Coming to you from Culver City, overlooking Culver Studios and the Culver Hotel, I take some time to analyze some possibly paranormal photos! If you have some of your own to share, please send them over to me!
Category Archives: Illinois
Waaaay back when I was in college I interned just about everywhere I would get accepted. I had the pleasure of working at HBO Films, and even got some of my first on-set experience on “Daddy Daycare” and the seriously underrated “Hollywood Homicide” with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett when I worked at Revolution Studios. However, one of the best experiences was right here in sweet home, Chicago working for CLTV. The show was a weekly entertainment series called “Metromix.” Even after finishing up my internship there, they brought me back on to help produce three “Haunted Chicago” segments for the weeks leading up to Halloween.
It’s insanely difficult to tell a ghost story, involving a location’s rich history, in two to two and a half minutes, so some of the segments feel disjointed (if you ask me), but it’s still fun to look back at what these locations looked and felt like in 2002 when these bits were shot:
Paranormal Activity at Robinson Woods Burial Grounds, Norridge, IL
The top YouTube comments on this video are
- “This is where John Wayne Gacy killed the Peterson-Schuessler boys” (oy!)
- “The deer aren’t possessed, they’re following you because people feed them.”
First thing’s first, those bodies were actually found at Robinson South. I should make a video pointing out these two different locations. They are close, but aren’t the same exact same place. It does get misreported quite a bit though. The location where the bodies were discovered is about 700 yards away and is south of Lawrence Ave. Also, those poor boys were killed in 1955 while Gacy was active from 1972-78. Totally understandable why there’s confusion as Gacy did do his killings not far from here. His house is almost exactly a mile from the Robinson Stone, to the Northeast.
As for the deer comment… well, the commenters are right. The deer are definitely not possessed. There was the issue of trying to tell a long, detailed story that got cut down to two minutes – most of the story was cut. Not hearing most of it, a lot gets lost. I have an incredible story about how the deer reacted once activity started picking up on my first visit here. I also share the native American belief that a chief may be reincarnated into a mighty buck, which I find fascinating (I’m into learning diverse cultural beliefs). I spend a lot of time on this location in my book, of course mentioning the Peterson-Shuessler case and telling Alexander Robinson’s story. We include an interview with one of his descendants while also presenting evidence through a Pulitzer-nominated investigative reporter, that Hansen (the man believed to be the killer), was a bad guy, but possibly not the killer.
And shout out to Mary Czerwinski, my research partner on the first edition of my book, who gets some screen time!
Paranormal Activity at the Bucktown Pub
The top YouTube comments on this one are all suggestions on other haunted places in Bucktown. Keep ’em coming!
I re-visited this location just recently and a bartender that was there when I first visited back in 2000 or 2001 (not pictured) has been working there since before the owners in the video took over. He has spanned multiple owners and said that Tom & Piper, while nice people, chose not to see the paranormal events happening around them. Today the location isn’t as active as it was in the years right after Wally’s death, but activity is ongoing.
Ghosts of the Haunted Fort Sheridan in Highwood
Top YouTube Comments on this video include:
- “I’m in this neighborhood all the time – it’s not haunted”
- As well as people telling their personal stories of paranormal activity sighted here…
- …including, confusingly, both types of comments from the same user (huh?)
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:
I run down what I’ve got coming up, notably moderating a panel at Midsummer Scream (midsummerscream.org) about the CLASSIC nickelodeon horror anthology show “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” with friend and show creator DJ MacHale. Also, I’ll be taking in the largest music festival in the world, Summerfest, with the “paranormal rock” band Sunspot (sunspotuniverse.com). Recently, I’ve been to a ton of haunted sites coast-to-coast including The Nat in Amarillo, TX and Stull Cemetery in Kansas. Subscribe to this YouTube channel and my newsletter at WhatsYourGhostStory.com to stay in the “know!”
At the end of January I was honored to be invited to take part in Chicago Haunting’s 6th annual Dead of Winter event. The weekend-long paranormal & psychic conference was held in the northern rural town of Harvard, Illinois, a stone’s throw from the Wisconsin border and from the iconic Woodstock square, home of the haunted Woodstock Opera House (featured in the book “Voices from the Chicago Grave” and pictured at right) and the backdrop for the classic comedy “Groundhog Day.”
The festivities kicked off with an evening tour of some of the more historic and haunted sites around northern Illinois, which I was invited to co-host along with author Ursula Bielski and archeologist Dan Melone.
(Pictures, clockwise from top, left: Scott Markus speaking at the Dead of Winter Event, Dan Melone & Ursula Bielski speaking during the tour, Melone and Allison Jornlin of Milwaukee Ghosts attempting a psychic experiment, Markus with Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast).
Highlights from the tour have to include going to the Mineola Resort and the Stickney House (which we covered in our first newsletter, viewable here). It’s always fun to take people to haunted place to be able to tell the history and legends of a place while on site. It’s even more important to take people to places like this when they are endangered.
There is perhaps no historic location in the US more endangered than the Minneola. The building, constructed in 1884 is the largest surviving wood frame structure in Illinois. While the site is constantly associated with Al Capone as he visited the site on numerous occasions in the ‘20s, it was already an uproarious location decades earlier, around the turn of the century.
As Chicago was trying to clean up the vice-riddled levee district, Fox Lake became the lawless frontier. Nearly all of the resorts were stocked with slot machines and you just know there was little to no enforcement of prohibition laws. In fact, the last of the slot machines didn’t leave the building until a raid in 1952. According to a Chicago Tribune article (cited here), the Mineola was the “most vicious resort” in this burg of depravity. One can only imagine the stories and characters surrounding the long past of this site.
Can you imagine the residual energy left behind from a place like this? What phantom sounds and echoes through time are continuing to clutter up the massive structure?
1930 saw the Fox Lake massacre unfold at Manning’s Hotel, likely a retaliatory attack after the St. Valentine’s Day massacre that resulted in five mobsters shot and three dead. Interestingly enough both Al Capone and his rival, Bugs Moran, had homes on Bluff Lake, a mere seven miles from the Mineola.
There are legends of a ghost boy seen at the Mineola, reported by staff. However, possible activity throughout the building has been largely unobserved. Over the years more and more of the building became off limits as demand waned. The 100 hotel rooms have been closed off to the public since 1963. After 50 years of neglect, the elements took their toll. The domed ballroom collapsed in the ‘80s. By 2012 the restaurant/bar and banquet hall was the only corner of the building still in operation when the building was abruptly condemned.
(Images like the one above are pulled from a drone shoot I conducted in 2015. I will be posting the full video shortly.)
A 2013 survey of the building showed the the core structure was still strong and therefore salvageable. However, each passing storm inches this structure closer to obscurity. There is an organization in place that’s trying to save the site, which is on the National Register of Historic places. To lend your support and offer to get involved, check out their Facebook here.
As is the case with most visits to the site, we were quickly approached by police officers. While we weren’t trespassing (we were walking around the building, staying on the road, as opposed to walking on the porch or attempting to enter the building), we were told to kindly be on our way and there was no further incident. Be advised, if you are to visit this site, do so respectfully and get ready to have someone checking in on you in short order. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to hide. If you are thinking of breaking in, you will be stopped.
The building itself if condemned after all, meaning it’s unsafe to enter. Of course, damage to the building itself is also a real concern as we all hold out hope that this structure will live long enough for there to be a chance for a comeback with a new, well-funded owner.
Additional recommended reading, including a couple pictures of the interior can be found here at the NW Herald Website.
While the home is amazing and the Stickney House Foundation is making serious and steady improvements to the site, the family burial site is, unfortunately, another story. Just a five minute drive from the Stickney House is the Holcombville Cemetery. You might as well consider it a ‘pioneer cemetery’ as the location holds the burials of the Terwilliger family, just the third family to settle here. Their house also still stands and is rumored to be a safehouse location on the underground railroad.
Upon finding the Stickney family plot, the thing you notice most is the gap. Sylvia’s grave, once toppled and now lying face up over her grave is slowly eroding away and there is a large spance before finding the gravestones of a number of her children. George’s grave is nowhere to be seen. While records and oral history in this more remote land may be lacking, we are lead to believe that George and Sylvia laid to rest a number of children before they, themselves died. Presumably, most of the members of this family would be interred at the same cemetery. The mere gap between Sylvia’s grave (?-1879) and those still standing graves of Silona (1857-1868), Caroline (1849-1851), Adeline (1841-1842), along with the fallen, but still existing stone for Rosira (1843-1843) indicate a likely location of burials without headstones. The obvious question is, “What happened to those stones?” Damaged into obscurity? Stolen? Did they ever even exist? One would imagine that the stone for George Stickney would’ve been cast. However, after out living so many children and his first wife, perhaps George was done thinking of funeral plans by the time he died in 1897. This means a number of stones for children and George’s second wife, Lavina, are not present.
While I do feel it’s important to recover and re-mark the missing stones, let’s turn all of our focus to the quickly decaying stone belonging to Sylvia, the medium herself. As mentioned earlier, the gave is lying flat, face-up on the ground. It was broken free from its base countless decades ago, laying it on the ground seems like a safe way to preserve the stone as it no longer has to fight gravity, nor could it get damaged in a future fall. However, pulling the grass away from the edge of the stone reveals how much the earth and plant life is eating away at this weakened monument. Understandable effects of nature and weather aside, there is also the plainly visible recent chip marks caused by lawnmower blades (note the bright white scuffs in the image below). This has to be one of the most in danger graves imaginable as it’s literally being chipped away on a weekly basis by landscapers who are employed to keep the cemetery beautiful. While the Stickney House Foundation isn’t yet ready to open as a museum, it is my hope that sooner rather than later Sylvia’s stone can be replaced by a replica and the original can be safely preserved on site, in the Stickney House.