UPDATE: the biographical sketch I read was wrong – Charles Hull didn’t have a daughter named Louise at all. From his autobiography, it’s clear that he actually had a son named Louis. So the “little girl” ghost remains a mystery.
Snot-nosed skeptic that I am, today I went on a search to see if it’s true that Charles Hull’s wife died in her bedroom at Hull House. I fully expected to find out that she actually died in Baltimore or something. Of all the haunted places in Chicago, nowhere – not even Bachelor’s Grove – has inspired as many made-up stories as Hull House.
However, while I haven’t found a smoking gun, what I’ve found not only backs up the story, but may actually provide a clue to ANOTHER ghost story.
An old biographical record of Hull from the University of Chicago states that he moved out of the Halsted Street homestead “after the death of his wife and children, it had ceased to be a home.” His wife, Melicent A.C. Hull (nee Loomis) died around the age of 40 in 1860 – just a few years after the house was built. I’ve yet to determine how she died, exactly, but it wasn’t in any sensational enough way to make headlines. Dying in bed seems to be the most probably scenario.
Two of Hull’s three children also died young – one, Charles M. Hull, died during a cholera epidemic in 1866. He had graduated from the University of Chicago a short while before, so whether or not he would have been at his dad’s house is sort of an open question.
However, as I’ve mentioned on the blog, and in my books, in 2006 there was a veritable outbreak of sightings of the ghost of a little girl at Hull House – a handful of the pictures and sightings STILL haven’t been fully explained to my satisfaction (and I’m pretty easy to satisfy with this stuff). However, no story was forthcoming on who it might be the ghost OF, exactly.
Louis Kossouth Hull, Charles and Mellicent’s youngest daughter, was born in 1852. She died in childhood – I’m not certain WHEN, but she doesn’t appear alongside the other family members in the 1860 census report. I can’t be certain that she lived even until 1856 yet, but the language in the biographical sketch seems to suggest as much (she would have spent the first year or two of her life in Cambridge, while her father was at Harvard, and come to Chicago at the age of two or three – the house was built when she was four).
So, there we have it – I set out to debunk a story and end up backing up a couple. I still have no smoking gun showing that either Mrs. Hull or poor Louis actually died inside of the house, but signs point to yes.
Of course, whether this means that they’re really haunting the place is a whole other question 🙂
Some of our other Hull House posts:
The Reading of Charles Hull’s Will: Lost Scene From Clue?