New theory on the “gunshot?”

In the Florentine Room on the tour last night, a 9 volt battery was found on the ground near the door to the hallway where the noise was heard (see previous post). It appeared to be somewhat damaged, as though it had fallen. It made a pretty good noise when dropped. Could the sound we heard just have been a battery falling?

It’s possible, but not likely. For one thing, the sound was much bigger than you’d expect from a battery, and dropping it tended to result in it bouncing around quite audibly. For another, there’s no way to tell if the battery was there on Thursday; if it was, we didn’t notice it – and we looked around pretty carefully. Since Thursday, tables had been set up for an upcoming function in the room – the battery more likely fell out of someone’s pocket (or something) during the setup. If it had been there Thursday, the setup crew on Friday or Saturday probably would have picked it up.

Most importantly, batteries usually don’t just randomly fall out of nowhere. Nothing battery powered was mounted to the ceiling.

So, as a skeptic, I was quite willing to say that the noise had just been the battery, but, frankly, the pieces don’t fit. Still working on this one!

(note: there may not be many entries this week, as I’ll be blogging from Denver at the DNC over on my normal blog as part of the “bonus material” for my upcoming SMART ALECK’S GUIDE TO US HISTORY (Delacorte Press, 2010)).

A really scary night on the tour.

This may have been the scariest thing that has yet happened to me on a tour.

I was feeling a bit more spooked than normal myself. Someone was reporting that the batteries that she’d just put in her camera were already drained – a common occurence at supposedly haunted places, though I’ve not known it to happen at the Congress before. Earlier, on the second floor, there were weird lighs flashing on the ceiling. Maybe they’re always there, but I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from and don’t think I’ve seen them before. I brushed them off as reflections and moved on.

And the congress HAD been “active” lately – at least, I’ve been feeling more spooked there normally. One night in he Florentine Room, the third floor ballroom generally regarded as the spookiest of the old ballrooms by the staff, I thought, for jsut a second, that I heard a harpsichord playing. Probably just my imagination.

Shortly after we wandered into the darkened ballroom, I felt as spooked as I’d ever been in that room. Enough that I quietly even broke out of a keychain to try Hector’s “pendulum trick,” at which I normally scoff. Suddenly there was a huge BLAM coming from one of the service hallways off to the side – the sound of a gunshot! A loud one. I honestly thought someone had fired a gun in there!

There were no footsteps following it. No scream, no sound of a body hitting the ground. And, when we opened the door to the hallway, no one there. Many of us thought something heavy had been dropped in there, but there was nothing. No bullet holes that we noticed. There were other doors in the hall, but none that were very “slammable.”

We spent the next several minutes scouring the area, trying to see if there was any way to explain the gunshot sound. There were some people who thought they detected some movement in the door to the hall itself, as thought it had been cracked ever so slightly ajar, then shut at the time of the door, but there wasn’t nearly enough movement to cause anything like the noise we heard. Even when we SLAMMED the door, it sounded more like a door slamming than a gunshot. The slight movement could have just been impact from the noise (which, again, was REALLY loud).

And, anyway, the whole floor seemed to be deserted.

When we ventured out, I went down and spoke to security, who insisted that they hadn’t faked us out. Certainly no one had been patrolling the area at the time.

As a skeptic, I keep trying to tell myself they – or someone on the staff – must have done SOMETHING. I never, ever say outright that anything that I see is actually, without a doubt a ghost. But, if someone was pulling a trick on us, they sure did a hell of a job. There was no trace of anyone there, no evidence left behind. This was no “fill a rubber costume with roadkill guts and stick it in a freezer” kinda hoax, if it was a hoax at all, not the echo of some long ago gunshot fired just outside of the old ballroom.

The moment after that noise was probably the most freaked out I’ve ever been on a tour. Of course, much of that is just that I thought someone had fired off a gun!

To Kill a Bull Moose….

In 1912, while campaigning for a third term as the nominee of the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party, Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a nut who thought the ghost of President McKinley had commanded him to kill Roosevelt in a dream. The bullet was slowed by a fifty page speech Roosevelt had in his pocket, and, ever a badass, he went onstage and gave a 90 minute speech, roaring “it takes more than that to kill a bull moose!” The speech was supposed to be twice as long, but after 90 minutes, Roosevelt had lost too much blood to continue. They put him on a train to Chicago, arriving at the Wells Street station in the loop. There, Roosevelt walked to the ambulance and hopped onto it himself. It drove him through the loop, onto Michigan Avenue, and south to a hospital at 26th and Calumet.

He ended up being in Chicago for eight days of recovery. While there, he tried to campaign for the progressive party even while he was on the operating table. Newspapers covered every tiny detail of his stay, right down to having headlines stating that Roosevelt said the hospital breakfast was “bully!”

The drive down Michigan would have taken him right past the Congress Hotel, which had been his headquarters during both the Republican and Progressive Party conventions that year. He would go on to lose the general election to Woodrow Wilson, but the Progressive Party was a major milestone; prior to 1912, the Republican party had generally been the more liberal of the two. With the Bull Moose Party, Roosevelt lured most of the progressives out of the party, and they never really went back. The party was the first major party to promote equal rights for women (Jane Addams of Hull House seconded his nomination), and had a platform that reads, today, like a prototype for later Democratic party platforms.

Don’t forget to check out the Chicago Anarchy Tour (alias the Chicago Political Tour) available at Weird!

At the Congress Hotel…

At the Congress, where we recorded our recent podcast, security guards recently found noticed something odd on a message board outside of the Florentine Room, which most of the staff regards as the spookiest ballroom of the lot:

This has “prank” written all over it, but the board IS sealed, and none of the guards have the keys…

There will be a BIG section on the Congress and its ghost stories in our upcoming book!

Will Roosevelt’s Ghost Endorse a Candidate for 2008?

A few days before Super Tuesday, we ran a miniature investigation in the Florentine Room of the Congress Hotel, a hotel reputed to be haunted by Theodore Roosevelt himself, to see if we could get his ghost to endorse a presidential candidate.

While Roosevelt may or may not haunt the hotel, he does have a lot of history there. It was in the Florentine Room in 1912 that he jumped onto a table and announced that he was leaving the Republican party, since they weren’t going to nominate him for a third term. Six weeks later, he was back in the same room, forming the Bull Moose Party, which was officially called The American Progressive Party. It was probably the most liberal major party that had been formed at that point, and served to draw a good deal of the liberals who had been Republicans at that point out of the GOP. He didn’t win the election, but the Bull Moose Party DID come in second, beating President Taft pretty handily. As a side note, his nomination was seconded by Jane Addams of Hull House.

We here at Chicago Unbelievable feel that Col. Roosevelt has been TOTALLY, UNFAIRLY ignored by the “mainstream” media this election cycle. And, though we don’t find it likely that he actually haunts the place, we thought we should give him a chance to say his thing. We really have no idea who he’d endorse today – we can find things he’d like about all three of the major candidates. Alas, if his ghost was there, it kept its mouth shut.

However, during the investigation (which was conducted during one of our tours), a guest named Kayla Hendricks took this picture:

Some say that they see the face of an angry Roosevelt in the flash – he’s back, and he’s PISSED! In reality, this is probably just a psychological trick – our brains are trained to look for shapes like faces in random noise like this (and the fact that we’re happy to tell you this is one way you can tell that we’re REAL ghost hunters here at Chicago Unbelievable, not quacks!) But you never know…

We’ll be back in the Florentine Room several times between now and election day – plenty of time for TR to make an appearance!