikes me as one of those fields where the answer to "which was the first" or "what was the real cause" depends greatly on who you ask; the police seem to have used it for some time),  but the idea of using them as actual evidence certainly seemed novel at the time. The Tribune pondered what this would mean for the future:

Now that the criminal classes are menaced with the finger print system, George Porteous, an expert in criminology, propounds this question: "Will the future housebreaker wear gloves to foil the police in procuring finger print evidence?....One pair of gloves of a certain make is like another. But it is different with a person's hands or fingers. No two hands are exactly alike. If Jennings had worn gloves the night he entered the Hillers' house I don't think he would have been convicted."

In any case, the defense appealed, and Jennings got a couple of last minute reprieves from hangings before the Supreme Court of Illinois decided that finger prints were admissible in December, 1911.  In the busiest day in the history of the Chicago gallows, he was hanged along with four other men in February, 1912.  He had to be carried by the armpits to the scaffold. The bodies of the other four men (who, unlike him, were white) were brought to an undertaking parlor on Noble and Division) where a large crowd had come to see what was happening. "Three thousand persons," the Tribune wrote, "viewed the remains and then lingered in the street so as to miss none of the misery of the dead men's relatives."

A whole lot more about hangings is in William Griffith's FATAL DROP: TRUE TALES OF THE CHICAGO GALLOWS.

fataldrop button

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicago vs. the Spiders

Among the many weird legends about the John Hancock building is that every year there is a huge migration of deadly brown recluse spiders that work their way up the building and then back down. Like many of these legends, it's about half true. Go up to the observation deck this time of year and you'll see a whole LOT of large brown spiders outside of the window.

But, luckily, they aren't brown recluse spiders. They're known as "bridge spiders," a species that makes its home in nature around cliffs and rocks that hang over water and are harmless to humans.  It's also not exclusive to the Hancock - most skyscrapers have them.

It's said that they get up there by "ballooning," a process in which they let out a bit of silk and fly up as though they were attached to a kite. So it's no real paranormal mystery, but I do have a few questions: How come you don't see them flying up from ground level? And did Spider-man ever try ballooning?

Here's a recent Sun times article.  “They are crawling everywhere, they are coming down on their strings everywhere, there are a lot of dead carcasses around — it’s like a haunted house,” (says the Hancock Center broadcast facilities manager). “It’s really weird seeing so many. You scratch your head, literally and figuratively. When I first started, there was a lot of night work and all of sudden you have three or four of them crawling in your hair. As time goes on, you become more aware of them and can brush them away.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Shrieking Mummy of the Field Museum

On night, during roughly the 1930s, a museum guard at the Field Museum heard a blood curdling scream coming from the Egyptian wing. He found no one there, but one of the mummies had fallen from its base and was lying face down inside of its case.

When the story is repeated today, it's usually said that the mummy was that of Harwa, The Doorkeeper of the Temple of Amun which has been in the museum's collection since 1904. However, the earliest known mention of the incident (a Bulletin from the Field Museum reprinting an older piece by Henry Field from 1953) says it was naked, and Harwa is still covered, like a DECENT mummy.

Field, an anthropologist and grand-nephew of Marshall Field, wrote that he studied it carefully, but could find no possible explanation for why the thing fell over, and no way a person could have knocked it down - the locked case was filled with poison fumes to keep bugs out.

Field wrote::

"The base extended at least four inches on each  side of the dried skin and bones. No living  person could have entered the poisoned  case. No vibration in the building could have knocked it off the base without rending the  walls, for the museum floats on an island of concrete, there being no hardpan on the  filled-in land along the lake front. 

"There is still no explanation of the scream or of the fallen mummy. It is just one more example of things we cannot explain." 

John Wayne Gacy and the bus station

In my first year or so of tours, I was mostly repeating the stories I heard from other guides and "ghosts of Chicago" books. A major task of mine since then has been to filter out all the misinformation. Some of the stories were completely made up. Others were just a little bit off - like the story I heard about John Wayne Gacy when I was first studying up....

With serial killer John Wayne Gacy back in the news as a handful of his previously unidentified victims being exhumed for possible ID, ghost tours in the city are naturally bringing him up.

A common story is that he met up with many of his victims (the number 27 out of 33 gets bandied about)  in a Trailways Bus Station, then brought them into the alley known as "Death Alley" behind the former Iroquois Theatre - a common stop for just about every ghost tour in town.

The story is a little bit off. Gacy met one victim, his first known one, at the Greyhound station that used to stand at Randolph and Clark. It would be the next alley over on the other side of Dearborn from the "Alley of Death and Mutilation."  That station has been gone since the early 1990s; the Chicago Title and Trust building was built in its place. So the alley in question would have been in site of the alley Gacy could have used, but it wasn't the same one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In the Alley of Death and Mutilation

When I was last giving tours, we hadn't gotten a weird photograph in the alley behind the old Iroquois theatre (which newspapers called "The Alley of Death and Mutilation" after the fire in the theatre that killed over 600 people). But since I've started up again, we've had several. In particular, we're getting a lot of odd shadows. One my very first night back at work looked like a three dimensional shadow of a human being. The photographer never sent me that one (it's possible that once they loaded it onto the computer, a more logical explanation seemed obvious), but here's a shot by Haley Wittwer from this past weekend. Note the odd shadow at the right:

There was no strap on the camera, and, as it doesn't seem to be adhering to the wall, I don't think it's a shadow of anything. As usual, I never hold up anything as "evidence" of ghosts, but I like to post odd shots from the tours here. Shadowy forms are often scene in the theatre currently on the spot (on TV they would call them "shadow people," but we prefer the less-cartoonish "soft shapes" around here).

Here's a zoomed-in version of the shadow with the brightness turned up a bit:

The alley was a grim scene at the time of the fire in 1903. They had built fire EXITS, but the fire ESCAPES weren't yet complete. Even those that were built were quickly so overcrowded that people went flying over the rails and to their deaths. Some 150-odd people fell to their deaths, while hundreds more died either from burns or from being trampled by the crowd. People in the next building used ladders (and later planks) to provide a means of escape, but it didn't work so well. Here's an illustration from the Tribune:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Podcast: H.H. Holmes and the Great Glass Bending Factory (Part 1)

New Episode!
HH Holmes and
the Great Glass
Bending Factory

Chicago Unbelievable

More Podcasts

We've spent a lot of time looking into the story that H.H. Holmes used a glass bending factory on Sobieski Street (now Seeley Ave) as a crematory. Results (as with all things to do with Holmes) aren't fully conclusive, but there were enough strange-goings on at the location when I used to take Devil in the White City tour groups there that I wound up adding to to my ghost tour routes. For this podcast, we recap the story of the glass works, begin to investigate the grounds, and, while we're there, record a phone conversion with Holmes' great great grandson, Jeff Mudgett.

Jeff's relation to Holmes and the theory that Holmes was also Jack the Ripper form the basis of his new novel, Bloodstains. It's a really gripping suspense story. See a link on the left! In our interview, he talks about the book, the various theories on Holmes, and what it's like in the basement of the post office built where the "murder castle" used to stand. Believe me, that Holmes was Jack the Ripper and that he faked his death in 1896 are FAR less implausible than many of the more commonly accepted stories about Holmes.

Here are some links to download the episode. There are some interesting noises and voices - do you hear anything we've missed?

Or, subscribe via Chicago Unbelievable


The dead-end street once known as Sobieski:

The garage that marks the likely location of the glass bending factory:

A shot by Jen Hathy of the parking area and overgrown lot next door:

Jeff Mudgett Skypes in while we're on location:

Related Posts:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Devil Babies - Hull House and Beyond

It's that time of the year when the story of the Hull House Devil Baby is being retold again and again - often repeated as fact, just as it was in 1913. That was the year that rumors that a "devil baby" had been born on the West Side and dropped off at Hull House first circulated through the midwest, attracting thousands to the door step, where they begged to see the deformed baby that was said to have bright red scaly skin, horns, hooves, and a tail. It was said that it was already fluent (and profane) in English, Latin, and Italian, and its birth was the result of an expectant father saying he would rather have the devil than another girl, or than having a picture of the Virgin Mary in the house (or any number of other blasphemies, depending on who was telling the story).

Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, said that the story could have been a thousand years old (except for some variations involving a red automobile). In fact, the sensation of wild rumors of a demon child attracting throngs of curious onlookers was not unique to Hull House. It was a story that came up now and then - one of the great urban legends of the 19th century. Variations probably go back centuries, but around the late 19th century, there were actually a number of other cases when rumors of a devil baby created a sensation.

In 1888, a rumor that a devil baby had been born in Newburg, a Cleveland suburb, was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Here's a picture published in their 3/25/1888 issue - according to later issues, eyewitnesses said it was quite accurate:

The paper remarked that the widespread rumor had been good for the Newburg railway, as a constant stream of people had come looking for it. A "freak man" from Detroit was running all over town offering $10,000 for the use of the baby for four months. Rumor had it that the "devil kid" juggled hot coals for fun and that he ate a box of matches every day.

 The Plain Dealer actually insisted that the story was real for a whilel, and even published an interview with the midwife who delivered it, though they declined to print the correct address to protect the family. They were, in fact, the outlet that broke the story. Their March 22, 1888 edition announced "Satan Incarnate: A Demonical Monstrosity in a Polish Family." It described the kid as being bright red, with hair all over its body (like a satyr), horns, claws, and hooves, said and was known to use profane language to ministers (having been born able to talk). The paper speculated that the baby had been born as a result of the mother having seen a play about the devil, and cited a similar case when a man became enraged when his wife became pregnant and beat her about the head with a dead crow, causing the baby to be born with a crow's head.  This all makes more sense when you realize that this was all written in the week leading up to April Fool's Day.

But thousands believed the story and flocked to Newburg hoping for a look at the thing, and the paper kept the story alive. Other papers - which were initially curious enough to send reporters to Newburg, heaped scorn all over the Plain Dealer and called them all sorts of names.

In July, the Plain Dealer - still saying the story was real - announced that the baby had died in May, and that its embalmed corpse would soon be on display in a dime museum. The "baby" on display was actually made of paper mache.

The Plain Dealer seems to have had a knack for such pranks - in 1890, they printed an April Fool's story that an ancient underground city had been found in a local cavern. Thousands came to look, and other papers actually repeated the story as fact, and the Erie Dispatch advised them to check the date and remember the Plain Dealer's "yarn" about the devil kid. A painting of it - probably a more detailed version of the drawing above - was a huge hit in a local dime museum.  Does anyone know whatever happened to the painting?

Cleveland was not the only place where a story similar to the one at Hull House sprang up. A few years later, a brief sensation was caused by rumors that such a child was on display at a Museum in Washington, DC.

In 1891, a Minnesota mother was said to have caused a sensation by giving birth to a devil baby (the sight of which caused her to go insane). In a story almost identical to a common variation of the Hull House tale, the baby was said to have been born shortly after the mother turned a Bible salesman away, stating that she would rather have a devil in her house than a Bible. The salesman raised his arms and said "then I will send a devil to you!"

A similar baby was said to have been born on Elizabeth Street in New York in 1902. The actual address of the house was published, and police reported that it was no good telling the curious that there was no devil baby (or any other baby, for that matter) in the house. Several curiosity seekers were arrested and fined $5.

In 1904, a case was reported in Detroit. This one was said to be pitch black, hair, with horns, and a strong appetite for coal. According to rumor, when the family took the baby to be baptized, it escaped from the cradle and was found hiding in the stove. When investigators failed to find the baby, the superstitious locals insisted that it had simply disappeared.

In 1907, a story went around Kentucky that the widow of a preacher had burned a Bible on her husband's grave and given birth to a devil baby three days later. The baby told her he would torment her for seven years, and after that she would die and go to hell.  One paper said "considering such dire threats highly reprehensible, especially from someone so young," the mother tied a rock around it and threw it in the water - but it swam right back.

By 1912, the year before the story hit Hull House, an Illinois paper was calling the story a "classic romance" and saying that a new version was cabled over from Europe every five years or so.

The stories certainly did catch on in those days - and still do. Most people snicker when I tell the story of the Hull House devil baby cursing a priest out, but some people really do still believe it, no matter what I tell them.

Devil baby stories have been told for years—stories of infants born with horns, hooves, and claws . . . and a habit of using profane language with ministers. Join paranormal authority Adam Selzer as he investigates the legendary Devil Baby of Chicago’s Hull House, the famous Jersey Devil, and the satanic baby reported by the 
Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1888. You’ll never look at babies the same way again!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Did HH Holmes make two confessions?

Perhaps someone can help me with this:  when did Holmes say "I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing -- I was born with the "Evil One" standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since?"

Holmes' "Confession" from 1896, as published in the Philadelphia Inquirer (and now available in the excellent compendium of period documents, The Strange Case of HH Holmes) doesn't include this line at all.

However, on April 11, numerous papers, including the Tribune, published excerpts from the confession to be printed the next day, including the famous "born with the devil in me" quote, and an excerpt from a section about mutilating his son with a knife. Here's an example from the Sydney Morning Herald.

These papers said that the confession would be published in the Philadelphia North American, not the Inquirer. The Inquirer version was reprinted in a number of papers, including the Chicago Inter Ocean (which changed the name of one victim, along with most regional papers), but not that I've seen include either of the excerpts that were said to come from an upcoming edition of the North American. Was the confession in that paper a whole different work?

The North American archives from 1896 don't seem to be digitized yet, so one would have to find a library that has it archived. According a quick search, a copy should be at the Free Library of Philadelphia, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the Kansas State Historical Society, The Library of Congress, and a  Commonwealth Library in Harrisburg. None of these are an easy trip from Chicago.  Little help?

UPDATE: We've aquired a copy, and found that their source is a bit suspect. A full transcript and analysis is in our 11/22/11 post!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where Was the HH Holmes Glass Bending Factory?

Now that I'm running ghost tours again, I'm back to making regular visits to to little stretch of road once known as Sobieski Street. Here, in 1895, police found a building that H.H. Holmes, America's first known serial killer, had said was a glass bending factory, but which was more likely a body dump. Some personal effects belonging to Minnie Williams, one of his wives (who had vanished, along with her sister, Anna) were found there, along with some ephemera from the ABC Copier Company that Holmes had operated in the Loop with much of the gang from the Murder Castle, his famous south side building that was equipped with everything you need to kill a person (and dispose of the body).  Patrick Quinlan, the murder castle janitor, had been to the glass bending factory about a week before police arrived and carted out quite a lot of garbage. Some notes found in the rubbish indicated that there had once been a furnace large enough for cremations in the building.

I started taking people to the little stretch of road where the "factory" was just as a curiosity to add to my Holmes tours, but we had enough weird nights there that I added it to the ghost tours. This is the place where we saw a woman in a black dress who vanished between two cars, the place where we honestly thought we'd backed the bus into someone, where one night we encountered hawks with dead birds (doves?) in their mouths, and where we once even found some chickens running around. As skeptical as I am, this place can give me the willies.  There was also once a light attached to a building that was known to turn itself off and on when Holmes or one of the three victims most likely connected to the location were mentioned. Most nights, I thought it was just a bad circuit, but other nights it worked like clockwork.

But where on this stretch of road WAS the factory, exactly? It would have been built without reliable records (that being the way Holmes rolled), and newspaper accounts at the time weren't terribly helpful, only saying that it was on Sobieski Street, just Northwest of where the railroad tracks intersected Robey (Damen).

That's enough to narrow it down a lot - the stretch of road known as Sobieksi was a little dead-end road even then. On the west side of the road, we've found a half-buried brick that our archaeologist said had an 1890s-type of glaze, making us wonder if it may have been the foundation of the old building. However, a fire insurance map from 1914 shows a set-up that echoes newspaper accounts (a long, one story building with a house at the rear) on the east side of the road. There's a garage on that spot now; many employees have told me it gets awfully spooky in there at night.

Here's the map - it's from 1914, nearly twenty years after the fact.  I would have imagined that the building would have been gone by then, but who knows?

1 - the railroad tracks (now a Metra line)
2 - the half-buried brick
3 - a one story building, vacant at the time the map was drawn, roughly matching the dimensions listed in the papers in 1895 (now demolished)
4 - a 2 story house, right about where the paper said a house was (also now demolished)
5 - the vacant/parking area today - the "Holmes Light" was at the back of it.

When the police arrived in 1895, all that was left in the rubbish were some kilns and ashes. Whether they were human ashes was hard to tell - this was still an age when Holmes could say that the bones dug up in the castle were soup bones, and that the blood stains were paint, and expect to get away with it (at least for a while - the fire in August, 1895, destroyed much of the evidence). 

It's entirely possible that more bodies were disposed of here than at the "Castle." Aside from some bones and some things that COULD have been used to dispose of a body, not a lot of hard evidence was found in the castle basement.  There was a quicklime pit, but it did not appear to have ever been put to use (the lime was clean and white). Some human bones were found, and a large oven, but operating these (as well as the torture equipment which many later authors have believed were found there) in such a crowded building without arousing suspicion would have been a real trick.  Besides which, there had been a Tribune article about the secret passages in the building in early 1893. Holmes HAD to know it would be dug up in the event that he was ever caught. And the two weeks they spent digging there gave Patrick Quinlan, his janitor, plenty of time to empty out the rubbish at the glass bending factory.

Holmes certainly was familiar with the area around "Sobieski Street." It's a long way from his South Side stomping grounds, but very close to the Wrightwood St. apartment he rented for Minnie, and a few blocks in the other direction from Franke Wilde's Fruit and Candy store - police at the time were confident that Holmes was Frank Wilde (he mentioned having a place on Milwaukee Avenue in own writings, though in his "confession" he says his attempts to kill employees there failed).

The ghostly activity here brings up a question that's always worth debating: can ghostly activity be evidence of a murder? It sure wouldn't hold up in court, but this may be the only evidence one way or the other about Minnie and Anna Williams, or of Emily Van Tassel, a Franke Wilde employee who is one of the half dozen or so known Chicago victims of Holmes. I've always thought she was more likely to have been killed here than at the Castle; same with Anna Williams.

We'll be running an investigation and recording a new podcast at Sobieski Street soon! 

Resurrection Mary: Mary Petkiewicz?

The Haunt Detective recently put forth another possible candidate for the identity of Resurrection Mary: Mary Petkiewicz.

Mrs. Petkiewicz was only 17 when she was killed in an auto wreck on Christmas, 1932. In an accident at 55th and Cicero (the northeast corner of Midway airport), she was crushed to death when a car (driving by the brother of a local beer boss) rolled on top of her.  

Very little about Mary P. is known, other than the fact that her husband's name was Casimir. No marriage between Casimir Petkiewicz and a girl named Mary is in the Illinois Marriage index. Another girl named Mary Petkiewicz married a man named Stanley Bieszczadt in early 1934, but this seems to be unrelated. The newspaper only tells us that she was a young wife (a few of the retell ins cropping up call her a "bride," which sort of creates the false impression that it was her wedding night), and that she was 17 years old. Her maiden name is unknown, she doesn't seem to appear in the death index, and I'm not sure she was buried at Resurrection Cemetery. Perhaps they weren't actually married yet, and her last name had not actually been changed. However, she's the right age, certainly existed, and was only a few blocks from Archer Avenue at the time of her death.

It doesn't TOTALLY line up with the Resurrection Mary story - in the classic version of the ghost story, the driver went to her mother's house and found that the girl had died years before. Being married, Mary P probably wouldn't have given her mother's address as her own in the afterlife. But who knows?

UPDATE: Ray tells me that he's now determined that Mary P. is not at Resurrection.

Further Update: Albert Petkiewicz, Mary's great nephew, has confirmed that Mary was married to Casimir, his great uncle. The other folks in the car that night were his paternal grandparents, Alexander and Anna Petkiewicz.

For a whole lot more information, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast!

Monday, October 3, 2011

New podcast episode: "Ghost Hunting in Lincoln Park"

New Episode!
Grave Robbing
in Lincoln Park

Chicago Unbelievable

Download mp3

More Podcasts

Lincoln Park is one of those places that certainly OUGHT to be haunted, given its history. Plenty of bodies remain from the land's stint at the chicago City Cemetery, upwards of 100 people committed suicide by jumping off the "high bridge," known as "suicide bridge," and there were plenty of murders over the years. Around the turn of the 20th century, the Tribune said that there had been enough violent deaths in the park to furnish a ghost for every nook and cranny.

We didn't find any ghosts, but we did have a good time tromping around looking!

Here's the long-demolished Suicide Bridge:

And the Couch Tomb (a regular tour stop for me these days) as it appeared with me in front of it a couple of years ago:

A close-up on the door:

Related Posts:


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Back to Doing Tours

As of last night, I'm back to running tours for Chicago Hauntings. Took two groups around last night, figuring out a new route and seeing how the lay of the land had changed since my last bus tours two years ago. A few things have changed around town, the tour business itself has changed, as new city regulations make it more financially doable to use charter buses than their own buses.

It looks like I'll be running tours on Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and 10pm, plus some week days in between. The buses leave from 600 N Clark (the old Rock and Roll McDonalds). Go to or call 1-888-GHOST91 for reservations - ask for me (Adam), and they'll try to accommodate you.

I also swung by the Ghost Conference at the Portage Theatre yesterday - spoke with lots of cool people that I remember from investigations a couple of years ago, but haven't seen since I dropped out of the ghost scene for a while there. Several people have asked me if I ever read one of my own books, which is fun.

It's good to be back - I'm having a good time doing this stuff again (though my throat was NOT used to six solid hours of talking anymore - gotta get it back into fighting shape!)

The new season of Chicago Unbelievable podcasts will launch this week with ghost hunts in a handful of under-investigated locations, and will (for the first time) feature some video. We're breaking out the gear!  Laser grids, thermal cams, EVP gear...all SORTS of stuff that isn't exactly useful in the city (where there's so much in the environment to mess with them), but is always fun to play with!


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