Category Archives: Illinois

Chicago Ghost Conference

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!

Scott was there promoting his documentary on the La Crosse river drownings with Jay Bachochin (check it out here) as well as selling copies of his book Voices From the Chicago Grave (get it here)

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!

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Goodbye Harold

By Scott Markus

 photo GoodbyeHarold_zps02d95bec.jpg

The media has memorialized Harold Ramis a thousand times already today and he will get the same well-earned treatment for the next few days.  As someone who has never met Mr. Ramis personally, I have little of substance to contribute.  That said, he has long been an influence in my life.  For one, watching and re-watching Ghostbusters as a kid was like a religion for me.  I can’t say that I am a current paranormal investigator and writer BECAUSE of the film, but a mainstream, popular, timeless classic that treats ghosts and ghost stories in a fun, palatable way is truly a unique approach.  As a kid, “Ghostbusters” was my first favorite movie.  It doesn’t seem like too big a leap to think that Ramis had a little something to do with it.

To a larger degree, it was his writing that always captured my attention.  His comedies (namely “Stripes,” “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day”) are among my all-time favorites.  He “got” comedy and how to make an ensemble comedy work.  His continued connection to Chicago was also a point of pride for this Chicago kid – New York can keep Woody Allen – we have Harold Ramis.

To keep this post somewhat thematically linked to the rest of our web site – let’s take a quick look at the haunted locations that Ramis is forever linked to thanks to his films:

The Woodstock Opera house (Woodstock, IL):  This location is frequently seen in the Ramis written-and-directed film “Groundhog Day.”  In fact, during one of Bill Murray’s more depressed episodes, he commits suicide by jumping from this small town landmark.  Meanwhile, inside the theater is the ghost of a woman nicknamed “Elvira.”  There are more rumors than truths to her story, but her are some claims that she jumped to her death from the same tower.  To this day, people attending plays at this theater can hear Elvira’s disembodied sounds of approval dismissal depending on whether or not she is enjoying the performance.

The Biltmore (downtown Los Angeles):  LA served as NY for some of the most iconic moments in the Ramis written-and-starring “Ghostbusters.”  The scenes in the lobby where the ‘busters arrive to catch Slimer is the Biltmore.  The staircases double for Dana Barrett’s building where they have to make the long, climb to the roof to fight Gozer at the end of the film.  While they were there, the Ghostbusters may have had even more lucky if they checked out the first floor lounge.  It is here that bartenders whisper about seeing a phantom couple on a date.  When the servers go to take their order, the bashful ghosts vanish.  This is also the last place Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) was seen alive.  Though we don’t have any ghost stories with this fact, we do urge ghost hunters to attempt to reach her and possibly find a clue in this still unsolved homicide.

The Hancock Tower (downtown Chicago):  Though Ramis never filmed here (Did he?  Someone tell me if I’m wrong), this landmark was the inspiration for the film “Ghostbusters.”  The land is considered cursed by it’s original, squatting “owner,” Cap Streeter.  Since Cap was run off the land, another notable oddball called this area home – this land was the birth site of Anton LaVey, known as the creator of the Church of Satan.  Later, the Hancock Tower was built here, coincidentally, in the shape of a portal for evil forces.  True or another baseless tradition of a bygone spiritualist movement, the site has been the scene of repeated tragedy, physically unexplainable deaths and unusual biological phenomena.


Next Stop: the Chicago Ghost Conference!


LA Hauntings will be at the Chicago Ghost Conference!

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!


The ghosts of Pueblo de Los Angeles… our tour starting point

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.

Avila Adobe

 photo IMG_2489_zps01212af3.jpgLocated 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.

Avila Adobe Haunted photo IMG_2464_zpsb3acb4ce.jpgToday 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

LaGolondrina Haunts photo LaGolondrina_zps4f010920.pngAcross 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.

LaGolondrina ghosts photo LaGolondrina2_zps98001527.pngI 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.

Pico House

Pico House haunts photo IMG_2494_zpse7613bb0.jpgThe 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.

Haunted Pico House and City Hall photo IMG_2496_zps46cd4de8.jpgIn 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.


Joliet haunts and booking questions

Question: Scott, me and my friends in the Joliet area are interested in local hauntings and have visited several sites, and have actually purchased your documentary. Are you still currently active in investigating haunts? On your web site it refers you to booking events, what would you actually go over? Please E-mail me back. Thank You. Becky

Reply:  I did have the great fortune to be able to work on both “Prison Break” (season 1) and “Let’s Go To Prison,” which both shot at the prison.  That place, I’m sure, is full of amazing ghost stories that haven’t been public yet.  I love giving speeches and getting to know people.  Let me know when you’d like to organize an event, and I’m in!


Info on Haunted Lake County, IL

Question: Hello Scott! We are a small Girl Scout Troop and we were looking to make a mini documentary about spooky places in Lake County IL to give to local the schools. We want to make it lighthearted as these are elementary schools. Could you recommend a book or website that concentrates on just Lake County, IL? I can find all sorts of information on Chicago but that is not where we live. Thank you so much! Teri

Reply:  That’s a tough challenge finding a Lake County-only book. The best lead I can give you in the ways of your age category would be a book by Ursula Bielski called “Creepy Chicago : A Ghosthunter’s Tales of the City’s Scariest Sites.” It can be found on Amazon.com for $18, around $6 used. However, that is not Lake County-centered and I don’t even really know how many Lake County stories are in that book. It might be fun to take a more active approach and have the girls talk to their friends and family to uncover local ghost stories and urban legends….some of the taller tales, you’ll be able to find the origin of at snopes.com. Good luck!