Podcast Update

This is Storm Shadow. You shall perish. This is only a warning, but next time will be your fate.
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Chicago Unbelievable: The Podcast 2.0

We had a buttload of problems with the podcast – the feed seems to have gotten broken in a server migration, and no one’s subscription was working.  So, we’ve gotten to work and started from scratch with Chicago Unbelievable: The Podcast 2.0 . It’s back on iTunes with working links – and a whole new episode to entice you to re-subscribe!

Tomorrow, we’ll be posting TWO major new articles about The Italian Bride of Mt. Carmel – one here, and one on The Order of the Good Death. There’s a lot of new info and never-before-seen photos. As a preview, there’s a new episode of the podcast in which we journey out to Mt. Carmel and talk about the recent findings and news.

We discuss new findings about a famous piece of Chicago Folklore: Julia Buccola-Petta, the Italian Bride!
Hear it (w/ slideshow) on Youtube
Download via archive.org
Chicago Unbelievable: The Podcast 2.0
Pictures, Buccola Family timeline, and more (coming Thurs)
Order of the Good Death Article (coming Thurs)

Check back tomorrow for TWO of the biggest articles in Chicago Unbelievable history!


My new book, Ghosts of Chicago, was published by Llewellyn Worldwide in September, 2013. It’s a down-to-earth critical examination of what we really know, and how we know it, about some of Chicago’s most famous ghost stories from a historian’s perspective, including TONS of never before published information.


 – New information about the famous “woman in white” photo at Bachelor’s Grove cemetery, including an interview with the photographer.
– A database of recorded Resurrection Mary sightings, some lost since the 1930s, with some fascinating analysis. Is there any reason to think it’s a girl named Mary?
– Fascinating new data about Julia Buccola-Petta, The Italian Bride.
– Tales of hauntings at the H.H. Holmes murder castle site and his north-side “body dump.”
– A separation of the fact and fiction surrounding Hull House ghostlore.
– Chilling new stories about the Congress Hotel’s ghostly past and present.
Never-before-published historical ghost stories from Chicago’s dark past. What was the ghost in the old city hall that captured national interest in the 1860s? Could it be a ghost from Lincoln’s funeral, or from a botched early hanging?
– Ghosts of the old city gallows.
– New information about the tomb of Ira Couch, including (for the first time) photographs of the inside.
– Newly uncovered first-hand sightings and primary sources.
– Suggested places to investigate.
– Gruesome Chicago grave robbing tales.
– An analysis of various gangster ghost stories that have circulated over the years.
– Many never-before-published photos.
– Something new for even the most dedicated Chicago ghost hunter!
– and so much more!

From I Heart Reading:
THE GHOSTS OF CHICAGO one of the most thoroughly researched, in-depth books I’ve ever read about ghosts and hauntings….Mr. Selzer writes with a hint of humor, and his writing is very entertaining and not condescending at all (a complaint I often have about authors of true haunting books). He isn’t as interested in semi-scientific ghost hunter equipment like EVP meters and such as he is about feeling the vibe of a place, visiting the spots where stories originated from and figuring out for himself whether or not a place qualifies as creepy. I loved that. Sometimes ghost hunters lose themselves in semi-scientific rambling without staying focused on the task at hand: telling us about the ghosts. Mr. Selzer definitely has no problems with that.

I’m still amazed by how well-researched this book was, how the writing seemed to flow with an astonishing ease, and how much I enjoyed the overall experience. An excellent read for fans of traveling, ghosts, mystery and history

From Simply Bookish:

I want to start out how impressed I am that this book was so thoroughly researched. The author did tons of research not only for the history but also the various tales told for these ghost tales.
The books I have read recently did not seem to be so thoroughly researched. Most of them seemed to be nothing more than stories retold but packaged in the author’s own words. This book does not have this. The author went beyond all means to deliver a book with sightings, history, and thorough research …Five stars.

Pre-order today and be ready for Halloween and the upcoming Ghost Conference at the Portage Theatre! 

Tumbling along

Hi, folks! Tours are picking back up again for the Spring Break season, so I’m doing more per week lately. We’ve had some good times!

The big news over on my regular page is that my new novel, WHEN IOWA FREEZES OVER, sold to Simon and Schuster a few weeks ago.  That announcement led me to do some house-cleaning there and to start thinking more about doing some more social media stuff. I don’t think that that sort of thing actually helps sell books, but it’s fun.

So I’ve started taking more pictures on tours, then posting them on instagram and tumblr. You can follow along and look at only the “tour” and “ghost” shots by looking here! This will all tie in to my upcoming GHOSTS OF CHICAGO book.

Some samples:

New Book: Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Chicago History

Twenty-five profiles of notable jerks from Chicago history who are too dead to complain that I’m making fun of them – available now from Globe Pequot Press.

Includes profiles of:
John Kinzie, our first killer
Bathhouse John, our worst poet
Kitty Adams: The Terror of State Street
HH Holmes, our first serial killer
Al Capone, the most famous mobster of all
Wilbur F. Storey, the racist newspaper editor
Thomas Hines, the rebel spy
Captain Streeter, the last pioneer
Adolph Luetgert, Sausage King of Chicago
Harry Spencer, opium fiend killer
Charles Comiskey, cheapskate
Tillie Klimek, the Black Widow
Johann Hoch, the Black Widower
Big Bill Thompson, the Buffoon-in-Chief
and more!
Available now from:
and the other usual suspects

Early Street Names in Chicago

Lonely Ol’ Charles Carroll. Early Chicagoans
didn’t forget you, Chuck

John Adams, one of our founding fathers, died on July 4, 1826. His last words were something like “Thomas Jefferson survives” (though the last word was indistinct; it might been “smells” for all we know). However, Jefferson had died himself only a few hours before. Perhaps neither knew, nor cared, that another signer of the Declaration of Independnce, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Georgia, was also still alive. When I was doing The Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History, I had a lot of fun with ol’ Chuck Carroll, just because his portrait makes him look so dour.

But people in the midwest hadn’t forgotten Ol’ Chuck; the early settlers in Chicago even named a street after him. According to an early Chicago history, the first streets were given the following names for the following reasons:

Dearborn Street, for General Dearborn
Clark street, for George Rogers Clark, the “conqueror of the Illinois country.”
LaSalle Street, for the great explorer
Wells Street, for Captain William Wells, who died in the Battle of Fort Dearborn
Franklin Street, for Benjamin Franklin
Clinton Street, for DeWitt Clinton, New York Governor
Randolph Street, for John Randolph of Roanoke, a prominent statesman of the day
Carroll Street, after Lonely Ol’ Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Fulton Street, after the inventor of the steamboat
Kinzie Street, after John Kinzie, an early settler

“The names of State and Market,” the 1912 text states, “were doubtless chosen from the general stock of names in use by cities in other parts of the country.”

Suburban Library Talks!

I’ll be giving “Ghosts of Chicago” talks at two suburban libraries this year – I’d do more, but my tour schedule is keeping me awfully busy!

I’ll be at the Glenside Library tonight (10/17) at 7pm, and at the Forest Park library on Tuesday, Oct 23.  These are free and open to the public.

If you’re coming on a tour and want to be on my bus specifically, you need to tell them this when you book. And, as hectic as things get (for weekends, especially, we get about 6x as many people as can fit on one bus), you might want to remind the office of that as tour time approaches. Call 888-GHOST91.

Meanwhile I’m putting some finishing touches on the new ghost book I wrote for Llewellyn; it’ll be out next fall. I’m mostly just adding photos now, but this time of year I tend to hear a lot of new first hand stories to add in as well.

The Medusa Challenger

In the 1970s, the largest ship on the great lakes was the Medusa Challenger, a vessel more than five hundred feet long that was used to transport cement. Pre-dating the Titanic by about three years, the ancient ship was known as a “jinx” ship – during the 1960s and 70s, the Tribune reported at least 20 instances when it drawbridges failed when the Medusa went by.  Stories also go around that its low-lying hull occasionally churned up a body or two. The “curse” ended when it started entering from the south side instead of going through the loop.

The ship is still in operation in the lakes today, and currently known as the SS St. Mary’s Challenger. Though the “jinx” stories seem to have died down now, there was a death reported onboard fairly recently. I’m a bit stunned to hear that a boat older that Titanic (built in 1906) is still in operation!

Slender Man

All autumn, I’ve had kids asking me about “Slender Man,” a supernatural creature in which they seem to half-believe. It’s the new generation’s Bloody Mary (though they certainly still seem to know about her).

From what I can see, Slender Man, descirbed as a tall guy in a black outfit with no facial features, started out as a sort of internet joke on one of those forums that generate all the memes. Strangely enough, we had a picture of a thing like that about a year ago:

I thought at the time (and still think) that it’s most likely just a blurry pic of a guy who was standing there (though the photographer and a witness both say no one was there). I always try to assume that people didn’t photoshop ghosts in. Certainly they COULD, and there are a million phone apps, but unless I specifically recognize the image all I can do is be good-natured about it (people on tours are my customers, and I can’t go around accusing customers of trying to pull a hoax on me).  
In any case, well done, internets: your creation has touched a generation.