Another Shadow at the Body Dump?

Odd shadows at the north side spot where H.H. Holmes once operated a “glass bending factory” (read: probably body dump, as covered in our recent podcast and many posts) have been in no short supply lately. Here’s one shot by Lexie Manke. Here’s the unedited version:

And a lit-up close-up on the odd shadowy figure on the left:

My first thought is that it was just ME back there – the figure appears to be in a long coat and either a newsie hat or a bowler, and I often wear outfits like that. But on this tour, I was bare-headed and wearing a different coat (my usual one was being mended). I never “certify” any ghost shots), but who knows?

Some other recent shadows from the same spot.

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Ghosts at the H.H. Holmes body dump?

My, but there’ve been a lot of ghost shots here, lately, haven’t there? I’ll have to get some historical stuff going soon just to balance it out!

I started taking people to the HH Holmes “glass bending factory” site (click for podcast and more info) in 2008 as a historical curiosity on Holmes tours – but so much weird stuff went on there that I had to start adding it to the ghost tours, too!  Chris Hannigan, a recent tour passenger, sent these shots taken by Erin Brink. What do you think?  There’s SOME motion blur in the first one, but I don’t think it’s enough to account for the stuff on the center right that looks like a humanesque form, or the smaller one in the second shot.

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:

6/20/06 – Old Town Tatu investigation notes

This morning I ran across a blog entry from 2006 about the first investigation of Old Town (then Odin) Tattoo – the shop that was featured on Ghost Lab and Most Terrifying Places this year. Written down write after the investigation, a few weeks before Richie “Tapeworm” Herrera’s death. Several bits of information on the history of the place didn’t hold up in the investigation (there was never a Walter who owned the place), but it’s still an interesting read:

Last night’s ghost investigation led us to a tattoo parlor that was a family-owned funeral home, owned by three generations of one family, from 1903-2003. Gorgeous building; there was a Tiffany fireplace in the entrance in which they had a small tombstone from the early 50’s – which they’d found in the attic – on display.

The staff told us a lot of stories of weird things that had happened, including several accounts of seeing a guy in a powder blue suit sitting in the doorway.

“I didn’t take my eye off him, cause I know if you look away from these cats for a second, they’ll be gone!’ said the owner. Others told us pretty much the same sort of story – I questioned how sober they’d been when they say these ghosts, but it was entertaining.

“Twice I felt like someone tried to push me down the stairs!” said the owner, who lives upstairs. “And you can’t fight back with these assholes, you know. But I said out loud, man, if I f—ing die in here, it’s f—ing ON, Motherf–er!”

With us on this trip were a couple of girls who were said to be psychic – I’m always VERY skeptical of this sort of business, but, hey, I’m of the opinion that there’s no such thing as GOOD evidence of ghosts, only COOL evidence, and having a supposed psychic or two around couldn’t really hurt anything.

My main job was running audio recordings, following one of the girls around. The basement was especially creepy – you can probably imagine that the basement of any given former funeral home is going to be pretty creepy. The ceiling was probably less than six feet above the ground. There were old drainage holes in the floor. Lots of weird holes in the walls.

I followed the girl to a back corner where things seemed especially odd – the temperature was changing, and I kept feeling like something was touching my shoulder. She said “there’s something here!” and right then, in the headphones I had attatched to the audio gear, I thought I heard something say “Walter!”

It was a few minutes later that they told us that the funeral home went out of business after the last owner died – he’d held onto it as long as he could, but his kids didn’t want to take over the family business, so it died with him. And his name was Walter.

As I’ve said, I’m a confirmed skeptic. There’re ALWAYS other explanations for this sort of thing.

But I had to admit – that was pretty cool. I love this job.



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.

Ghostly piano?

One night when I brought the tour into the Florentine Ballroom, we were standing around by the piano when someone asked me what kind of music would have been played in the room.

“All sorts, at various times,” I said. “There were orchestras at one point, and it was a skating rink for a while.”

“How about when Roosevelt was here?”

I thought back to my research into the Bull Moose party, which used the ballroom often during the 1912 presidential election – it was here, in fact, that Roosevelt announced he was leaving the Republican party to be the candidate of the more-progressive Bull Moose Party

“They were into ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,'” I said. “They used to have bands of confederate veterans play it while Union veterans played Dixie. And people would interrupt his speeches to sing it. It was a pretty exciting party.”

And, just out of curiosity, I reached out to the piano and picked out a very bad version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The effect was so spooky that I decided on the spot to try it more often. I make a point of eliminating as much BS as possible from the stories on my tours, but I’m not above adding a little atmosphere here and there. I’ll leave lights turned off for no particular reason, put the flashlight under my chin, and all of those simple tricks.

The other night, I played the piece again – I’ve gotten slightly better at it with practice. A spooky, slow, high-register version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

And, as we walked away from the piano, we heard another solitary, high-pitched piano note come out of nowhere.

It was heard twice more that night – and was witnessed by a security guard. The notes were faint, but seemed to come from the general direction of the piano.

Now, this sort of trick – trying to get a ghost to play piano or roll a ball around or tap on a table – doesn’t work very often. I don’t mind trying it out on investigations, but it’s usually just for fun, or to kill time. You don’t expect to get results with this sort of thing. But on this night, after I played the scratchy tune, maybe a ghost wanted to correct my mistakes!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, there were several exhaust fans (and all the accompanying belts and engines) running near the room, which made sounds like crickets. It’s certainly not impossible that they would have made a noise like a piano note, or that the acoustics in the room would have made us think the sound was coming from a piano. You have to allow for a lot of “maybe my imagination ran away with me” on any ghost investigation.

But man, was that ever cool!

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!