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:
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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.
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.!
Is it pure urban legend or can someone actually track down a newspaper report to verify this intriguing story? It shouldn’t be too hard if the facts we’ve heard are true. The alleged suicide happened recently, just in the 1990s. The details of the haunting (first reported here: InsidetheIE.com/scariest-place-alta-loma) include phantom whispers, screams, cries, an apparition of the father, and even a shadowy form walking about the back yard.
We’ve also heard that there are other homes in this neighborhood with very active entities residing within them. We would love to investigate! Please drop us a line!
In the last week, Scott Markus and I finally made the trek to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. This Gorgeous and massive 300 acre cemetery is the final resting place of many of the movers and shakers in Los Angeles history. The hilly grounds offering an incredible views of the city they helped build.
The cemetery was founded in 1906, and operated as a non-profit. The grounds hold three non-denominational chapels. Forrest Lawn was the first “Memorial Park” getting rid of the “unsightly” standing headstones (there are still a few). For a long time they refused black, Chinese, and Jewish internments, now all are welcome. Surprisingly, more than 60,000 people have been married on the cemetery grounds. Forrest Lawn is unique for many reasons, the cemetery holds an art museum, the largest mosaic depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and it the only place in the world with a complete set of reproduction Michelangelo statues, made from the same quarries as the originals.
It is also a place that has an insane amount of respect for the privacy of their departed tenants.
It is this amount of privacy that makes enjoying the grounds, and paying respects, very difficult. Forrest Lawn does not allow pictures of graves, or anywhere in their many mausoleums’ out of “respect of the property owners”. Many of the crypts and graves are roped off and concealed from those who wish to visit them.
Scott and I both felt this was a little over-dramatic.
The Great mausoleum had more security cameras than an airport, and out of all of the “greatness” only about 10% is open to the public.
The cemetery does provide maps of the grounds, which are sprawling and confusing. We definitely recommend picking one up in the front building. That being said, out of respect of privacy, none of the graves are marked on the map. So you have to do your research ahead of time on who you want to visit, because unless you are very lucky, no one will tell you.
On the lawns, knowing which section a person is buried in is not sufficient. As I said, the grounds are massive; some individual areas are as big as football fields. If you have a crypt number things get a bit easier, but the numbering can be confusing. Scott spent 20 minutes looking for Tom Mix’s grave, with the proper number. Tom Mix is a silent era western star with a connection to one of Scott’s favorite Chicagoland haunts, the Great Escape.
The confusing layouts and steep hills made me give up on seeing my hero. After seeing Scott’s luck with Mix, I gave up on hoping to find Oscar winning costume designer, Edith Head’s plot. As some of you know I also work as a costume designer and Edith is the designer I would like to aspire to be like. Unfortunately I will have to wait to see where she rests, since this time we only knew a lawn name but not a crypt number, we felt we had little chance of locating her.
Directional clues are a must for finding an interment location! Finding, It’s a Wonderful Life star, Jimmy Stuart’s grave was easier once we found the clue that the “statue of the man with the arrow” located him with ease!
Our experience in the Great mausoleum was a little better. Elizabeth Taylor does have a very impressive, very public, and very easy to find monument, a beautiful, tall, Etruscan style angel, right at the end of the hallway at the entrance to the great mausoleum.
The Different sections in the mausoleum are well labeled. However they are also roped off, so the closest you can get to the tragic couple of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard is peering down the hallway and knowing that they are somewhere in the wall just out of your sight. Many others share the same fate.
After only a few hours of this frustration, Scott and I left. As seasoned cemetery goers, we were both surprised by the off limit-ness and difficulty to navigate Forrest Lawn offered. We also found it hard to believe that people like Michael Jackson and Jean Harlow would want to be buried in a place that discouraged their admirers from seeing them. It felt to us that the original intention of a cemetery- to celebrate the lives of those interred there- was lost within the gates. Perhaps Forrest Lawn felt that in, death, they could provide the isolation and security, its patrons never had in life.
We do still recommend a visit to this cemetery. Not for the graves, but for the beautiful views of the city and amazing art collection. Some pieces which belonged to William Randolph Hearst. The collection includes an actual Easter Island head, over 1,000 pieces of stained glass, and many American historical artifacts. As well as quite a few replicas of things found in museums all around the world. Check the schedule to see what the traveling exhibit is!
Check out Connor in her first solo youtube video and lend one of our founders your support!
LA Hauntings tour guide takes us on a tour of one of her favorite haunted places in her home town of Washington DC – Lafayette Square! Learn some unique pieces of American history and the ghosts that still re-live them!!