Tour Pics!

Jen Hathy, who takes all of my dust jacket photos for Random House and Llewellyn, has taken some GREAT photos from one of our recent ghost tours:

note: no, these aren’t ghost pictures. The “ghostly” looking ones are the result of long shutter speeds. We wouldn’t try to fool you!

H.H. Holmes On the North Side

We’ve been making more regular stops at one of H.H. Holmes former spots on the North Side, at which he had both a house and a “glass bending” factory that was thought to have been a body dump / spot for cremations. Some months ago we noticed the strange flickering light there; most nights I think that it’s just a bad light, but there HAVE been nights when it’s been seen, again and again, to go off or on every time I say the names “Holmes” or “Emily Van Tassel” (the name of the girl he can be assumed to have killed there). On those nights, people tend to accuse me of having a remote control in my pocket. I still think it’s probably just a bad light, but who knows what kind of energies the light might be reacting to in the area?

There’s still a lot to find out about the place – we can only identify one person who was likely to have been killed there, but it seems HIGHLY unlikely to me that Holmes go to all the trouble of getting the place and then only use it once. Some other recent developments:

– We’ve found the foundations of the old glass bending factory itself; that the remaining structure dates to the late 19th century has been confirmed by archaeologists. That it’s been at least that long can be confirmed just by looking at the ancient tree that’s grown over it.

– One night we arrived in the spot and found three hawks with dead doves in their mouths. Creepy business, that.

– There was one possible apparition sighting – that of a woman in a black dress – a few months back.

– The sound of a woman weeping (or something that sounds like that) was heard near the foundation on two recent occasions.

It’s an interesting place for us to go, because it’s genuinely “virgin territory” for ghost hunting; some of our tour stops have been staples of ghost tours for years, and others have at least been thought to be haunted by the staff for years now. In this place, the only stories we have are the things we’ve seen ourselves.

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!

Possible Ghost Shot!

The other night I ran a private tour for a group from No strange noises in the Florentine Room tonight, but we did get a cool picture – that’s me on the left, but the origin of the shadow on the right is undetermined:

I never hold up anything as “good” evidence – there is no such thing as “good” ghost evidence, only “cool” ghost evidence. This is some of that! The picture was actually taken without the use of a flash (hence the brightness/contrast adjustment), and most of the rest of the group was on the other side of the ballroom, about to leave. The light source visible is presumably from the doorway. It’s POSSIBLE that someone else was taking a picture at the exact same second, but the silhouette is much better defined than I’d expect from that sort of situation.

It’s baaaack: The Florentine Noise

Tonight marked the third time I’ve heard the mysterious “BOOM” sound (alias the gunshot) in the Florentine Ballroom. Each time it came from a different place – first the hallway, then the roof, and this time from the back wall, somewhere above the back door.

This time, though, we were accompanied by a security guard. It came loud enough to scare the crap out of people – at least, those who knew it wasn’t me. When I told the guard I hadn’t done it, he looked a bit shocked and ran off to investigate the back wall on the assumption that someone or something must have been there. Nothing was. He came back looking spooked.

“Man,” he said, “I thought you were full of crap the first time you said you heard this!”

The noise came back a couple more times while we were there tonight, loud enough each time to be quite a shock – I think many customers still think we’re setting them up. In fact, a couple of people tonight told me they assumed we were, until they noticed that the guard seemed genuinely freaked out. We don’t have the resources to rig things like this up in commercial ballrooms, folks.

As we left, the guard was telling another guard about and told him to go up to the room for himself.

“$%^& no!” he replied. “I’m not going up there alone! I’m not stupid!”

I’m still not claiming this as proof of the paranormal (I never do that with anything), but something odd is going on in that ballroom. We’ve been coming here regularly for some time now in all seasons, but we’d never heard this noise before, and neither has security. I’m starting to think of that Dickens book where the servants all think the house is haunted because of the noises it makes, but it turns out the house is just falling apart. I really hope that the Congress isn’t doing that!

I’m organizing all the posts about the phenomenon under the tag “gunshot,” although it’s sounding less like a gunshot to me now. I started taking video after the first noise came up tonight, so I got some more examples of it. Not sure it’s worth blogging, though, as it’s not THAT different from the first video.

Florentine Room “gunshot” VIDEO and investigation

Yes, we do occasionally have weird, ghostly things happen on our tours!

The “gunshot” noise we heard a few weeks ago in the Florentine Ballroom came from the service hallway outside of the ballroom. But on Friday night, October 10, we were hearing several loud noises in there – some were big “boom” noises, others sounded like footsteps above the ceiling; it sounded as though someone were walking around on the ceiling dropping heavy objects. It’s not exactly the same as the “gunshot,” but it’s a pretty good example of what’s been happening in there. You can hear an example in this video clip – listen to the people think that Hector, the driver, must be playing a prank. The “boom” comes about six seconds in:

Even after talking to security, who said the surrounding area was deserted, I assumed that there must be someone on the floor above the place doing construction, or that perhaps there was some sort of issue with the pipes. Water heaters and furnaces can make noises like that, and I sort of thought something like that must be above the room (though the furnace is actually a couple of floors below it). The next night, though, one of the guards took us up to see exactly what’s above the Florentine Room. Here’s what’s on the other side of the arched ceiling:

We’ll ignore the “orbs” and focus on the fact that it’s an airshaft – there’s nothing above the ballroom but sky. We went back down to the ballroom so the guard could bang around on it, making as much racket as possible. His best efforts sounded like dull footsteps from the ballroom – nothing like what was heard the night before, or on the night of the “gunshot.” The pipe-like things visible are actually ladder-like things; you can see in the video where there used to be a hatch in the ceiling (at least, we think that’s what it was – it’s not a door at all now).

So, well, it’s a mystery. This isn’t exactly the same sound I heard the night we heard a “gunshot” noise in the hall – there were actually a dozen or so noises this particular night of varying intensity. Some sounded like footsteps, some sounded like someone dropping something really heavy onto the ceiling – but we now know that dropping something heavy on the ceiling wouldn’t make anything LIKE this noise. I never say flat out that something is actually “paranormal” in origin, but no theory explaining the noises has really held up.

NOTE: In the video, I mention that, according to security, the piano in the room has been known to play itself. Only one of the guards ever claims to have seen that happen, but almost all of them have heard music coming from the room in the middle of the night.