NOTE: the post below is from the very early days of the blog. We now have a FAR MORE DETAILED POST ON THE FOOLKILLER HERE
For all our talk of ghosts and murderers, my favorite thing to talk about may be The Foolkiller Submarine that was found in the Chicago River in 1915. We even have old advertisements for it on our bus!
It was found a few months after the Eastland Disaster by “Frenchy” Deneau, a diver who had dragged up about 250 bodies after the infamous disaster, and raised very late in 1915. In 1916, they found the remains of a dead guy and a dead dog inside of it. For a while, they put the thing on display on South State Street – for a dime you could see the sub, the bones, and a speech by Deneau himself. If you brought 10 or more kids on Saturday morning, they got in for half the price. Imagine: “Hey kid…wanna see a dead body? Got a nickel?”
So, how long had the sub been in the river? Who was the dead guy on board? What happened to it?
The short answer is, we don’t know. The Tribune initially said it was a craft built, and sunk, around 1870, then was raised, and promptly sunk, by Peter Nissen. They may have said this just because it seemed like the kind of thing he would have done, though. Then they started saying it was owned by a guy named WILLIAM Nissen, but that may have simply been a mistake. Most of the recent speculation is that it was built by an Indiana shoemaker named Lodner Darvantis Phillips in the 1840s. None of these stories is necessarily the correct answer, though.