I recently took part in what must be my 5th or 6th Chicago Ghost Conference, hosted by the fantastic Ursula Bielski. Our Saturday night party (which was a ridiculous bash that featured not only some awesome costumes, but also an enthusiastic conga line) was held in the Great Escape, an historic restaurant that I featured in a profile video and intervew way back in 2010. I’m not sure how many conference-goers were even aware that the party was at a haunted venue. Here is that video:
Category Archives: Cook County
Sept 9-11: The Hollywood Show, Rosemont, Il (hollywoodshow.com)
Sept 10: Screening of “Cry Baby” and signing with star, Amy Locane, Woodridge, Il (hollywoodblvdcinema.com)
Sept 16: Investigation
Sept 17: Lake/McHenry Ghost Adventure, Long Grove, Il (facebook.com/events/508522306014679) 7-hour tour through some of the most haunted places in Lake and McHenry County with Ursula Bielski and Chicago Hauntings.
Sept 24: Private Event
Sept 28: Archeologist Dan Melone speaking on the topic of his work on Robinson Woods Indian Burial Grounds (one of my favorite sites). This will be held at the Norwood Park Historical Society. (norwoodparkhistoricalsociety.org/events/events16.html)
TBA: Appearance on “Pretty Late,” WGN AM-720
Oct. 1: Investigation
Oct. 6: Investigation
Oct 7-9: Chicago Ghost Conference / Dark Shores 2016, Willow Springs, Il (chicagoghosts.com/conference.html) A full weekend of great presenters and parties. I will be on hand to talk about some of the research I’ve been doing in Los Angeles including talking about Linda Vista Hospital, the haunted house near the site of the Tate/Manson murders, the Formosa Cafe hauntings along Hollywood Blvd and possibly Pasadena’s “famed” suicide bridge. Amazingly, this event will be held at one of Resurrection Mary’s favorite locations, the Willowbrook Ballroom.
Oct 10: Private Event
Oct 13: Special hosted screening of “Poltergeist” Details are TBD at this point.
Oct 15-16: Milwaukee ParaCon, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus (milwaukeeparacon.com). I will be on hand with Jay Bachochin, one of my partners in crime in creating the documentary “The Hidden Truth?” which chronicled the mysterious series of drownings in LaCrosse, WI, the possible paranormal connections and the investigation that followed. We will be meeting and greeting while sharing stories of ghosts and Jay’s ongoing search for Bigfoot.
Oct 20: Third Thursday, Los Angeles, Ca (link TBA) Free panel discussion with filmmakers followed by a mixer/cocktail party. Admission is free, but RSVP required. Sponsored by the International Screenwriters’ Association (networkisa.org)
Oct 21: Haunted Chronicles, online (paramaniaradio.com/SHOW.php?showid=66) Live radio show, I’ll be talking about haunted sites with Jennifer Runyon Corman & Jimmy Haunted.
Do you need a speaker for your event? I’ll be in the Midwest until Oct 17, then I’ll be in California starting Oct 21. Drop me a line and I’ll come tell stories at your Halloween party/company party, etc.!
By: Connor Bright
Finally putting my feet up and relaxing after an awesome and VERY busy weekend at the Chicago Ghost Conference!
This was my 3rd year attending the show, which this year was super close to Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery! As Scott and I were driving to the Chicago Gaelic Park (where the ghost con was), I checked my Time Hop app and learned that it was also the anniversary of my first visit to the cemetery. So that was a fun little coincidence!
As always the Conference was A LOT of fun! A great place to see old friends and meet the new faces of the Chicago paranormal community!
I mostly came for the booze….just kidding! I got to sit with the talented and beautiful Virginia Madsen! Star of too many movies to name here, but mostly at the ghost con because of her work in “Candyman” and “A Haunting in Connecticut.” She is AWESOME and I am really looking forward to seeing her and Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy” this Christmas!
The show is run by Ursula Bielski, who is a wonderful and amazing woman with a CRAZY amount of knowledge on all things paranormal! She’s the best, Google her!
We got in a little too late (and I was a little too tired) for any of the Friday night activities….but we made sure we were well rested and prepared for Saturday!!
Saturday Scott lead a panel on urban legends in Chicago which was ENTIRELY full of AMAZING blonde ladies! From right to left: Ursula Bielski, Mary Marshall, Liz Nygard, and Virginia Madsen.
I…..mostly took selfies and tried to get everyone to join the Instagram Cult!
After day one of the conference, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the costume party!!! Which was “Come-as-your-favorite-dead-Chicago-resident” themed. Also, it was at Chet’s Melody Lounge, right across the street from Resurrection Cemetery (home to Chicago’s most famous ghost, the aptly named “Resurrection Mary”).
I’m not going to lie, I thought Scott and I would have the most clever costumes…Black and white John Dillinger and Anna Sage (the woman in ORANGE, not red)
But then freaking Dave Schrader and Jeff Belanger show up as MRS. O’LEARY AND HER COW!! (The same cow that started the Great Chicago Fire) They just deserve all of the awards for that! All of them!!
We danced the night away and I did my best Janis Joplin impression on karaoke (which do me a favor and if you have video…delete it, okay? lol).
Sunday got off to a slow start, for obvious reasons! But once I picked out a good enough outfit to hide that my skin was still kinda grey….the ball got rolling and it was a lot of fun!
Some very FANTASTIC speakers, such as the brilliant Mary Marshall (you have to love a strong woman like her in the paranormal field)
We all gave interviews with Shadows on the Wall Paranormal Radio (who are awesome dudes and you should check them out!).
And I promise I’m not just saying that because they wanted to talk to me WITHOUT Scott! (That doesn’t happen much, since we’re a team)
We had a GREAT time as always at the Chicago Ghost Conference! We learned a lot of new things and heard all of the latest on the paranormal in Chicagoland and the rest of the county! It’s always a good thing to get back to your roots and catch up with old and new friends at the most friendly ghost convention around!!
Since I apparently can’t take a picture unless it’s a selfie, I have two people to thank for all of these!
Thank you, Kenneth Munyer of Midnight Paranormal Society! You take a darn great black and white photo (and sweet colored ones too!)
And thank you Jay for letting me borrow your pictures, check out his group the Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators, currently on the trail of Bigfoot!
Until Next Year!
Please do take a moment to listen to the great lineup of paranormal experts that will be speaking at the Chicago Ghost Conference! The group is headlined by Josh Gates of “Destination Truth,” Jeff Belanger of “Ghost Adventures,” Dave Schrader of Darkness Radio and Chris Flemming of “Psychic Kids,” but features another dozen or so great speakers including Ursula Bielski and LA Hauntings’ own, Scott Markus!
Our weekly tour starts where LA started: the first settlement in what would become Los Angeles. The area is full of history, both positive and very dark. This location boasts at least three haunted sites (Pico House, La Gondoloria Cafe and the Avila Adobe) as well as the site of over a dozen executions that happened during the Chinese Massacre of 1871.
Los Angeles began at this site, inauspiciously, in 1781 when 11 Spanish families settled at this site, having crossed the Gulf of California. Spain, have initially viewed California by ship 200 years earlier, felt it was time to develop California before Russia or France attempted to claim it. The translated initial name for this settlement was “The Town of the Queen of Angels.” The design of these original streets, emanating from this location at 45-degree angels to compass directions, is still how downtown LA streets operate today.
Three years later a mission was built. This mission crumbled over time due to disuse. In 1814 a Catholic church, The Church of the Queen of Angels, was built on the site, using much of the original building material. It still stands today and was one of the first LA sites designated a cultural monument in LA.
Of course, over time, this land went from Spanish to Mexican and finally, American. The neighborhood in this area has a long history of being occupied by different ethic groups. For a large amount of time, in the 1800s and early 1900s, it was part of Chinatown. Even today, the borders of Chinatown are nearby, but further north.
Located on Olvera Street, this is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles. The house was built in 1818. The house was built traditionally for the time and culture, originally featuring a flat, tarred roof, utilizing tar from the La Brea Tar Pits, which was grazing land for cattle rancher Francisco Avila.
This house was Avila’s family’s home, though he himself only visited the home on weekends. However, it was also a grand house to entertain friends, which the Avila family did frequently. Though, no battle took place here, American troops did take over the house for use as a headquarters until the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed.
Massive earthquakes in 1870 and 1971 damaged the frail house, making it uninhabitable for large stretches of time. Today, thanks to tremendous preservation and construction efforts, a seven-room portion of the house has been restored and, can be visited daily and for free.
Today the home is not only frequented by guests, but also by original owner Francisco Avila, who is said to talk the halls and plaza, continuing to look over his impressive homestead and the village he once presided over as mayor. In addition to being seen clearly, people have also heard footsteps wandering the halls of the house and observed shadow people throughout.
Avila’s first wife, Maria, died in 1822. He later remarried to a woman named Encarnacion. It is Encarnacion’s ghost that is said to also inhabit the house long after her 1855 death. Some witnesses have seen a female form sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch while others have heard the sound of feminine crying within the home, apparently coming from the master bedroom (seen above).
La Gondoloria Mexican Cafe
Across Olvera Street from the Avila Adobe is La Gondoloria Mexican Café. The building itself was built in the mid 1850s. However, the current incarnation opened in the 1920s in LA’s first brick building, this is the first Mexican restaurant in LA and is still under the operation of the original family.
I had lunch at this location recently and, after eating and snooping around as much as possible, I introduced myself to one of their managers to inquire about their ghost stories. Though this manager was relatively new, he did joyfully proclaim “I’ve heard we’re one of the 12 most haunted buildings in LA!” He has heard stories from maintenance workers that their tools will move around, thoroughly spooking the contractors.
He went on to talk about the original owner being a wine maker. The fireplace and several aspects of the building still represent different aspects of the wine making process. Additionally, there’s a large beam in the middle of the main dining room that is actually the recovered mast from a ship that ran aground near the Port of Los Angeles.
The most famous ghost at this location is a woman in white seen walking from the main floor up the staircase to the offices.
The largest building on the site is the Pico House, a building once considered the most luxurious hotel in Los Angeles. The building was constructed in 1870 by successful businessman and the last governor of Los Angeles while under Mexican rule, Pio Pico.
The Pico House was an immediate success for years upon it’s opening. The 82-room hotel was in high demand through 1900 when the business center of the city shifted south. It was this shift that ended the glory days for this area. Pico House, like the other buildings mention in this entry, was eventually abandoned and suffered from neglect.
However, the glory days of this town were not so glorious. Just days after the city of Chicago burned to the ground in the great fire, a different kind of fire would rage in Los Angeles. A fire made up of vengeance and anger.
Two warring Chinese immigrant associations were battling each other when Jesus Bilderrain, one of only six police officers in Los Angeles, arrived to investigate the sound of gunfire. He found one Chinese gang member bleeding in the street when he was struck by a non-fatal bullet in the shoulder. Nearby tavern owner, Robert Thompson, came to aid and was eventually shot in the chest upon taking chase. A city already rife with prejudice against Asians, exploded. A mob stormed Chinatown, indiscriminately attacking any inhabitant they could find. Buildings and store fronts were damaged, easily hundreds of people were beat up and dozens more were hanged to death throughout Chinatown (which, at this time, did include the Pueblo de Los Angeles area). The majority of the slayings took place on the land that is now Union Station.
In the end, at least 17 Chinese were killed, including young boys. Even Builderrain, long thought to be a hero cop shot in the line of duty, has many doubts cast over his role. Regardless of how it all went down, there is belief that some of those killed are still present at the Pico House. Some of the spirits are apparently vengeful, as an episode of “Ghost Adventures” talked to a person that claimed they were kicked in the back of the leg while walking down a staircase.
Additionally, Pio Pico himself is often seen looking over his land from the roof or upper windows of the Pico house. Much like Avila, he’s keeping tabs on the land he presided over in life.
In short, the starting place for the City of Angels serves as the perfect place for the start of our tour. In addition to the pueblo, a number of other notably haunted sites are nearby. In the picture above, you can see haunted LA City Hall just a few blocks down the street from Pico House.