Monday, April 30, 2012

Who's Buried in Big Jim Colosimo's Tomb?

Today I had to go to Oak Woods Cemetery to get a photograph of Big Jim Colosimo's grave - and to see for myself if the rumors that it had been broken into were true.

At the office, they told me I would recognize the crypt by its broken door. "It's awful, what they did," they told me. "You'll see the bent door and broken fiberglass. I can't imagine what they thought they would get in there."

Well, it's easy enough to imagine - everyone's heard about gangsters from the 1920s getting lavish funerals and million dollar coffins. Colosimo, a relatively early vice lord who ran a fancy cafe and was a noted patron of the opera, was shot and killed in his cafe in May of 1920 (by none other than Al Capone, according to legend), clearing the way for the gangs to move into the liquor rackets. It wasn't until a few years later that massive gangland funerals became the order of the day, but Colosimo WAS buried in style, and, well, can we expect that would-be grave robbers would have really looked up all the details? I can't imagine how they thought they'd get the coffin out of the tomb, let alone carry it back to their car or drive away with it, but, hey, it's none of my business.

Here's how the tomb looks today (not pictured are the mournfully-cawing crows who circulated about while I took the pictures).

Unlike, say, the Couch vault, we can see inside, which gives us this curios view. Notice anything odd about the dates in this photo by Natalia Wood?

The date there says 1919. Colosimo died in May, 1920. The death certificate confirms his age and place of interment, so this is kind of a mystery. Do we have the wrong man here? Did whoever carved it just screw up and figure no one would ever see it, so it didn't really matter?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Book Announcement!

You might notice that links to our "Ghosts of Chicago" ebook have disappeared. That's because I'm pleased to announce that I've just made a deal with Llewellyn Press to do a new book on that subject to be released next fall!

In the mean time, we're stepping our investigations up a notch, trying to hit all of the under-investigated places in town. If you can get us into any places we haven't been to before, please let us know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The "Glinda Orb"

I suppose that on any website that deals with ghostlore, we have to deal with "orbs" from time to time. Orbs are little white or grey balls of light that often appear in photos, and some say that they're ghosts. Most of the time, they turn out to be something else - dust, the result of a camera dealing with low light, light refraction, or such like. I seldom mention them on tours, though on many tours I've had people who've heard of them elsewhere getting excited to get photos of them. I don't want to spoil their fun or anything, though I also don't want people going around posting orb pictures and saying "Adam Selzer says these are ghosts."

Here's an example - one that backs up the pet theory I joke about sometimes: that orbs aren't ghosts, they're ghost farts:

All that said, though, now and then we'll go through periods where we get one particular one over and over. In that same basement above, we used to get a couple where the visual noise in the center kept looking like two specific faces (one looked like the former owner of the building, and the other looked like the guy on the Quaker Oats box). I remember that some years back we used to get one oversized one at the Eastland site that we called "Sherman." (I'm sure we had a good reason for this, but damned if I remember what it was!) Both of those things went through a brief period of showing up often, then stopped showing up altogether. 

In the last few months, we've had a lot of shots of a really, really big one in the courtyard next door to Hull House. We call it "Glinda," because it looks like something the Good Witch of the North might float in on. Here's one example, in a shot by Josh Finehan:

Now, I always assume that orbs can be explained away easier than most ghost photos (and there's no such thing as a "million dollar photo" that will truly convince anyone who didn't take it), but I'm amused by the Glinda orb. In seven years of taking tour groups there I can't think of any other time when we were getting this specific shot over and over. Did something in the environment change? Is it a quirk of the cameras that are popular this year? Or COULD it be something else? Between the closing of the Hull House foundation and some of the political stuff going on this primary season, there have been few months in history when Jane Addams' rest would have been more disturbed.


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