Another Ghost Pic From the Vaults

Here’s an odd shot from a July, 2009 tour by Christy Jackson – a shot from the Florentine Ballroom at the Congress hotel.

Doesn’t look like much on its own. Here’s a close-up, though, of the thing on the left. Dude with an old-timey mustache?

Odd, huh? My first though on seeing it was to make a crack about Buffalo Bill (who did, in fact, stay at the Congress and was probably in this ballroom at one time or another). But what about Captain Louis Ostheim, the Spanish American war vet who killed himself in the hotel in 1900?
Notes from the photographer:
“This is a photo I took on the Devil in the White City Tour in the Florentine Ballroom at the Congress Hotel. I didn’t notice the strange figure to the left until about 3 weeks later when I finally got around to putting the photos on my computer. I don’t remember any white haired colonial dressed men with us on the tour, so this is definitely freaky! As for you skeptics, I guess it doesn’t really matter what I say, but I wouldn’t have the slightest clue about how to fake this photo, nor would I have the time to waste creating it. Anyways, what fun would it be for me to know that it’s not real?”
I was looking at the pictures I took afterword that I took with a flash, and there was a lady standing around but I can’t see how that would be her. But I guess it could be proof enough for some people to say it’s not real.”

What do you think?  Messing around with the photo makes me think that it’s probably actually a woman on the tour, and the “mustache” is an optical illusion caused by motion blur.  But, as I say, there’s no GOOD ghost evidence, only COOL ghost evidence. This is pretty nifty-looking even if it’s an optical illusion!

Ghost Pic from the Vaults

While I was going through records and files from old tours today, I came across one from a girl named Anna Schultz from 2007 that I somehow never noticed before. Around that time (especially the summer before it) there were lots of reports of the ghost of a little girl at Hull House, who we nicknamed “Becky.” We’ve no idea who this might be the ghost of, but if I made a list of the 10 coolest possible ghost shots I’ve seen, at least three of them would be “Becky” shots. Here’s Anna’s.

Anna noted in her email that no one was in the garden when the shot was taken. As always, I won’t vouch for it as “authentically paranormal,” but I sure can’t explain this one!

Ghost Picture from the Alley of Death and Mutilation

Only hours from the anniversary of the Iroquois Theatre disaster (which I just posted about a few days back), Brandon L got this nifty shot on one of my tours. He says there was no one there when he took the picture, and the person who was standing next to him said so, too; I wasn’t watching at the time so I can’t say for sure. But Brandon showed it to me at the next stop and had emailed it to me before the tour ended (probably setting a new record!)

Just looking at it, my first instinct would be to say the guy was photo-shopped in, but given the circumstances under which it was taken and sent, I don’t see how he could have done it without leaving any traces (trying to do photoshopping on a phone with your finger while on a bumpy bus ride would be a unique and impressive feat by itself). 
As always, I’m not saying that this is a real ghost – I can think of a few possible explanations (though they may not be the RIGHT explanation). It’s a pretty cool shot either way, and kids go nuts when I tell them about it – the “man in a black suit with no face” thing is a description of Slenderman, a ghost story that every kid seems to know about these days. 
 What do YOU think?
Update: a security guard who works in one of the buildings opening to the alley is fairly sure it’s him in the picture.  But the guard in question has a beard, so…
Of all the stops on my tours over the years, this is the one I’ve used most frequently. I have several routes that I switch back and forth between, and a repertoire of plenty of different stops. But this one has been on every route – I can’t think of any period when I was skipping it. 

In the Alley of Death and Mutilation

When I was last giving tours, we hadn’t gotten a weird photograph in the alley behind the old Iroquois theatre (which newspapers called “The Alley of Death and Mutilation” after the fire in the theatre that killed over 600 people). But since I’ve started up again, we’ve had several. In particular, we’re getting a lot of odd shadows. One my very first night back at work looked like a three dimensional shadow of a human being. The photographer never sent me that one (it’s possible that once they loaded it onto the computer, a more logical explanation seemed obvious), but here’s a shot by Haley Wittwer from this past weekend. Note the odd shadow at the right:

There was no strap on the camera, and, as it doesn’t seem to be adhering to the wall, I don’t think it’s a shadow of anything. As usual, I never hold up anything as “evidence” of ghosts, but I like to post odd shots from the tours here. Shadowy forms are often scene in the theatre currently on the spot (on TV they would call them “shadow people,” but we prefer the less-cartoonish “soft shapes” around here).
Here’s a zoomed-in version of the shadow with the brightness turned up a bit:
The alley was a grim scene at the time of the fire in 1903. They had built fire EXITS, but the fire ESCAPES weren’t yet complete. Even those that were built were quickly so overcrowded that people went flying over the rails and to their deaths. Some 150-odd people fell to their deaths, while hundreds more died either from burns or from being trampled by the crowd. People in the next building used ladders (and later planks) to provide a means of escape, but it didn’t work so well. Here’s an illustration from the Tribune:

Hull House Ghost Pictures

To celebrate the new Ghosts of Hull House ebook that will be released tomorrow, if all goes well, let’s take a look at a few of the more notable Hull House shots I had on my tours over the years. I’ve tried to get in touch with the photographers – if one of these is yours and you want it down, please let me know. I’ve come up with explanations for most of them by now, but I let myself keep wondering about a few. The house HAS been rumored to be haunted for over a century, even if most of the myths are just that.

Watch this space tomorrow for a new podcast on the mythology of Hull House and a link to buy the new Hull House book! It won’t hit itunes until the book is out, but you can preview the podcast right here!

A “Little Girl with a doll” on the stair shot – one of few “stairs” pictures that aren’t reflections of ears. It could still be smears, though.

A particularly interesting shot that looks vaguely like a girl in a hoop skirt, photographed from behind. A couple of squiggly lines probably give this away as a weird camera malfunction – but one so weird that it counts as a weird photo all on its own!

Maybe the coolest reflection shot ever. I’ll go ahead and play devil’s advocate by pointing out that while this is fairly obviously a reflection, it doesn’t seem to resemble anyone present when the photo was taken.

Taken, if I remember correctly, by the same woman who took the “hoop skirt” photo, this is probably another example of the “monk ghosts that are really people’s ears” phenomenon.

A shot from the garden. Don’t ask me what this is!

This is the window in which kids often told me that they saw a a woman in a white bonnet. Some claim to see a weird humanesque form behind the curtains (which were moving strangely the night this was taken. They usually just rustle a bit from the vents). I don’t assume that this is really a ghost or anything, but I’m not sure what it is.

As with all “ghost pictures” I put here, I make no claim that any are actually supernatural, even when I can’t explain them myself. There is no such thing as GOOD ghost evidence, only COOL ghost evidence.

The most info ever published on the ghosts and legends of Hull House:

Return of the Shadow?

Back in November, we presented the now-famous Shadow Picture from the Florentine Ballroom, which has, thus far, held up to scrutiny. And this week, after months of inactivity (nothing’s active all time; places go in and out of active periods), the ballroom has seemed active again. We’ve heard footsteps in the room more than once, and the guards have heard it, as well (one has even heard a person humming in there).

It almost seems only natural that we’d get another shot remarkably similar to the one from November – this was taken by Krissy M, a guest on the tour:

As with most pictues of a back wall in a darkened ballroom, the light quality isn’t great. But, given the size of the silhouette and the position of the flash, it DOES seem like the shadow must be of someone standing right in front of the wall (this is the other side of the same wall from the November shot) My initial thought when seeing the pic on a camera lcd screen was that turning up the exposure, brightness, etc, would reveal it to be just a person from the tour standing against the wall. But this wasn’t the case. While it’s not as clearly defined as the November shot (it’s a mixture or red and black), it doesn’t seem to have been a person. After all, the flash should make a person look front-lit, not backlit. And, even more unusual, while his does seem to be the torso, neck and head of a person, it looks, in the closeup, as though it may not be a FULL silhoutte – there’s some space between the shadow and the table. Here’s a close-up (with the exposure turned up:

It’s tempting to look for faces or shapes in it (like, say “it looks like a woman looking up” or “the red and black makes it look like a person in a red hooded cloak” or “it kinda looks like Admiral Ackbar”), but I don’t really recommend that. In a shot this vague, trying to assign a gender or personality to the thing is just letting your imagination go nuts (nothing wrong with that, normally, but we’re doing SCIENCE here, folks!)(sorta).

So, is this a ghost? Is it the SAME ghost as the last one? Could this still be a person’s shadow? Obviously, there’s no one standing between the photographer and the wall. The flash on the wall COULD come from another camera held by a “second shooter” who was taking a picture of a person standing to the side, but I don’t think this is the case.

As always, we’re not saying this is truly a ghost – there is no such thing as good ghost evidence, only COOL ghost evidence. BUt this is shockingly similar to the November shot, and was noticed during the tour (albeit not until a few stops later), so it’s pretty much impossible for the photographer to have faked it digitally.

Ghost Sightings on the Tour

TWO possible ghost encounters on the tour last night!

At the location of H.H. Holmes’ Sobieski St. factory (which was a smaller-scale sort of murder castle; probably the location of the murder of Emily Van Tassel and presumably others), where a great many things have been reported this spring, most of the people on the tour heard wailing, moaning sounds coming from someplace around the footprint of the old factory. I first thought it was a coyote or something, but what one of those would be doing in Bucktown is beyond me. We also considered that maybe it was the wind or the sound of a vehicle on the nearby interstate, but if it was something like that, I should have heard it before. Why, this may be my first encounter with a ghost that goes “whooooooo” – just like on Scooby Doo!

Earlier, Tanya Savard snapped this shot of the infamous Florenting Ballroom at the congress hotel – note the thing on the left:

Here’s a closeup on the anomaly:

No one was walking past at the time, and it showed up on the LCD screen, so I know it wasn’t photoshopped in. It COULD be something like a camera strap, or some other camera whatzit, I suppose. It’s worth noting that the Congress was being renovated – one of the few things ghost hunters DO agree on (every ghost hunter thinks most of the others are quacks) is that renovations tend to lead to more sightings.

Our usual disclaimer applies: we haven’t analzyed this much yet, and are NOT saying that it’s definitely a dead person in the picture. But we’re at least sure that this one isn’t dust. The thing on the right is, though!

Florentine “Shadow Ghost” analysis!

We’ve now had time to analyze the heck out of the Florentine Room shadow ghost picture that was taken during a tour a few weeks ago – most of the early theories going around revolved around the presence of a “second photographer” taking a picture that cast either my shadow or that of the photographer against the wall. Here’s the shot (edited version):

And here’s the original, unedited version. The camera malfunctioned on the shot, apparently causing the flash to go off very weakly, or perhaps out of sync with the shutter. The exif data of the photo says the flash did go off, but at a power level of “20/100.”

And, just for comparison’s sake, a shot from the same night, from about the same spot, with the same camera, when the flash DID go off correctly – and with someone standing about where I was in the “ghost” shot, but casting no shadow on the back wall:

From the edited picture, we can see that the part of the wall and chairs illuminated by the flash in the two photos are consistent, and the shadows from the lighting fixtures are cast at just about the same angle – and angle that strongly suggests that the source of light hitting the wall is coming from the camera. The shadow definitely isn’t me – I’m lit from entirely the wrong angle to be casting a shadow, especially one that strong, in that direction. And it’s not the photographer himself, since A: the shadow clearly isn’t a guy holding up a camera, and B: there’s no shadow of him on the table. Therefore, we can surmise that whatever is casting that shadow ought to be standing directly between the photographer and the wall – and, as you can see, nobody is.

Now, I make it a point never to say that anything is definitely a “paranormal” photo, but this one has certainly defied all explanation. The only thing left is that there’s always a chance that it’s faked, but if so, the photographer’s doing a HECK of a job of tricking me. This is one reason why I often say “there’s no such thing as GOOD ghost evidence, only COOL ghost evidence:” even when all normal explanations are exhausted, we still have to take everyone at their word that it wasn’t a hoax. Having spoken with the photographer, I don’t think he’s a hoaxer.

So,assuming it’s NOT a fake, who is the ghost? There IS a “shadowy figure” ghost that is thought to be that of a guy named Captain Lou Ostheim. And there’s always been a rumor that Teddy Roosevelt haunts that particular ballroom – it DOES look like a Roosevelt posture, eh?

These aren’t the only possibilities – certainly the room was popular with gangsters in the 1920s – they were known to hold banquets there from time to time, and rumors persist among the staff that there was a hit in the general vicinity at one point or another. This IS the general area where the “gunshot” noise has been heard.

So what we have here is the most we can really hope to find on any given ghost hunt: a mystery! Thanks again to John of, the photographer!