Fake Nuns and Drunken Revels at the Phony Orphanage, 1908

St. Jospeh’s and three of the
“sisters” in the Chicago American. Papers
differ as to the exact address, but it appears to be
long gone now.

Neighbors who lived near St. Joseph’s Home for Orphans on East 35th in 1908 thought there was something awfully strange about the place. It was a religious home, run by a priest and few nuns, but they sure seemed to party hard there. And late into the night, too.

Fathern Anton de Lubicz, the priest in charge, was a fraud. Like Sam Cardinella, he seems like a guy who read a Dickens book and thought it was an instruction manual. In Cardinella’s case it was Oliver Twist, and for de Lubicz, it was Nicholas Nickleby, in which Nicholas works at Dotheboys Hall, a boarding school where headmaster Wackford Squeers pockets most of the money he should be spending on the care and feeding of the inmates and spends most of his time beating the kids and forcing them to do hard labor. That’s about what St. Joseph’s seems to have been like, with the added twist that Anton de Lubicz claimed to be a priest. Three “nuns” were sent out daily to collect alms, bringing in about $12 a day each.

By most accounts (certainly by their own), the “nuns” had been duped and thought they were real nuns; even the “Mother Superior” who was recruited from a Milwaukee Avenue restaurant where she’d been a waitress. But a servant employed in the home eventually went to the police and the anti-cruelty society with tales of midnight “orgies” and severe beatings of the dozen or so orphans who lived there in September, 1908.  “I never heard such a profane and vile-speaking man as De Lubicz,” she told the Tribune. “He never thought of the little girls he was wronging…nor of the orphans who often heard him, but he swore just like a trooper…. I have seen drunken carousals at the place at all hours.”

A photo from “Father” Lubicz from the Chicago American

“We thought we had been taken into the church,” said one of the “sisters.” “I remember now that there were no vows of any kind and no training. We did not serve as novitiates…. we used to have mass read every morning. Lately the father has only said mass once a week. He declared it was too much trouble to have a daily service.”

The sisters were required to bring in $12 a day fro mbegging, or Father de Lubicz would be “very severe.” The Sisters of Charity outfits were never questioned anywhere. The Armour company donated fifty bucks; ledgers had Schlitz and Atlas brewing companies down for ten bucks each.  Ledgers listed smaller confirmations from several other companies – mostly brewers.

“When our day’s work was over,” said “Sister Fideljon” in the Chicago American, “we had a good time. We took off our charity gowns and put on our other dresses. The father used to bring his men friends to the house and would entertain them until late at night.  The children were beaten frequently; if they did not obey any of the nuns or the father they were soundly thrashed.” One nun told the Examiner that the beatings were administered with a horse whip.

The orphans were literally eating gruel; the servant who informed the cops said she’d been given only $3 per day to feed as many as 18 inmates. According to the Examiner, breakfast was usually small amounts of oatmeal and rye bread, lunch was bread and butter, and dinner was a small bowl of soup.

A member of the anti-cruelty society inspected the place and was appalled. It smelled like sewer gas, the children were barely fed, and there was garbage everywhere. The cops launched a raid on the place a couple of days later.

Anton (or Antonio) de Lubicz in street clothes

“Father” de Lubicz escaped the raid, but soon surrendered. “He told police that he was ordained by The Independent Polish Catholic Church, and had paperwork to back it up, and claimed he was just a scapegoat being dragged through the mud by the former servant, who had been fired.  Other priests insisted that his paperwork was bogus.  “All priests have women in their employ,” he told the Examiner. “And I consider it no sin to drink beer.” This may have been so, but “Father” de Lubicz also had a wife and children living on Leavitt Street, near North Avenue, which would have been distinctly unusual for a real priest.. When found by reporters, his wife wept and said he was “a bad man.”

The next month, he was found guilty of cruelty to children and fined $5.
He was still on trial for other charges related to the orphanage when he skipped his bail and went to Canada, where he was caught again in January, 1909. He was extradited back to Chicago, but I’ve yet to find any data on what happened to him.

The Death of Hoops-a-Daisy Connors

Hoops a Daisy

Henry “Hoops-a-Daisy” Connors is not one of Chicago’s better-known gangsters. In fact, if he didn’t have such a swell nickname, I doubt any attention would have been paid to him at all. It hasn’t, really. Looking him up now, all I’m seeing about him are vintage newspapers and one mention in one of my own books.

Hoops-a-Daisy was born around Erie and Wells back when the neighborhood was known as “Smoky Hollow” and grew up to be a gangster. In 1914, according to police records reported in the Tribune, he shot and killed a man he said he hurt his sister. He did some time for counterfeiting in Toledo, and in 1928 he took a gun away from a bartender and shot him with it.

By 1929, he was known as a political hanger-on, switching sides among various aldermen and aldermanic candidates in the 42nd Ward, where he had been trying to open dives of his own while living in a room at the Wacker Hotel (now the Felix). On September 1, 1929, he came into the C and O Restaurant looking for trouble.

The C and O Restaurant and Cabaret, 509 N. Clark, was a hangout both for gangsters and politicians – there was a lunch room up front, a cabaret in the back, and, off and on, a casino in the basement. Booze seems to have flowed pretty freely, even though prohibition was in full effect. Though not one of the better known gang hangouts today (it’s overshadowed by places whose gang history is wildly exaggerated), it sure as hell seems to have been a tough place in its day. It’s even been suggested that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was not really a Capone job, but revenge for the killing of William Davern in the C&O in 1929  (though the real killer in that version of events was in jail at the time, so most historians tend to brush it off).

Months after the massacre, a drunken Hoops-a-Daisy walked into the C&O and approached a table occupied by James McManus and Ernest Fontana, a pair of north side gangsters.  According to the Evening Journal, McManus later said “Connors came up to our table, evidently intoxicated, and said ‘Come n in the back and I’ll give you a drink. We refused, saying we were busy.”

The two were apparently old pals of his from when he supported Dorsey Crowe as alderman, but had quarreled with him since he switched his allegiance for Crowe’s opponent. Going into the back with him seemed like a bad idea.

“Then Connors pulled a gun and swore,” McManus went on, “ordering us to get into the back room. That’s when the shooting started.”

Connors stood  on the step that separated the lunch room from the cabaret, swearing and pointing people around with his pistol. As he did, someone standing behind him opened fire. When the police arrived, Connors was lying dead across the dividing line between the lunch room and the cabaret, having been shot in the back, the eye, and the groin. There were many witnesses, including a couple of cabaret singers, a musician, a waiter, and several customers, but none claimed to have seen the killer.

McManus and Fontana were said to have blamed Conners for the recent killing of John E. Bowman, and it was speculated that he had come to the C&O to kill them for daring to think such a thing (or perhaps for knowing too much). In the coming weeks, several other gang killing would be connected to the Connors killing: less than two weeks later, a carnival barker and 42nd ward political hanger-on named Charles Brown was “taken for a ride” and thrown out of a car to die of his wounds at 53rd and Lowe.  Some said Brown was an informer for prohibition agents, others said it was all a gambling fight, but police theorized it may have been retaliation for Connors’ killing.

The next month, George Riggins, a friend of the slain Bowman, was in his gambling house near Madison and Racine when six gangsters came in. They robbed 30 dice players, then put Riggins against the wall, cussed him out, then shot him nine times. Police speculated that this was revenge for the Connors killing, as well.

Whether these killings were really connected to Connors will likely never really be known, and neither will the identity of his killer. Like the story behind his fantastic nickname, they’ll probably remain mysteries for all time.

Conway: The One-Legged Killer Clown of 1912

“It’s Only a Paper Moon…” Charles Cramer, alias Conway, the clown
with a wooden leg, in a postcard photo with his
wife, circa 1911, a year before he murdered Sophia Singer.

In 1908, a woman named Frances Thompson was found strangled to death and robbed in a home on the 1200 block of South Michigan. A man named Luman Mann was tried for her murder and acquitted. During the whole ordeal, Mann’s father, Orville, received an anonymous note stating that he could solve the mystery if he went to Riverview, the north side amusement park, and find a clown with a wooden leg.

Mr. Mann doesn’t seemed to have followed up on the clue at the time, but four years later just such a clown would be arrested for another murder in Chicago, in a story that made from page news before being completely forgotten.

In early October, 1912, an heiress named Sophie Singer came to Chicago with her fiance, Will Worthen. They were met at the station by a “Mrs. Conway” who suggested that they all get a flat together instead of a hotel. This “Mrs. Conway” was really Mrs. Louisa Cramer, the wife of Charles N. Cramer (alias Charles Kramer, alias Charles Conway). The two were in the circus profession; Mrs. Conway was a lion tamer who also called herself The Queen of Burlesque and Mr. Cramer doubled as Conway the Clown,  working as a parachute performer and as the “comet” in a high dive act. Some time before, a circus accident had cost him the portion of one of his legs, below the knee, and he walked with a self-built wooden foot.

The Cramers in court.

The three set up housekeeping in a little flat on the 2900 block of S. Indiana Ave, eventually joined by Mr. Cramer (who the couple, as well as the papers, would usually called “Charles Conway.”) The circus couple had no money, except what their new friends gave them. And they seem to have given them plenty. The Conways, it seems, were the sort of mooches who made people feel happy to pay.

Until Miss Singer started thinking it was time to go back to Baltimore. At that point, Worhten later said, “they seemed to hate us all at once.”  The unlikely foursome moved to another house a few blocks south. Worthen went out gambling (he had a system where he had friends at the races telephoning in results to him before they could be telegraphed to the bookies), and came to the new rooming house  to find the keyhole stuffed. Breaking down the door, he found Sophie’s feet sticking out from under the bed. She had been strangled to death; her hands were tied with clothes line and Cramer’s handkerchief was shoved so deep into her throat that police needed pincers to remove it. Her jewelry had been stolen.

After a nationwide dragnet, the Cramers were caught in Lima, Ohio, near where Charles had been born in 1886. Mrs. Cramer quickly confessed, and when he learned of the confession, Charles did, too, though he insisted that his wife had nothing to do with the murder, though he said it had been in self defense, following a quarell after Miss Singer had suggested that Mrs. Cramer should be try prostitution.

In the midst of confessing, he did a bit of clowning with reporters and police. “Say, Captain?” he asked. “Do you know that in this case you can’t hang a man with a wooden leg?” When the Captain said he’d never heard of a law like that, Cramer said “You have to use a rope!”  Har de har har.

“How did you hurt your foot?” one reporter asked. “A steamboat ran over it,” Cramer joked.

The trial in March, 1913, made front page news, even in the shadow of Woodrow Wilson’s
inauguration as president. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cramer recanted their confession, stating that the police had used “third degree” methods to get them, denying them food and medicine in their separate cells. The judge did eventually throw out the confessions, but the jury found the Cramers guilty. Charles was sentenced to life in one prison, and Louisa was sentenced to fourteen years in another (she served about a year). Charles only narrowly avoided the gallows.

As he was led away, he vowed that he would “get out of this,” and twelve years later he made good on his promise. In 1925, while serving on the “honor farm” at Joliet, Cramer escaped from prison. He last appears in the news in 1932, when his mother tried to get a judge to declare him dead so that she could collect his life insurance. According to articles at the time, he had last been seen in Toledo in 1929.  The world never learned what had really become of the Conway, the murderous one-legged clown, after his escape….

This is one of those stories that I find myself in disbelief over. A one-legged clown was convicted of murder in Chicago, escaped from prison, and was never caught. And, outside of some brief mentions in papers between 1914 and 1932, no one seems to have written about it at all ever since!

I can’t help but think of the peg-legged ghost that is said to haunt the Congress Hotel….

1893: Another Body Turned to Stone

The bodies of the two nuns on Taylor Street we spoke of in our recent entry aren’t the only bodies in Chicago reported to have turned to stone. Another was found on the beach in 1893.

“Of all the horrible bodies that lie in the morgue,” wrote the Chicago Times, “this thing is the most repulsive. Bloated, puffed up ‘floaters’ are there made more grewsome (sic) by the flecks of disinfecting powder scattered over their purpled faces; there are unclean, ragged tramps battered and torn under car wheels. But the other horros pass unnoticed beside the mysterious scrap of a body which Policeman Jeffry dug out of the sands in Lake View.”

When Officer Jeffry was making the rounds along the beach near Hollywood Avenue in April, 1893, he came upon a ghoulish find: the dismembered torso of a woman, half-buried in the sand. The arms were fully severed, along with the head. Part of the spine and thigh bones protruded from the torso, one all the way down to the knee joint. Some of the flesh was blackened or missing.

But what remained of the flesh appeared to stone. Some papers said it was as white as marble, others described it as gray, but all agreed that when tapped, it made a hollow, hard sound, as though someone was tapping a hollow tree or a papier mache cast.  Only a faint odor of decay was present.

Morguekeeper Sanders had never seen anything like it. At first he speculated that the had been killed by a propeller, but the dismemberment was fairly neat – the head and arms were completely gone, the legs hacked off above the knee. Also, it would have had to happen back in the fall, when boats were still navigating the lake, and the body probably would have decomposed far more in warmer water.  One officer suggested she’d been killed with arsenic, since arsenic could preserve bodies. Others guessed she’d been weighted down in icy water that kept her frozen.

The Times suggested “perhaps after all it is the work of those ghoulish jokers, the medical students. The adolescent scientists who spend their nights smoking big pips and clawing into unpleasant corpses do such things as this sometimes. It is a great joke for your medical students to drop a scrap of a corpse in the street or some out of the way place, hoping thereby to create stir of a mystery.”  One person at the morgue did say that perhaps it had been a medical cadaver from one of the universities that had been dissected and kept in a “pickling vat,” but that traces of the knife had been removed by the water.  .

Several hundred people, according to the Times, came to the morgue hoping for a peek, and were disappointed that it was not on public exhibition.

On April 8, an inquest was held and attended by around 20 doctors. They all agreed that the seemingly-stone body was not “petrified” so much as “preserved” in a natural process in which “minute particles of sand” were ground beneath the skin, making it as hard as rock. (I’d love it if anyone with scientific knowledge could weigh in on this; it doesn’t seem possible to me).

Dr. Louis J. Mitchell, the coroner’s physician, examined the body and declared that the internal organs indicated that it was a man, not a woman.

One theory police came up with – when it was still thought to be a woman’s body – was that this was the body of “Alice,” a mystery corpse from 1889 whose story had been part of what was then called the Crime of the Century: a story recently, and thrillingly, told in Gillian O’Brien’s excellent new book, Blood Runs Green: The Murder That Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago.

In May of 1889, Dr. Patrick Cronin disappeared. He’d been telling friends that he feared for his life; his work to expose corruption in Irish American rebel societies had made him some very powerful enemies. When he disappeared, opinions flew throughout the city. Some said he’d been murdered, others that he’d fled to Canada or Britain for any number of reasons.  During the early investigations, police had followed men carrying a trunk in a cart who ran off down Diversey and Fullerton to the Lake and refused to stop when told to, and when a bloody trunk was found, it was thought that perhaps they’d dumped Dr. Cronin’s body in the lake.

However, a young horse thief named Woodruff claimed that he’d been involved in moving the trunk, and that it had contained the mutilated body of a woman that the others called “Alice” (some sources say “Allie”), and that he was under the impression that she was a young woman who died during an abortion performed by Dr. Cronin, who had fled the country when she didn’t survive the operation. Police briefly connected her to a missing girl named Alice Villavose. They dragged the pond in Lincoln Park for her body, but came up empty. All I could find about Alice V. was a few notes in out-of-town papers saying she’d turned out to be alive.

In time, Dr. Cronin’s beaten and murdered (but not mutilated) body was found in sewer in Evanston. The resulting trial was the longest in U.S. history at the time, and the story of Woodruff and “Alice” was mostly forgotten. Most probably determined that there had never really been a woman in the trunk at all.

Until that one day in 1893, when police wondered if maybe “Alice” had been real after all.

Given the timeline – the body was found right as the World’s Fair was opening – it’s almost remarkable that no one brought the story up again two years later, when papers briefly tried to blame every murder that had ever happened on H.H. Holmes. Mutilating and preserving a body sounds like the sort of thing you hear about him doing, though it’s more the sort of thing he was said to do in tabloids and pulps than what he actually did.

Rarely-Seen Eastland Disaster Photos on the 100th Anniversary

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Eastland Disaster, in which 844 people lost their lives when a badly oversold boat capsized in the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle. It’s been a big year for finding new footage of the disaster; film footage was found in Dutch newsreels, followed closely by more graphic footage in a British newsreel.  Last week the Chicago Tribune discovered several new photos in their basement. 

These photos aren’t exactly “new;” but I’m not sure they’ve ever been republished. They were printed in various Chicago papers that now exist only in microfilm archives; these are photos taken of the microfische screens. The quality isn’t always great, but they deserve to be seen.  Most of these have probably never been online before.
The inaccessible life preservers in The Chicago Evening Post , 7/27/1915
Chicago Journal, 7/29/1915
Behind the “read more” link there are a more than a dozen more shots.

Grand Jurors inspect, Chicago Evening Post 7/28/1915
Chicago Evening Post 7/28
Chicago Evening Journal, 7/24
Mayor Thompson inspects the ship, Chicago Journal 7/28
Chicago Evening Post 7/28
Chicago Journal 7/26

Chicago Journal 7/26

Chicago Journal 7/26

Chicago Journal 7/26. Coroner Hoffman is on the left.

Chicago Journal 7/26. Workers watch divers in the hull beneath
Chicago Journal 7/26. Mr and Mrs. Louis M. Johnson and their daughter Esther of 2212 N Rockwell St

From the Chicago American:

And one full article:
Chicago Journal, 7/30

Heroic and Tragic Tales of Eastland Divers

Diver portrait from the Chicago American

Early on in my time as a Chicago ghost tour guide, I heard a story that one of the divers recovering bodies from the Eastland had gone insane and spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. I repeated it on a few early tours, but, unable to find a source to back it up, I phased it out of my stories, but I get asked about variations on it now and then. Just last week, someone asked me if it was true that a German diplomat had killed himself after seeing a ghost at the Eastland site (I have a pretty good idea where both stories came from).

Divers at the Eastland were heroic, to say the least. They were responsible for many of the “good” stories that kept people’s spirits up. According to the Chicago American, cheers and laughter erupted from the crowd on the docks at 3pm when diver came up carrying a baby that had been in the hull of the ship for eight hours – and was still alive.

A Chicago American portrait of a diver at work.

But the idea that a diver would have trouble keeping his composure during such gruesome work didn’t seem unreasonable, and a similar story was told in the Chicago Examiner on July 25, 1915, the day after the tragedy.

Diver Morris Jorgensen worked for three hours in the river on the day of the disaster, and was one of only a few “able to penetrate the grewsome (sic) tunnels made by the decks of the sunken vessel against the river bottom, where hundreds of bodies were pinioned, and remain there for any length of time. Most of the divers went into hysteria as soon as they looked beneath the vessel and had to be drawn to the surface.”

After working for hours, Jorgensen came up, removed his helmet, and gasped for breath, muttering about the bodies as he staggered up to the top of the ship. When told by Captain Baer of the police to move away from there, Jorgensen let forth a hysterical scream.

Two policemen, including Baer, decided that they had to knock Jorgensen out, and set to clubbing him about the face until he lost consciousness. He came to and was able to say his name on the way to the police station.

“Had to do it,” Baer said. “He was out of his head. He is a strong man, and would have thrown some of us into the river if we hadn’t subdued him.”

William “Frenchy” Deneau, Eastland Diver, in 1958

While we’re talking about divers, I should also mention William Deneau (alias Frenchy Deneau) who was said to have recovered around 200 bodies. On the 43rd anniversary of the disaster in 1958, he came to the Clark Street Bridge to reminisce. At the time, he said he’d recovered 300 bodies, and said that he didn’t believe that the ship had really been sold for scrap in 1946.  “I rode on that ship last year on a run from California to Catalina island,” the now-Los Angeles-based Deneau told the Tribune. “It used another name, but I knew her as soon as I saw her.”

From what we know of Deneau, he seems to have liked to tell stories, and perhaps wasn’t the type to let facts get in the way of a good one. A few months after the Eastland, he was the one who found the wreck of the Foolkiller, a homemade submarine, in the river and put it on display on South State street (a story we’ve covered in depth!). Some have suggested that Deneau built it himself as a stunt, but this theory ignores just how risky it would have been to put ANYTHING in the river when the Eastland investigations were still going on. People investigating had to be assured that the sub hadn’t caused the disaster (the captain continued to maintain that pilings on the riverbed had caused it to tip over).

A grandchild of Deneau once left an anonymous comment on my page saying that when they took their grandfather to the Museum of Science and Industry, he made jokes about the U-505 submarine being a “foolkiller.”  If any Deneau relatives are out there, I’d love to chat!

Eastland Disaster Premonitions

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Eastland disaster of 1915; we’re featuring posts on it all week

Even with my general skepticism about paranormal stories, one belief – or half belief- that’s stayed with me is the idea that when people are about to die, a part of them knows it. Think of all the “last speeches” people made that seemed eerie later on.

 My upcoming Ghosts of Lincoln book documents several things Lincoln said or did in the days before his death that seemed spooky later on, ranging from simply saying “Good-bye” in stead of “Good-night” to an aid to eyewitness accounts of him lingering over lines about the assassinated King Duncan while reading aloud from Macbeth. Only one was written down before his death, but several had many extremely high-level sources. It’s very difficult to read about Lincoln’s last few days and not get the sense that on some level, he knew the end was coming.

A similar thing happens with disasters. There are all sorts of stories about people having premonitions before getting aboard the Titanic, before 9/11, and so on. Most of them were not written down until well after the fact, so they don’t necessarily hold up as “evidence,” but the stories still make for fascinating reading. The Eastland disaster, in which an oversold boat capsized in the Chicago River and claimed the lives of 844 people, inspired premonition stories that spread like wildfire through the city in the wake of the disaster.

Two days after the ship capsized, the Chicago Evening Post told the tale of Herman Bottin, a mourner who had come from Iowa to search the morgues for the body of his daughter, Louisa Jahnke, who had been married less than a month before (her husband, Paul, also perished). With him was the girl’s uncle, Mr. Herman Schwandt, who said, “I had a premonition that something was going to happen to Mary and her husband. It was a sort of a dream. It woke me up Friday night.”

According to a 7/17/1915 Tribune article (which was also printed in the Post),  Paul and Louisa Jahnke had had similar dreams of their own, and were  so sure they would die that they made out their wills just before the trip. The two lived at 4817 W. 22nd Place, and their landlady, a Mrs. Altman, said “Both had a dream of the boat. Now they are dead. They were married just six weeks. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jahnke, and they were so happy. Friday night when Mrs. Jahnke was fussing over lunch, she stopped and expressed a fear that something would happen to the boat. Later Mr. Jahnke rang my bell. ‘Here is my key and the $50 for mother if we don’t come back from the trip,’  he said.”

Their relatives, upon entering the apartment after the disaster, found a letter and a will on the dresser.

The Jahnke’s apparent premonition was, by far, the best documented premonition story. But theirs was not the only one – papers said that stories of eerie predictions were on everyone’s lips, and one paper estimated that at least a dozen similar stories were in circulation. The same Trib/Post article that told the Jahnke’s story also said that Josie Markowska, age 18 of South Sacremento Avenue,  had spoken of a premonition. According to her friend Helen: “Josie told my mother she felt something awful was going to happen and that she did not want to go to the picnic. My mother laughingly told her to go on and have a good time and warned her not to think of disaster else she might bring it on the boat. Now, Josie is dead. She was the only support of her mother and four small brothers and sisters. Mrs. Markowska…dreamed that Josie walked into the room, but it was a neighbor asking for a nightrobe for the body.”

Mamie Ponicki’s obit in the Tribune, 7/31/1915

Some of the premonitions only came out as casual mentions, such as the case of 19 year old Mamie Ponicki, whose obituary mentioned that on her way out the door, she said, “Good-bye, mother. I may never see you again.”

Mr. Tony Biehl was in Oklahoma leading an archestra and told the Tulsa World that as soon as he heard of the tragedy, he had a presentiment that he would “learn something of it concerning me more directly.” Sure enough, he found the name of a cousin of his who lived in Chicago among the names of the dead.

Twelve years later, an Eastland survivor named Gertrude Bendt was about to board a ship called The Favorite with her family at Lincoln Park for a two mile trek down to what is now Navy Pier. She told the Evansville Courier that she hadn’t liked the look of the ship, and suggested waiting for a larger one. Her family, who seem rather insenstive to the natural fears of someone who survived the Eastland, laughed and called her a “crepehanger.” She reluctantly boarded. The weather was fine when everyone boarded, but when a sudden storm hit and the ship began to tip to one side, Mrs. Bendt ran to the opposite side, calling the others to join her. They refused. The Favorite capsized half a mile off the coast of the North Avenue beach, taking the lives of twenty-seven, including four members of Mrs. Bendt’s family. Many papers erroneously stated that it had been the anniversary of the Eastland.

Of course, Mrs. Bendt’s premonition seems far more like sensible nervousness than anything paranormal, and so did many of the premonitions and predictions made about the Eastland in 1915. Such was the case of Martin Collins, a Northwestern student, and Chester Adams, two employees who told the Chicago Examiner that they’d quit working on the ship only days before the wreck because the ship scared them. Adams, who worked as a watchman, said, “We all knew that the Eastland was a freak and unsafe. I quit the boat because I was afraid of the boat from the first night I was on her. Besides the danger of the boat the sanitary conditions were awful.” William Katham, another former employee, told a similar story to the Rockford Morning Star: “Another captain said that summer that the Eastland would tip over some day.”

Similarly, my own fears that people are going to get hurt at the new riverwalk at the Eastland site is no psychic hunch – I’ve come so close to tumbling down the steep stairs or into the water myself in the times I’ve been there that I’m avoiding taking tour groups to the place. But if someone does get hurt there, this post will seem like a grim premonition…

Some Eastland Editorial Cartoons, 1915

In the wake of the Eastland disaster, a hundred years ago this week, lots of fingers were pointed, though nothing ever really came of the hearings and investigations. No one was ever really held responsible, though making the guilty pay was a major theme from editorial cartoons of the day.

 Here are some examples from the days following the tragedy, part of our week of posts on the subject.

Chicago Evening Post 7/26/1915

Chicago Evening Journal 7/28

Chicago Journal 7/30/1915

And three from the Examiner: