Now that I’m running ghost tours again, I’m back to making regular visits to to little stretch of road once known as Sobieski Street. Here, in 1895, police found a building that H.H. Holmes, America’s first known serial killer, had said was a glass bending factory, but which was more likely a body dump. Some personal effects belonging to Minnie Williams, one of his wives (who had vanished, along with her sister, Anna) were found there, along with some ephemera from the ABC Copier Company that Holmes had operated in the Loop with much of the gang from the Murder Castle, his famous south side building that was equipped with everything you need to kill a person (and dispose of the body). Patrick Quinlan, the murder castle janitor, had been to the glass bending factory about a week before police arrived and carted out quite a lot of garbage. Some notes found in the rubbish indicated that there had once been a furnace large enough for cremations in the building.
I started taking people to the little stretch of road where the “factory” was just as a curiosity to add to my Holmes tours, but we had enough weird nights there that I added it to the ghost tours. This is the place where we saw a woman in a black dress who vanished between two cars, the place where we honestly thought we’d backed the bus into someone, where one night we encountered hawks with dead birds (doves?) in their mouths, and where we once even found some chickens running around. As skeptical as I am, this place can give me the willies. There was also once a light attached to a building that was known to turn itself off and on when Holmes or one of the three victims most likely connected to the location were mentioned. Most nights, I thought it was just a bad circuit, but other nights it worked like clockwork.
But where on this stretch of road WAS the factory, exactly? It would have been built without reliable records (that being the way Holmes rolled), and newspaper accounts at the time weren’t terribly helpful, only saying that it was on Sobieski Street, just Northwest of where the railroad tracks intersected Robey (Damen).
That’s enough to narrow it down a lot – the stretch of road known as Sobieksi was a little dead-end road even then. On the west side of the road, we’ve found a half-buried brick that our archaeologist said had an 1890s-type of glaze, making us wonder if it may have been the foundation of the old building. However, a fire insurance map from 1914 shows a set-up that echoes newspaper accounts (a long, one story building with a house at the rear) on the east side of the road. There’s a garage on that spot now; many employees have told me it gets awfully spooky in there at night.
Here’s the map – it’s from 1914, nearly twenty years after the fact. I would have imagined that the building would have been gone by then, but who knows?