Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cryptic Vandalism: He Whom Waits Behind the Rose

One of those mini-mysteries that pop up now and then - this odd phrase was found scrawled on the memorial sign at the Eastland Disaster site on the tour on Friday night:  He whom waits behind the rose.


The phrase doesn't come up at all when typed into google. Is this a scavenger hunt clue? An odd bit of graffiti? If we'd looked at all the OTHER signs on the river walk, would we find that this was one line or a larger poem, like a Burma-Shave sign?  I'm always amused by cryptic vandalism.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chicago Ghost Hunt, 1922

In 1922, people didn't bring scientific gadgets on ghost hunts - they brought guns. In October of that year, there were wild reports of a ghost in the near north side - it was heard unleashing blood-curdling shrieks and laughs, and the area was plagued by a sound likened to "padded bricks dropping onto coffins."

The neighbors and police came out in full force, armed to the teeth, as seen in this photo:


THe whole ghost hunt was quite a fiasco - the crowd hunting for ghosts in the neighborhood was estimated to number as high as 2000. A psychic on the scene said, "I see three men, one with a black beard. And I see two women - one of them handsome. There is a knife. There will be trouble. I can solve this mystery."

There was trouble all right - one policeman emptied his gun into what appeared to be a shadow.  A woman who lived in the house around which it all centered was sent to a mental ward in a family feud as to the origins of the ghost.  The two thousand people lurking around with weapons probably did an awful lot of damage to property in the area.

Eventually the electric company laid the sounds to short-circuiting wires, though the explanation didn't satisfy everyone. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Updates to Old Posts

We here at Chicago Unbelievable always want to keep our facts straight - part of the reason I HAVE this blog is to refute some of the stories that less scrupulous tour guides tell, and to set the record straight if I find out that I'm wrong on something myself. Blog entries are updated as needed. Ghost stories are often impossible to get a source on one way or the other, but I've always insisted that we should at least tell the historical stories behind them properly.

Some recent updates:

New info found on Anton LaVey and the Hancock Building. Was he really born where it stands, or is that just something he used to say? It appears that his parents actually lived in the to-die for Casa Bonita apartments in West Rogers Park.

A commenter adds an interesting note to The Death of Hymie Weiss.

I've also updated the Myths about HH Holmes entry. Most of the stories going around about that guy are way off. Some come from misconceptions, some from pulp retellings, and some come from very recently-created balderdash.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

John Wayne Gacy and "Death Alley"

One of the first stories I was told upon starting work as a ghost tour guide was a side-story about Death Alley, the alley behind the site of the Iroquois Theatre (now the site of the Oriental). At the time of the 1903 fire in the theatre that killed around 600 people was variously called "Death Alley" or "The Alley of Death and Mutilation" in publications.

The building on the other side, I was told, was a greyhound bus station where John Wane Gacy first met up with 26 out of 27 of his victims. He would meet them there on the pretense of a job interview, then load them into a white van parked in the alley.

Like many such stories that I was told early on, it didn't turn out to be true, though parts of it came sort of close.

Gacy did meet up with ONE victim at a downtown Greyhound station, and possibly one other who got away, but that station was on the other side of Dearborn street from "Death Alley." I've never found anything that connects him with the actual alley in question. The alley behind the Greyhound station would have gone through the middle of where the Goodman Theatre is now.

A bit more disturbing was stories about Gacy in Bughouse Square, the near-north side park which was a popular place to make speeches (and heckle speakers) until around 1960. In the 1970s, the place had become something of a late night cruising ground for patrons leaving the gay bars that lined Clark Street at the time. According to contemporary accounts, Gacy would hang around dressed as a cop, threatening to give people tickets if they didn't perform certain favors. He told assistant state's attorney Lawrence Finder that the area around Bughouse Square was his main cruising ground.

Most of his victims, though, would more likely have been picked up in the suburbs, nearer to his house, not downtown. His known number of victims hovers in the low 30s, but rumors of other victims buried in the 'burbs come up from time to time.

I would never issue a blanket statement that Gacy was never in "Death Alley." There's too much about him that's still a mystery to say anything like that, and, anyway, it's quite likely he at least walked past the place at one point. Most Chicagoans do. But the evidence doesn't back up the stories for now.  Sometimes I feel like I spend all my time just trying to clear up exaggerations!

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