It’s a story you hear now and then: A guy is driving down the road when suddenly a girl jumps out into the path of his car. He panics as he hits the brakes, but it’s too late – he crashes into her with a dull THUD and watches in horror as she bounces off the car and lands on the ground. He pulls over, runs out, and finds that she’s vanished, leaving only an impression in the snow where she fell….

Often, this is said to happen around Resurrection Cemetery – it’s one of the variations on the Resurrection Mary story (though no one can say if it’s the same girl who is seen roaming the grounds or the one who hitches rides).

But last night, it happened on the tour, far away from Archer Avenue.

We were pulling into Sobieski Street, the north side dead end where H.H. Holmes’ “glass bending factory” once stood. As we backed up, there’s was a terrifying THUD and BANG, as though we’d backed into something. I was afraid that Happy Dave, the driver, had backed us into a fire hydrant – or a person.

But when we got out, there was nothing there. Dave was a good four feet from the fire hydrant – or anything else that could have made a big noise. Dave was so freaked out that he didn’t want to return on the 10 o’clock tour, but I was a bit relieved – all things bein equal, if we’re going to hit something, I’d rather it be something that can’t sue us and won’t damage the bus (though we’ve generally found that the bus is nigh-invulnerable).

Sobieski Street was stranger-than-average last night; that blinking light (there’s a light there that occasionally goes off and on whenever I say the names of the people most likely to have been killed/disposed of there) was doing things I’ve never seen it do before in two years of going there – changing colors and whatnot.

More on Sobieski Street

We’re always digging up more information about Sobieski Street, the tiny stretch of road (now part of Seeley Ave) where H.H. Holmes operated a “glass bending factory” that was actually thought to be a body dump (it sure wasn’t used for bending glass).

Information on the history of the block is hard to come by, but we’ve picked up a few bits of info about what it was like as of the 1970s:

– The empty lot now surrounded by a fence once housed a small factory and a junkyard.

– employees at the tool and dye shop (on the spot where the glass bending factory stood) got to go home early the day that Elvis died.

This isn’t the sort of info that sheds much light on Holmes or anything, but it’s nice to know!

More on Holmes’ “Sobieski Street Castle.”

Another article has been discovered about H.H. Holmes’ North Side Glass Bending Factory, the location of which is a regular tour stop (and one of the two or three most actively haunted locations we know of in the city right now). The basic story on the place is that Holmes had buildings all over the city in addition to the famous Murder Castle, including an office in the Loop, a candy shop on Milwaukee Avenue,  an apartment on Wrightwood, a house in the suburbs, and a house and glass bending factory – thought by police to be used more for body disposal than glass bending – on the North Side, about mid-way between the apartment on Wrightwood and the candy store.

We suspect that two of his known victims, Emily Van Tassel and Minnie Williams, were killed and/or disposed of there based on its location in proximity to their residences. Their bodies were never found. It’s unlikely that Holmes would have set up a whole factory just to get rid of two bodies, though.

Shortly after the fire at the murder castle, which didn’t actually level the building (as most books say) but did destroy a lot of evidence, Patrick Quinlan (Holmes’ “Janitor,” who may have started the fire) carted several cartloads of garbage out of the “factory.”  The cops found it about a week later, mostly empty, but with a wall of kilns that may have contained human ashes (forensic science was a couple of years off – this was an age when a bloody rag could be discovered in the basement of the castle and people could actually argue over whether it was blood or paint) (the first use of bone fragments as evidence would actually be a few years later – with a bit of jaw bone found in the Luetgert Sausage Factory, which, in the days of Holmes’ factory, was thriving just a few blocks away).

The new information:

– In addition to delivery slips with Quinlan’s signature, there were also several forms found scattered about the place and the vicinity from the ABC Copier Company, the business Holmes had run in the Loop. Some papers were identified as having belong to Minnie Williams. According to the detective who discovered the place, Minnie Williams actually lived there for a while at an apartment in the back.

– Most of the neighbors spoke only Polish, and couldn’t tell many detailed stories to the police (beyond identifying Holmes as the owner based on photographs), but told stories of a cart that would often arrive to load in a few bundles. It would leave with the exact same bundles. No one seemed to think the place had ever actually been used for glass bending.

– Diagrams found on the scene indicate that there had recently been a furnace present large enough to accommodate a body – this is presumably one of the things Quinlan removed.

Strangely enough, the site of the factory seems MORE haunted than the location of the famous Murder Castle itself, which was certainly said to be haunted while it stood, but has apparently been fairly quiet, other than the poltergeist-type stuff we hear about EVERY building, since the post office was built on the site in 1938. We’ve heard moans and crying sounds around there. Lots of weird “energy” stuff goes on sometimes. We’ve even had one actual, full-body apparition seen there. It’s not the kind of thing that would (or should) hold up in court, but the hauntings there may be the only evidence the of the murders that was left behind….


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!

An H.H. Holmes-related ghost on the North Side?

Ken just called me from the tour he’s running tonight and told me that, during the tour, a mysterious, flickering light was seen in the vicinity of the Sobieski Street building that Holmes is thought to have owned. Ken doesn’t call me with reports from the tour DURING the tour very often – only when something really interesting is going on – so I hope to have more on this soon; we’ll probably run a better investigation of the spot tomorrow night, since we’ll both be on the bus for our Dion O’Bannion Memorial Pub Crawl. Our last trip out to that spot, which we recorded for our podcast, was on one of those COLD Chicago nights where I was just sure we were going to freeze to death. Our grasp on names and dates was a bit shaky on that particular podcast, since we were concerned with fighting off frost bite than remembering Myrtle Belknap’s and Georgianna Yoke’s names!

Anyway, the building there was a rickety glass-bending factory lined with kilns that police suspected Holmes was using for cremations. It was connected to two story house; the light was right about where the house would have been. But the exact location is impossible to figure out; just finding where Sobieski Street was was quite a trick, since the name was changed around 1896 and it was only a few blocks long to begin with. The only article on the building that ever came close to giving an address said it was “where 65 Sobieski ought to be,” northwest of the railroad crossing and attached to a two story house. All of this was walking-distance from the candy store (see previous post); it’s entirely possible that he committed some murders on the site.

If you’d like to hear our podcast about the place, click the button:
Adam Selzer and Ken Melvoin-Berg - Weird Chicago

It’s the “murder castle” episode.

Here’s hoping some people from the tour will leave comments describing what they saw there tonight!