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.